New Year, New Reading List: Books for Your 2021 TBR

Happy 2021! The year took off with a bang suitable for the heels of 2020, but I remain hopeful about the months ahead. Not everything will be roses and sunshine immediately. We need to work for better times. I do believe, however, that despite notable chaos, we can turn things around. And I’m starting with my reading list. I want to focus on reading more broadly and discovering a few new authors that I love.

Child lying on a bed reading a book, surrounded by more open books.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I read quite a bit in 2020, but I still have a tall pile of books I meant to get to. It’s always the case. But I refuse to deny myself the pleasure of upcoming releases just because I’m behind. I will dive into this new year of books with gusto. How about you? If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to new titles by favorite authors and new discoveries as well. So this week I’m offering up links to some lists of books on the horizon, as well as a wrap up of things read in 2020, both recent and old. Whatever your take on reading in the new year, I hope you find some new favorites and a lot of inspiration. Happy reading!

This week’s links:

A Year in Reading: 2020. – One of my favorite features at The Millions is their annual year in reading series. Dozens of writers weigh in with brief reflections on their readings for the past year, sometimes a whole list and others one or two notable choices. The master list links to all of this past year’s contributors.

43 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2021. – A wonderful list of upcoming releases.

7 Historical Romances to Read After Binge-Watching Bridgerton. – For those of you with a holiday hangover from the Netflix series, here are some great romances to keep you in that romantic mood.

The Astrology Book Club: What to Read This Month Based on Your Sign. – Fun and a little fluffy, but the book choices are great and varied. Fast readers might want to pick up a bunch.

The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2021. – A year’s worth of crime novels on the horizon, with enough coming out each month to keep you pretty busy.

I Will Never Watch “Children of Men” the Same Way Again. – A writer looks back on the dystopian film in the wake of recent events. Please note that the novel, by P.D. James, came first, and is well worth a read if you haven’t checked it out previously.

24-in-48 Readathon. – My favorite readathon is back this February in a slightly pared down version. I love this event, which challenges you to read for up to 24 hours out of a 48-hour period. No pressure, though. You can drop in for an hour or two and enjoy the social media bookishness, or hang in until the bitter end. Chat is about books read and loved, what snacks are best for a reading weekend, and other bookish joy. Go sign up.

Friday Links: Tricks and Treats Edition

Happy Halloween Eve! The week got away from me, as I’ve been catching up after last week’s virtual Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I started out Monday with a pile of backlog and a brain buzzing about writing structure, saggy middles, handling timelines, and more. Even agents pick up great tips at writing conferences.

Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

So here we are, on the cusp of Halloween, plus a new month and the start of NaNoWriMo. I thought I’d offer a mix of writerly and seasonal links to kick things off. Whether you plan to watch horror movies, dress up, or just settle down with a good book and bowl of candy, I wish you a fun, safe Halloween, and a stellar start to NaNo. Don’t forget to set your clocks back Saturday night. You get an extra hour of writing time on Sunday. Sounds like a treat to me!

This week’s links:

‘I spooked myself right before bedtime:’ Authors on Their Scariest Creations. – A little Halloween inspiration to put you in the mood.

The Ghost Stories of Muriel Spark. – A peek at some lesser known works of the author that fit right into the season.

Tana French: Hope in Hard Times. – The thriller writer discusses her latest manuscript, which she has the great fortune to hand in shortly before COVID-19 shut downs ramped up, as well as other aspects of her writing on the latest episode of The Secret Library Podcast.

Where to Start with Shirley Jackson. – The author’s work seems to be undergoing a resurgence on screen, but what about actually reading her stories? Here’s a guide to how  you might approach them.

When Is It Okay to Write About Someone Else’s Culture or Experience? – Part of Charlie Jane Anders’ ongoing project to write a book about story craft, which Tor.com has been publishing in installments. Great information here about what we mean when we refer to #OwnVoices writing.

How Not to Be All About What It’s Not All About: Further Thoughts on Writing About Someone Else’s Culture and Experience. – A terrific follow up to the above from Nisi Shawl.

Dissecting Suspense in Rebecca. – In light of the new adapation on Netflix (which I advise you to skip; stick to the Hitchcock version), I urge you to read or reread Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel and see for yourself all the ways suspense can build. Terrific lesson, no matter what sort of fiction you write.

Happy Book Birthday to A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE by Nalini Singh

Wishing a very happy book birthday to Nalini Singh for her debut thriller, A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE, out today. When you write successfully in a genre and have several long-running series, it can be difficult to try something new. Writing more of the same–what your fans love–seems sensible. But you only grow as a writer by challenging yourself.

With this book, Nalini pushed herself out of her comfort zone and tackled a new genre. The result is a moody, atmospheric, creepy thriller that had me holding my breath more than once. I’m so excited this book is now out in the world where you all can enjoy it.

Cover for A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE by Nalini Singh

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh welcomes you to a remote town on the edge of the world where even the blinding brightness of the sun can’t mask the darkness that lies deep within a killer.…

On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates. 

That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement to not look back. But they can’t run from the past forever. 

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.  

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

 

Friday Links: Stories Only You Can Tell

This week I’m focused on the idea that there are stories only you can tell. Writers sometimes struggle to find their unique voice. But often the problem lies in trying to tell a story that has no personal connection.

Last weekend, at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I listened to a number of very different keynote speeches. Tetsuro Shigematsu shared tales of family, of his relationships with his sisters, his father, and how they influenced the stories he told. Amal El-Mohtar spoke of belonging, of the sense memory of scent and how a whiff of something familiar and beloved can draw you into a community. Mary Robinette Kowal spoke about mechanics and voice and that something else that draws you in–or rather her charming puppet did. Liza Palmer talked about being real on the page, and the importance of being real in life first. These writers, and many others over the course of the conference, dug deep into themselves to tap into their stories. They shared personal moments, and in doing so, chose specific details to make the narrative relatable.

When writing fiction, writers dig just as deeply into their psyches to make their stories sing. Every story you write is your own story, whether you mine true-life experiences or let your imagination roam. Find the bits that touch your heart, make you laugh or cry. The choices you make will reveal your unique voice, and will result in stories only you can tell.

This week’s collection of links is something of a hodgepodge, but I hope you will consider them in light of the above. Think about it while reading great books, while working on your current project, while going for a run. Enjoy, and happy writing.

This Week’s Links

I Talked to 150 Writers and Here’s the Best Advice They Had. – A great collection of tidbits from a wide selection of authors.

How a kid who didn’t read a book until he was 17 grew up to become a literary star. – Short interview with award-winning YA author Jason Reynolds.

13 new Halloween reads to chill, amuse, inform, and terrify. – Some books to add to your seasonal TBR pile this weekend.

23 Writing Competitions to Enter Before the End of the Year. – A varied list of competitions with upcoming deadlines.

50 Great Narrative Nonfiction Books. – Some wonderful nonfiction to break up that pile of novels you’re working on, inform, inspire, and entertain.

The original synopsis of Harry Potter that J.K. Rowling sent to publishers has been revealed. – A few caveats: Rowling probably sent this (or something similar) to agents, and ultimately her agent sent it to publishers. It’s just the first page, as visible in the new British Library exhibit. Finally, it is definitely the synopsis, not the pitch or query as was declared by BuzzFeed elsewhere. But it gives a great idea of the pacing and level of detail for a synopsis. I’d guess this runs about 2-3 pages total.

Cold War Noir: 10 Novels that Defined an Anxious Era. – Given current politics, these types of novels are once again all the rage.

Necessary Whimsy: Vampire Bunnies and Other Weird-But-Fun Halloween Reads. – For anyone looking for a little humor with their  horror this year.