Best of 2021: Fiction

Updated: January 19, 2022

The best books of the year, as selected by Los Angeles Public Library staff. Perfect for holiday gift-giving! For more book lists and featured book reviews, check LAPL Reads.

Book cover for Battle royal : a novel
Battle royal : a novel
Parker, Lucy (Novelist)

Sylvie Fairchild is a whimsical baker with a penchant for glitter. Her bakery is located across the street from that of Dominic De Vere, a meticulous decorator with a mastery of flavor. The engagement of the princess is announced and the competition commences. Of course there are no sparks without fire and soon Sylvie and Dominic are falling. There is, of course, more to the story then just this, as old mysteries are solved, royal romance is rescued, and new enemies are vanquished.

Book cover for The bookshop of second chances : a novel
The bookshop of second chances : a novel
Fraser, Jackie, 1972-

Nearly all at once, Thea Mottram loses her job, her marriage, a close friendship, her great uncle, and her Sussex home. The silver lining is that Great Uncle Andrew has left her his home in Scotland. But what is she to do with the countless books filling up said house? Enter Edward Maltravers, proprietor of the local antiquarian bookshop--and the town grump.

Book cover for The burning girls : a novel
The burning girls : a novel
Tudor, C. J.

This compulsive read deals with a town where ​long ago, ​martyrs were burned at the stake​. ​30 years ago​, in the same town, two teens ​​​disappear​ed​.​ ​Now, the local vicar has killed himself and a new Reverend, a single parent of a teen, arrives for a fresh start. Unfortunately, strange sightings start, and the new vicar must uncover the mystery with ties to the recent past..

Book cover for The butterfly house
The butterfly house
Engberg, Katrine, 1975-

Danish detectives must catch a serial killer who is murdering those who help others in this fast-paced, multi-layered Danish mystery. Naked bodies of victims murdered by blood letting are found day after day in the city's fountains. Who would do such a thing and why? A beautifully written and translated book that deals with murder, love, post-partum depression and family. The book is part of a series, but can be read as a stand-alone.

Book cover for Cloud cuckoo land : a novel
Cloud cuckoo land : a novel
Doerr, Anthony, 1973-

In this novel, the same story enriches and haunts the lives of five unique characters across several centuries, featuring children on the cusp of adulthood, each facing a myriad of challenges, and all of them using the same ancient Greek story for solace and inspiration. This well crafted and haunting tale beautifully illustrates the power of storytelling to both bring comfort and transform lives.


Book cover for An elderly lady must not be crossed
An elderly lady must not be crossed
Tursten, Helene, 1954-

The irrepressible, justice-seeking Maude returns with new stories about her desire to have peace and calm in her life, but is repeatedly confronted with problems that only she can resolve, in her very special way. Think of her as an elderly sidekick to Dirty Harry.

Book cover for The final revival of Opal & Nev : a novel
The final revival of Opal & Nev : a novel
Walton, Dawnie

This fictional oral history of a legendary 1970s rock duo is so vivid and evocative, it's hard to believe that its main characters, Afro-punk icon Opal Jewel and eccentric English songwriter Nev Charles aren't real people. Walton's powerhouse debut novel is a gripping page-turner, as well as an ambitious exploration of Black women making art on their own terms.

Book cover for Good Neighbors: A Novel
Good Neighbors: A Novel
Langan, Sarah

This novel explores how terrifying and deadly fear, suspicion, prejudice and the need for a scapegoat can be, especially when one person is treated horribly by another person. Author Sarah Langan demonstrates that our imaginations cannot compete with the horrors of reality, and what one person can unleash on another. She develops a group of recognizable characters and then allows readers to watch as they are all pushed to their limits.  A terrifying, disturbing and compelling read.


Book cover for An Irish country Yuletide / An Irish Country Novella
An Irish country Yuletide / An Irish Country Novella
Taylor, Patrick, 1941-

The sixteenth volume of Patrick Taylor's beloved Irish Country series finds the Northern Irish town of Ballybucklebo preparing for its annual Christmas celebration. Marquis John McNeil has an unexpected visitor bearing bad news, while Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly's medical practice gains an eager new member. And, as with most volumes in the series, An Irish Country Yuletide ends with a selection of recipes, courtesy of Dr. O'Reilly's housekeeper, Maureen "Kinky" Kincaid.

Book cover for The Library of the Dead
The Library of the Dead
Huchu, T. L.

In this enthralling series opener, set in Edinburgh, teenage Ropa hunts down the last wishes of ghosts, using both her Zimbabwean magic and Scottish know-how. She helps the dead give messages to the living, which helps Ropa's grandmother and younger sister have a roof over their heads and food on the table. When she learns that someone, or something, is stealing the city's children, she then starts to investigate. What she finds will shake her to her core.

Book cover for A line to kill : a novel
A line to kill : a novel
Horowitz, Anthony, 1955-
Call Number: M

In his third Hawthorne & Horowitz outing, Anthony Horowitz sends his fictional doppelganger, along with former Detective Inspector, now Private Investigator, Daniel Hawthorne to a small literary festival. The novel is populated with the required group of interesting potential suspects and, by setting the festival on an island, also plays with the classic “locked room” mystery. Horowitz, the real one and not his fictional counterpart, has created a riveting combination of golden-age whodunit and contemporary concerns, sensibilities and motivations. The result is a page turner that will leave readers hoping that the wait for the next book in the series will not be long. 

Book cover for The Lost Apothecary
The Lost Apothecary
Penner, Sarah

This debut novel is a bit of a mystery, a bit of a thriller, part contemporary and part historical, and totally engrossing.  There are two stories. Nella Clavinger, an apothecary who runs a secret shop in London catering to the needs of women who have few, if any, alternatives to her services; and that of Caroline Parcewell, a tourist from Ohio who, visiting London for the first time, finds an object related to Nella’s shop and a mystery that has persisted for a century.  The author weaves these stories together to create a compelling novel that illustrates the resourcefulness of women to survive--even the most trying of circumstances.  


Book cover for Love and Fury
Love and Fury
Silva, Samantha

Samantha Silva, author of 2017’s excellent Mr. Dickens and his Carol, returns with a fictionalized biography of Mary Wollstonecraft, a woman whose ideas continue to echo, and create debate, centuries after her death. Silva provides a compelling account of a woman fighting desperately to live her own life on her own terms and, in the process, lays a foundation for the fight for women’s rights.

Book cover for No one is talking about this
No one is talking about this
Lockwood, Patricia

Lockwood's narrator is an extremely online person, held in thrall to the compulsive, lab-rat-chasing-a-pellet lure of what she calls "the portal." The novel's first half lives exclusively in the portal, while its second is set painfully, viscerally, and beautifully in the real world. I laughed, I cried, and I quit Twitter after reading this book - what more could a reader want?

Book cover for The orphanage : a novel
The orphanage : a novel
Z︠H︡adan, Serhiĭ, 1974-

As Russian troops invade eastern Ukraine, nebbishy school teacher Pasha must summon his courage and cleverness to enter occupied territory to rescue his nephew from the orphanage where Pasha’s sister left him on her way out of town. Vivid and raw, The Orphanage chronicles this contemporary conflict the way only a poet can.

Book cover for Out of Character
Out of Character
Albert, Annabeth

A sequel to Conventionally Yours, and the world of Odyssey gamers and conventions plus cosplay, and the reutrn of Jasper, a supporting charater. The focus this time is on Milo Lionetti who is struggling to find himself, and on his journey of self-realization he reconnects and makes amends with Jasper. Out of Character is another round of nerdy fun for those looking for a bit of romance!


Book cover for The Paris library : a novel
The Paris library : a novel
Skeslien Charles, Janet

This beautifully, heartfelt and absorbing historical novel takes the reader to Paris, 1939, and to Montana, 1983. Readers meet Odile, her family, friends and policeman boyfriend at her dream job at the American Library in Paris, where life is almost wonderful until the Nazis march into town and betrayal ensues. We also meet Lily, a 1980s teen looking for something to take her mind off her troubles, and she might find an aborbing mystery in her solitary neighbor.​

Book cover for The Plot
The Plot
Korelitz, Jean Hanff


“Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” That ubiquitous phrase attributed to T.S. Elliot (which didn’t mean that Elliot hadn’t, himself, stolen it!), sums up perfectly the dilemma at the center of this novel: is it stealing if an author uses an idea no one else is currently using? Korelitz explores questions regarding inspiration, representation and appropriation, all integrated seamlessly into a thriller sprinkled with literary and cultural references and tension that is slowly increased as the true complexity of the novel is incrementally revealed. This  is a taut, page turning thriller!

Book cover for The Reading List: A Novel
The Reading List: A Novel
Adams, Sara Nisha


Fiction can have powerful effects on readers as portrayed in the lives of two self-avowed non-readers, Mukesh and Aleisha.  Aleisha is a young adult abandoned by her parents and is struggling to find her place in the world despite the demands of a dysfunctional family. Mukesh is an older adult who had an incredibly happy life until losing his beloved wife. Mukesh and Aleisha have been hurt and are dealing with their own types of grief and loneliness, but find solace and hope by sharing the books they read. This novel illustrates the profound effects of reading and sharing books with others.

Book cover for Revelator
Gregory, Daryl

In this unique novel, you'll meet Stella who, in 1933, is placed in her grandmother's care in the backwoods of Tennessee. In a cave, she soon meets the family's god, Ghostdaddy. In alternating chapters, we meet Stella. who is all grown up, having fled from her home. What will get her to go back? What about the mysteries and destruction she left behind? This spellbinding novel will reveal the answers to those questions, and more.

Book cover for Silverview
Le Carré, John, 1931-2020

The last work from the master writer of modern espionage, John le Carré, and involves the secret world of spies and intrigue that he knew so well. The action takes place in an unlikely spot, a quiet English seaside town where Julian Lawndsley is seeking a quieter way of life that is soon upended by a Polish expat who lives in Silverview, a large house near town.


Book cover for Under the Whispering Door
Under the Whispering Door
Klune, TJ

A moving, meditative look at death and what might come after, Under the Whispering Door follows Wallace Price, recently deceased, as he adjusts to his time as a spirit. But what he learns along the way makes him feel more alive than ever before.

Book cover for The witness for the dead
The witness for the dead
Addison, Katherine

Thara Celehar is working as the eponymous witness for the dead in the city of Amalo. A case involving a dead opera singer, another centering on a contested will, the discovery of a man with a history of dead wives, not to mention the appearance of a ghoul, and the consequences of political maneuvering all beset our Witness. What he does about all of these things is what makes the book so satisfying.