Goodreads has released its list of the most popular books of the year so far. They do this by taking the books published in the first six months of 2021 that have been added the most to users’ Want to Read shelves, then eliminating any that fall below a 3.5 star average rating.
There are 48 books on the list, split evenly between fiction and nonfiction. The Goodreads Choice Awards have become notorious for their lack of diversity, but this list is a nice surprise! Around half of the books featured are by authors of color, and there are a handful of queer books included as well, including Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters. The list is not numbered, and it’s unclear whether the order they’re listed is their ranking or not.
Some of the titles were sure fire hits, like Kazuo Ishiguro’s newest, Klara and the Sun. This is the first book he’s published since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, so it was sure to go straight to TBRs! We also have Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, a title that will appeal to fans of The Martian, and a Stephen King new release, Later.
The first book listed is The Four Winds by by Kristin Hannah, whose 2015 book The Nightingale is a book club staple. Other book club favorite authors to make the list are Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising and Katie Quinn’s The Rose Code — you might remember her from writing The Alice Network!
I was pleasantly surprised to see a few romance novels make an appearance here, including People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, which is another summertime story from the author of Beach Read! Sally Thorne, author of The Hating Game, has a new hit romance title in Second First Impressions. Then there’s a couple F/F romances which I am thrilled to see getting mainstream attention: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, a magical subway sapphics romance, and Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers, which features a Vegas wedding between strangers!
Nonfiction is a mix of topics, including business self-help from the well-respected Adam M. Grant, whose new book is Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know and humor, like Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019 by Ibram X. Kendi is the latest from this author of How To Be Antiracist. There’s even a new Anthony Bourdain book: World Travel: An Irreverent Guide.
One category I’m surprised to see so little of is Young Adult books. It feels like YA is being published in greater numbers every year, and it dominates online bookish spaces like BookTok, BookTube, and Bookstagram. There’s only one YA title on this list, though: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, prequel to the immensely successful The Hate U Give.
Enough of the books we expected to see on this list, though: I want to highlight a few titles that might surprise you — at least, they’re ones I haven’t seen a lot of buzz about.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
This is a domestic thriller and psychological drama following Blythe, a first-time mother who becomes convinced there is something wrong and unsettling about her daughter. She is even more sure of it when her next child is born, and she feels an immediate and easy connection with him. Then something happens that will change their family forever. It’s told in dual perspectives, leaving it up to the reader to decide if Blythe is paranoid or unjustly being dismissed.
Outlawed by Anna North
This is an alternate history western that takes place in a society that worships baby Jesus and prizes fertility above all else. When Ada doesn’t get pregnant in the first year of her marriage (at 17 years old), she runs away to join the Hole in the Wall Gang, to avoid punishment by her community for her infertility. Together, they try to create a safe haven for outcast women — even if it means risking their own lives.
This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith
A recent Book of the Month selection, this story begins with Tallie finding a man standing on the edge of bridge and convincing him to join her for coffee. Over the course of the weekend, Tallie tries to create a safe place for Emmett — but she has her own wounds to heal and secrets to keep. This is from an author Roxane Gay calls “a consummate storyteller.”
The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.
This is a historical fiction title that follows Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved men who find refuge in their relationship with each other. When Christianity begins creeping in, preached by another enslaved man to gain favor, the people who once saw their relationship as something simple now begin to view it as a threat.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
A family saga following generations and across continents, this story begins with Talia being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in Colombia. She desperately wants to escape and get a plane ticket back to the U.S., where her family is. We then travel back to see Talia’s parents, how they met, their immigration to the U.S., and the deportation that tore them apart.
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
In the nonfiction category, we have this memoir following Suleika Jaouad’s journey after high school and her plan to become a war correspondent — which is suddenly thrown aside when she is diagnosed with leukemia. After years of fighting for her life, Jaouad is lost when she can finally emerge from the hospital, and she begins a 15,000-mile road trip across the country to try to decide what to do next.
If you want more best of the year so far lists, check out Amazon’s picks — and stay tuned for Book Riot’s, which will be out very soon!