The 10 Best Books of 2021 from The New York Times

Yesterday I watched a live stream of The 10 Best Books of 2021 from The New York Times. It was so fun! Presented by the editors of The New York Times Book Review, each chose their favorites and talked about how these five fiction and five nonfiction books made the list. I enjoyed seeing the faces of the reviewers and hearing them talk. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of loaded book cases in the backgrounds! There was a Zoom afterparty and I checked in for a minute, but I didn’t have time to stay long. I wished I had because the editors were holding an open discussion of the books, plus they invited viewers to talk about their own favorites.

Although I haven’t read any of these, I’ve already reserved copies of many from the library, so look out for future reviews!

All links, blurbs and quotes are from Amazon.


How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

A fearless young woman from a small African village starts a revolution against an American oil company in this sweeping, inspiring novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

A novel from the author of A Separation, an electrifying story about a woman caught between many truths.

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut

A fictional examination of the lives of real-life scientists and thinkers whose discoveries resulted in moral consequences beyond their imagining.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeferrs

“A vibrant and tender coming-of-age novel. Ailey Pearl Garfield is a young girl reckoning with what it means to be a Black woman in America.” – Time

No One Is Talking about This by Patricia Lockwood

From “a formidably gifted writer” (The New York Times Book Review), a book that asks: Is there life after the internet?


Red Comet by Heather Clark

The highly anticipated biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art.

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native.

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott

“Destined to become one of the classics of the genre” (Newsweek), the riveting, unforgettable story of a girl whose indomitable spirit is tested by homelessness, poverty, and racism in an unequal America—from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliott of The New York Times

The Copenhagen Trilogy: Childhood; Youth; Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen

Called “a masterpiece” by The New York Times, the acclaimed trilogy from Tove Ditlevsen, a pioneer in the field of genre-bending confessional writing.

Have you read any of these books? Which ones would you like to read? To start, I’d like to read How Beautiful We Were, Intimacies, No One Is Talking about This, Red Comet, Invisible Child and The Copenhagen Trilogy.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

37 thoughts on “The 10 Best Books of 2021 from The New York Times

  1. I’m looking forward to your reviews! I’ve read On Juneteenth (I listened to the audio). I thought it was excellent. It was a short, quick read. Happy reading and have a great day!

  2. Barbara, you’re going to need that new bag of yours! 😀 So many great books here, I haven’t read any of them and have now added a few for next year’s list! Many thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Annika – thank you for reading this. I had a lot of fun “attending” the livestream. Which of these would you like to read? I checked out Red Comet from the library but it’s over 900 pages!

      1. My first read would be How Beautiful We Were! I’m just in the process of trying to sign up with my library for ebooks. Kindle has made it very difficult but think there is a way around it! I saw your tweet about Red Comet. Yikes! That’s a hefty book … I’ll keep a look out how you get on. I imagine reading that alongside other books.

      2. Hi Annika – I hope you figure out your Kindle with the library. Here, to borrow an eBook from the library for a Kindle, you have to go through Amazon. It doesn’t cost anything, but it’s an extra step.

        Sadly, I think I’m going to return Red Comet to the library. I would like to read it, but I will never be able to read a 900 page book right now!

      3. I’m getting there … finally found out today that my library card had been deactivated! Interesting Amazon are involved in borrowing library books; in the UK it is more a matter of sneaking them into Kindle via the Libby app on the mobile!

  3. Book lists attract my attention, even though I notice what’s NOT on the list. The Last Bookshop in London, a World War II novel, has been on the NYTimes bestseller list for months now, translated into multiple languages and bringing in millions for author Madeline Martin.

    I make mention of this because I know Madeline personally. We are on the same ZOOM Pilates class of 12 together. I can say I knew her before she became famous. Ha! She is a genuinely nice person.

    Interesting note: Madeline was formerly known for steamy romance novels. Because she wanted to write a book fit her daughters, she wrote this novel. She has been catapulted to fame and now she travels to other lands, lately Portugal and Paris, sites of her next novels. By the way, she is taking each of her daughters (whom she calls “minions”) with her.

    Thanks for publicizing the list, Barb!

    1. Same here – before I watched the livestream, I wondered if I’d know about any of the books. I hadn’t! But I’ll probably read a few of them. Thank you for reading and commenting, Rosaliene 🙂

  4. It sounds like the announcement event was fun! I can’t believe I haven’t read any of the books on their list this year — usually I end up with at least one. I’ll look forward to hearing more about the ones you end up reading!

    1. Hi Lisa, yes, it was a little depressing that I hadn’t even heard of these books. And it would have been intimidating just to read the list. I thought the live presentation made the reviewers real and more relatable. And their enthusiasm about the books they chose was genuine. Thank you for reading and commenting!

    1. Hi Robbie – I had a feeling I wouldn’t have heard of any of them. The NYT often picks books that are not necessarily in the mainstream, and definitely thinking books. But I enjoyed hearing about them and have checked out a few from the library. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    1. I love that little emoji! Hahaha! Deep and profound is right. The list is a little intimidating, but I made an earlier comment that the reviewers came across as likable and geniuine and that made me want to read several of their recommendations. Thanks for the visit, Pam!

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