Christmas has passed and 2021 is coming to a close in a few days. I have seen people starting to post their favorite books of 2021 and thought it was my time add to those posts. I’ve read 35 books this year (I’m currently finishing up The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin to make it number 35.) and I had several standouts that made it a good reading year despite of the challenges with the pandemic. Here are my favorite books of this year (click on the link in the title to read the full review):
1) Wild Woman and the Blues by Denny S. Brice: A debut, historical fiction novel that captures the 1920’s Jazz Age in Chicago from a dancer’s perspective told to a young and upcoming filmmaker. Bryce does an excellent job in bringing a slice of African American life rarely brought to prose.
2) Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby: This thriller about a small town Virginia auto mechanic trying to save his business and holding onto his family by not repeating the pattern laid down by his father was engaging and thought-provoking. I’m looking forward to reading more of Cosby’s work.
3) Planting Stories (The Life of Librarian & Storyteller Pura Belpre) by Anika Aldamuy Denise & Paola Escobar: I read this book with my 12 year old daughter, Norah and I learned about someone I had never heard of before. Pura Belpre was the first librarian of Puerto Rican descent in the New York City Public Library and this picture book gives a brief but important look of her career. I love the cover!
4) Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine: My 2nd favorite read of 2021. I will admit I don’t read a lot of short story collections by a single author (that will change going forward) but these eleven stories about Latinas from Colorado were jarring, powerful, thought-provoking, and delightful to read. This is the best short story collection I have read since Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint. A must for serious readers.
5) The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley: I finally read this one. Malcolm X’s life story shows how the power of personal transformation and tragedy can exist simultaneously. This is one of the most important books I have ever read and a must for all readers.
6) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: This novel has been a favorite on social media and book clubs around the world. The story of a marriage that is forever changed when a husband goes to prison on false charges and comes out to restore the connection to his wife. However, the marriage is not the same and Jones lays out the dynamic that emerges.
7) Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez: This debut YA novel about an Argentinian teenage girl and her dreams to becoming a futbol star was the surprised read for me in 2021. I cared about Camila Hassan and how she navigated her life with her parents, brother, and boyfriend Diego who had followed his dream as a futbol player before she did. I enjoyed reading this one and looking to read more of her work in the future.
8) Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner: This book was the 2nd surprised read of 2021. Stegner’s quiet and touching novel about friendship and marriage amongst two couples was a welcomed change of pace unlike anything I had read for the entire year. The interplay between the Morgans and Langs provided an unvarnished look at human connection.
9) The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton: My favorite read of 2021. The story an unconventional black female singer from Detroit and a white male singer-songwriter from Birmingham, England forming a musical group captured my reading attention unlike any other book all year. The perils of the music business were on display and seemed real. I loved reading this one!