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The Best Books of 2021

Best Books of 2021 LogoHere we are again. It may seem hard to believe, but the year is winding down and it's time to share our favorite books from an exciting year in publishing. To that end, we're very proud to introduce you to our annual "Best Books" list—we loved each and every one of these books, and we think you will, too.

You can scroll through all 30 titles, from Picture Books down to Cookbooks. Alternatively, use the anchor links below to jump straight to the section of your choice. As a fun bonus, we've shared a few author Q&As with some of the creators below—we always love hearing more from the people behind these special books.

Happy reading, friends.

Book Bites: Holiday Reading & More

The year’s winding down and the holidays are picking up. What does that mean? More time to read! This week, we’re featuring new books for all ages, including two that are perfect for the holidays: A sweet picture book about community bonds and a tender novella that screams “future Christmas classic.” Break out the blankets, cozy up to some cocoa, and read on.

Book Bites: Late-Breaking Favorites

The year in publishing is winding down, the holidays are creeping up, and we’ve been busy at the shop ordering books for next spring. But good books can come along at any time, evidenced by our latest roundup of staff picks. Don’t let these titles get lost in the end-of-year shuffle — there are great options below for just about every type of reader. So clear some space on your TBR and plan to come see us sometime soon!

Book Bites: Something For Everyone

If you’ve been following the store for a while, you know that we love to share our favorite recent releases with you here on the blog. Some weeks, we’re especially excited about a group of new novels. Other times, we’re all about middle grade or YA. But on occasion, the stars align and we can deliver a classic all-ages, all-genres bookish lovefest. This is one such occasion! Enjoy, friends.

New in YA: Fall Picks From Our Experts

Good news, YA readers: Our teen section is overflowing with amazing new books for you to read. Here, we’ve collected some of our favorite new YA picks across a variety of genres—including a heartrending memoir that’s one of our favorite books of the year. 

Many of the reviews below come from members of our Teen Advisory Board, a great group of dedicated Houston-area readers. If you like what you see below, consider checking out our YA First Editions Club subscription — each title for the subscription is hand selected by the board. And with subscriptions starting at just three months, it’s a perfect gift for the YA reader in your life — or for yourself! 

Book Bites: Middle Grade, Mystery, & More

As we turn the calendar to October, new books continue to fall onto our shelves fast and thick. Here, we highlight some of the new releases we’re most excited to share with you — from picture books by staff favorites Kevin Henkes and Bob Shea, to new middle grade novels from Kate diCamillo and RJ Palacio, to Anthony Doerr and the latest exploits of the Thursday Murder Club. Grab your favorite comfy chair and settle in — there’s great reading ahead.

A Conversation with Rex Ogle, Author of PUNCHING BAG

Store favorite Rex Ogle (Free Lunch) has a new YA memoir coming out next month, and we can’t wait for you to read it. It’s called Punching Bag, and it follows Rex through an adolescence marked by poverty and domestic violence. It’s a powerful read, each heartache underpinned by moments of light. In her review for the store, events coordinator Cathy Berner described the book thusly: “We can tell that Rex is walking beside us as we get glimpses of love and of hope. And at the end, we know Rex survived and has thrived. This is an extraordinary memoir that's a hard, but vitally important, read.”

Below, read an exclusive Q&A between Cathy and Rex. Then, be sure to register for the Punching Bag launch event on October 5. Rex will be interviewed by Isaac Fitzgerald, and it’s a conversation you won’t want to miss.

Book Bites: Fall Favorites

The evenings are a little cooler, the mornings a little crisper, and our shelves a little fuller with new books from favorite authors. Could it be the start of fall? A look at our events calendar certainly offers a clue—it’s stuffed to the brim with big names like Marie Lu, R.J. Palacio, Dhonielle Clayton, Amor Towles, Rick Riordan, Rick Bragg, Eoin Colfer… Okay, it’s official. 

This week, we have a variety of books from some of our most cherished, familiar favorites. Any week that brings us a new series from Alex London, picture books from Dan Santat and Carter Higgins, more Skunk and Badger, Wiley Cash, Ruths Ozeki and Hogan, Bernard Schlink… Let’s just say it’s a great time to come visit us. We’ll see you soon!

Alex London on World Building, Middle Grade, and BATTLE DRAGONS: CITY OF THIEVES


There’s a new middle grade fantasy series that should soar to the top of your TBR pile: Battle Dragons, by bestselling author and friend of the shop Alex London. As Cathy puts it, the series hits “the sweet spot for middle grade fantasy: It's set enough in the real world to allow new fantasy readers an easy entry to the genre and the incredible world building draws fantasy fans in immediately.” Plus, there’s thrilling adventure, plenty of humor, and, well lots of dragons!

Suffice it to say, we’re thrilled to be hosting Alex to celebrate the launch of book one, Battle Dragons: City of Thieves, on September 21. He’ll appear in conversation with Kwame Mbalia, and you won’t want to miss it. Until then, tide yourself over with our Q&A on the series below!

Book Bites: Starstruck

Wow, y’all. Fall publishing season is officially here, and boy has it ever started off with a bang. We’ve received box after box of exciting releases over the past two weeks, including new books by some of our very favorite authors. In the middle grade section, how about Nic Stone, Katherine Applegate, and Sara Pennypacker? For adult fiction, we’ve got Helen Hoang, Colm Toíbín, and Lisa Jewell. Throw in a great novel by writer and musician Josh Ritter, an adorable early reader book, and a poignant memoir of immigration, and it’s clear: A trip to the bookstore is in your future. We’ll see you soon!

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