My usual favorite reading spot in the Bay Area has been the main branch of the local San Francisco Public Library which has a six storied beautiful building filled with books and resources. I love sitting by the window overlooking the spectacular views of the Civic Center and City Hall. Or sip some coffee at my favorite coffee shops on a weekend afternoon in the Financial District when it is finally silent there. Or in the several gorgeous Indie bookstores that the Bay Area is home to. Or the sandy beaches filled with sunlight. Even the amazing parks and hiking trails around the Golden Gate have some cool reading spots with lots of shade, like the Land End trail…
But I have been to none of these in almost a year. My only reading spot this year has been in my house. So what has kept my spirits up and motivated me to read? Great books! Amidst the stress and negativity of current times, the upcoming books and connecting with the literary community around me through virtual book clubs and events have really kept me sane, to say the least! Check out my 2020 reads here on GoodReads.
My Ambitious Reading List For 2021
I am a person who always makes lists. Sure I like to be spontaneous and go off plans as well. However, I feel making a plan and sticking to it while doing my best is a good course of action in general. For me, quantity matters as much as quality, because I am always excited to read books, and nothing can curb that enthusiasm! So at the risk of overwhelming myself, I have created an overly ambitious Reading List for myself consisting of all the books I am excited to read this year.
I have also allowed some space in my Reading Goal for 2021 for some new debuts and recommendations from friends to be added through the year. To see what new book releases I am looking forward to in 2021, click here.
My 2021 reading list is a combination of old books and new, classics and hidden gems, new authors, and some favorites. It spans across genres and includes all the genres that I and many of my fellow bibliophiles enjoy reading.
I hope this curated list gives you some recommendations that get you excited about reading as well. There will be hits and misses, but I am looking forward to getting started. So here are some of my picks from my own personal bookshelf and my library holds list that I can’t wait to read! Bookmark it to refer to these recs through the year. Comment below to let me know what books you will be reading and what books you recommend too.
- # The Invention Of Medicine: From Homer To Hippocrates – Robin Lane Fox
- Medical thinking and observation were radically changed by the ancient Greeks, one of their great legacies to the world. In the fifth century BCE, a Greek doctor put forward his clinical observations in a collection of case histories known as the Epidemics. In this book, acclaimed historian Robin Lane Fox puts these remarkable works in a wider context and upends our understanding of medical history.
- # Three Women – Lisa Taddeo
- Lisa Taddeo spent eight years and thousands of hours with the women profiled in Three Women, and she gives a shockingly vulnerable account of their sexual histories and innermost desires. Three Women introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer exploring desire, heartbreak, and infatuation in all its messy, complicated nuance.
- # The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming – David Wallace-Wells
- In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await–food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action.
- # How The Economy Works – Edmund A. Mennis
- ‘How the Economy Works: An Investor’s Guide to Tracking the Economy’ explains how the US economy functions and interacts with the financial world, and how international economies relate to the US. It also covers the major economic measurements used to track the path of the economy and its relationship to the financial markets and works as a solid base to set the stage for learning more about finance and investing.
- # The Latte Factor – David Bach
- ‘The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich’ includes author David Bach’s three secrets to financial freedom in an engaging story that will show you that you are richer than you think. Drawing on the author’s experiences teaching millions of people around the world to live a rich life, this fast, easy listen reveals how anyone—from millennials to baby boomers—can still make his or her dreams come true.
- # The Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham
- The greatest investment advisor of the twentieth century, Benjamin Graham taught and inspired people worldwide. Graham’s philosophy of “value investing” — which shields investors from substantial error and teaches them to develop long-term strategies — has made The Intelligent Investor the stock market bible. Vital and indispensable, the latest edition of The Intelligent Investor is the most important book you will ever read on how to reach your financial goals.
- # My Life On The Road – Gloria Steinem
- Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality.
- # Rebel Queen – Michelle Moran
- From the internationally best-selling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter comes the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi – India’s Joan of Arc – who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom. Rebel Queen shines a light on a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction and Michelle Moran brings nineteenth-century India to rich, vibrant life with a strong independent heroine.
- # Permanent Record – Edward Snowden
- Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government’s system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down. Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online—a man who became a spy, a whistleblower, and, in exile, the Internet’s conscience resulting into is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.
Product & Marketing
- # Digital Sense – Travis Wright
- Digital Sense: The Common Sense Approach to Effectively Blending Social Business Strategy, Marketing Technology, and Customer Experience provides a complete playbook for organizations seeking a more engaged customer experience strategy. The technological revolution has opened many doors for marketing and sales, but the key is knowing what lies behind each one—what works for your competitor may not be right for you. Digital Sense cuts through the crosstalk and confusion to give you a solid strategy for success.
- # Crossing The Chasm – Geoffery A. Moore
- Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers is the bestselling guide that created a new game plan for marketing in high-tech industries. It has become the bible for bringing cutting-edge products to progressively larger markets. It’s essential reading for anyone with a stake in the world’s most exciting marketplace.
- # Hooked – Nir Eyal
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products is based on Eyal’s years of research, consulting, and practical experience. How do successful companies create products people can’t put down? Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us? Nir Eyal answers these questions (and many more) by explaining the Hook Model—a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior.
Self-Help & Leadership
- # The 5 AM Club – Robin Sharma
- Legendary leadership and elite performance expert Robin Sharma introduced The 5am Club concept over twenty years ago, based on a revolutionary morning routine that has helped his clients maximize their productivity, activate their best health, and bulletproof their serenity in this age of overwhelming complexity. Learn how great geniuses, business titans, and the world’s wisest people start their mornings to produce astonishing achievements.
- # High-Hanging Fruit – Mark Rompolla
- High-Hanging Fruit: Build Something Great by Going Where No One Else Will is about harnessing your values to make money and produce a product or service that will truly resonate with consumers, bring you joy and fulfillment, and leave a mark on the world. It is perfect for budding entrepreneurs to learn how to start a company that is good for you, your colleagues, customers, and the world. A well-told story on starting a business from scratch with great emphasis on building a product “bigger than yourself”.
- # Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
- In this stunning book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? Along the way, he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band. A pretty exciting and engaging read!
Thrillers & Mysteries
- # Parveen Mistry Series – Sujata Massey
- The moment I heard about a book that tells the story of Perveen, Bombay’s first woman lawyer who solves crimes, I knew I had to get my hands on it! The Widows of Malabar Hill (book 1) has all that you could expect from a historical mystery fiction – Murder. Scandal. 1920s British-ruled Bombay. And an amazing Female Lead. The second book of the series is The Satapur Moonstone where Parveen’s adventures continue with a new mystery case and interesting characters. This is a series that you cannot put down. I am excited to read the third book – The Bombay Prince which is set to release in June 2021.
- # My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
- When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel, and a strong stomach. This book explores the depths to which a woman will go to keep her sister safe, protected, and out of jail. My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker and more difficult to get out of the carpet, than water. I can’t wait to dive into this nerve-bending plot!
- # The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
- Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer. One evening Alicia shoots her husband Gabriel five times in the face, and then never speaks another word. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His own search for the truth threatens to consume him. The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband — and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.
- # The Priory Of The Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon
- The scope of The Priory of The Orange Tree is majestic—brimming with details, ideas, characters, languages, and perspectives. A REAL fantasy novel. The world is complex and interesting but since it’s standalone, you follow four main POVs here. It has been called “a masterpiece of intricate world-building” and “a diverse, feminist, thought-provoking and masterfully told story“. Shannon shines her ability to breathe impossible life into new religions, histories, and conflicts and create a world so old and layered — building the classic, epic battle between good and evil to control the world. If you are a Tolkein or George R R Martin fan, this is definitely for you!
- # Shades of Magic series – V. E. Schwab
- The Shades of Magic series is the gaslamp fantasy phenomenon from my new favorite and #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab. I can’t wait to get reacquainted with her addictive writing style, complex characters, and wonderfully-conceived fantasy worlds. In the first book – A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell unofficially is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see.
- # The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman
- This legendary author needs no introduction. As I am fairly new to the fantasy genre, it was a no brainer to pick up one of his critically acclaimed and loved books. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. This story is an amalgam of helplessness and innocent ignorance of childhood with universe-old wisdom. There is friendship, love, cruelty, and resentment. There also are monsters – the real monsters come from the people’s wishes, the people’s own selves, the deep down dark that lives inside us.
- # Children Of The Alley – Naguib Mahfouz
- This is a book that intrigued me at my local library sale and I bought it immediately. It depicts the history of a Cairo alley through several generations. Successive heroes struggle to restore the rights of the people to the trust fund set up by their ancestor Gebelaawi, usurped by embezzlers and tyrants. Mahfouz creates in all its detail a world on the frontier between the real and the imaginary. At a deeper level, the book is an allegory whose heroes relive the lives of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammed. Their appearance in a modern context invites the reader to see them as human beings relevant to the present day.
- # The Far Field – Madhuri Vijay
- Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present. A multi-layered story on grief, mental illness, and self-discovery, it portrays the utterly complicated and painful reality of a young girl desperate for her mother’s love. With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay explores Kashmir and masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider
- # One Part Woman – Perumal Murugan
- I have currently started reading this book and so far I am greatly enjoying it. The premise is set in rural India with a couple — Kali and Ponna, whose efforts to conceive a child from prayers to penance, potions to pilgrimages have been in vain. Despite being in a loving and sexually satisfying relationship, they are relentlessly hounded by the taunts and insinuations of the people around them. Acutely observed, One Part Woman lays bare with unsparing clarity a relationship caught between the dictates of social convention and the tug of personal anxieties, vividly conjuring an intimate and unsettling portrait of marriage, love, and sex.
- # The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
- Weaving together multiple strands and generations of a family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
- # Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Gracia
- Beating the King of horror (Stephen King) to win the GoodReads popular choice last year, this deliciously terrifying, gothic adventure is now set to be adapted into a Hulu limited series! After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. What happens next remains to be seen (or read). Defined as an eye-popper, tear-jerker and paranoid in equal parts, it does a dangerous dance between Mexican folklore, horror stories, and Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
- # The Book Of Longings – Sue Monk Kidd
- This is the story of Ana – the wife of Jesus. Ana is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant, curious mind and a daring spirit. Defying the expectations placed on women, she engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes secret narratives about neglected and silenced women. When she meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus he becomes a floodgate for her intellect, and also the awakener of her heart. Grounded in meticulous historical research, The Book of Longings is an inspiring account of one woman’s bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place, and culture devised to silence her.
- # White Teeth – Zadie Smith
- Published back in the early 2000s, Smith’s debut novel White Teeth caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie and John Irving. At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad, and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. Set against London’s racial and cultural tapestry, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence. This is a contemporary classic I can’t wait to read!
- # The Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo
- The author of this novel is an old soul. Lombardo deeply understands marriage, sisterhood, and plain old ordinary family dysfunction which is present on every character-driven page of this book. From the outside, the parents’ marriage seems flawless. Naturally, from the inside, it is not without its peaks and valleys. This is a multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple–still madly in love after forty years–recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built. This stunning debut has masterful writing showing the good, the ugly, and the complexity of family relationships.
- # Pachinko – Min Jee Lee
- This book has been on my mind for the longest time. I was intimidated by its size, but I’m such a fool. Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters–strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis–survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history. I got this as one of my BOTM reads last year, and will be picking it up next!
Reading Is My Superpower
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.“
I am thrilled to try this new way of reading in 2021 where I outline all the books in my TBR and set up a reading goal that is ambitious yet doable for me. These 30 books are carefully curated based on the books from my personal library and TBR list that I have been really intrigued by. I also hope to pick up some exciting debuts this year along the way like some of these (link).
Many people have the misconception that building reading lists put pressure on the activity of reading. This couldn’t be more false. In my experience, it enables you to really get on with reading the books you have forever been thinking about, and also spend some time in research to identify the hidden gems of literature that spike your interest. It has certainly allowed me to get introduced to so many authors and genres that I was closed up to until now. And I am enjoying books so much more than I was before! So try this as a yearly, seasonal, or monthly activity. And of course, also pick up some reads spontaneously too!
I hope this list helps you with some great reading recommendations too. Comment below to let me know which book you would like to read from this list. Are any of your favorites in here?