My favorite blog post of the year is the listing of the best books of the year! Let me start by just saying I read a lot- this year I will read over 130 books. Some were fun, some were chick-lit and predictable, some were historical fiction, a few were nonfiction, some were serious discourses that will remain in my head for a while, some were regrettable.
And some are the best books of 2021! I can highly recommend all these to you!
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The Boys by Ron and Clint Howard
Here is a book full of love and pure joy. Happiness, family-centered, and amazing. I listened to this one and it is read by the authors.
I hope that you are as familiar with the Andy Griffith show as I am. It was primetime television when I was a little girl and I can still watch episodes and marvel at our wonderful they were. Especially Opie! Also known as Ron Howard.
This book was so fun and I learned so much. I really loved the sections about Opie and how he was able to perform specific parts with the gentle coaching from his father. You will love this book, too! But listen to it! 5 stars!!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This is the story of Nora.
For many reasons she is depressed. She did not pursue a career that involved singing in a band due to panic attacks. Her cat is run over. She has lost her job. An elderly neighbor says she no longer is needed to help him with shopping. No one needs her.
Nora takes a drastic measure and instead of dying straight away, she finds herself awakening in a large library. The librarian greets her with an explanation of where she has arrived. Her book choice will determine her life’s path.
Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
What a breath of fresh air this book was! Finlay is a mom of two, divorced, and trying to write a book. Unfortunately, she is out of money, can’t pay her bills, and her ex has fired the nanny.
Finlay meets her agent in a restaurant and they begin talking about the book. And, at a table nearby a woman is listening. As Finlay talks about a character killing someone the eavesdropper gets the wrong impression.
Yes, the book is outrageous. It’s also funny and kept me glued to the story as much as possible. I listened to this book and loved it. 4.5 stars- only because it was a tad silly at times. I mean who sends their child to school with hair duct-taped in place?
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Oh. My. Let me give you some background about this book.
Darren, a 20-something black man living in Bed-Stuy, New York works at a Starbucks in a high-rise office building.
He is perfectly content with his life. He lives with his mom, has a long-time girlfriend, and really hasn’t a care in the world.
Until one day, he greets a regular customer with a hard sell to try a different kind of coffee. The customer happens to be the CEO of a company located on the upper floors of the building. The man, Rhett, is so intrigued by the success Darren has in selling him one cup of coffee that he makes him an offer to join his company.
And, the book takes off! Now, let’s talk about this book. If you do not know the meaning of satire, you are going to need to look that up. This book is not serious and if you read reviews you will find a lot of people are rating the book low because of the language and events that are way over-the-top. Reviews sound like the reader didn’t understand this book was totally exaggerating everything – on purpose. For example, Darren is employed in this company and is the only person of color. He is called names, given the nickname ‘Buck’, and has white paint poured over his head on his first day on the job. Every single person he is introduced to will say, “Hey, did you know you look like ____?” Fill in the blank with the name of any famous black man.
This is an eye-opener and worth your time. You will think about it after you finish it and I thought it ended perfectly. I have heard that the audio version is amazing, but I read this one on an E-reader. My rating is a 4.5 – 5.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Amazing book! This one is way, way out of my normal genre selections. I tend to read basic fiction, historical fiction, some chick-lit, memoirs, and anything by Stephen King. But, science fiction is very rare. (Unless SK is considered sci-fi!) This was an audiobook for me and I HIGHLY recommend you listen to it. The narration is superb!
Ryland Grace is a scientist that is on a crew of three (two others that were trained astronauts) and the mission is basically to save earth. However, Grace awakens with no memory of how he got on board this spaceship and his crewmates are dead. Little by little he must piece together what his mission is and how to fly the ship and how to finish the mission.
All with the knowledge that this was a one-way trip.
The book is hilarious and the quips and jokes and one-liners will keep you laughing out loud. It is also a tremendous story of patience, friendship, and humanity. The book is full of space and science jargon and explanations of how Grace engineers everything that breaks or defaults, but it worked as an audiobook. Despite the technical language I still give 5+ stars for this book!
Take What You Can Carry by Gian Sardar
When I first read this book I predicted it would be my favorite of the year. The story is heartbreaking, yet hopeful. The characters are ones you will love. You will pick up the book and lay it down quickly so as not to finish too soon.
You will miss it when it is over.
Delan is a struggling actor that lives in a house with roommates and he places an ad for an empty spot in the house. Olivia answers the ad and meets him in a cafe. He has told her he “will be the one with a slice of pie and two forks.” Now, I know what you are thinking- this is a chick-book based on that scenario. Trust me it is so much more than that.
Olivia moves into the house and eventually, she and Delan begin a relationship. Then Delan hears from family that his dear cousin is getting married. This is a wedding he wants to attend- in Kurdistan where he is from.
After arriving in the home of Delan’s parents Olivia quickly learns of the daily trials the family faces. The sound of an airplane overhead makes the family all pause and wait. They go to eat in a restaurant that Delan has dreamed of visiting again. The meal is cut short (for reasons I will not disclose) and as they travel back home they rescue a man that is in danger. This rescue will play a significant role later in the book. The photographs that Olivia takes will also become an important part of the way events play out.
What I had to keep wondering as I turned each page… who is going to survive this? Will Delan choose to stay in his homeland and send Olivia back to the states? Who in his family can be trusted? Oh my…read this book. It was one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. 5+ stars
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Lydia Perez, a young mother, lives in Acapulco with her husband who is a journalist. They have a son named Luca. Lydia owns a bookstore and one day is befriended by a customer named Javier. He becomes an important part of her life for many reasons- as you will find out in the first few chapters.
It is at the beginning of the book that Lydia takes her son inside their home during a party. An extended family is there and grilling outside. As Lydia and Luca visit the restroom she hears gunshots and grimly discovers that she and Luca are the only survivors.
Lydia knows she must flee and do so quickly. You will find out why this is so urgent. I will stop here by telling you of more events because I do not want to spoil the story for you.
I could not put this book down. It is a work of fiction. That is all you need to know. It is a page-turner, something we all want, and the story is captivating. The writing is amazing. 5+stars for this one, too!
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
My favorite book of August. This story is told in prose and it is perfection. I loved every second of it- despite the sadness of the story.
This is the story of Camino Rios, a young girl in the Dominican Republic. Camino only sees her father in the summers. It’s also the story of Yahaira Rios, a young girl living in New York who does not see her father in the summer.
The beautiful verse form of this book is mesmerizing. I read and re-read passages. You will love it. I cannot tell you any more of the story without spoiling it for you and I want you to read this one! 5 stars for this amazing book!
West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
Another gem of a book.
Woodrow Wilson Nickel is 17 years old when he loses his entire family. It is 1938 and dust storms have overtaken the panhandle of Texas. Woody’s baby sister dies, then his mother, and then more tragedy.
Woody makes his way to a cousin in New York City by jumping trains.
The book opens with Woody in the city during the Great hurricane of 1938. As he comes to after being thrashed in the wind, he finds his only living relative, dead. And then…
And then Woody also sees “a shiny new truck with a wood contraption strapped to its long flatbed” and he realizes the giraffes in the truck are going to be transported. And thus the adventure begins.
Woody eventually falls for a woman named Red, but the real story here is his love for the giraffes. This is an amazing book, based on a true story. The language of the text is rich with details and beauty. I loved this book– 5 stars absolutely.
And, side note, I learned so much about giraffes. Two giraffes together will not sleep at the same time. One stays awake to guard against prey- lions. So, the ultimate great day for a giraffe is “a day with no lions”.
And, the Absolute Best Book of 2021
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
It is 1954 when 18-year-old Emmett is brought home from a juvenile detention farm by the warden. He has served a 15-month sentence and arrives home to a house that the bank has foreclosed on. While at the juvenile facility his father passed away and his mother, it turns out, left the family years before.
Billy, his little brother, is 8 years old and quite ready for his brother to come home. As Emmett relays to Billy where they are moving to, Billy announces an alternate plan. He wants a grand adventure- with a purpose I will not reveal.
While on their travels Emmett finds Billy, a voracious reader, pouring through a large book. It is a compilation of stories about famous adventurers. At the back of the book, there are blank pages. Billy says these pages are where he will write his adventure.
He explains that most of the adventures he has read about seem to start in the middle of the story.
And what an adventure this turns out to be!
The book is written in absolutely gorgeous prose, witty and insightful, beautiful descriptions, connecting the past with current events. Pay attention to every detail because so much of what you read leads to another event. There are moments you will laugh out loud and stunning moments when you turn the page and deflate as you see what happens to these travelers. This book will go on my best books of all time shelf. 5+ stars
My Rating Scale:
My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.