I read 40 books last year which was the most I’ve read for pleasure in as long as I can remember. It reignited my love of reading and had me excited to build this year’s reading list. Over the holidays I read so much. In large part to the fact that I limited my time on social media and tried to take a proper break from work. It felt so nice and is encouraging me to continue to prioritize reading in 2021. If you missed my 2020 Favorite Books be sure to check it out and don’t miss the comments section where you guys left some awesome recommendations – a few of which I ended up adding to this post!
Last year I focused on “lighter” reading given the heavy events of the year and therefore didn’t make a ton of progress on my 2020 reading list. I carried a few over but this year I’ve decided to prioritize more memoirs (I so enjoyed getting into this genre last year) and also have a lot of books set in Paris on my list. Since I can’t travel to Paris as I usually do due to the pandemic, I’m hopeful that these pages will work to transport me virtually.
My 2021 Reading List:
The Wedding Party.
My friend Hitha told me I will love this author and to start my foray into her delightful books with this read! Maddie and Theo have two things in common: Alexa is their best friend and they hate each other. But, after an “oops, we made a mistake” night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other.
A Moveable Feast.
This is a favorite book of mine. I fell in love with the words as I read it studying abroad in Paris. I’d like to revisit it this year. Ernest Hemingway’s classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, now available in a restored edition, includes the original manuscript along with insightful recollections and unfinished sketches.
Born a Crime.
Trevor Noah’s memoir of his childhood in South Africa was one of the most recommended memoirs when I polled my Instagram audience last year. It was actually the first book I read this year and I loved it.
Paris for One.
Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She’s never even been on a romantic weekend away—to anywhere—before. Traveling abroad isn’t really her thing. But when Nell’s boyfriend fails to show up for their mini-vacation, she has the opportunity to prove everyone—including herself—wrong. Alone in Paris, Nell finds a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid.
Paris: The Novel.
From Edward Rutherfurd, the grand master of the historical novel, comes a dazzling epic about the magnificent city of Paris. Moving back and forth in time, the story unfolds through intimate and thrilling tales of self-discovery, divided loyalty, and long-kept secrets.
All the Flowers in Paris.
When Caroline wakes up in a Paris hospital with no memory of her past, she’s confused to learn that for years she’s lived a sad, reclusive life in a sprawling apartment on the rue Cler. Slowly regaining vague memories of a man and a young child, she vows to piece her life back together—though she can’t help but feel she may be in danger. A budding friendship with the chef of a charming nearby restaurant takes her mind off her foggy past, as does a startling mystery from decades prior.
Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.
The Only Street in Paris.
Elaine Sciolino, the former Paris Bureau Chief of the New York Times, invites us on a tour of her favorite Parisian street, offering an homage to street life and the pleasures of Parisian living.
Ask Again, Yes.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie NYPD cops, are neighbors in the suburbs. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.
Such a Fun Age.
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
The Light of Paris.
Madeleine is trapped—by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears—in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters. In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been—elegant, reserved, perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafés, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.
When We Were Young.
This book was written by a longtime wit & whimsy reader! I can’t wait to read it. Three generations of women come together in this page-turning debut full of family secrets, heart-wrenching drama, and the promise of second chances.
Paris in Love.
When bestselling romance author Eloisa James took a sabbatical from her day job as a Shakespeare professor, she also took a leap that many people dream about: She sold her house and moved her family to Paris.
The Daily Stoic.
I bought this book last January but never cracked it open. Looking forward to doing so this year. The Daily Stoic offers 366 days of Stoic insights and exercises, featuring all-new translations from the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the playwright Seneca, or slave-turned-philosopher Epictetus, as well as lesser-known luminaries like Zeno, Cleanthes, and Musonius Rufus. Every day of the year you’ll find one of their pithy, powerful quotations, as well as historical anecdotes, provocative commentary, and a helpful glossary of Greek terms.
Everything I Never Told You.
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.
Know My Name.
I have heard this book is incredibly powerful and moving. She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral–viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage.
The Golden Hour.
The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in the Bahamas to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires? Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glister of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies an ugly—and even treasonous—reality.
The Ex Talk.
Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.
The Age of Light.
“I’d rather take a photograph than be one,” Lee Miller declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. As they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee’s life forever.
A Woman is No Man.
In her debut novel Etaf Rum tells the story of three generations of Palestinian-American women struggling to express their individual desires within the confines of their Arab culture in the wake of shocking intimate violence in their community—a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman Is No Man is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.
Year of Yes.
I have this downloaded to listen to as an audiobook! This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda Rhimes’ life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.
Grace: A Memoir.
Another memoir I have downloaded to listen to. I was inspired after loving The Chiffon Trenches by Grace’s colleague Andre Leon Tally. Grace Coddington’s extraordinary talent and fierce dedication to her work as creative director of Vogue have made her an international icon. Known through much of her career only to those behind the scenes, she might have remained fashion’s best-kept secret were it not for The September Issue, the acclaimed 2009 documentary that turned publicity-averse Grace into a sudden, reluctant celebrity.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock.
One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This chance meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, a journey on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost…
Over the Top.
Another memoir I have downloaded to listen to! Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, Jonathan Van Ness was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so…over the top. From choreographed carpet figure skating routines to the unavoidable fact that he was Just. So. Gay., Jonathan was an easy target and endured years of judgement, ridicule and trauma—yet none of it crushed his uniquely effervescent spirit.
I’m not Anthony Bourdain’s biggest fan but I have heard great things about this book so I am currently listening to it on audiobook. The memoir of Chef Anthony Bourdain laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine—now with all-new, never-before-published material.
Luc O’Donnell is tangentially?and reluctantly?famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.
The Gifted School.
Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who’ve been a part of one another’s lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group’s children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It’s a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost.
We Met in December.
Following a year in the life of a twenty-something British woman who falls hard for her London flat mate, this clever, fun, and unforgettable romantic comedy is the perfect feel-good holiday read.
The Wine Maker’s Wife.
I just read – at the recommendation of my mom – and loved this author’s other book The Book of Lost Names so I am adding this read to my list. Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Résistance. Inès fears they’ll be exposed, but for Céline, half-Jewish wife of Chauveau’s chef de cave, the risk is even greater—rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.
For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. And she quit pleasing and started living.
After reading and being riveted by Catch and Kill, I have this book on the same subject matter on my list. For many years, reporters had tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. Rumors of wrongdoing had long circulated. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power. During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees, and other sources, many disturbing and long-buried allegations were unearthed, and a web of onerous secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements was revealed.
These shadowy settlements had long been used to hide sexual harassment and abuse. But with a breakthrough reporting technique Kantor and Twohey helped to expose it. But Weinstein had evaded scrutiny in the past, and he was not going down without a fight; he employed a team of high-profile lawyers, private investigators, and other allies to thwart the investigation. When Kantor and Twohey were finally able to convince some sources to go on the record, a dramatic final showdown between Weinstein and the New York Times was set in motion.
. . .
I use Libro.FM to listen to audiobooks – if use this link to get a free month of membership and 1 free audiobook. And my Book of the Month remains the best mail I get every month – it definitely encourages me to read more!
What book are you looking forward to reading this year? Did you have a favorite book of 2020? I’d love to hear them so I can add to my list!
And don’t miss other books I’ve enjoyed.
p.s. the best books I read in 2020 and more books I’ve enjoyed.
I highly recommend A Lost Vintage by Ann Mah. I read her book after the Book of Lost Names and was transported to France and loved every minute of it. I’m looking forward to reading some of the books on your list as well 🙂
Adding to my list right now! Thank you so much for the recommendation, Natalie!
What a great list. Makes me want to create a reading list (I usually just pick up whatever, randomly). I’ve read and loved several on your list; you’re in for some treats! I recently finished a wonderful book set in Paris: the pleasing hour by Lily king. Happy New Year Meghan!
Have added this to my list – thank you so much for the rec, Sue!!
I think you would love Madame Fourcade’s Secret War by Lynne Olson! It was one of my favorite books of 2020 and I’ve been trying to get all my friends to read it ever since then :). It’s nonfiction about the woman who led France’s largest spy ring against the Nazis during WWII. It reads like fiction – there are lots of amazing stories of ordinary French people doing crazy-brave things!
Sounds right up my alley! Thank you so much for the rec- have just added to my list!
Oh my gosh, you are SO sweet to include When We Were Young!! 🙂 I am so excited for you to read it! And so many good picks on this list–The Book of Lost Names was one of my absolute favorites of last year!
🙂 Can’t wait to read it!
I’m adding so many of these to my list!! And I listened to Year of Yes on audiobook a couple years ago and it is so fabulous! Really made me think about what happens when we open ourselves up to possibilities, opportunities, and things that scare and excite us!
So glad to hear you found the post helpful! Can’t wait to read Year of Yes! Great to know you loved it.
Love this, as reading is one of my favorite hobbies! Many of your picks are on my list for this year (Ask Again, Yes and A Woman Is No Man); also on my list which I’m excited about is The Vanishing Half, which I keep seeing heralded everywhere as one of the best books of 2020!
Oh yes! I want to read that one, too! Thanks for the reminder!
So many fun books here!
I’m sure you’ve already read A Paris Wife but I highly recommend reading it right after A Moveable Feast. It can stand on it’s own but it’s kind of fun to read the non-fiction and then fictionalized, different perspective version of that same time.
Thank you for sharing your list! There are a lot of new-to-me Paris books on here that I can’t wait to dive into. I read and absolutely loved “All the Flowers In Paris.” It was truly one of the best books I read in 2020; the story-telling was just superb. Hope you love it, too!
Thrilled to hear this! Can’t wait to hear what you think about the other Paris books once you’ve had a chance to read them!
Love this post! I have also already read Born a Crime in 2021 and loved it. Homegoing was one of my top 3 reads in 2020. Definitely recommend the book version so you can refer back to the timeline in the beginning easily! I want to read Anxious People, too! Maybe a buddy read 🙂
You are going to love Homegoing! I would also recommend her 2nd book, Transcendent Kingdom which is nothing like Homegoing, save for the excellent storytelling.
Thank you so much for the additional rec!!