As we say goodbye to 2020 and prepare to greet 2021, it's time to take a look at the
best books of winter 2021. These are the titles we'll all be talking about as we kick off the new year, so get ready to put your best reading foot forward, because December, January, and February have tons of great stories to share.
Say what you will about this year, but it's given us some
fantastic new books. The hits keep landing throughout the month of December, which brings new books from a number of your favorite authors, including Layla by Colleen Hoover, Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo, and A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir.
The fun continues in January, when you'll be able to find Emma Lord's newest rom-com,
You Have a Match, in stores, alongside Joan Didion's Let Me Tell You What I Mean, Samantha Shannon's The Mask Falling, and Angie Thomas' Concrete Rose.
Finally, in February, you can snuggle up with a thriller perfect for a dark winter's night.
The Nightingale author Kristin Hannah returns with The Four Winds, followed in quick succession by Sarah Gailey's The Echo Wife, Nalini Singh's Quiet in Her Bones, and Karin Tidbeck's The Memory Theater.
Here are the 43 best books of winter 2021:
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. Dec. 1
Much of Louise Fitzhugh's life remains a mystery, but one author is determined to shed some light on the beloved author of
Harriet the Spy. In Sometimes You Have to Lie, Leslie Brody uncovers the details of Fitzhugh's Tennessee childhood, her relationships with modernist and postmodern literary greats in New York City, and how she navigated life in the mid-century United States as a lesbian. Dec. 1
Picking up a few months after the close of
Queen of the Conquered, Kacen Kallender's King of the Rising centers on Hans Lollik's unlikeliest hero. Formerly enslaved, Loren Jannik is now the leader of the resistance: a group effort from the people of the islands, intent on taking their land back from the invading Fjern. But as the second book in Callender's Islands of Blood and Storm series opens, the Fjern are gaining ground once more in Hans Lollik. Dec. 1
KJ Dell'Antonia's buzzy debut centers on Amanda Moore, a 35-year-old widow who has just turned her small Kansas town upside down by marrying Frank Pogociello. You see, Amanda's spent her whole life working for her mom at Chicken Mimi's, but now she's slinging chicken at Chicken Frannie's: the Pogociello family restaurant and Chicken Mimi's biggest rival. With tensions on the rise, Amanda turns to a restaurant competition show to make things right... summoning her estranged sister Mae home in the process.
Dec. 1 So You Want to Talk About Race author Ijeoma Oluo's newest book examines how the privilege afforded to white men in western culture has made the world more dangerous for us all. Although it's tempting to believe that Donald Trump is the worst product of this trend, rest assured: Trump is only the most visible. Dec. 1
Sabaa Tahir brings the story she began in
An Ember in the Ashes to a close in A Sky Beyond the Storm. The final chapter in Laia and Elias' story opens with Tahir's two heroes separated by distance and duty. But as a fearsome enemy swoops down onto Laia, her old compatriot is forced to decide whether to step in and help. Dec. 8
Perfect for fans of Min Jin Lee's
Pachinko and Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women, Sumi Hahn's historical novel centers on Junja, a haenyeo diver whose mother dies when they switch places to allow the teen girl to travel into the mountains on a trade expedition. Now separated from the boy she fell in love with in the mountains, and stranded without her mother's presence, Junja must summon all her strength to survive in an ever-changing Korea in The Mermaid from Jeju. Dec. 8
When his girlfriend Layla is attacked by his ex, Leeds finds it difficult to continue their relationship — a love he is determined to save — in Colleen Hoover's tense new novel. Struggling to recognize the traits he fell in love with in Layla's post-trauma demeanor, Leeds arranges for a getaway at the B&B where they first fell in love... but will another woman become the object of his affections in the process?
When 17-year-old Ellen's stepmother grounds her for the last summer before college, it derails her plans for one last season of fun with her two BFFs. Desperate to get out of the house, Ellen joins a local Quidditch league, which her parents agree to let her participate in. But as she becomes more involved with her new teammates, Ellen finds herself drifting apart from the friends she was supposed to spend the summer with.
Beloved murder-mystery author Agatha Christie once disappeared for 11 days. When she returned, she claimed to have no memory of what had happened during her absence.
The Other Einstein author Marie Benedict examines what might have transpired during those tense days in her new novel, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. Dec. 29
Fairy godmothers Petunia, Jonquil, and Bluebonnet think they know best, especially for their unluckiest charge: a woman named Lucky. When she agrees to help the trio out, Lucky doesn't know that getting caught up in a fake engagement to bring magic back to Ever After is only the beginning of her ordeal.
Historically, women's rights movements have asked women in the margins — LGBTQ+ women, immigrant women, women of color, incarcerated women, impoverished women, those who are members of religious minority communities, and those with disabilities — to step aside and put their concerns on the back burner in the name of progress... for white women. In
White Feminism, former Jezebel editor Koa Beck examines the ways in which this phenomenon continues today. Jan. 5
Strega Prize nominee, Italian author Ilaria Bernardini makes her English-language debut this January with The Portrait. When her married lover, a well-known man in the business world, endures a life-threatening stroke, Valeria will stop at nothing to be by his side. Scandal will consume them all if their affair becomes public knowledge, so Valeria masks her intentions by hiring her lover's artist wife, Isla, to paint her portrait. But as Isla and Valeria grow close, secrets begin to bubble to the surface in this electrifying new novel. Jan. 5 Tweet Cute author Emma Lord returns to stores this winter with You Have a Match. In this all-new rom-com, a DNA test leads Abby to discover that her parents have another daughter: Savannah, now an Instagram influencer, who's not even two years older than Abby herself. In perfect Parent Trap style, Abby and Savvy meet up at a summer camp in the Pacific Northwest, where Abby's crush works as co-chef. But will the two strangers be like sisters by the time they leave camp, or will familiarity breed contempt between them? Jan. 12
When she and her more-popular BFF have an argument that may put an end to their friendship forever, a Black teenager who has spent her whole life being overlooked decides to step into the limelight and stand up for herself in
Chlorine Sky: the YA debut from "Black Girl Magic" poet Mahogany L. Browne. Jan. 12
Set in 1943 Sweden, Cecilia Ekbäck's new novel is a historical thriller perfect for a long, cold night. As Sweden attempts to remain neutral at the height of World War II, Laura, a Swedish diplomat's assistant, finds herself preoccupied with the unsolved murder of her best friend, Britta. When the trail leads her to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Laura teams up with an unlikely ally to find out who's responsible for Britta's death.
The sixth instalment in Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series,
Across the Green Grass Fields takes readers to an all-new portal-fantasy location. This time, the focus is on Regan: a human girl who finds herself living in a land of magical horses. As a newcomer to the Hooflands, Regan's expected to be a hero, but can she live up to the standards of her new society? Jan. 12
Recently hired to masquerade as a party guest at an English country estate, Sadie travels to Raven Hall with a suitcase full of new clothes and careful instructions on who she's supposed to be and how she should act. But Sadie's just part of Raven Hall's latest game, and nothing will ever be the same once the party is over.
The Hate U Give prequel lands in stores this January from Balzer + Bray. Concrete Rose centers on Starr's father, Maverick, as he faces teenage fatherhood in Garden Heights. Mav's been dealing drugs for his father's gang, the King Lords, but now he's got the opportunity to make a new life for his infant son. Can he escape gang life and go straight, or will tragedy pull him back in? Jan. 12
Madeleine Watts' debut novel centers on an Australian college graduate who takes a job as an emergency phone operator, listening to other people's problems and smothering her own with meaningless sex and alcohol. Interwoven with her story is that of her ancestor, a British explorer in Australia, who began a generations-long search for a source of water at the heart of the continent.
Set in San Francisco's Chinatown in the mid-1950's,
Ash author Malinda Lo's Last Night at the Telegraph Club centers on a Chinese American teenager named Lily, who discovers that she likes other girls at the height of the Lavender Scare. Jan. 19
From the author of
Binti and Akata Witch comes this all-new sci-fi novel about a girl adopted by Death. Given the power to end others' lives when she finds a strange seed, Sankofa accidentally destroys her family, friends, and neighbors before she learns to control her newfound abilities. With more questions than answers, she heads out on a quest across Ghana to reclaim the seed from the government agents who bought it from her late father, searching for meaning in tragedy. Jan. 26
In her new collection of essays, acclaimed author and National Book Award-winner Joan Didion explores the little corners of life as a young writer. Taken mostly from her early work, these pieces, which have never been collected before, are the delightful little nuggets of illumination Didion's fans have come to expect from the beloved writer.
A New York art student's love affair with a much-older man leaves her raising a daughter in an unheated Vermont cabin in this turbulent debut. Bennett treated Rosie all the good things in life, and they'd just settled into a rhythm at his Connecticut estate when everything came crashing down. Now, Bennett's teaching at a remote college, leaving Rosie to care for their infant daughter using what could only be termed as survivalist methods.
Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Muneer divorces his wife and returns to Saudi Arabia, leaving his former family behind in Cleveland. Afraid of losing her daughter as well as her husband, Sadeeah takes Hanadi and goes into hiding, keeping her away even as Muneer searches for her. But when Hanadi comes of age, she finds herself straddling two very different lives, in Eman Quotah's
Bride of the Sea. Jan. 26
Samantha Shannon returns to store shelves this January with
The Mask Falling, the fourth Bone Season novel. In this follow-up to 2017's The Song Rising, Paige must team up with a former enemy in order to elude the genocidal Scion and escalate her long-running resistance movement to outright revolution. Jan. 26
Already optioned for Netflix, Tess Sharpe's
The Girls I've Been centers on Nora, the daughter of a legendary con artist who played important roles in her mother's schemes. Now working for a charity, Nora's in the middle of making a deposit from her latest fundraiser when the unthinkable occurs. Two robbers are holding everyone inside the bank hostage, but they have no idea who Nora is... or what she's capable of. Feb. 2 Rugrats voice actor Melanie Chartoff opens up about life in character in Odd Woman Out: a new essay collection that's sure to resonate with anyone who feels like they're just playing a part in their day-to-day lives. Feb. 2 Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen makes her fiction debut in February with Land of Big Numbers. Readers will find nuanced depictions of life in modern-day China featured in this short-fiction collection from a stunning new voice in American letters. Feb. 2
Set in rural Maine, Susan Conley's new novel centers on Jill, a mother of two boys who finds herself living as a single parent when her husband is hospitalized across the border in Canada. But what begins as a strain on one wife and mother soon spirals out into a wider exploration of family life and function in
Landslide. Feb. 2
Elsa Martinelli has not lived a charmed life. Forced to marry a local farmer's son after their one-night love affair leads to a pregnancy, she ekes out a hardscrabble existence for herself and her little family. But when the Dust Bowl threatens to take everything she has worked so hard to build, Elsa must rally her strength and press westward to California to start a new life.
Martina McGowan's illustrated poetry collection,
I Am the Rage, examines racial injustice in the United States today. Drawing on the events of 2020, including the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I Am the Rage is a timely look at generations of trauma and inaction. Feb. 2
Set during the aftermath of Donald Trump's inauguration, Lauren Oyler's debut novel follows its unnamed protagonist as she makes a heartbreaking, but not surprising, discovery: her boyfriend is a popular conspiracy theorist known for his anonymous posts online. She thinks she knows what she'll do with this information, but as she begins to move away from him — first to D.C., then to Berlin — Oyler's heroine finds that her situation is more complicated than she could have possibly imagined in
Fake Accounts. Feb. 2
From the author of
Sadie comes this new YA thriller about one girl's quest to uncover the truth about a mysterious group. After their parents died, Lo's sister Bea left her behind with their great aunt, so that she could join The Unity Project: a charitable organization based in Upstate New York. But The Unity Project has a hidden dark side, and now that one man has come forward to accuse the charity of murder, Lo may finally have all the information she needs to bring Bea home. Feb. 9
In a remote corner of Europe, pharmacist August Malone treats a small cadre of patients, caring for their wounds and ailments alone. He's a necessary part of life in his village, and he's even popular enough to run for mayor. So why does everyone keep advising his young apprentice to be wary of him?
Drawing comparisons to the works of David Lynch and Clarice Lispector, Elvira Navarro's
Rabbit Island is one of 2021's most anticipated collections. The title story centers on a "non-inventor" whose experiment on an island full of birds goes terrifyingly awry, and it only gets weirder the deeper you go. Feb. 9
An all-new translation of one of the greatest stories ever written is coming to stores this winter. Edited by Julia Lovell, Wu Cheng'en's
Monkey King: Journey to the West is an out-and-out fantasy adventure that has captivated audiences and influenced creatives for centuries. Now, it's coming to a new generation of readers in this brand-new edition from Penguin Classics. Feb. 16
Jezebel senior staff writer Tracy Clark-Flory bares it all in
Want Me: a personal exploration of how contemporary women's sexuality develops in a world changed by the sexual revolution, online dating, the AIDS epidemic, and so much more. Feb. 16
Celebrated academic Evelyn Caldwell has helped to perfect genetic cloning, and Martine is the result. An exact likeness of Evelyn herself, down to the marrow of her bones, Martine has her own personality: quiet and subservient, and so unlike Evelyn's boldness. Martine's been sleeping with Evelyn's husband, but now he's dead, leaving his two wives with some unfinished business to settle.
The final instalment of C.L. Polk's Kingston Cycle,
Soulstar takes readers on a journey through a changing country. Magicians who have long hidden from their oppressive government are finally free, and they're taking back what's rightfully theirs. Can Aeland adapt to this brave new version of itself, or will revolution end everything the witches know... and destroy their dreams for good? Feb. 16
In Karin Tidbeck's new dark fantasy, two teenagers race against the clock to escape their dismal fate. In the Gardens, the Masters never age and live by no rules. They kill their servants, once they come of age, and torture them relentlessly until that day comes. To avoid being murdered, Dora and Thistle run away, leaving the Gardens behind, but can they survive in a world they've never known?
A poignant memoir that wrestles with questions of identity, place, and belonging, Elizabeth Miki Brina's
Speak, Okinawa recounts the details of her childhood and adolescence, from the time her parents — a Japanese nightclub hostess and a white Vietnam veteran — met on Okinawa to her struggle to find a place for herself in the United States, despite her all-American upbringing in Upstate New York. Feb. 23
The sleek Paris apartment was supposed to give Clarissa a quiet, inspirational retreat — a studio in which she could write her next book. That's what her residency was for, anyway. But the author can't shake the feeling that she's being monitored. As she ropes her granddaughter into her search for evidence of surveillance, Clarissa reckons with the ghosts of her past in
Flowers of Darkness. Feb. 23
An exclusive neighborhood is rocked by a murder investigation in Nalini Singh's new novel. Everyone thought Nina Rai left her husband. No one thought she was dead. Now, 10 years after she disappeared, her body's been found near a cul-de-sac full of influential, old-money families. Who wanted Nina dead, and who knows how it all went down that fateful night?