Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) —Today, Amazon announced its picks for 2021’s Best Books of the Year So Far, selecting Maggie Shipstead’s epic American saga Great Circle—a story about independence, shedding your past, following your dreams, and pushing your limits—as the No. 1 selection.
Throughout the year, Amazon Books Editors pore over thousands of pages to determine the Best Books of the Month, Best Books of the Year So Far, and Best Books of the Year, debating new releases across various categories. The Editors are passionate about uniting readers of all ages and tastes with their next favorite reads and drawing more attention to the best books by a diverse set of exceptional authors.
After curating titles released from January through June 2021, Amazon Books Editors selected perfect options to read by the pool or listen to on summer road trips, or to help readers who seek to better understand diverse experiences and cultures. The full Top 10 list spans genres and categories, including ambitious literary fiction, compelling biographies and memoirs, and gripping psychological thrillers.
“For Best Books of the Year So Far, Amazon Books Editors wanted to create a list that not only reflects the incredible books that were published this year, but also helps readers escape—whether that means sitting in a lawn chair in their yard or taking their first vacation in over a year,” said Sarah Gelman, editorial director at Amazon Books. “It was pretty clear that Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle was our favorite book so far this year—it transcends decades, continents, and conventions, and is an unforgettable read for this summer and beyond.”
The willfulness and spirit of Marian Graves, the lead protagonist in Shipstead’s Great Circle, reverberated with readers. An homage to the book’s title, many readers highlighted a specific passage in the book more than others: “Circles are wondrous because they are endless. Anything endless is wondrous. But endlessness is torture, too. I knew the horizon could never be caught but still chased it. What I have done is foolish; I had no choice but to do it.”
After being told Great Circle was Amazon Books’ top pick for the first half of 2021, Shipstead praised all of the authors on the list and noted the accolade held special meaning: “I’m thrilled to the point of bewilderment that Amazon has included Great Circle among such wonderful books, let alone that they’ve given it the No. 1 spot. Every novel contains fragments of its author’s heart and soul, and this book is full of great big chunks of mine, making its inclusion hugely meaningful.”
Here are the Amazon Books Editors Top 10 picks of 2021 so far and their reviews for what made each book stand out:
- Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead: At a young age, Marian Graves becomes obsessed with flying, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get into the sky and circumnavigate the globe. Fast forward 100 years, and Hadley Baxter is remaking herself in Hollywood as the role of Marian Graves in a Hollywood bio-epic. From Montana to Los Angeles, London to New Zealand, Great Circle follows these two women who yearn for adventure and freedom, and like flying, it’s the thrill of the century. —Al Woodworth
- Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro: When he was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, the committee noted how Ishiguro “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” In this beautiful novel, Ishiguro presents an “Artificial Friend,” a robot girl with artificial intelligence designed as a playmate for real children. It is a simultaneously heartbreaking and heart-mending story about the abyss we may never cross. —Chris Schluep
- The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson: Isaacson is famous for writing Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci, so a title like The Code Breaker might imply a book about a lesser character. But the 2020 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who co-developed the gene editing technology CRISPR, is a giant in her own right. CRISPR could open some of the greatest opportunities, and most troubling quandaries, of this century—and this book delivers. —Chris Schluep
- We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End is a story of regret and revenge, wrapped around a mystery, buried inside a tale of star-crossed love. Thirteen-year-old “outlaw” Duchess Radley—fierce but vulnerable—attempts to protect her troubled mother but instead sets off a fateful chain of events in this gorgeous, harrowing novel. —Vannessa Cronin
- What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster: For fans of Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, and Jacqueline Woodson, What’s Mine and Yours beautifully unravels the hurt, happiness, and hope that one generation bestows upon the next. An unforgettable portrait of how parents and kids—white and Black—handle love and loss, racism and loyalties. —Al Woodworth
- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah: Set during the Great Depression and featuring an unlikely heroine who will lodge herself into your heart,The Four Winds is a reminder, when we so urgently need it, of the resiliency not only of the human spirit, but of this country as well. Kristin Hannah's latest reads like a classic. —Erin Kodicek
- Punch Me Up to the Gods by Brian Broome: Hard-hitting, unflinching, and written with the unfettered gusto of a fist in motion, Punch Me Up to the Gods is a searing memoir of racism, homophobia, and addiction from a writer of enormous talent. With humor, grace, and honesty, Broome investigates his own identity and his experience as a gay Black man in America. —Al Woodworth
- Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian: This debut novel is part examination of the immigrant experience, part exploration of the dark underbelly of suburbia, all with a dash of magical realism thrown in. Two second-generation Indian Americans discover the secret to success is drinking a lemonade made from literal gold, and their lives are forever fused together and altered. If this funny, realistic, and heart-breaking story is any indication, Sathian is an author to watch. –Sarah Gelman
- The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz: The Plot is a riveting story within a story that is a Rubik’s Cube of twists. Jake Finch Bonner, a once-promising young author, is floundering in obscurity when a one-of-a-kind plot falls into his lap. The resulting book rockets Jake to stardom—only, the plot wasn’t his. Korelitz’s thriller keeps readers guessing right up to its shocking end. —Seira Wilson
- Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross: It turns out that some of the most important conversations we have are with ourselves. Ethan Kross examines the voice that speaks inside our head, explains why it’s there, and reveals how we can learn to rely on it rather than being broken by it. Chatter is a masterful, revealing take on human nature. —Chris Schluep
The list shows that Shipstead’s Great Circle is among great company in the Amazon Books Editors’ selections for Best Book of the Year So Far. Previous titles in the top spot include Abi Daré’s The Girl With the Louding Voice, Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls, Tara Westover’s Educated, and Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.
To celebrate their appearances on the annual list of Best Books of the Year So Far, three of the authors—Shipstead, Coster, and Broome—will appear on the Amazon Live Author Live series on June 9, 2021, at 1:30 p.m. PT to discuss their titles, their writing process, and more. Viewers can watch, listen, and join the conversation by visiting https://amzn.to/3ccqavr.
To view the complete list of the Best Books of the Year So Far, covering children’s, romance, science, mysteries, business, history, and more, visit www.amazon.com/bestbookssofar.
For more coverage of the books featured on the Best Books of the Year So Far list, as well as insightful reviews on new books, author interviews, and hand-curated roundups in popular categories, visit the Amazon Book Review at www.amazon.com/amazonbookreview. You can also follow the Amazon Book Editors’ recommendations and conversations on Amazon Books’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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