By Hannah White
2020—an unprecedented year—is coming to a close. Though this year has been filled with uncertainties, one thing that has kept me grounded in all of it is reading. Good literature allows one an escape from the confines of their life, even if only for a moment. And for many, 2021 represents hope, the possibility of change, of things getting better. One of the activities I’m looking forward to most in the new year is reading the many new releases that are set to be published in 2021. From a new Stephen King novel to a literary exploration of great Russian writing, the following is a list of 5 books to add to your 2021 reading list.
Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion
Publisher: Knopf (January 26, 2021)
This collection of mostly early pieces by iconic American novelist Joan Didion offers readers a glimpse into the life of a talented writer and legend. From pondering the act of writing in “Why I Write,” to reflecting on the topics of newspapers and not getting into Stanford, Didion reminds us of her brilliance.
“Didion’s remarkable, five decades-long career as a journalist, essayist, novelist, and screenwriter has earned her a prominent place in the American literary canon, and the twelve early pieces collected here underscore her singularity. Her musings—whether contemplating “pretty” Nancy Reagan living out her “middle-class American woman’s daydream circa 1948” or the power of Ernest Hemingway’s pen—are all unmistakably Didionesque. There will never be another quite like her.” —O Magazine
We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida
Publisher: Ecco (February 9, 2021)
From the author of The Diver’s Clothes Lie empty, one of my favorite books I read this year, comes Vendela Vida’s new story about female friendship, betrayal, and a mysterious disappearance. “Suspenseful and poignant, We Run the Tides is Vendela Vida’s masterful portrait of an inimitable place on the brink of radical transformation. Pre–tech boom San Francisco finds its mirror in the changing lives of the teenage girls at the center of this story of innocence lost, the pain of too much freedom, and the struggle to find one’s authentic self. Told with a gimlet eye and great warmth, We Run the Tides is both a gripping mystery and a tribute to the wonders of youth, in all its beauty and confusion.”
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Publisher: Flatiron Books (March 30, 2021)
Garcia’s novel is described as “a sweeping, masterful debut about a daughter’s fateful choice, a mother motivated by her own past, and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born.” This story takes place in present-day Miami and revolves around Jeanette, a struggling addict who is determined to learn more about her family history while her mother Carmen is very quiet about it. Jeanette travels to Cuba to visit her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past that can no longer be withheld.
Later by Stephen King
Publisher: Hard Case Crime (March 2, 2021)
“Only the dead have no secrets” is written across the cover of King’s latest thriller. Jamie wants an ordinary childhood, but he has an unnatural ability that his mother wants him to keep a secret. He can see and learn what no one else can. “But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.” Said to have echoes from IT, Later is a story about innocence lost and is sure to be as terrifyingly satisfying as the rest of King’s works.
Publisher: Random House (January 12, 2021)
Coming from a New York Times Bestselling author and professor who has been teaching a course on the Russian short story to his MFA students, Saunders shares much of his insights on what makes great stories work. Paired with short stories by Chekhov and Tolstoy, to name some, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction writing works and why it is relevant today. Saunders writes in his introduction: “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth anyway, and how might we recognize it?”
All of these books are available for pre-order now on Amazon. For your New Year’s resolution, commit more time to reading great books in 2021.