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This year brought us so many amazing reads from veteran authors, debut novelists and power duos. Whether you prefer to be swept off your feet with a swoony romance or you live for the rush and adrenaline from a psychological thriller, there are titles on this list that every reader will love—some of which have a fun combination of both! Without further ado, here are Motherly’s best books of 2021. (Oh, and if you’re still on the hunt for titles to add to your TBR stack, support BIPOC authors by shopping from this book list.) 

The Best Books of 2021


1. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

A Book of the Month pick, Barnes & Noble Discover Pick,and a New York Times bestseller for many consecutive weeks in a row, The Lost Apothecary chronicles the lives of two women living hundreds of years apart and a secret underground apothecary shop nestled in the depths of London, specially catered to women seeking vengeance on the oppressive men in their life. A modern-day aspiring historian, Caroline Parcewell begins looking into the town’s dark history after discovering a clue to a series of obscure apothecary killings that wreaked havoc on her city hundreds of years prior. What she uncovers is beyond her wildest dreams—and there’s more blood to be shed.


2. Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover comes a heartbreaking yet hopeful story of redemption. In this novel, mother Kenna Rowan returns to her hometown after serving five years in prison for a terrible mistake. Though she hopes to reconnect with her 4-year-old daughter, Kenna quickly learns that not everyone is looking to welcome her back. When she finally finds a friend and support in local bar owner, Ledger Ward, the pair must hide their connection to avoid risking losing the trust of everyone around them. Can Kenna find a way to absolve her past and change her future? Pre Order now to start your year with this gripping new novel.


3. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Selected as GMA’s Morning Book Club pick for the month of June, this dazzling thriller revolves around 26-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers and her cubicle buddy, Hazel, the two of whom become the best of friends, only to become fast enemies after Hazel gets promoted to office sweetheart. Not only does Nella feel on the outs again, but she’s now receiving threatening and aggressive notes from someone in the office telling her to leave her job ASAP… or else.


4. In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

One of this year’s buzziest thrillers, In My Dreams I Hold a Knife tells the story of a college reunion straight from hell. It’s been 10 years since Jessica Miller last stepped on her posh Southern campus, and to say a storm’s brewing would be an understatement. It’s also been 10 years since Heather Shelby’s murder, a traumatic event that left her school and friend group shaken. No one has ever been able to crack the case. So, what better time to open up old wounds than on their 10-year college anniversary at the very place it all went down?


5. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

From the same author who brought you Normal People and Conversations with Friends, comes instant New York Times bestseller Beautiful World, Where Are You. Follow along as four people face the wonders and trials life has to alter while exploring some of the most beautiful places in the world. Tears will be shed, friendships will be made and some serious sexy time will be had.


6. The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

One year after a young partygoer and her boyfriend go missing, a writer takes up residence at a cottage within close proximity to where the couple were last seen. The only thing separating the two properties is a lush forest called Dark Place, which also happens to be the writer’s go-to walking route. While getting some fresh air, she comes across an ominous note with the words “DIG HERE,” and the story unfolds from there. Anything New York Times instant bestselling author Lisa Jewell touches turns to gold.


7. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

Renowned romance author Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date series came to a swoony conclusion this July with its final installment, While We Were Dating. Ben Stephens and Anna Garder’s flirty workplace banter hits full steam ahead after the two are put in a family crisis situation, leading them to a level of vulnerability neither of them have experienced before.


8. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

One of the most anticipated books of 2021 was Emily Henry’s sophomore adult fiction novel People We Meet on Vacation. The novel centers around best friends Poppy and Alex as they try to mend their broken friendship over a Palm Springs vacation. However, their friendship isn’t the only thing on the line, and if Poppy doesn’t play her cards right, she could lose Alex for good.


9. The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley

You may have caught bestselling author Colleen Oakley’s novel on the Today Show, but it was also the inaugural Emily Giffin Book Club pick! Journalist by day, aspiring podcaster by night, Anders Caldwell is sent to Frick Island on assignment for a local town event; but it’s there he finds his big career-making podcast story: widow Piper Parrish lives out her day-to-day life as if her late husband is still by her side. What’s even more mind boggling is that she somehow has the whole island playing along.


10. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Set in August 1983, siblings Nina, Jay, Jud and Kit throw one last epic bash to close out the summer, but what unfurls over the next 24 hours—like their family beachside estate going up in flames—leads to the revelation of familial secrets and lies no one saw coming. Malibu Rising was a Read with Jenna Book Club pick and comes from wordsmith Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Daisy Jones & the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.


11. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Taking place during the Great Depression, Kristin Hannah’s highly anticipated 2021 historical release follows the resilient Elsa Wolcott and her hopeful story of love, family, and survival during one of the most trying times in our country’s history.


12. Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

If thrillers are your kryptonite, then you know how captivatingly eerie a Shari Lapena novel can be. This psychological family thriller comes to climax after Fred and Sheila Merton are murdered in their upstate New York estate, leaving their three adult children with an inheritance worth millions. It’s a true tragedy, so why are two siblings more upset than the other? Is it grief, or a clue to something much more sinister?


13. We Are Not Like Them by Christina Pride and Jo Piazza

Written from alternating points of view, We Are Not Like Them centers around two lifelong friends, one Black and one white, who find themselves in a devastating crossroads after a shooting takes place in their hometown, involving one their husbands and an unarmed Black teen. While this GMA Book Club pick may be a fictional story, it explores the real-life events of the current social climate.


14. Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Sutanto

Part murder, part romance, part comedy, Dial A for Aunties is a must-read. When Meddy Chan winds up in a dire situation, aka accidentally murdering her blind date, her three meddling aunties come to the rescue. With a wedding for a high paying client around the corner, Meddy and her family will have to find a way to get rid of the body, and fast, if they want their family wedding business to make it out alive.


15. L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón

A Reese’s Book Club pick, L.A. Weather is a familiar yet tragic story for many Californians. With their environment stuck in a never ending drought, Oscar Alvarado and his wife and three adult daughters live in a continuous cycle of Santa Ana winds, brush fires, and evacuations. But when the children learn of their parent’s impending divorce, it feels like their life has been thrown into the fire. This complex story of one Mexican-American family living in LA is filled with deception, secrets, betrayal and lots of heat.


16. Doctors and Friends by Kimmery Martin

Talk about life imitating art! Kimmery Martin’s Doctors and Friends, which was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, is a poignant tale of three best friends and doctors who reunite for their annual girls trip just days before a highly infectious, deadly virus makes headlines. Their frontline trio—an ob-gyn, ER doctor, and CDC appointed infectious disease doctor—return home to find their cities in smithereens and on the verge of an existential crisis.


17. Sevens Day in June by Tia Williams

Another Reese’s Book Club pick, Seven Days in June is a steamy summer read about two old flames and writers who run into each other at an NYC book event after spending 15 years apart. While so much has happened in the last decade and a half, they’ve always felt connected to each other through their writing, and now fate has brought them back together for seven days to relive their passionate romance.


18. Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic author Silvia Moreno-Garcia has returned to the literary world with a new ‘70s glamour noir, which is set in Mexico City. In her 2021 novel, the main character Maite is a romantic at heart but when her neighbor goes missing, she trades in her romance novels for a spyglass and begins searching into Leonora’s strange disappearance.


19. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Another Read with Jenna Book Club pick, Black Buck follows a Starbucks barista working in the lobby of a Midtown business highrise, who just happens to score a job of a lifetime with one of NYC’s top tech startups after a lucky encounter with the company’s CEO. Now a salesperson on the 36th floor of that same building, Darren must navigate being the only Black employee in the company while also dealing with obstacles back home.


20. The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale

The Shaadi-Set Up features one of romance’s favorite tropes: popular exes-turned-lovers. Once upon a time they were high school sweethearts, but Rita and Milan haven’t seen each other in six years… until now. Everything is about to change after Rita’s meddling but well-meaning mother attempts to rekindle their broken flame, which only sets off a chain of life-altering events and confusion for everyone involved, including Rita’s boyfriend.