Best Books of 2021

With 2021 almost over (can you believe it?), lots of venues are looking back and doing "Best of 2021" lists. These can help with your holiday gift-giving, or just make great additions to your To Read pile.

Here's a few that jumped out:

Two "Best Romance Novel" lists: one from Washington Post and the other from Book Page - "Need a happily-ever-after in your life? You’re in luck."

Best Book Covers of 2021 as chosen by the staff of Book Riot. We don't often talk about this aspect of books, but a lot of artistry goes into translating textual themes into a visual that will draw exactly those readers who are most likely to love a book. Maybe something on this list will draw your eye!

Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror - Sylvia Moreno Garcia and Lavie Tidhar have a conversation about the best speculative fiction of 2021, but best of all? They also relate the themes and trends they're seeing this year to other, older works.

Kirkus's Favorite Nonfiction of the year is especially exciting because the ten favorites are published by small presses, which often don't get as much attention.

NPR's Books We Love - It used to be called Book Concierge (honestly, doesn't that sound snazzier?) but it's the same tool, allowing you to combine filters to zero in on exactly which parts of their Best Of list you might be interested in. For example, if you're looking for a bite-sized chunk to read with your buddies, try combining "Rather Short" and "Book Club Ideas". Or try something like "The States We're In" plus "Cookbooks and Food" for books that explore food and cooking from a historical and cultural lens.

SF Chronicle's 10 Best Cookbooks of 2021 are delicious and inspiring to begin with (the list includes recipes!), but the cherry on the cake is that several also have Bay Area relevance.

Tired of "Best Of" lists? Try this List of books considered the worst as a palate cleanser. Even just reading the descriptions is hilarious. And who knows, you might be tempted to seek out one of the items and find out if it really is that bad.


This is another way to figure out which books published in a given year are most deserving of your attention. Our catalog tracks yearly winners of over sixty different awards given to books, movies & tv, and music. Explore them here!

Here are a few highlights:

Audie Awards - Honoring the "best titles in audio publishing," the Audies are a fantastic way to find excellent audiobook narrators.

Edgar Awards - We know we have lots of mystery and true crime lovers among our patrons! Run by the Mystery Writers of America, these awards "[honor] the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television"

Goodreads Choice Awards - billing themselves as "the only major book awards decided by readers," these awards do require one to be a Goodreads member. But given how large that Goodreads membership base is, we can call it close enough - see what other regular readers just like you decided was best in each of seventeen categories!

Ignyte Awards - A newer but incredibly powerful institution, the Ignyte Awards "celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre."

Lambda Literary Awards - the "Lammys" were created in 1989 to garner national visibility for LGBTQ books, and they celebrate LGBTQ storytelling in a wide variety of categories including mysteries, nonfiction, and romance.

National Book Awards - Awarded to books in categories of Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People's Literature, the National Book Awards are run by the National Book Foundation, "whose mission is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture"


Want more top picks of 2021?

Read our Most Popular Titles in Marin 2021 post to see what Marin was reading in 2021.