While many great books are slated to come out in 2022, it’s not too late to look back at the ones we loved from last year! If you’re looking for something new to read, maybe you’ll enjoy one of our favorite books from 2021.
Mary’s 2021 Faves
The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood (Adult Fiction)
Equal parts light and devastating, Masood’s sprawling view of the lives of two immigrants from the Muslim world was entertaining and illuminating. It follows the story of Anvar, a glib kid from Pakistan who enjoys the surplus of American life, and Safwa, a young woman from Iraq with a decidedly different fate. I didn’t see how or if their stories would entangle or where the plot would lead, so it was enjoyable to see how it played out. Never didactic, always revealing, this book is one I still think about, almost a year later.
This is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth (Non-fiction)
Even if you normally only read fiction, you should make an exception for this thriller-esque narrative about cybercrimes. I was shocked to learn the capacity to wreak havoc that nation states—and worse, bad actors with no ties to anyone but the highest bidder—can sow. It’s a read as quick as the best spy novel, and one that’ll make you want to keep the light on…and do those security updates on your iPhone asap.
Dangerous Ground by Rachel Grant (Adult Romantic Thriller)
In this thriller set in the windswept Aleutian Islands, archaeologist Fiona Carver is determined to finish documenting an ancient site, but unbeknownst to her, malevolent actors have other plans. Even handsome ornithologist Dean isn’t who he seems. Exciting, sexy, and thoughtful, Grant’s novel manages to illuminate the world of contract archaeology, set up a smoldering attraction, and keep you turning pages. Grant adds one part thriller, another part romance, and mixes nothing formulaic to create this exciting read.
The Falling Girls by Hayley Krischer (Young Adult)
This YA novel follows the story of Shade who has a gift for gymnastics but ranks pretty low in the social pecking order of high school girls. So far, it’s been her and her best friend Jadis against the world. That is, until Shade finally takes the leap and tries out for the cheerleading squad. Shade is shocked when she makes the team, but Jadis isn’t going to relinquish her best friend that easily. What follows is an interesting view of the obsessions and longing within teenage friendships.
Amy’s 2021 Faves
A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia (Young Adult)
A Sitting in St. James is one of those books that feels destined to become a classic. The epic work exposes how deep the self-deception of white plantation owners goes, exposing the roots of racism and its haunting specter over the American notion of freedom. It’s powerful. It’s important. It’s a masterpiece. And, it’s a page-turner extraordinaire.
But, don’t be fooled into thinking that the actual story has been abandoned in an effort to illuminate the notion these whites believed the people they enslaved weren’t truly humans. In A Sitting in St. James, the story is paramount and is beautifully rendered with an honest brushstroke that reveals so much more than the scene being painted. It is my belief Rita Williams-Garcia’s masterwork should be essential reading for all Americans. Watch my interview with the author here.
Constance by Matthew FitzSimmons (Thriller)
Is it possible to investigate your own murder? It sure is, if you’re a clone of yourself with a downloaded consciousness like FitzSimmon’s half-badass, half-basketcase heroine Constance “Con” D’Arcy. The only problem is her memories of the eighteen months before her murder are missing, and they shouldn’t be. This thriller is beautifully written, and you’re sure to love Con as much as I did. You can catch my interview with the author here.
Chunky by Yehudi Mercado (Middle Grade)
From the very first page of Yehudi Mercado’s graphic novel Chunky, you will find yourself adoring its endearingly awkward main character Hudi and his imaginary monster cheerleader Chunky. Hudi’s parents think he should lose some weight and believe playing a sport is a great way to slim down while being part of a team. When Hudi’s super athletic father drives him to his first baseball game, Hudi makes a deal with his dad to get pizza after the game if Hudi can get on base. So when Hudi gets hit by a pitch, he’s the happiest kid on the field. Not exactly what dad meant by “get on base,” but Hudi will take what he can get. This book will make you laugh out loud, warm your heart, and hopefully teach you something at the same time. I had the pleasure of chatting with the author here.
Tabitha’s 2021 Faves
Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din (YA Fantasy)
Ana Lal Din’s debut YA novel, Descent of the Drowned, is a haunting, powerful, and beautifully told epic fantasy. Roma is a sacred slave of the goddess, with no choice but to submit to the traditions of her caste. Yet, she has the strength to survive and the will to be free. Leviathan is the bastard son of the Firawn, an immortal tyrant who, in his ruthlessness, ordered his sensitive child trained to become a deadly soldier. Both Roma and Levi must confront their own demons and fight for a future of their choosing, but that path is full of danger, darkness, and struggles. Descent of the Drowned definitely makes my ‘best of’ list for 2021!
Windswept by Annabelle McCormack (Historical Fiction)
Annabelle McCormack’s debut novel, Windswept, is a beautifully written, well-researched nail biter. Focused on a rather underrepresented time and place in history, Palestine during WWI, we follow the story of Ginger Whitman, a nurse on the front lines. Ginger is committed to caring for the wounded and determined to help her country, but when she saves the life of a mysterious soldier hidden in her camp, she’s thrown into a web of lies and intrigue. Trusting the wrong person could prove to be a fatal mistake. With the arrival of a handsome British intelligence officer, Noah Benson, Ginger struggles to unravel the truth – before she loses her heart or her life. This book checked all my boxes, from the fast-paced adventure, to the vivid setting, to the sexy romance. Five stars, and the sequel please!
Sugarbirds by Cheryl Grey Bostrom (Literary Fiction)
When ten-year-old Aggie Hayes accidentally lights a tragic fire with disastrous results, the terrified girl flees to the forest, where she uses her deep knowledge of the woods to hide. Meanwhile, angry at being dumped on her grandmother’s farm while her dad takes a job off the coast of Brazil, teen-age Celia eventually joins in the search for Aggie. A story of friendship and healing, love and faith, Cheryl Grey Bostrom also weaves a tale of danger and mystery into this beautiful literary gem. Sugar Birds, Bostrom’s debut fiction novel makes the ‘best of’ list for 2021!