The best books of 2021 so far.

2021 has been a bloody great year for books. 

I can't count the number of times I've picked up a book and emerged hours later, completely in awe of the writing, the characters, the story I've just read. 

So far 2021 has blessed us with unputdownable thrillers, heartfelt family dramas and non-fiction narratives that spoke to the parts of ourselves we usually keep hidden. 

And we're only halfway through the year. 

Here are the best books of 2021 so far (in no particular order): 

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Image: HarperCollins/Mamamia. 

A Reese's Book Club pick, Lucy Foley's The Guest List is the kind of book you'll inhale in one day. 

It's set on a remote island off the windswept Irish coast, where guests have gathered for the wedding of TV celebrity Will Slater and women's website mogul Jules Keegan. 

By the end of the night, someone will be dead, and every single guest will be a suspect. 

The Guest List is a thrilling page-turner and who-dunnit that's perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Ruth Ware and Paula Hawkins. 

Heartsick by Jessie Stephens

Image: Pan Macmillan Australia/Mamamia. 


Ana is in her 40s and married with three kids. Then, she falls in love with someone else. Claire is in her 30s and married to Maggie. Then, one day, she finds something on Maggie's phone. Patrick is in his 20s and engaged. Then his entire world blows up. 

Based on three true stories, told by people in the throes of heartbreak, Jessie Stephens' debut book is a compelling account of the many lows and the occasional surprising highs of heartbreak. 

Bruising, beautiful and ultimately healing, Heartsick is the perfect read for fans of Lisa Taddeo's Three Women and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, and anyone who has ever had their heart broken. 

As Beautiful As Any Other by Kaya Wilson

Image: Pan McMillan Australia/Mamamia. 


When Kaya Wilson came out to his parents as transgender, a year after a near-death surfing accident and just weeks before his father's death, he was met with a startling family history of concealed queerness and shame.

As Beautiful As Any Other weaves this legacy together with intimate examinations of the forces that have shaped Wilson's life, and his body: vulnerability and power, grief and trauma, science and narrative.

It's a trailblazing debut and a beautiful study of the human condition. 

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Image: Bloomsbury/Mamamia. 

The Other Black Girl has been described as The Devil Wears Prada meets Get Out.  

The debut novel from Zakiya Dalila Harris follows the story of 26-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers, who is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. 

When Hazel starts working in the cubicle next to her, Nella thinks she'll finally have someone who'll understand the microaggressions and isolation she experiences every single day. 

Then a note appears on her desk: LEAVE. WAGNER. NOW. 

The Other Black Girl is full of twists that will keep you guessing right up until the final page.  

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

Image: HarperCollins Australia/Mamamia. 


Made up of 12 pieces of Joan Didion's work from the earlier part of her five-decade career, this collection is a must-read for writers or anyone interested in the process of brilliant writers. 

The essay topics are pretty wide ranging. She writes about everything from the time she dropped into a meeting of recovering gambling addicts to being rejected by her dream college, her years at Vogue and her thoughts on media, Hemingway and even Martha Stewart.

It's the kind of book you'll pick up and read, time and time again. 

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Image: Allen & Unwin/Mamamia. 


The Last Thing He Told Me is another Reese's Book Club pick and it will soon be adapted into a TV series starring Julia Roberts. 

So, yep, there's going to be a lot of hype around this book. But here's what happens in the story:

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his new wife, Hannah. The note simply says: PROTECT HER. 

As Hannah's increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, his boss is arrested for fraud. Then Hannah realises Owen's 16-year-old daughter Bailey may hold the key to his true identity and the reason for his sudden disappearance. 

Fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng will love this unputdownable thriller.

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray by Anita Heiss

Image: Simon and Schuster Australia/Mamamia. 

Anita Heiss's latest novel Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) begins on a winter night in 1852, when the river breaks its banks and churns through the NSW town of Gundagai. 

Clinging to the roof of one of the town’s only stone houses, Wagadhaany – a Wiradyuri teenager – wills her father to find her. 

Set on timeless Wiradyuri country, where the life-giving waters of the rivers can make or break dreams, and based on devastating true events, Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is an epic story of love, loss and belonging. 


Careless by Kirsty Capes

Image: Hachette Australia/Mamamia. 

You know a book is good when the film rights are sold before it even hits bookshelves. And this is exactly what happened with Kirsty Capes' debut novel Careless in May of this year. 

At 3:04pm on a hot, sticky day in June, Bess finds out she's pregnant. She doesn't want to tell her social worker or her foster mum, and she definitely doesn't want to tell Boy. 

Careless is a coming of age story that definitely isn't a love story. It's the perfect read for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Normal People

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Image: Penguin Books Australia/Mamamia. 


Taylor Jenkins Reid's new novel Malibu Rising is the very definition of a page turner. 

Set in Malibu in the summer of 1983, it follows the story of the famous Rivas family and all the drama that goes down at their annual end-of-summer party.

It's beautifully written (seriously, you'll want to get the highlighter out) and you'll be so invested in the characters by the end of the novel, they'll feel like family. 

Oh, and the film rights have already been sold so you need to read the book before the movie comes out! 

Still by Matt Nable

Image: Hachette/Mamamia. 

Matt Nable has been a fixture on Australian screens for decades now, starring in TV series like East West 101 and Bike Wars: Brothers in Arms

Set in Darwin in the Summer of 1963, Still follows the story of Senior Constable Ned Potter who is investigating the murder of a woman whose body was found in the shallow marshland. 

Fans of The Dry and Scrublands will find the next great read in Still

Love Objects by Emily Maguire

Image: Allen and Unwin/Mamamia. 


Love Objects by Emily Maguire follows three characters: Nic, who lives with hoarding disorder, Will, who has been released from prison following a drug charge, and Lena, whose life was going well until a man filmed her having sex without her consent. 

It’s a book about family and class, and peers into the worlds of ordinary Australians who lead fascinating lives.

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

Image: Allen and Unwin/Mamamia. 


In Before You Knew My Name, debut author Jacqueline Bublitz takes the dead girl narrative and flips it on its head. 

The book follows the story of Alice Lee, who arrives in New York City with $600 to her name and the desire to start over. A month later, she's dead. 

Ruby Jones has also moved to the city hoping to start over. Then she finds Alice's body in the Hudson River. 

Told from Alice and Ruby's perspectives, Before You Knew My Name doesn't ask whodunnit. Instead, it asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind?

One Hundred Days by Alice Pung

Image: Mamamia. 

From one of Australia's most celebrated writers comes a story about the relationship between a mother and a daughter, and the fault lines between love and control. 

When 16-year-old Karuna falls accidentally-on-purpose pregnant, her mother confines her to their fourteenth story housing commission flat. 

As the due date draws closer, the question of who will raise the baby and who it will call Mum, festers between them. 

Keryn Donnelly is Mamamia's Pop Culture Editor. For more of her TV, film and book recommendations and to see photos of her dog, follow her on Instagram

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Feature Image: Mamamia + Booktopia.