The 24 most popular books of 2021, according to Goodreads members – Business Insider

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Goodreads is the world’s largest platform for readers to rate and review books. You can track the books you want to read, participate in challenges, and get personalized recommendations. Each year, Goodreads also hosts its Readers’ Choice Awards in 17 categories — which is currently open for voting
In the meantime, we’ve rounded up the 24 most popular fiction and nonfiction books amongst Goodreads reviewers so far this year, chosen for how often they’ve been added to readers’ “Want to Read” shelves. Goodreads eliminated any book below a 3.5-star rating, and each one had to be published in 2021 to be considered.
Whether you’re looking for a new release from an adored author or a timely nonfiction read, these books are the 24 most popular amongst Goodreads members in 2021. 
“People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.98
From the author of the 2020 hit “Beach Read” comes another summer favorite of two unlikely friends that vacation together every summer. Alex and Poppy couldn’t be more opposite: Alex, a quiet boy with hometown charm, and Poppy, a wanderlust-fueled wild child. After sharing a ride home in college, the two form a friendship, sharing a vacation together every summer for a decade, until two years ago when they ruined everything. Now, Poppy and Alex come together for one more trip to see if they can mend their friendship or if there’s really something more between them. 
“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.80
Taylor Jenkins Reid novels are known for being absolute page-turners, and “Malibu Rising” is no different. This book bounces between an epic, life-changing party over 24 hours and the family history of four famous siblings. Together, they’re a fascination to the world, children of the legendary rockstar Mick Riva. They’re all looking forward to their annual party for different reasons except Nina, recently abandoned by her husband and resentful of the spotlight. By morning, the house will be up in flames, but before that the party will become completely out of control and the secrets of the family will rise to the surface. 
“The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14
Kristin Hannah is known for her heartbreaking and exciting historical fiction novels. “The Four Winds” takes place in Texas in 1934 during the Great Depression and an insufferable drought. Elsa must make a choice to stay and fight for the success of her land, her home, and her community or take a chance and head to California in the hopes of a better life. This is a story of the search for the American Dream, one of a painful and shocking journey that is likely to pull tears from many readers. This book was also voted the best book of 2021 by Book of the Month’s subscribers.
“The Last Thing He Told Me” by Laura Dave, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14
Before Owen Michael disappears, he leaves his new wife, Hannah, an ominous note reading “protect her,” clearly referring to his teenage daughter, Bailey. As Hannah and Bailey wait for his return, the FBI arrests Owen’s boss and shows up to their home, sending the two women on a mission to piece together Owen’s past and find out the real reason he disappeared. You can read an interview with the author, Laura Dave, here.
“The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.99
In June of 1954, Emmett Watson is 18 and newly released from his one-year service on a work farm, time served for involuntary manslaughter. With his parents gone and their property foreclosed by the bank, Emmett plans to take his eight-year-old brother west for a fresh start, until he discovers that two friends from the work farm in the car that brought him home have very different plans for Emmett’s future. This book was also named the best book of 2021 according to Amazon’s book editors.
“Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.49
In this fascinating science fiction mystery novel, Ryland Grace wakes up with no memory on a ship deep in space, with two dead crewmates and an impossible mission ahead of him. The sole survivor of a desperate suicide mission, Ryland must conquer an extinction-level threat to Earth in the hopes of saving all of humanity.
“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.09
In 2017, Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature — this is his first novel since the award. Set in the near future, “Klara and the Sun” explores the human condition through Klara,  an Artificial Friend. Klara is AI, keenly observational and eerily understanding the depth of human emotion as she watches out the store window and waits for a customer to one day choose her. This book is sweet, gripping, and subtly beautiful, exploring connection, loss, and love in this speculative science fiction read. 
“The Push” by Ashley Audrain, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $17
“The Push” is a thriller that demands to be read in a single sitting. Blythe was determined to be the mother she never had — but struggles when her daughter starts to behave differently, possessing a vaguely sinister quality that no one else notices except Blythe. When Blythe’s son is born, she has the blissful motherly connection for which she always hoped, until the life she imagined changes in an instant. 
“Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.80
This contemporary story about love, sex, and relationships follows four friends — Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon — who navigate all three topics through philosophical conversations and often-awkward interactions. With its flawed protagonists and complicated relationships, this Sally Rooney novel is a fascinating new release from an author rapidly growing in popularity.
“Apples Never Fall” by Laine Moriarty, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $17.39
The Delaneys are an upstanding family in their community, known for their parent’s famed tennis academy and the four children with tennis star potential. When their mother, Joy, goes missing after the family’s interaction with a stranger, two siblings believe their father must be guilty while the other two plead his innocence. As more and more secrets are uncovered, the siblings begin to see their family history in a much different light.
“Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.57
This novel spans centuries, from a library in an ancient city to a futuristic interstellar ship, as multiple stories center around one ancient book: “Cloud Cuckoo Land.” As each character discovers the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so he can find a utopia in the skies, it changes their lives — and their own stories. 
“Under the Whispering Door” by T.J. Klune, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $23.99
Wallace Prince finally believes he might actually be dead when a reaper collects him from his own funeral and brings him to a quaint coffee shop in the mountains where he meets the owner, Hugo. Realizing he isn’t ready to let go of his life, Wallace and Hugo set out to live a lifetime in seven days, before Hugo must help him cross over to the afterlife.
“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.16
 Michelle Zauner explores growing up Korean American, feeling the high expectations of her mother, and bonding with her grandmother over late-night food in Seoul. As she grows into adulthood, she feels more and more distant from her Korean heritage — until her mother is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Forced to reconnect with her identity, Zauner offers the truest look at her most difficult days, portraying every bit of grief and conflict mixed with stunning food descriptions. 
“Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know” by Adam Grant, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.75
Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist who studies how people find motivation and meaning. In this book, Grant encourages people to not only learn from being wrong, but explore how it makes us feel. He examines why we’re uncomfortable “thinking again,” how we can develop greater introspection, and how we can teach others to think again in a way that is often more productive than getting everything right the first time. This book encourages readers to overcome overconfidence and embrace not knowing everything.
“Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted” by Suleika Jaquad, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $19.73
In a transformative story that grips readers from the first pages, we meet Suleika Jaquad in the summer after graduating from college with a world of opportunities ahead of her. After a swarm of strange itches, inescapable exhaustion, and a flurry of tests, Suleika is diagnosed with leukemia just before her 23rd birthday. After four years in a hospital bed, Suleika finally beats cancer to find a new set of challenges ahead of her: How to live rather than survive. Full of emotional truths, this is a story of heartbreak and triumph from a survivor with a chance to begin again. 
“The Anthropocene Reviewed” by John Green, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.80
Though John Green is known for his bestselling and heart-breaking young adult novels, this is his first ever nonfiction work: A collection of personal essays. Adapted and expanded from his podcast, these essays are observations and examinations of the human experience in the current geological age.
“How To Avoid A Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need” by Bill Gates, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.99
Backed by ten years of research, Bill Gates uses this book to explain why and how we must work towards a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions. Split into three main parts, Gates describes the environmental fate we currently face, the ways in which technology can function to help us reduce or eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions, and an accessible, well-defined plan by which all individuals, corporations, and governments can abide to reach this goal. This read is urgent and practical, an ambitious plan but one that is optimistic about the future of our environment. 
“What Happened To You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $17.38
What Happened To You?” is a psychological self-help read where Oprah Winfrey and brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry explore the early experiences that shape our behavioral patterns later in life. Rather than asking “what’s wrong with you?,” they use personal anecdotes to encourage readers to ask “what happened to you?” and examine our pasts to overcome our personal challenges today.
“Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” by Patrick Radden Keefe, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $19.50
The Sackler family is one of the richest families in the world, known for their large donations to arts and sciences, with their names engraved on historic institutions from Harvard to the Louvre. The source of the family’s fortune was generally a mystery, until one day it was discovered they were responsible for the creation and distribution of OxyContin. Chronicling three generations of the Sackler family, this nonfiction read explores how this infamous family became involved in starting the opioid epidemic.
“The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $21.80
Heather McGhee is an economist who explains how racism and white supremacy have negative social and economic effects on white people, too. She uses the concept of “zero-sum” (the idea that progress for some comes at the expense of others) to introduce her own new concept: The Solidarity Dividend, an idea that progress is felt amongst all when people come together across race and achieve what cannot be done alone. Heather uses historical examples and individual stories to explain how racism against minorities has had negative consequences for everyone, and to offer real solutions for a better future. 
“The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” by Walter Isaacson, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $21.49
Inspired by a book her father gave her in the sixth grade about DNA coding, Jennifer Doudna set out to become a scientist and ultimately created CRISPR, a tool that can edit DNA. Now involved in a series of moral challenges and debates, the CRISPR has the potential to change the human race forever with evolution hacking that includes making humans less susceptible to viruses and mental illness, or potentially editing DNA to enhance future humans.
“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019” edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.71
This is a chronological account of 400 years of previously silenced Black history in America. Curated by two historians, this book begins with the arrival of 20 enslaved Ndongo people in 1619 and continues to tell stories of slavery, segregation, and oppression over 80 chapters. There are also celebrations of African art and music, a life-changing collection that concludes with an essay from Alicia Garza on the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Facing the Mountain” by Daniel James Brown, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15
Based on countless hours of interviews and research, “Facing the Mountain” follows four Japanese American families whose sons volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II as their families faced internment camps and brutal bigotry as American citizens. This story follows both the sons’ impossible deployment mission and the trials on US soil as Japanese American immigrants fought against the government for their right to freedom.
“The Light of Days” by Judy Batalion, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.73
This nonfiction read highlights the little-known heroism of Jewish women in Poland who transformed Jewish youth groups into resistance forces to fight the Nazi in a variety of covert ways. From building underground bunkers to smuggling weapons, this story of the “ghetto girls” is one of immense bravery during World War II.
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