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When the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, there’s no better place to be than curled up with a riveting read. If you’re in search of a can’t-put-it-down tale, check out my list of Must Read Books for Fall 2021.
So Many Books, So Little Time
I don’t know about you but there always seem to be more books on my wish list than hours to read them. That’s why I like to plan my reading in advance, sifting through the newly or soon to be released titles so I make the most of my limited reading time (In fact, I’ve already compiled some of my upcoming reads for this winter!).
This fall, it seems like there’s a bumper crop of promising titles. I guess I feel that way every year. Though I truly did have trouble narrowing my list to just 10 Must-Read Books for Fall 2021, I’m very excited about my picks!
A Brief Digression
Speaking of book lovers who are short on time, let me tell you about The 10 Minute Book Talk.
Every week, we’ll be interviewing authors and industry professionals, sharing book recommendations and insights into the writing life, sponsoring giveaways, and talking all things bookish. The best part? Each episode is just ten short and sweet minutes!
And now, let’s get back to the 10 Must Read Books for Fall 2021.
I Heart Happy (or Hopeful) Endings for My Must Read Books for Fall 2021
Some of these titles are books I’ve already finished and others are in process, but most of them are on my to-be-read list. My personal taste in books leans toward positive, upbeat stories, endings that are – if not totally happy, at least hopeful.
If you’re a fan of dark and depressing books, my list may not be for you. But apart from that, I feel like there’s something here for everybody – history, mystery, romantic comedy, women’s fiction, and family saga.
And with that, let’s get to the list!
by Richard Osman
The first book on my list is really two books, the first was released in July, and the sequel came fast on its heels in September. I don’t normally read a lot of mystery but I loved the idea of a mystery with sleuths in their seventies who live in a retirement home in the UK, especially since it had so many reviewers pronouncing it to be laugh-out-loud funny. And, apparently, Steven Spielberg is turning it into a movie. Sounds like just my cup of tea!
Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves the Thursday Murder Club.
When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
by Patti Callahan
Because I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis, the Narnia books, and Patti Callahan’s writing, I pre-ordered this book months ago! It’s about a young girl who is trying to find the answer to what seems like a simple question – where did Narnia come from? But the answer is more complicated than she’d imagined and may lie within herself. It’s a charming and thoughtfully written tale that was totally worth the wait.
Megs Devonshire is brilliant with numbers and equations, on a scholarship at Oxford, and dreams of solving the greatest mysteries of physics.
She prefers the dependability of facts—except for one: the younger brother she loves with all her heart doesn’t have long to live. When George becomes captivated by a brand-new book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and begs her to find out where Narnia came from, there’s no way she can refuse.
Despite her timidity about approaching the famous author, Megs soon finds herself taking tea with the Oxford don and his own brother, imploring them for answers. What she receives instead are more stories . . . stories of Jack Lewis’s life, which she takes home to George.
Why won’t Mr. Lewis just tell her plainly what George wants to know? The answer will reveal to Meg many truths that science and math cannot, and the gift she thought she was giving to her brother—the story behind Narnia—turns out to be his gift to her, instead: hope.
by Katherine Reay
Katherine’s Reay’s newest book – her first foray into historical fiction – will be released on November 2nd but I was lucky enough to get an early copy. I’ve only just begun reading, but I am already finding myself pulled into this tale of family history, scandals, and secrets. Definitely a page-turner! I’ve already got a feeling that London House will turn out to be one of my favorite books of the fall.
Caroline Payne thinks it’s just another day of work until she receives a call from Mat Hammond, an old college friend and historian. But pleasantries are cut short. Mat has uncovered a scandalous secret kept buried for decades: In World War II, Caroline’s British great-aunt betrayed family and country to marry her German lover.
Determined to find answers and save her family’s reputation, Caroline flies to her family’s ancestral home in London. She and Mat discover diaries and letters that reveal her grandmother and great-aunt were known as the “Waite sisters.” Popular and witty, they came of age during the interwar years, a time of peace and luxury filled with dances, jazz clubs, and romance. The buoyant tone of the correspondence soon yields to sadder revelations as the sisters grow apart, and one leaves home for the glittering fashion scene of Paris, despite rumblings of a coming world war.
Each letter brings more questions. Was Caroline’s great-aunt actually a traitor and Nazi collaborator, or is there a more complex truth buried in the past? Together, Caroline and Mat uncover stories of spies and secrets, love and heartbreak, and the events of one fateful evening in 1941 that changed everything.
by Juhea Kim
This book won’t be released until December but there’s already been a lot of buzz surrounding it and heaps of glowing reviews. As I read the synopsis I felt like the story shared some elements of Memoirs of a Geisha and The Good Earth, which are among my all-time favorite novels. I’m really excited about cracking the cover on this one come December!
In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.
In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.
by Louise Erdrich
I know I said I don’t read much mystery but this November release apparently involves a really irritating ghost who refuses to leave the bookstore until its recently-released-from-prison bookseller helps solve the mystery. Sounds promisingly funny and quirky, but it’s also described as profound and emotional. Funny and profound? My curiosity is officially piqued!
Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, The Sentence, asks what we owe to the living, the dead, to the reader and to the book. A small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted from November 2019 to November 2020 by the store’s most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls’ Day, but she simply won’t leave the store. Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading “with murderous attention,” must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation, and furious reckoning.
The Sentence begins on All Souls’ Day 2019 and ends on All Souls’ Day 2020. Its mystery and proliferating ghost stories during this one year propel a narrative as rich, emotional, and profound as anything Louise Erdrich has written.
by Jean Metzler
Oh, my goodness! There are more terrific sounding romantic comedies than you can shake a stick at coming out this fall. But I loved the idea of a story centered around a nice Jewish girl who has a secret career as a writer of Christmas romances. It just sounds like so much fun! And the fact that author and friend, Debbie Macomber, called it “an all-around terrific read” had me pushing the order button.
Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a shameful secret: she loves Christmas. For a decade she’s hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach.
But when her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration suddenly runs dry. Hanukkah’s not magical. It’s not merry. It’s not Christmas. Desperate not to lose her contract, Rachel’s determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemy—Jacob Greenberg.
Though Rachel and Jacob haven’t seen each other since they were kids, their grudge still glows brighter than a menorah. But as they spend more time together, Rachel finds herself drawn to Hanukkah—and Jacob—in a way she never expected. Maybe this holiday of lights will be the spark she needed to set her heart ablaze.
by Sara Desai
This is another rom-com that just sounds like a fun, lighthearted read with a potentially hilarious setup. And I liked the sound of the heroine, a workaholic lawyer who has a perfect record making matches for the lonely hearts stuck at the singles tables at weddings. Of course, I know she’ll end up with the one guy she wasn’t able to find a match for, but it sounds like the road to happily ever after will be lots of fun.
After a devastating break-up, celebrity-obsessed lawyer Zara Patel is determined never to open her heart again. She puts her energy into building her career and helping her friends find their happily-ever-afters. She’s never faced a guest at the singles table she couldn’t match, until she crosses paths with the sinfully sexy Jay Dayal.
Former military security specialist Jay has no time for love. His life is about working hard, staying focused, and winning at all costs. When charismatic Zara crashes into his life, he’s thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of chaos he wants to avoid. Worse, they’re stuck together for the entire wedding season.
So they make a deal. She’ll find his special someone if he introduces her to his celebrity clients. But when their arrangement brings them together in ways they never expected, they realize that the perfect match might just be their own.
by Julia Kelly
This book won’t be released until January, so technically it’s a winter book, but I’m already looking forward to it now so I’ve decided that counts. I binged watched The Crown several times during the pandemic, so what’s intrigued me here is the setting and the period. A book about some of the last debutantes who would ever be presented at the court of Queen Elizabeth II is a story I simply can’t pass up!
When it’s announced that 1958 will be the last year debutantes are to be presented at court, thousands of eager mothers and hopeful daughters flood the palace with letters seeking the year’s most coveted invitation: a chance for their daughters to curtsey to the young Queen Elizabeth and officially come out into society.
In an effort to appease her traditional mother, aspiring university student Lily Nichols agrees to become a debutante and do the Season, a glittering and grueling string of countless balls and cocktail parties. In doing so, she befriends two very different women: the cool and aloof Leana Hartford whose apparent perfection hides a darker side and the ambitious Katherine Norman who dreams of a career once she helps her parents find their place among the elite.
But the glorious effervescence of the Season evaporates once Lily learns a devastating secret that threatens to destroy her entire family. Faced with a dark past, she’s forced to ask herself what really matters: her family legacy or her own happiness.
by Amor Towles
Here’s the deal – if Amor Towles writes it, I’m going to read it. I loved Rules of Civility and adored Gentleman in Moscow and I am so, so thrilled to have another Towles title to read. I’m not the only one who feels that way. Surprising no one, The Lincoln Highway shot to #1 on the NYT bestseller list as soon as it was released. The only reason I’ve put it at the bottom of this list is that I wanted to save the higher positions for other good but lesser-known reads that might need a little love.
In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served fifteen months for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother, Billy, and head to California where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future, one that will take them all on a fateful journey in the opposite direction—to the City of New York.
Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.