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Many readers prefer curling up or traveling with a paperback than a hard-cover book, and certainly don't mind paying a bit less for it, as well. The only downside? Having to wait for the paperback release, which can be a few months or more than a year if it's a huge bestseller. But some of the best novels from 2021 are now in that less expensive and more portable form — and just as wonderful as they were last year.
Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
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The Queen of the Beach Read's Nantucket-set novel hit the top of the best-seller list last summer, and for good reason: It may be one of her best. Famous beach-book writer (ha) Vivi Howe is killed in a hit-and-run while out jogging, causing chaos among her three grown children and friends, who want to understand what happened. Meanwhile, Vivi has gone to “the Beyond,” where she's told by an Hermès scarf-wearing character named Martha that she holds three “nudges” to affect life on earth. While deciding how to use those nudges, Vivi watches her loved ones with concern as they go through their summer days — until an unexpected stranger threatens everyone's peace.
Billy Summers by Stephen King
This weighty thriller from the King of Suspense is a long read at 528 pages but worth the commitment. It's about sharpshooting hit man Billy Summers — though that's just one of his names — who justifies his profession by only killing “bad guys.” But after taking on a high-priced job, he wonders if the person or group orchestrating the hit might be the baddest of all. When he eventually becomes a target himself, he ends up saving the life of a young woman, and they hit the road together. Unlike many of King's classics, there's nothing supernatural here — besides a winking allusion to The Shining. It's on its way to a limited series adaptation for TV. And good news for King fans: He has a new book, Fairy Tale, out in September.
Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams
Beloved historical-fiction novelist Williams (author of The Summer Wives, among many others) brings us an engrossing story about American twin sisters whose paths diverge during World War II, then come together in dramatic fashion years later. In 1952, Ruth is head of a New York City modeling agency when she's sent an enigmatic postcard from her estranged sister, Iris Digby, who's married to a U.S. diplomat and living in Moscow. Ruth and a British counterintelligence agent set out together, pretending to be a married couple (rather convincingly, ahem) to possibly free Iris and her children from trouble behind the Iron Curtain.
The Magician by Colm Tóibín
Literary lovers will want to sink into this absorbing reimagining of the life of the Nobel Prize-winning German writer Thomas Mann. The story takes us through Mann’s youth, rise to fame in Germany with the publication of Buddenbrooks, initial complacency then growing alarm as the Nazis take power, marriage to wife Katia despite his attraction to young men, and emigration to the U.S. Mann family members have their own struggles, all vividly brought to life. The Irish Tóibín’s other notable novels include 2009’s Brooklyn (turned into a 2015 film starring Saoirse Ronan).