My Favorite Books of 2021
The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
Meissner does a great job of writing a captivating book set against the backdrop of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Although a devastating disaster, the earthquake actually seems a more minor part of the story in comparison to Meissner’s thoroughly engaging characters and a gripping plot that keeps you guessing to the very end. Our protagonist, Sophie, is such a strong and kick ass lady who knows no bounds when it comes to fiercely protecting her pack.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Eye-opening and thought-provoking, An American Marriage revolves around Celestial and Roy, a black couple just trying to live their lives when Roy is falsely accused of a crime and sent to prison. How does a marriage survive this? Told mostly through letters back and forth between the couple, we learn the harsh reality that in their case, it ultimately doesn’t. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler!) Though this is a fictional story, the author does an excellent job of conveying the effects of the criminal justice system in our society.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
When Patrick – the gay uncle (or guncle) – of Maisie and Grant, suddenly finds himself in the role of caretaker after their mom passes away and their dad goes to rehab, they’re all in for an adventure. What follows is a heartwarming story filled with both humor and tender moments as Patrick navigates this new world of parenting and helps the kids cope with their tremendous loss. Filled with hilarious “Guncle Rules”, unique Hollywood references, oddly shaped pool floats, and outrageous food combinations that would make Buddy the Elf jealous, this book is a blast from start to finish.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
I’m a sucker for an intense family drama, and this one did not disappoint. Set in the ‘70s, the story centers on two New York police officers who also happen to be neighbors, and what transpires after a tragedy occurs that upends all of their lives. It was a rather slow-paced, character-driven novel that was easy to get lost in, and I found myself often putting myself in their shoes and asking “what would I do in this situation?”
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
I chose this book for my book club although it’s not the typical book I pick up, but boy am I glad I did! Krueger knows how to craft a beautifully written story, and his mesmerizing words carry you through the journey of four orphans along the MIssissippi River as they search for a place they can call home. You can’t help but feel so strongly for the four main characters as they grow and change throughout their epic adventure, and root hard for them to find true happiness and love.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
I love myself a fun thriller read, even if it is a somewhat predictable one. The Woman in the Window gave me some strong Rear Window vibes as our main character recluse Anna Fox likes to day drink a lot of wine while spying on her neighbors. When Anna witnesses a shocking event in one of the neighbor’s homes, readers have to rely on Anna as an unreliable narrator to figure out what’s real and what is just in her head.
Island Affair by Priscella Oliveras
My favorite part of this book was the gorgeous Key West setting. Oliveras does such a great job of describing the scenery that I could almost smell the salty air and feel the warm breeze on my face.The fact that it was also the setting for a fun and flirty romance didn’t hurt. I really enjoyed the main characters Sarah and Luis because they were both dealing with real issues and had genuine concern for each other. I also loved the way the family dynamics play into the story. I’d say this is a good pick to take to the beach (or something to warm you up on a cold winter’s night!)
The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley
What drew me into this book was the clever premise – lonely septuagenarian Julian Jessop decides to leave a notebook in a coffee shop labeled “The Authenticity Project.” He leaves his story in the book and hopes it will encourage others to do the same. I loved the quirky characters that Pooley creates, and how they come to discover that although it’s easy to judge others upon first impressions, they’re really not all that different from one another. This was just a hopeful, feel-good book that would be best read under a cozy blanket with a toasty beverage.
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
Plenty of 80s nostalgia, an abundance of witchy magic, and an all-girls field hockey team at the center of it all really made for an amazing read. This book just hit all of the right buttons for me. Following the 1989 Danvers High School Falcons field hockey team as they do everything they can to fight their way to the state finals, We Ride Upon Sticks is full of female force, big hair, and learning how to be true to yourself and your teammates.
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
Donoghue began penning this novel set during the 1918 flu pandemic. However, it feels all too real in present day as we grapple with the realities of the coronavirus. Things are hard enough for Nurse Julia Power as she works at an understaffed hospital stuck in a tiny room caring for her pregnant patients, but add to that the deadly flu outbreak and you have quite a gripping tale. I couldn’t help but to feel hopeful that the world persevered through the last pandemic, and hopefully one day soon, we will too.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyou
What a captivating page-turner about multibillion dollar start-up Theranos’ CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who misled investors, FDA officials and even her own staff with claims that their blood testing machine would revolutionize the medical industry. It’s hard to believe that what I was reading actually happened; that Holmes could go to such depths to deceive people.
Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong
I listened to this on my commute and was probably receiving strange looks from other drivers because I was laughing out loud as I drove. Comedian Ali Wong wrote this book as a series of letters for her young daughters to read when they are older, telling stories and sharing tidbits of wisdom from her life with her usual wit and insights that will keep you engaged and entertained.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
This was a super powerful true story from lawyer Bryan Stevenson about the broken nature of our justice system. The stories Stevenson shares of the vulnerable impacted by the system are both heartbreaking and eye-opening. I’m so inspired by Stevenson’s continued determination to fight for justice even in the face of incredible challenges.
Over the Top: A Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
Let’s be honest. I really just want JVN to be my best friend. The book is written in a very conversational style, which is why I enjoyed listening to it so much. It is heartbreaking at times as JVN recounts the hell he went through growing up, but his resilience and positivity shines through as he overcomes the many obstacles in his way to becoming the magical person he is today. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most of all you’ll feel incredibly inspired.
Open Book by Jessica Simpson
I’m definitely realizing that celeb memoirs are my favorite thing to listen to in the car. I particularly liked Jessica’s because it was like a nostalgic blast from the past. We are the same age (I say this as if we were BFFs), and so I remember watching her when she was young on the Mickey Mouse Club, listening to her music when it was new on the radio, and watching her reality show with then-husband Nick Lachey. It was really interesting to get the behind the scenes scoop of what all of these experiences were actually like for her. I gobbled it up!