The handful of books I am currently most excited about are right here on this page. I read widely, though, and hate to ever remove a book from my list of suggestions, so I've categorized my archived picks. Scroll down and click on the links to find more of my recommendations! My Ten Favorite Books of 2021 are the top 11 books on the list.
The reason this book is so big is because it is both a stunning novel and an entire, gut-wrenching course in the history of Black people in America. Jeffers needs all of its nearly 800 pages to accommodate the rich detail and complexities of one family's Georgia roots and the myriad ways those roots have informed the branches generations on. She might have told the story in half the words, but to our great fortune, the poet Jeffers had all the words to tell it whole. Make space for this book; it is a treasure.
If you're looking for a big, rich novel to get lost in, look no further. With threads of romance and adventure, Shipstead weaves together the story of an eccentric woman aviator and the troubled Hollywood actress taped to play her in a bio-pic, ultimately revealing the paradoxical fragility and durability of human lives.
This collection of short stories by the brilliant Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers and Euphoria, is full of surprise, delight, and quiet devastation. Like much of her work, these stories are informed by a certain kind of upbringing, but King brings a sensitivity to her characters that destablizes stereotypes, even while reinforcing them. Each story is a treasure.
An unnamed narrator, recently relocated from New York City, has taken a new job as a translator at the International Criminal Courts in The Hague. Lonely, she takes up with a Dutchman whose wife has recently left him and taken his children to Portugal. At work, she is assigned to translate for the despot of an unnamed African nation who has been accused of war crimes. more is communicated in the gaps of this spellbinding novel than in its actual words, much as in real life.
I suppose it's a testament to the patriarchy's success at brainwashing me to believe my own body is repulsive that I cringe at the title and cover illustration of this book. I suspect that you may do the same. But do yourself a favor: Get over it and read this freaking devastating manifeston on all the fucked up ways our culture had devalued women. All of us.
This is a book best enjoyed with a pencil in hand with which to underline phrases like, "it is a freeing thing to flow in the dark," and "busted hair-sprouted ass collars." I mean, the language; it's just pure joy. Plot-wise, the rain stops, the electricity comes, and that's pretty much it, but the prose is so jaw-dropping in its lyricism and earthy Irish charm that you won't care!
It's not a book for everyone, but Com Toibin's new novel about Thomas Mann sure triggered my intellectual curiosity. My knowledge of the Nobel-winning German novelist was limited to those minimal signifiers until Toibin opened the doors of the man's mind and welcomed me in. Now I understand Mann's place in the pantheon of 20th C. literature and have a deeper understanding of Germany, European politics, and America's promise – or lack thereof – for the exiled. I'd never really had any interest in reading Mann, but Buddenbrooks is now on my stack and I am looking forward to diving in, with Toibin's Mann to inform my experience.
This is a charming and profoundly hopeful book. Due to its popularity I may have avoided it just a little, but I am so glad that I gave in because I genuinely enjoyed it and found some useful wisdom between its pages. I would recommend it as readily to the young, who still have so many choices left which will determine the course of their lives, as to the (let's say) more mature, who may be grappling with regrets. Delightful, reassuring, magical.
Towles lives up to his estimable reputation with this story of four boys, eachi in search of his own version of liberty, on the road together. It's adventurous and fun, yet heartfelt and full of compassion for its characters. I thoroughly enjoyed htis novel for all of its elements: plot, character development, quality of prose, readability – The Lincoln Highway has it all!
I was really surprised by how this memoir by SNL cast member Cecily Strong touched me. I don't know what I expected really, but what she delivers is a remarkably honest account of how hard it was to lose her beloved cousin to brain cancer, and how Covid quarantine forced her to confront her lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression. Books like this, from talented and accomplished people, are, I think, a real gift to the rest of us who might struggle from time to time.
A middle-aged woman goes out of town to visit a friend who is dying of cancer and encounters a man with whom she was once involved. That's pretty much the plot; the pleasures of this novel by the National Book Award winner for The Friend are the internal musings of a woman who has begun to feel invisible. Reading it was like having a long, intense conversation with a close friend. Think Sally Rooney for those of us over 40.... I loved this book!
It would be, I'm certain, an inaccurate generalization to say that everyone who runs has issues, but I would wager that most runners keep it up because the time they spend pounding the pavement, kicking the gravel, or leaping over rocks and roots is invaluable to not only their physical well-being, but their mental health as well. This memoir by J.M. Thompson tells, through the somewhat distorted lens of a 200-mile ultra marathon around Lake Tahoe, of his own personal journey from addiction and self-destruction to self-knowledge and a career in psychotherapy. As a runner who is not short on issues, I found this book fascinating, if imperfect. It certainly gave me a lot to think about on some of my recent runs!