With 2021 being over halfway over, I wanted to take some time to share some of the books I’ve read so far on my 2021 reading list. I am really glad that I continued to prioritize reading into my day to day activities because it is one of my favorite ways to relax. I am typically drawn to historical fiction and to thrillers, though I do love a good beach read, too! A note about my love of historical fiction is that those books typically take me a while to read because I like to take time to research what was happening or to explore more of the setting of the book.
My favorite book I’ve read so far this year is The Maidens by Alex Michaelides. It was a *page turner* for me and it did not end the way I thought it was going to, which is the mark of a good book for me. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Unhoneymooners for a feel-good read and couldn’t put it down! I also loved All the Light We Cannot See as it was beautifully written, heartbreaking, and read like a thriller.
I’d love to hear what you’ve read and enjoyed so far this year! Please be sure to leave your recommendations in the comments, please! I’ll add them to my list!
2021 Reading List
2021 Reading List: What I’ve Read So Far
The Alienist, Caleb Carr
Synopsis: When The Alienist was first published in 1994, it was a major phenomenon, spending six months on the New York Timesbestseller list, receiving critical acclaim, and selling millions of copies. This modern classic continues to be a touchstone of historical suspense fiction for readers everywhere.
The year is 1896. The city is New York. Newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler—a psychologist, or “alienist”—to view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy abandoned on the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge. From there the two embark on a revolutionary effort in criminology: creating a psychological profile of the perpetrator based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who will kill again before their hunt is over.
Fast-paced and riveting, infused with historical detail, The Alienist conjures up Gilded Age New York, with its tenements and mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. It is an age in which questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and fatal consequences.
- My Thoughts: This book took me a while to really get into because I kept getting hung up on the historical aspects. I spent a good bit of time researching various places, people, and topics in the beginning. Once I got a handle on those research interests, I flew through this book. It is a delightful read–and was turned into a TV series. Though, between you and me, I much prefer the book.
- 🌟: 5 out of 5
Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher, Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz
Synopsis: In 1934, the nation’s most legendary crime-fighter–fresh from taking on the greatest gangster in American history–arrived in Cleveland, a corrupt and dangerous town about to host a world’s fair. It was to be his coronation, as well as the city’s. Instead, terror descended, as headless bodies started turning up. The young detective, already battling the mob and crooked cops, found his drive to transform American policing subverted by a menace largely unknown to law enforcement: a serial murderer.
Eliot Ness’s greatest case had begun.
Now, Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz–the acclaimed writing team behind Scarface and the Untouchable–uncover this lost crime epic, delivering a gripping and unforgettable nonfiction account based on decades of groundbreaking research.
Ness had risen to fame in 1931 for leading the “Untouchables,” which helped put Chicago’s Al Capone behind bars. As Cleveland’s public safety director, in charge of the police and fire departments, Ness offered a radical new vision for better law enforcement. Crime-ridden and devastated by the Depression, Cleveland was preparing for a star-turn itself: in 1936, it would host the “Great Lakes Exposition,” which would be visited by seven million people. Late in the summer of 1934, however, pieces of a woman’s body began washing up on the Lake Erie shore–first her ribs, then part of her backbone, then the lower half of her torso. The body count soon grew to five, then ten, then more, all dismembered in gruesome ways.
As Ness zeroed in on a suspect–a doctor tied to a prominent political family, powerful forces thwarted his quest for justice. In this battle between a flawed hero and a twisted monster–by turns horror story, political drama, and detective thriller. Collins and Schwartz find an American tragedy, classic in structure, epic in scope.
- My Thoughts: While I really enjoyed this non-fiction book, it really focuses more around Ness and his life with bits and pieces about the search for the serial killer. Despite that, it is a great story and really well written for a non-fiction work.
- ⭐️: 4 out of 5
Under the Southern Sky, Kristy Woodson Harvey
Synopsis: Recently separated Amelia Saxton, a dedicated journalist, never expected that uncovering the biggest story of her career would become deeply personal. But when she discovers that a cluster of embryos belonging to her childhood friend Parker and his late wife Greer have been deemed “abandoned,” she’s put in the unenviable position of telling Parker—and dredging up old wounds in the process.
Parker has been unable to move forward since the loss of his beloved wife three years ago. He has all but forgotten about the frozen embryos, but once Amelia reveals her discovery, he knows that if he ever wants to get a part of Greer back, he’ll need to accept his fate as a single father and find a surrogate.
Each dealing with their own private griefs, Parker and Amelia slowly begin to find solace in one another as they navigate an uncertain future against the backdrop of the pristine waters of their childhood home, Cape Carolina. The journey of self-discovery leads them to an unforgettable and life-changing lesson: Family—the one you’re born into and the one you choose—is always closer than you think.
- My Thoughts: I love all of Kristy’s work and this one is no exception. In my opinion, this her best work yet. I loved the story line and sobbed multiple times at the twists and turns. It’s a wonderful read.
- 🌟: 5 out of 5
The Comeback, Ella Berman
Synopsis: At the height of her career and on the eve of her first Golden Globe nomination, teen star Grace Turner disappeared.
Now, tentatively sober and surprisingly numb, Grace is back in Los Angeles after her year of self-imposed exile. She knows the new private life she wants isn’t going to be easy as she tries to be a better person and reconnect with the people she left behind.
But when Grace is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to director Able Yorke—the man who controlled her every move for eight years—she realizes that she can’t run from the secret behind her spectacular crash and burn for much longer. And she’s the only one with nothing left to lose.
- My Thoughts: This book was a psychological thriller and while it addresses difficult, heavy topics, there are parts that are light and humorous.
- ⭐️: 4 out of 5
The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
Synopsis: In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves the Thursday Murder Club.
When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
- My Thoughts: This book is the first in a series featuring this crew, and it was quirky, hilarious, and had a good mystery. It does not end the way that a reader might think it will, and leaves you ready for the next book!
- ⭐️: 4.5 out of 5
Meet Me in Paradise, Libby Hubscher
Synopsis: Ever since her journalist mother died on assignment, Marin has played it safe, refusing to set foot outside the state of Tennessee. Her wild-child younger sister, Sadie, has trotted the globe as a photographer, living off of art and adrenaline.
When Sadie returns from a tough assignment abroad and looks a little worse for wear, Marin reluctantly agrees to a sisters’ spa weekend on the tropical island of Saba. But her lifelong fear of travel is affirmed when Sadie misses the flight, Marin’s luggage gets mixed up with another passenger’s, and an episode of turbulence sends her hurtling into the lap of Lucas Tsai, the handsome stranger who stole her sister’s seat.
For the first time in a long time, Marin has to step outside of her comfort zone as she explores the island with Lucas and learns what she’s been missing out on. With each breathtaking new experience, Marin gets closer to her real self, the man she’s falling for, and the heart-wrenching truth about why she’s there in the first place.
- My Thoughts: This book was really sweet and I enjoyed the characters of both Marin and Sadie. The travel experience was really well written from the perspective of someone who didn’t fly until much later in life, and I loved the romantic story and the sisterly bond.
- ⭐️: 4.5 out of 5
The Unhoneymooners, Christina Lauren
Synopsis: Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion…she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.
Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.
Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is…Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.
- My Thoughts: This book was fun to read! It’s witty, awkward, hilarious, and has human elements of family and relationship dynamics highlighted really well. One of my favorite books I’ve read this year.
- 🌟 : 5 out of 5
The Newcomer, Mary Kay Andrews
Synopsis: In trouble and on the run…
After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty Carnahan is certain she knows who did it: Tanya’s ex; sleazy real estate entrepreneur Evan Wingfield. Even in the grip of grief and panic Letty heeds her late sister’s warnings: “If anything bad happens to me–it’s Evan. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.” So Letty grabs her sister’s Mercedes and hits the road . . .
With a trunkful of emotional baggage…
and her wailing four-year-old niece Maya. Letty is determined to out-run Evan and the law, but run to where? Tanya, a woman with a past shrouded in secrets, left behind a “go-bag” of cash and a big honking diamond ring–but only one clue: a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel in a Florida beach town with the improbable name of Treasure Island. She sheds her old life and checks into an uncertain future at The Murmuring Surf Motel.
The No Vacancy sign is flashing & the sharks are circling…
And that’s the good news. Because The Surf, as the regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit flock of retirees and snowbirds who regard this odd-duck newcomer with suspicion and down-right hostility. As Letty settles into the motel’s former storage room, she tries to heal Maya’s heartache and unravel the key to her sister’s shady past, all while dodging the attention of the owner’s dangerously attractive son Joe, who just happens to be a local police detective. Can Letty find romance as well as a room at the inn–or will Joe betray her secrets and put her behind bars? With danger closing in, it’s a race to find the truth and right the wrongs of the past.
- My Thoughts: This book was fast-paced and had some thrilling moments in it coupled with a little romance. It’s a good beach read!
- ⭐️: 4 out of 5
The Maidens, Alex Michaelides
Synopsis: Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.
Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.
Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?
When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.
- My Thoughts: I could not put this book down. Couldn’t go to sleep until I finished it. It was a gothic treat and the first thriller I read this year. It does not end the way you might think it will and for that, I was hooked!
- 🌟: 5 out of 5
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
Synopsis: From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
- My Thoughts: This book was beautifully written, heartbreaking, and a thriller. I loved the character development and had hard time putting this down. Have some tissues handy.
- 🌟: 5 out of 5
The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave
Synopsis: Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.
- My Thoughts: I read this in one day between my morning coffee, a beach day, and a quiet happy hour glass of wine. Let me tell you… it’ a good one! It has interesting plot twists and has a feel good ending.
- ⭐️: 4.5 out of 5
The People We Keep, Allison Larkin
Synopsis: Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at Margo’s diner, she’s left fending for herself in a town where she’s never quite felt at home. When she “borrows” her neighbor’s car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than where she came from. After a fight with her dad, April packs her stuff and leaves for good, setting off on a journey to find a life that’s all hers.
Driving without a chosen destination, she stops to rest in Ithaca. Her only plan is to survive, but as she looks for work, she finds a kindred sense of belonging at Cafe Decadence, the local coffee shop. Still, somehow, it doesn’t make sense to her that life could be this easy. The more she falls in love with her friends in Ithaca, the more she can’t shake the feeling that she’ll hurt them the way she’s been hurt.
As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn’t dictate who she has to be.
This lyrical, unflinching tale is for anyone who has ever yearned for the fierce power of found family or to grasp the profound beauty of choosing to belong.
- My thoughts: This book was a fun read for me. I loved the connection to Buffalo (where my husband is from) and Asheville (I’m from NC). I especially loved the ending and enjoyed a good little cry.
- ⭐️: 4.5 out of 5
You can find all of these books in my Amazon Shop page as well. One of the ways I’ve been tailoring my reading list is by joining Book of the Month Club. If you’re interested in joining, use this link and you’ll get your first month’s book discounted. I get a perk in return, too!
What’s on your 2021 Reading List? Let me know in a comment below!
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Kristy Woo dsOn Harvey says
Thank you so much!!❤️❤️
Thank you for sharing your work! I love everything you’ve written! xx
Nicole iaqUinta says
Thank you, meghan, for the great suggestions. Ive been meaning to read something by christina lauren so maybe ill have to pick up the unhoneymooners! I Really enjoyed people we meet on vacation by emily henry and pretty much anything By kristin Hannah. Happy reading!
Thanks for sharing! I have a couple of Kristin Hannah books on my list to read this year and that one from Emily Henry! Will move that one up the list. xx