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2021 Fiction Award Winners

Reading Time: 5 minutes

2021 award-winning reads are here! Time to see which titles stood out among the rest.

It’s the end of the year and that means it’s award season in the book world! From the Booker Prize to the National Book Award to a number of awards for specific genres, this year’s competition included a number of fan-favorite titles.

2021 was a great year for books. The best titles in fiction ranged from compelling generational stories to hypnotic fantasies to post-apocalyptic mysteries. While your top read of the year might not be an award winner, each of these books deserves a place on any TBR.

Kirkus Prize Winner in Fiction

Harrow, by Joy Williams

Harrow, by Joy Williams - award winner

Known for her deadpan wit, Joy Williams first novel since almost winning a Pulitzer Prize is a strange and riveting tale of loss, rebellion, and revenge. Following an environmental apocalypse, readers find themselves in an elderly community. Fueled by anger, the residents of Big Girl want revenge on the corporations that took their beautiful natural world from them.

Teenager Khristen has nowhere to go after her boarding school shut down. So, she wanders across the dead landscape of this new world and eventually washes up at Big Girl. This “resort” sits on the shores of a putrid lake and is home to a handful of elderly residents and a ten-year-old boy named Jeffrey. Khristen decides to stick around, if for nothing else because these old people are up to something.

Khristen was always told that she was marked for greatness. But will she find her greatness at Big Girl? What can she learn from this group of old residents who are in the worst of health, but filled with fire as they plot violence and revenge? Can something come from all of this, something beyond reasonableness?

Booker Prize Winner

The Promise, by Damon Galgut

Booker Prize winner - the Promise

Finally a Booker Prize award winner, Damon Galgut has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times. This novel is his first win and it deserves it. This beautiful work of prose is a story of family, history, and place. An important reflection of the current atmosphere of South Africa, this story is about one family as much as it is about a country.

The Swart family has recently lost their mother. Haunted by an unmet promise, the three Swart siblings slowly start to drift apart. Each person now has to move through their lives separated from each other, relying on their own strengths, weaknesses, and fears. Over the course of the next four decades, secrets come to the surface.

Anton, the golden boy, has come to bitterly resent his life and his unfulfilled potential. Astrid, the oldest daughter, relies only on her beauty to make her way through her life. Amor, the youngest, lives every day with the weight of an enormous secret. When a handful of funerals bring the siblings back together, they come to realize that their mother had different plans for the future of the Swart family.

World Fantasy Award Winner

Trouble the Souls, by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Trouble the Saints - Book award winner

In a place where the magic of fantasy meets the history of historical fiction, sits Alaya Dawn Johnson’s novel, Trouble the Souls. Set against the backdrop of New York City at the beginning of World War II, unlikely worlds collide. This daring novel takes a magical love story and uses it to expose racial fault lines while creating a truly beautiful tale.

Phyllis LeBlanc gave up everything when she fell in love – including the man she fell in love with, Dev. Once New York’s foremost assassin, Phyllis used her knives to strike fear into the hearts of the cities dirtiest villains. However, after leaving it all behind to change her fate, it seems that Phyllis’ past won’t stay away.

Ten years later a ghost from her darker days has appeared at her doorstep. With threats mounting against the people she loves, Phyllis must make a decision. Can she escape her past and keep everyone safe? Can she wash away years of injustice?

National Book Award in Fiction

Hell of a Book, by Jason Mott

Book Award winner - Hell of a book

Bestselling author Jason Mott’s newest novel can only be described as deeply honest. While it can be funny at times, much like reality, it also addresses the difficult side of being Black in America. Discussing racism, police violence, and the cost exacted upon Black Americans, at its core, this book is about family, the love of parents and children, art, and money. It’s also just brutally honest.

The novel follows a Black author as he sets out on a cross-country publicity tour for his bestselling novel. While the main plot of the novel follows the author, Mott also introduces two other characters whose stories are just as important. The first is The Kid, a child who appears to the author multiple times while on tour. The second is Soot, a young boy living in a rural town.

But what is Soot’s story? Who is The Kid? How will the tour end for the author? With unforgettable characters and a fantastic pace, Hell of a Book earned its title. This is especially true given the book’s final twist.

Women’s Prize for Fiction

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

Finalist for the World Fantasy Award and winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Piranesi takes readers through a hypnotic tale of mystery, fantasy, and adventure. Susanna Clarke weaves together a dreamlike reality where countless corridors, thousands of rooms, and entire oceans all reside within one epic labyrinth inside a house. This house belongs to Piranesi and he spends his life exploring it.

A thrashing ocean imprisoned inside a labyrinth might strike fear into the hearts of sailors and explorers alike. But Piranesi understands the tides of this ocean better than anyone. He isn’t afraid to explore its waters, just like he isn’t afraid to wander the winding halls of the labyrinth. After all, it’s just his house.

Piranesi lives alone and a man called The Other visits him twice a week. The Other regularly asks for help with his research and nothing else. It’s a great relationship. However, as Piranesi continues to explore his home, he soon finds evidence that someone else might be wandering the halls.

Goodreads Choice Awards – Romance

The People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry

The People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry

It shouldn’t be a surprise that The People We Meet on Vacation is the Goodreads Choice Award winner for Romance. This incredibly popular romance novel by Emily Henry has been topping reading lists since it hit shelves. Why is it such a hit? Because you really can’t go wrong with a romance that throws together estranged friends, vacation, and just the right amount of chemistry.

For the last decade, Poppy and Alex have had a perfect friendship. After meeting in college, they realized that they’re made for each other. While their lives might keep them apart, they stay close by taking a vacation together every year. Well, until their last vacation ruined everything. Needless to say, they don’t talk much anymore.

However, Poppy isn’t having it anymore. Determined to either mend their friendship or end it forever, she manages to convince Alex to go on one last trip. Once vacation mode is in full swing, the friends will finally lay everything out on the table. It’s time the truth about their last vacation comes out, even if it means Poppy has to share a secret she’s been keeping since the day they met.

These are only a few of the book awards for 2021. Other awards, many of which specifically focus on specific genres, will continue to name their winners into the beginning of 2022.

For more great books to add to your TBR list, make sure to keep an eye out for more of little infinite’s featured content as we celebrate poetry, books, and this beautiful hot mess we call life on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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