Best Fiction Books of 2021

A cozy library, shelves full of books. In the center is a pillow-adorned window seat with bright light shining in.
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash


I read a lot of books. As in, usually more than 100 in a year, and apparently up to 159 in 2020 when I’m locked down for 6+ months because of a global pandemic. I get so much joy out of reading, and find even fiction educational. I enjoy experiencing the stories that other people’s minds have created.

Since I can’t spend $2,000 a year on books and don’t want to own every single book I read, I get most of these books from my local library (sent to my Kindle as ebooks). Because of waiting lists I am usually a year or two behind the hottest trends. And that’s okay with me, because I can see which books really stand the test of time rather than those that are just temporary hype.

So, here are my top 10 favorite fiction books I read in 2021, most of which were published earlier, in the order I read them. They are almost entirely science fiction and fantasy. I don’t do book notes on fiction books, so these are all brand-new recommendations!

Top 10 Fiction Books Read in 2021

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue

V.E. Schwab

A unique and creative story. What would life be like if no one remembered you? V.E. Schwab is a beautiful writer. She explores the passage of time, and how meaning in our lives is derived from our interactions with other people.

What a luxury, to tell one’s story. To be read, remembered.

The Midnight Library

Matt Haig

This was one of those books where, after closing it, I had to sit quietly and think about it for a while. Matt Haig really digs into the complexity of regret. He explores choices made, and paths not taken, with touches of darkness as well as humor.

Do you ever think ‘how did I end up here?’ Like you are in a maze and totally lost and it’s all your fault because you were the one who made every turn?

The House in the Cerulean Sea

T.J. Klune

If I didn’t have to work, I would have read this entire book in one sitting. It’s one of those stories that immediately feels like home. I never wanted it to end. It entranced me in a very positive, nostalgic kind of way. It feels very familiar with its quirky and lovable characters, and yet very modern in the themes it explores. The story and characters are cute, inclusive, and loving. I cried happy tears at the end. Highly recommend for everyone.

“Home is where you feel like yourself,” Ms. Chapelwhite said, and Linus could only agree. “It’s the same for us, isn’t it, children? Home is where we get to be who we are.”

Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir

If you liked The Martian and are looking for more of the same, Andy Weir’s latest story is for you. It has a lot of the same maverick scientist vibes and humor as The Martian, with an exobiology (aliens) twist. I won’t give anything away, but expect lots of problem solving and science jokes.

I want to spend the rest of my life studying Eridian biology! But I have to save humanity first. Stupid humanity. Getting in the way of my hobbies.

Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng grew up in Shaker Heights, the setting for this book, and brings her deep understanding of its complex social issues to a fictional tale. She has created a powerful set of characters who drive the story, make mistakes, and find (or don’t) the right and wrong in the world.

But the problem with rules, he reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure which side of the line you stood on.


John Williams

It is not often that I enjoy classic literature, but Stoner was excellent. John Williams is a talented writer, and the story is a poignant introspection on the course of a life in academia. Stoner’s life is a framework for love, loss, loneliness, failure, purpose, and recognition.

He had conceived wisdom, and at the end of the long years he had found ignorance. And what else? he thought. What else?

The Ministry for the Future

Kim Stanley Robinson

If you have trouble imagining what humanity’s near-future might look like as the climate changes, you should read this book. Kim Stanley Robinson has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about it. The result is a terrifying global political landscape, but a useful construction to illustrate the dangers humanity faces if we don’t take action.

Only when things fall apart do you realize it can happen to you. You never think it can happen to you, until it does.


Frank Herbert

Yes, I had read this before, but with the movie coming out I had to give it a reread. Excellent classic sci-fi, and bonus points for invented ecology on an entire planet. The “fear is the mind-killer” quote is actually my favorite, but it is way overquoted.

“The highest function of ecology is understanding consequences.”

All Systems Red

Martha Wells

This was another sci-fi revisit for me, sparked by the release of the final book. This one, the first, is my favorite but the whole series is excellent, and quick to read. A rogue murderous android with a mission and a sense of humor; what’s not to love?

The way murderbots fight is we throw ourselves at the target and try to kill the shit out of it, knowing that 90 percent of our bodies can be regrown or replaced in a cubicle. So, finesse is not required.

The Apollo Murders

Chris Hadfield

I follow Chris Hadfield on socials, so I waited what felt like forever to get my hands on this book. Chris Hadfield uses his real experience as an astronaut to create a plausible Cold War thriller set mostly in space. Without taking it too seriously, it was a fun read.

“Did you ever think that since we fired Pursuit’s engine for the Trans-Earth Injection, we’ve really just been falling? Like a rock dropped from an enormous height, accelerating as Earth’s gravity sucks us in, closer and closer?” There was awe in his voice. Chad looked at him. “Nope.” Michael shrugged. “I just think it’s cool.”


I hope you have gotten at least one good recommendation out of this list. Each and every book was memorable for me and I hope you enjoy them too.

See them all together on my Bookshop list.

The quotes above were gathered using Readwise. It’s a truly amazing app to help you remember what you read. If you want to try it out, use my link and we both get a free month 🙂

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and purchase the item, I may receive a small commission. There is no extra cost to you and it allows me to spend more time writing content like this.

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