Happy New Year, my angels!! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!
It’s my favorite time of the year (the end, that is) where I get to make a gigantic list of books that I may never get to! I’ve loved looking through all of the books everyone is excited for in the new year, and I couldn’t pass up making one myself.
With all of the shit that we have and continue to endure this year, I need some wholesome book discussions to distract me from the harshness of reality. What better way to do that then ranting and raving about 21 books I’m excited to read? (There’s not one.)
Judging from last years 20 Books I Want To Read In 2020, and the fact that I’m starting grad school in January, I doubt I’ll read every book on this list, but this is all about having fun! Plus, I hope making this list encourages me to read books outside of school, which I rarely ever do, and maybe I won’t feel so burned out like I did during undergrad — fingers-crossed!
Now, enough of my incessant blabbering. Let’s get into my 21 Books I Want To Read In 2021!
As you probably guessed, my list contains a ton of classics, but I made it my mission to throw in a few contemporaries and fantasies to: A) spice up my typical reading style and B) have options other than classics in case grad school puts me in the mood to set them all on fire haha!
(Disclaimer: I would never in my life want to Fahrenheit 451 my books — this is an exaggeration.)
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
Much like the foods that look too good to eat, I tend to save the books I’m most excited about for a rainy day. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is a prime example of this.
I’ve been wanting to read Rebecca ever since I discovered du Maurier, but I keep putting it off for the “right time.” What better time will there ever be other than the present? 2021 is going to be the year that I read all of the books I’ve been meaning to for years, mark my words!
Anxious People – Fredrik Backman
Not a specific book that I’ve been dying to read, but an author I’ve been dying to read!
Fredrik Backman is an author I’ve always wanted to try out, mainly based on his beautiful book covers, but, for some reason, I have yet to pick up anything from him. When Anxious People released, I decided it was time to give ol’ Backman a go. As a person who is absolutely riddled with anxiety, I’d like to see what this book is all about. I’ve heard only good things about Backman’s writing, and I’m excited to finally give his books a try!
The Memory Police – Yōko Ogawa
As a lover of George Orwell’s 1984, it would be a disgrace to not include The Memory Police in books I want to read in the new year. From what I’ve heard and read, Ogawa’s dystopian novel resembles and includes a similar state surveillance/mind-altering theme to 1984, which is right up my ally. I am a little scared because I’ve heard a few mixed reviews about The Memory Police, but I’m trying my best to keep it unbiased!
Les Misérables – Victor Hugo
The remarkable and gigantic French Revolution tragedy: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.
Future Zoe here. This book is actually about the June Rebellion of 1832 (thank you mphtheatregirl!), not the French Revolution. Always double check your research, kids!
When the film adaptation released in 2012 with Anne Hathaway, I feel like everyone and their mother was talking about this story. To be honest, I never watched the movie (yikes, I know), but I like to blame my ignorant adolescence for that. 15-year-old Zoe was more interested in Breaking Dawn Part 2‘s release, apparently, but I can’t really blame her.
I’ve been studying French and French culture for the past few years, and it’s inspired me to read more French literature (how many times do I need to use the word “French” in one sentence?). I’m not gonna lie, the popularity and hype over the film Les Misérables made me choose this novel as my first French book — mainly because I love comparing the book to the movie (especially if it’s good!). I would really like to finish the book before watching the movie, and it’s a whopping 1400+ pages, so I better get started pretty soon!
Anna Karenina – Leo tolstoy
Are you all tired of seeing Anna Karenina as much as I am?? I feel like I’ve put this book in a lot of TBR’s, and I still haven’t picked it up! I don’t know if it’s the size of the novel — it’s a hefty book, as well — or the fact that I don’t know much about it, but I’m always intimidated to read it. I’m thinking I need to bite the bullet and just start reading it — maybe tonight?
Hopefully, Anna Karenina won’t be popping up on anymore future TBR’s!
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
Much like Fredrik Backman, Toni Morrison is another author that I’ve been dying to read. I somehow made it through 15 years of school without being assigned The Bluest Eye, and I feel like I’ve missed out on a ton. Since this is Morrison’s first novel, I decided it would be a good place to start! Hopefully, this will be one of many Toni Morrison reads!
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
I first read Circe by Madeline Miller a couple of years ago, and I absolutely loved it! — I even wrote a paper on it for school. I’m a mega simp when it comes to Greek mythology, and Miller’s feminist retelling of Circe, the witch of Aeaea, was both beautifully written and thought-provoking. Like, you all seriously need to pick it up if you love classical antiquity retellings — it’s incredible.
Since I adored Circe so much, I have a pretty good feeling that I’m going to love The Song of Achilles, especially since the reviews are fantastic. I think this is going to be one of those books I read in between school readings to relax a little, and I’m stoked!
The Italian – Ann Radcliffe
I don’t know much about Ann Radcliffe, other than Jane Austen adored her and she wrote Gothic fiction. Apparently she is “the Shakespeare of romantic writer,” so that intrigues me even more — what a title!
I read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abby, a parody of the Gothic novel, last year and adored it. Since I loved Austen’s version, I’m interested to see the work that inspired her. I know The Mysteries of Udolpho is Radcliffe’s more well-known work, but there’s something about The Italian that makes me want to pick it up first. We’re going purely off of vibes with this one, people!
The Farm – Joanne Ramos
Joanne Ramos’ The Farm was pretty popular on BookTube, and it’s caught my eye for the 2021 year. The Farm gives me Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World vibes because it’s about an exclusive amenity-filled retreat that pays you to stay there, but the catch is that you belong to the Farm and are monitored for 9 months while you dedicate all of your time to producing the perfect baby. That sounds fucking bananas, right?? I’m so excited to get to this book!
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
My boyfriend and I recently watched the Hulu adaptation of Catch-22 and absolutely loved it!
Like I said earlier, I usually read the book before I watch adaptations, but I truly never thought I would want to read Catch-22. I don’t typically pick up books about warfare because it doesn’t appeal to me that much, even though I do find the WWII era incredibly interesting; however, once we finished the series, I immediately knew that I had to pick up this book soon. I’m not sure how accurately the series follows the book, but if it’s anything close to it, it’s going to be a stellar novel.
Honestly, the only thing I’m kind of afraid of is the writing. I’m not trying to bash any writers by any means, but, personally, I’ve noticed novels written about war tend to have somewhat dry and dull writing, even though the events and characters are intriguing. Of course, this is simply my own opinion, and I’m hoping Joseph Heller proves me wrong.
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath’s life has always both fascinated and saddened me. I’ve been meaning to read one of her works since high school, it seems. My friend, Matthew, read The Bell Jar recently and said I had to read it; therefore, it’s included in this list!
Since The Bell Jar is semi-autobiographical, I’m looking forward to learning more about Sylvia Plath’s life, as well as just listening to what she had to say.
Olivia – Dorothy Strachey
Funny enough, I randomly came across Olivia by Dorothy Strachey on Goodreads, and I knew it was something I had to read. The blurb on Goodreads states that Olivia is “considered one of the most subtle and beautifully written lesbian novels of the century” (yes pls!).
The 1949 novel follows Olivia as she develops an infatuation for her headmistress at a finishing school outside of Paris while also observing the romance between her headmistress and the other head of the school. I haven’t read many LGBTQ+ books, but I definitely want to change that, and Olivia sounds like the perfect start. Olivia is definitely high up on my reading list for the new year!
(Also, pls send more recommendations for LGBTQ+ books — classics, if possible!)
Poems and Fragments – Sappho
Much like Dorothy Strachey, Sappho is another author that I found while precariously scrolling through Goodreads that I immediately decided “I need to read their works.”
Sappho was an Ancient Greek lyric poet, and it could be my ignorance, but I haven’t heard of many female poets of classical antiquity. I’m interested to see how her poems differ from the more common poets, like Homer and Vergil. Plus, I’ve been in the mood to read more poetry lately, so we’re killing two birds with one stone!
Milton in Purgatory – Edward Vass
Yet another book that I found unexpectedly while perusing Goodreads. I think we’re all aware that I’m obsessed with Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy, so as soon as I saw Edward Vass’ novella inspired by Purgatorio, I immediately added it to my TBR. It’s a pretty underrated book, with only 69 ratings on Goodreads, but they’re overall positive reviews.
Also, even though it doesn’t say anything about John Milton, I’m curious to see if there’s any allusions to him or Paradise Lost since the main character’s name is Milton. Could be a stylistic choice, but it’s rad either way!
The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
Another BookTube favorite! I’ve heard great reviews about The Master and Margarita, and it’s one that I’m constantly seeing all over Instagram and Goodreads — probably from the stunning cover. I’m not too sure what it’s about, but I’m curious to see why everyone likes it!
Beautiful Boy – David Sheff
In 2021, I’d like to read more nonfiction books — especially memoirs. Reading and learning from others’ journeys through life can be inspiring and so rewarding.
I’ve been wanting to pick up David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy ever since the movie adaptation starring Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell was released, but I never set it as a top priority of mine. Beautiful Boy is a memoir that follows a father coping with and attempting to help his son’s addiction to crystal meth. It definitely is a heavy topic (trigger warning for drug abuse), but I think it’s an important one to discuss.
Sheff’s son, Nic, also wrote his own memoir, Tweak, about his journey with addiction that I also really want to read. These are going to be some tough reads, emotionally, but I’m still excited for them, nonetheless.
The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon
I’m going to be honest with you guys, as I always am, and let you know that I want to read this purely based off of the cover. I want this book on my shelves so bad it hurts! It’s just so fucking beautiful.
Cover aside, I’ve heard The Priory of the Orange Tree is one of the best fantasy standalones in the book community. I typically don’t read fantasies because the really good stories are usually super long series, but I finally found a fantasy book that’s a standalone, even if it is still a massive novel. The only thing I really know about The Priory of the Orange Tree is that it has dragons, and, honestly, that’s all you have to tell me.
Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living – Manjula Martin
Trying to break into the writing industry has been challenging for me, to say the least. Since making a living from writing is a weird, taboo concept, it becomes a difficult field to try and navigate. To help improve my overall understanding of writers and their livings, I’m dying to pick up Manjula Martin’s Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living.
Martin’s Scratch combines personal essays and interviews with popular and up-and-coming authors on how writers make their living. I’m hoping their stories and journeys both inspire and educate me for my (hopefully) future writing career. I’m normally not a fan of nonfiction books, but I’m super excited to read this in the new year!
The Stand – Stephen King
Coronavirus completely obliterated 2020, taking hundreds of thousands of lives and ruining millions; there’s no secret about it. The entire process has been chaotic, confusing, and stressful. Naturally, I’ve been finding myself wanting to read books (fiction and nonfiction) that explore pandemics, illnesses, etc. as a result.
Stephen King’s The Stand has been on my radar for a few years, mainly because of the raving reviews, but I’ve never really wanted to pick it up until now — Coronavirus is partially to blame. King’s post-apocalyptic novel follows the world after a weaponized strain of the flu kills 99% of its population.
Like many of King’s novels, The Stand is a thick and hefty bitch — my edition tops out at 1440 pages!!! Even though the size intimidates me, the amount of hype and love surrounding this book motivates me to give it a go! Let’s just hope it doesn’t take all of 2021 to finish it.
The Plague – Albert Camus
Speaking of stories that center around pandemics, The Plague by Albert Camus is another book I’ve had my eye on for the upcoming year. Much like its title suggests, The Plague takes place in the midst of the Bubonic plague as it overtakes France. Not only is this story set during a worldwide pandemic, but it’s also written by a French author, so it hits both of my reading goals! A double whammy, if you will.
At first, I was going to pick up The Stranger by Albert Camus, since it is his most popular work, but The Plague popped up on my Goodreads, and I knew it was fate. Given the circumstances and the state of the world, The Stranger will have to wait.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
Last, but certainly not least, we have the classic Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë to end this enormous list. Surprisingly, I don’t know much about this book, even though everyone seems to rant and rave about fantastic it is. I think it’s a love story, or maybe a tragedy? Either way, I’m interested to see why Emily Brontë’s novel has captured and adored so many hearts.
Unlike all of the other books on this list, I will be reading Wuthering Heights for sure because it’s part of my required reading for grad school; however, I was planning on reading it in 2021, so I decided to include it anyways. I feel like Brontë’s book is one of those books you have to read in your lifetime, and I’m looking forward to checking it off!
2020 has been such a shit year — probably the shittiest year of my life, tbh — but the new year has me excited for new memories, opportunities, and reading!
I hope 2021 feels your life with love, happiness, joy, and the best books imaginable.
Let me know what you’re hoping to read in the new year!