Five must-read fiction novels of 2021

Perfectly summarizing the art of storytelling through a novel, Albert Camus once said “fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” The best fiction books break our heart and mend it through amazing stories spread across various genres of historical, fantasy, and sci-fi.

2021 was another exciting year for new book releases, blessing readers through dazzling plots and characters to fall in love with. While the last year was a great one for established authors, it was debut authors who stole the actual limelight. From bestsellers to award-nominated works, here are the five best fiction novels of 2021 that amazed us, challenged our minds, and kept us fulfilled.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle is a crime fiction and the follow-up to Whitehead’s 2019 novel The Nickel Boys. The novel follows the Carney family’s struggles in Harlem between 1959 and 1964. In 1959, Ray Carney, a used furniture salesman, is expecting a second child with his wife Elisabeth. Ray is the son of a small-time crook and has worked his whole life to establish himself as an honorable member of his community. But with another child on the way, money gets tight and Ray gets involved in a robbery through his cousin. This novel was at number three on The New York Times fiction bestseller list in September 2021.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

A national bestseller, Detransition, Baby is a brilliant novel that revolves around the lives of three women – transgender and cisgender – as an unexpected pregnancy plunges them into each other’s lives and forces them to confront their inmost desires. The author follows her characters as they entangle in the emotional web with thought-provoking questions on gender, sex, and desire. In her debut novel, Torrey Peters managed to capture the emotions of her readers, receiving mainstream and critical success along with a nomination for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction. 

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

Intimacies is Katie Kitamura’s fourth novel, in which an unnamed court translator in The Hague becomes entangled in a war crimes trial while falling into a tumultuous relationship with a man whose marriage may or may not be over. Kitamura writes in sleek and spare prose that elegantly breaks grammatical concord, mirroring the themes of blurring lines between intimacies, especially those between the sincere and the forced. The novel focuses on the knowability of things around us with a magnifying lens on major social issues from gentrification, colonialism, and feminism. Moreover, it was recommended by Barack Obama as one of his favorite reads of the year.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

A compelling read, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is a story of the search for the American Dream. Known for her exciting and heartbreaking historical fiction novels, Hannah set her latest story in Texas during the Great Depression in 1934 and amid an excruciating drought. The novel follows Elsa Martinelli who has finally achieved everything she wanted – a family, a home and a livelihood on a farm on the Great Plains. However, she must choose between staying and fighting for the land she loves or fleeing to California to find a better life. It is a painful and shocking journey that may leave you in tears.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary is a 2021 science-fiction novel by Andy Weir, which is set in the near future, where a school-teacher-turned-astronaut Ryland Grace wakes up from a coma afflicted with amnesia. He has no memory of a deep space mission, with two dead crewmates. The sole survivor slowly remembers that he was sent to Tau Ceti solar system, which is 12 light-years from the earth, to find a way to conquer an extinction-level threat to his planet. Ryland is burdened with a seemingly impossible mission ahead of him in finding a way to reverse the solar dimming to save humanity before time runs out. This brilliant race against time story is one of the favorite reads from last year.