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When the overwhelming stress of racing to class and studying for midterms gets to be too much, finding time to relax with a favorite book is more crucial than ever. And don’t worry, a passionate love for reading is not required for these top books of 2021. Not only are they full of mystery, love and self-discovery, they also represent the ever-growing network of female authors in fiction.  

  1. Michelle Zauner: Crying in H Mart  

This 2021 book takes the form of a powerful memoir by Micehelle Zauner that explores the relationship between Zauner and herself, her mother and her Korean heritage. While this book doesn’t follow a classic fiction genre of dystopian fiction or psychological thriller, it does explore the intense meanings of familial history in a groundbreaking way. Michelle Zauner uses her life’s dual story of American and Korean upbringing to investigate her internal struggle of identity in a very honest way.  

  1. Ashley C. Ford: Somebody’s Daughter 

While Crying in H Mart gives audiences a look into tensions between mothers and daughters, Ashley Ford’s Somebody’s Daughter highlights the delicate nature of father-daughter relationships in a comparable (but still unique) way. This memoir follows Ashley and her coming-of-age struggles, along with darker themes that many young girls face. Ashley’s journey of growing up with an incarcerated father, facing many levels of adversity and searching for love reminds audiences that not every childhood is as simple as it seems.

  1. Emily Henry: People We Meet on Vacation 

Emily Henry, also the author of best-selling book Beach Read, amazes audiences again with her 2021 novel People We Meet on Vacation. The book focuses on the friendship of Alex and Poppy, who have nothing in common—except for the annual summer vacation they take together. At first glance, this book may appear to be a light-hearted fiction piece.  However, it explores the complex nature of friendship and love, and the consequences that result.  

  1. Catherine McKenzie: Six Weeks to Live

The first thought of someone suddenly diagnosed with terminal brain cancer probably isn’t the fact that they were poisoned. However, in the case of main character Jennifer Barnes, she uses what little time she has left to find her possible killer. Jennifer’s family wants to spend what little time they have left with her, but she can only focus on finding her possible killer. Catherine McKenizie’s Six Weeks to Live creates questions of desperation in the face of death and what to do when we’re told we have only six weeks left to live.

  1. Ashley Audrain: The Push 

Finally, for those who love a psychological thriller, Ashley Audrain’s The Push introduces the darker sides to motherhood. In this work of fiction the main character, Blythe Connor, can’t accept the idea that everything is okay with her daughter Violet. Everyone tells Bltyhe she is imagining things, which only makes her feel more paranoid. In a deeply intense book, Ashley Audrain explores the idea of motherhood and ugly truths that will leave audiences questioning everything they thought they knew.

If you’re looking for ways to escape the everyday stress of college life, picking up an immersive book is the way to go. You might just find a love for reading—if you don’t already have one! You might even come to question your own beliefs, and learn a little bit more about yourself in the process.

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Lucy Holland

Cal Poly '24

Lucy is a 2nd year business major at Cal Poly SLO! She is interested in writing about current events and popular trends. Lucy is currently planning on using her business degree to attend law school after finishing her undergraduate. In her free time she likes to go to the beach, hike and discover new coffee shops!
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