Editors' Picks: Scary Mommy's Favorite Books of 2021

Editors’ Picks: Scary Mommy’s Favorite Books of 2021

Smiling young woman lying on bed with book

Scary Mommy’s editors picked their very favorite reads of the year, from page-turning novels to riveting memoir to non-fiction

2021 sure was a year to escape reality with the the help of a book. While some people had trouble focusing on long-form reading due to the ongoing global pandemic and other assorted crap (and wow do we totally understand that), others upped their book consumption considerably, considering that going outside or even thinking about the real world is usually scary these days.

Here at Scary Mommy, it’s no surprise that we love books and stories — and that most of us cling to them during hard times. Some of our editors, like our beloved photo editor Julia, did a deep dive into the rom com genre (and her recommendations are amazing). Others, like our intrepid editor-in-chief Kate Auletta, dealt with the chaos around us by learning more about the issues at hand with non-fiction picks like the incredibly written Empire of Pain. Still others, like me, read super weird literary fiction about stuff like a woman who has sex with an owl and then gives birth an owl-baby, because that’s the sort of stuff I like to read, okay? Jeez!

Without further ado: here are our editor’s book picks for 2021, in no particular order.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Recommended by Kate Auletta, Scary Mommy Editor-in-Chief 

 

I loved Hannah’s The Nightingale and many of my friends recommended her latest, The Four Winds, to me, too. It’s a sweeping narrative about one family’s tragic and heart-wrenching time in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. It’s certainly not uplifting, but it’s beautifully told and I didn’t want it to end. 

$14.00 BUY AT AMAZON



Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

Recommended by Julia Meslener, Scary Mommy Photo Editor 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown is the third book in the AMAZING Brown Sisters series by Talia Hibbert. It’s the super cute and funny story of Eve Brown, who is quite frankly a bit of a mess and accidentally hits an uptight B&B owner with her car, and has to help him run the business while he recovers. It is so refreshing to see a plus-size woman of color as the main character. This read is awesome as a stand alone, but do yourself a service and read all three!

$11.60 BUY AT AMAZON

All’s Well by Mona Awad

Recommended by Sarah Aswell, Scary Mommy Special Projects Editor 

I cannot convey to you how much I LOVE THIS BOOK. I love it so much that I bought everything else the author has ever written after I finished it. I love it so much that I’m telling everyone I know about it, including many people who don’t care. The book is a simultaneous retelling/mashup of Shakespear’s All’s Well That Ends Well and Macbeth—reimagined from the point of view of a broken-down college theater professor. It’s about women’s pain—and what might happen if that pain suddenly disappeared when you run into three male witches in a dive bar. It’s terrifying and funny and weird as hell and I had so much fun reading it.

$22.99 BUY AT AMAZON

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Recommended by Karen Johnson, Scary Mommy Associate Editor 

 

Painfully heartbreaking at times, this book opened my eyes to an entire culture and way of life I never knew existed — the life of the sea women in Korea. Set against the backdrop of the Korean War, it’s a masterpiece of historical fiction that taught me the horrific truths of what the island people endured and also inspired me with a tale of strength, grit, and the sheer will of women, as well as the value of forgiveness.

$8.98 BUY AT AMAZON



The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Daliia Harris

Recommended by Kate Auletta, Scary Mommy Editor-in-Chief 

 

This summer, I couldn’t go on social media without someone I know (and celebrities, too) talking about Zakiya Dalila Harris’ The Other Black Girl. Harris turned the narrative on its head and this book is bizarre and fun and thought-provoking. I read it at the beach, but it’s a great read year-round. 

$13.49 BUY AT AMAZON

Chouette by Claire Oshetsky

Recommended by Sarah Aswell, Scary Mommy Special Projects Editor 

 

This is perhaps my favorite kind of book: it’s literary and non-conventional, but it’s also a gripping page-turner that you can’t quite get out of your mind or put down until you’ve finished. The story of a woman who gives birth to an owl-baby, this book became so much more meaningful and nuanced once I realized, about a third of the way through, that the book was about parenting a baby who’s different — a kid with a disability or special needs — and all of the feelings and fears and hopes and conflicts that come with it (the author, who is autistic, wrote the book about raising her autistic daughter). I appreciated that the book taught me so much about what that experience must be like at the same time that I found myself identifying with what it feels like to raise any kid that might be a little out of the norm in any way. 

 

The book is just beautifully written. And even though there are parts that become so strange that I couldn’t quite understand, it never stops making you think and feel. It’s one of my favorite reads of the year.

$19.09 BUY AT AMAZON

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Recommended by Julia Meslener, Scary Mommy Photo Editor 

 

It Happened One Summer is like if Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek were forced to move to a small Pacific Northwest fishing town – but then add a handsome grumpy widower. This book was so cute and sweet, and a bit steamy, too. I loved the storyline outside of the romance as well – we love personal growth! 

$10.99 BUY AT AMAZON



Empire of Pain by Patrick Dadden Keefe

Recommended by Kate Auletta, Scary Mommy Editor-in-Chief 

Empire of Pain is a devastating look at the history of the Sackler family and their hand in the opioid epidemic. It’s fascinating and sad and incredibly well-written, and if you’re in the mood for a depressing non-fiction book this one’s for you. P.S. It’s written by Patrick Radden Keefe, who wrote another fantastic book about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Say Nothing.

$19.50 BUY AT AMAZON

Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough

Recommended by Sarah Aswell, Scary Mommy Special Projects Editor 

 

From the first paragraph of this fast-moving memoir about growing up (and then leaving) a sex cult, we are introduced to a very unreliable narrator (she tells us on the first page that she LIES) who also happens to seem extremely unlikable at first. And our first instinct is to push her away and question everything she says. 

 

But she can write. And she can process very difficult emotions, and talk about humanity in a fresh way that can make your heart hurt. And she is extremely, extremely funny. This is the rare memoir that is a page-turner/stay-up-past-your-bedtime read that is also a smart and fresh commentary on society, religion, sexuality, class, and ultimately a person’s place in the world.

$10.19 BUY AT AMAZON

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Recommended by Julia Meslener, Scary Mommy Photo Editor 

The Love Hypothesis is a story about Ph.D. candidate Olive, who accidentally falls into a fake-dating scenario with Adam, a professor at her university. This story is so sweet and wholesome, and the lead male character is based on Adam Driver if you are as obsessed with him (like the rest of us!).

$11.28 BUY AT AMAZON



The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton

Recommended by Sarah Aswell, Scary Mommy Special Projects Editor 

I absolutely got lost in this book! The Final Revival of Opal and Nev reads like a VH1 Behind the Music blended with a Rolling Stone oral history—with a story so real and detailed and richly imagined that it feels deeply true. It follows the unlikely musical partnership of Opal Jewel, a talented and defiant Black singer from Detroit, and Neville Charles, a quiet red-headed British singer/songwriter. Sweepingly fun and readable— but without ignoring the serious and complex issues of race and art and belonging—I savored every page, and was so excited to choose it for a Scary Mommy Book Club Selection in December.

$18.26 BUY AT AMAZON

 

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SHOP THE STORY
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The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
$14.00
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
$11.60
All’s Well by Mona Awad
$22.99
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
$8.98
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Daliia Ha...
$13.49
Chouette by Claire Oshetsky
$19.09
It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
$10.99
Empire of Pain by Patrick Dadden Keefe
$19.50
Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing by Lau...
$10.19
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
$11.28
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Daw...
$18.26