The Most Exciting Reads Of Winter/Spring 2021

Including a new Jhumpa Lahiri, a “Great Gatsby” retelling, and several novels about witches

Angela Lashbrook

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Feeling overwhelmed and verklempt about the year’s reading material. “A Brace of Full-grown Puppies: or My Dog and Me,” 1807, Thomas Rowlandson

I have consistently, in times of great distress or even merely to get through annoying circumstances, depended upon escaping into a novel to get through it. 2021 will be another heavy year; there will be battles to fight and hope to cultivate and energy in grave need of restoration. I intend to get through it all, at least in part, as I always have: by sinking into stories with the strength, humor, and heart to carry me from one trying day to the next.

Not everyone reads this way, but it’s how I’ve always approached reading — and it’s reflected in my lists, which tend to focus on books driven by character and which have a strong sense of narrative.

The forecast for 2021 fiction that fits this bill is very, very good. Overwhelmingly good, need-more-hours-in-a-day good. So behold: a necessarily abbreviated preview of what’s to come the first half of 2021.

JANUARY

PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS, Chris Harding Thornton. Jan 5. In Nebraska in 1978, a small town is torn apart when a family patriarch decides to end the search for his son’s body, who was murdered decades ago. Tana French calls it “an atmospheric, slow-burning beauty of a book, rich with raw-edged lyricism and achingly real characters.” Bookshop.

BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME, Julia Claiborne Johnson. Jan 5. In 1938, women looking for quick divorces establish six-week residencies in Reno, Nevada. An employee on a divorce dude ranch thinks he has these women all figured out, but two new guests are about to upset everything he thinks he knows. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly calls it a “rollicking comedy.” Bookshop.

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Angela Lashbrook

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.