Best Fiction of 2021

Bewilderment
by Richard Powers

With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, its tantalizing vision of life beyond, and its account of a father and son’s ferocious love, Bewilderment marks Richard Powers’s most intimate and moving novel. At its heart lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?

The Personal Librarian
by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian—who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true.

The Plot
by Jean Hanff Korelitz

A psychologically suspenseful novel about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Our Country Friends
by Gary Shteyngart

Eight friends, one country house, four romances, and six months in isolation — a powerful, emotionally rich novel about love, friendship, and betrayal, a book that reads like a great Russian novel, or Chekhov on the Hudson, by a novelist The New York Times calls “one of his generation’s most original and exhilarating writers”.

Nightbitch
by Rachel Yoder

With its clear eyes on contemporary womanhood and sharp take on structures of power, Nightbitch is an outrageously original, joyfully subversive read that will make you want to howl in laughter and recognition. Addictive enough to be devoured in one sitting, this is an unforgettable novel from a blazing new talent.

Open Water
by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

Girls with Bright Futures
by Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman

Three women. Three daughters. And a promise that they’ll each get what they deserve. College admissions season at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Academy is marked by glowing acceptances from top-tier institutions and students as impressive as their parents are ambitious. But when Stanford alerts the school it’s allotting only one spot to EBA for their incoming class, three mothers discover the competition is more cut-throat than they could have imagined.