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Did you know Library Lovers Day existed? Well, there are. And that’s a good excuse to pick up a new book (preferably from a library) and devour it. For that reason, we thought we’d put together a list of the best books to hit the literary scene in the past year (or at least get a positive review in 2021), and examine why they’re worth your time.
Here’s what we landed on.
The best books of 2021
All editors’ summaries.
Amnesia Road: landscape, violence and memoryby Luke Stegemann
Winner of the Mark and Evette Moran Literary Prize.
Winner of the Queensland Literary Award for Non-Fiction 2021.
Amnesia Road is a compelling literary examination of historic violence in rural Australia and Spain. It is also a shameless celebration of the beautiful landscapes where this violence was perpetrated. Traveling and writing through two places – the seldom-visited mulga plains of south-west Queensland and the back roads of rural Andalusia – award-winning Australian hispanist Luke Stegemann uncovers overlooked history and its many overlooked victims, and asks what place these forgotten people have in contemporary debates around history, nationality, guilt and identity.
Bass Rockby Evie Wyld
The lives of three women intertwine over four centuries in Miles Franklin Award and Stella Award winner Evie Wyld’s dazzling book.
The night watchmanby Louise Erdrich
Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather, who worked as a night watchman and led the fight against Indigenous dispossession from rural North Dakota to Washington, DC, this powerful novel explores the themes of love and death with levity and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly (sic) humor and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.
Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black Americaby Marcia Chatelain
Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for History.
From civil rights to Ferguson, Franchise reveals the untold story of how fast food became one of the biggest generators of black wealth in America.
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, by the late Les Payne and Tamara Payne
2021 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography.
Les Payne, the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, embarked in 1990 on a nearly thirty-year quest to interview everyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X – every living sibling. of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what was to become more than a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, which would separate reality from fiction.
The result is this historical biography that conjures up an untold world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his followers in Hartford waving determinedly, as if the dead were truly resurrected, to overcome the obstacles of racism. By placing Malcolm’s life not just within the Nation of Islam, but within the larger context of American history, the book traces the life of one of the most politically relevant figures of the 20th century” street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary”.
Postcolonial love poem, by Natalie Diaz
Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Natalie Diaz’s highly anticipated sequel to American Book Award winner When My Brother Was an Aztec.
The Wilmington Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy, by David Zucchino
Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.
Pulitzer Prize winner David Zucchino delivers a harrowing account of the Wilmington riot and coup of 1898, an extraordinary event unknown to most Americans.
Beautiful world, where are youby Sally Rooney
A New York Times (NYT) pick for the best books of 2021.
The new novel from the author of Normal People.
Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a distribution warehouse, and asks him if he would like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is recovering from a breakup and starts flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.
Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young, but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they come together, they separate. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before dark, testifying to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?
Afterparties: Storiesby Anthony Veasna So
Another NYT favorite.
A collection of vibrant stories about Cambodian-American life – immersive and comedic, yet unforgiving – that offers deep insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities
apple seed by Matt Bell
Appleseed was also named by the NYT in its list of best books for 2021.
A fiery work of imagination (Karen Russell) by Young Lions Fiction Award finalist Matt Bell, a book that explores climate change, manifest destiny, humanity’s uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources, and the small but mighty magic within in each apple.
Perplexityby Richard Powers
Yet another NYT top pick.
Theo Byrne is a promising young astrobiologist who has found a way to search for life on other planets dozens of light years away. He is also the widowed father of a most unusual nine-year-old child. Her son Robin is funny, loving and full of plans. He thinks and feels deeply, loves animals, and can spend hours painting elaborate pictures. He is also about to be kicked out of third year, for smashing his friend’s face with a metal thermos.
What can a father do, when the only solution offered to his rare and troubled son is to put him on psychotropic drugs? What can he say when his boy comes to him asking for an explanation for a world that is clearly in love with its own destruction? The only thing left to do is take the boy to other planets, while furthering his son’s desperate campaign to help save this one.
Detransition, babyby Torrey Peters
Another of the best NYT books of the 2021 selection for the road.
Reese had almost everything: a romantic relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York, a job she didn’t hate. She had assembled a life that previous generations of trans women could only dream of; the only thing missing was a child. Then it all fell apart and three years later, Reese is still in self-destruction mode, avoiding his loneliness by sleeping with married men.
someone’s land, by Adam Goodes, Ellie Laing and David Hardy
Of course, it’s a children’s book. But one that means a lot to Australians of all ages.
someone’s land is an invitation to connect with First Nations culture, to recognize the wounds of the past and to come together as one community with a precious shared history as old as time.
The powerful words of Adam Goodes and Ellie Laing and the vibrant images of David Hardy invite children and their families to imagine themselves in Australia’s past – to feel the richness of our First Nations history, to recognize that our country was never terra nullius, and to understand what “welcome to our country” really means.
Wild abandonmentby Emily Bitto
In the fall of 2011, a heartbroken young man fled Australia for the United States. Landing in the over-the-top and oddly familiar glamor and fullness of New York City, Will makes a vow to say yes to whatever comes his way. By fate or chance, Will’s journey takes him to the heart of the United States where he meets Wayne Gage, a fast-living and troubled Vietnam veteran, a would-be spirit guide, and a collector of exotic animals. These two men in crisis form an unlikely friendship, but Will has no idea just how close Wayne really is.
How We Love: Notes on a Lifeby Clementine Ford
A deeply personal exploration of love in all its forms by a feminist icon and bestselling author of fight like a girl and Boys will be boys.
Happy reading buddies.