2021 Reading List

Holy smokes. I didn’t expect to hit the ground running quite so hard with the books this year, but we’re a quarter of the way through 2021 and I’ve already hit 25 books. This has me thinking maybe I’ll up my goal from 75 to 100 for the year, but maybe I’ll just see what happens and how that plays out as the weather gets nicer and we’re outside more of each day and evening.

As always, what follows are the books I’ve read this year in chronological order. Bold titles are the ones I super recommend or enjoyed. The list that follows after the titles and blurbs is (just part of) my virtual To Be Read stack.

  1. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid — I zipped through this one mostly because I didn’t want to stop reading so I could see what was going to happen next. This felt so relevant and possible and real, plus it was great the way it moved back and forth from lead female character to lead female character.
  2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett — Although the first 20-30 pages were a little slow for me, by Part Two, I was totally hooked and found this to be a great read. I was intrigued by the characters and their life choices and by how society/perception played into all of that as well.
  3. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare — This one took me a bit to get into and essentially the entire book is filled with intense hardship, but the language is beautiful and revealing and the determination in it is just as remarkable as the crisis. The story may be fiction but the facts sprinkled through the later chapter titles show how it may not be far off from reality for some (many).
  4. Go Tell it On the Mountain by James Baldwin — The connotation of a word on the very first page threw me for such a loop, I struggled to get into the rest of the book, and as it turned out, the book had nothing to do with the meaning of that word. I stuck with it for the sake of a virtual book club. Eventually I caught on to what was happening with the structure and the focal point of one particular day/night in young John’s life but this was a hard read for me.
  5. The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power — I have been wanting to read this forever and was glad to finally get my hands on a copy. It’s big – 550 pages of memoir meets journalistic reporting on life in war-torn countries plus genocide and then into politics, so whoa – that’s a lot of heavy stuff. But I have always enjoyed Power’s interviews in recent years and she is a great writer/reflector and I’m so glad she’s back into government work with the USAID.
  6. One Day in December by Josie Silver — Given the book’s title, I was surprised at how much time and content the story covered. Even though I found it predictable, I still enjoyed it as a quick, romance-y read and was interested in the character’s growth over time. I also found it more believable than the previous Silver book that I read last year, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird.
  7. Conjure Woman by Afia Atakora — This would make an excellent book club choice in part because I have questions and ideas I want to bounce off others after reading it. Also, this is a debut novel?! Whoa. I can’t wait to read what she writes next! I love how the book jumps in time but not in giant leaps (for the most part); this builds the story and characters in such an intriguing way.
  8. Our Time is Now by Stacey Abrams — This was such an informative read. Granted, a fair bit of it went over my not-in-politics brain, but I also don’t think you have to have direct ties to politics to get something out of this book. It really speaks to our civic engagement in general which is so vital and important. It was interesting to read this given that the book was written before COVID-19 really hit and so that discussion along with the drama of mail-in voting that became our reality in 2020 was missing here (and about which, I am sure, other books will one day be written). It was also interesting to read this after Jan. 6 because that too feels like it plays a role in what Abrams had to say about voting and leaders and concerns for our democracy. All together, I learned a ton and I am so grateful that the Stacey Abrams of the world are out there to guide us and keep us going through it all. (finished 2.11.21)
  9. Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn — I grabbed this online because it was being offered as a community read from our library and it proved to be more than just a typical romance as it had some intrigue and mystery to the characters, too. It was the perfect palette cleanser read after some of the more dense books I’ve been tackling as of late.
  10. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory — Sometimes a predictable, quick, romance-heavy book is just what you need to read and this series is so good for that. I actually read Book 2 last year, so I liked going back in time to the first and plan to read the subsequent ones later in the year. I like Jasmine Guillory’s style, but fair warning – these are Harlequin in nature so pick a different book if that’s not what you feel like reading.
  11. The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia — I loved the way this was written and the way the story unfolded. The in-depth discussion of the 1918 Spanish Influenza caught me off guard because I wasn’t prepared for how relatable that would feel to life in 2020/2021, but that was not the whole focus of the book by any means. Although I was confused by the shifting perspectives and occasional odd jumps in sequencing at first, once I hit a stride with this one, I couldn’t put it down.
  12. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord — This book was adorable. It’s a YA RomCom sort of read but it still caught me by surprise and delight while reading, which was great because it was witty and fun without being too obvious or over the top. (Finished 2/23/21)
  13. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — This was neither light nor easy in terms of content but this book blew me away both in scope and style and I could not stop reading. I loved the approach of each chapter devoted to a new generation and how the stories and characters were woven together in this breathtaking, brutiful novel.
  14. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover — I expected this to be predictable and while it was, it was also a quick, enjoyable read and I liked some of the little nuggets that came at the end of the book in terms of life lessons. Also, if the characters had just freaking talked to each other, a lot of heartache and headaches would have been avoided, but then you also wouldn’t have had as much story to build, so, there’s that.
  15. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah — Although a relatively quick read, this is not light in scope or subject matter. I got so drawn into these characters and was so compelled by their story of hardship and struggle in the Dust Bowl 1930s. Oddly there were lines throughout the book that were spot-on perfect for and relevant to today’s (pandemic) world. I’ve read at least three of Hannah’s books and all were serious but good and I highly recommend this one!
  16. Kindred by Octavia Butler — this surprised me in content and style and was truly unlike anything else I’ve read. While I’ve read many books that travel between narrators and time, I’ve never taken on a story that follows one narrator through time in this way. Ultimately this was an interesting story with an impactful look at slavery and racism ancestry, and history.
  17. You Have a Match by Emma Lord — The miscommunication between characters drove me a bit nuts at times but then that’s probably pretty spot-on for teenagers, so I get it. I love how Lord weaves family dynamics into her books and that the whole story isn’t just about crushes or partying or totally typical teenage drama. (finished 3.13.21)
  18. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo — It took my editing brain a bit to calm down over the total lack of periods in this book, but once I got past that, I absolutely loved the characters and how this was written in interconnected trilogies that were multi-generational and so fascinating to watch (read) unfold. Loved it! Also, it had a totally unexpected connection to the book I read just prior to it which is always weird/cool when that happens.
  19. When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller — This was a great YA read that spoke so much to family dynamics and cultural backgrounds and young teendom. It was a quick read but I loved how it wove together in its own story the art, beauty, history, and magic that is story telling.
  20. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion — Even though the basic premise stems from an obvious and somewhat irritating miscommunication, that’s actually pretty on point with these characters and this series which remains enjoyable and fun to read. I read the first book not that long ago so it was easy to fall back into rhythm on Book #2.
  21. Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo — This was far from a happy, light read, but it was very well done from a layered, unfolding sense of both the characters and the story that details not only relationships but also parenthood in raw, honest ways. I’ve read a number of Nigerian-based books recently and this one blew me away as a debut novel.
  22. The Archer by Paulo Coelho — A simple, short read that is, of course, layered with symbolism and meaning and told through a basic story that could be applied to connecting any action in life to one’s soul, not just archery. The illustrations throughout the book are beautiful. This could be read multiple times not just for dissection of meaning but also because it is such a brief book. (finished 3.22.21)
  23. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot — I didn’t expect this to be such a page-turner but even in the midst of the science, the story and reporting of this sucked me in and I couldn’t put down the book. I learned a lot about cell cultures as well as the rights, privacy, and privileges given to medical patients over the course of our nation’s history. Ultimately, I was blown away by the questions this true story revealed and raised.
  24. If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane — Although the basis of the meet-cute and subterfuge were remarkably similar to another book I read not that long ago, I still enjoyed the story and the way the twists and turns developed throughout the book. I also appreciate that every romance book doesn’t have to be Harlequin in nature.
  25. This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith — this one surprised me in how, devastatingly at times, human these characters were. I also struggled to suspend my disbelief at how the beginning of the story unfolded but from there it was a beautifully detailed look at how even a few days can leave a lasting impact and connection between people. And, on an odd side note, the basic premise for a marriage ending in this book was the exact same as what happened in the book I just finished reading. How does that even happen? (finished 3.30.21)
  26. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory — I just praised a previous book for not being too “open door” and now I’m going to turn around a praise this one for being, well, perfectly open door in the way all of JG’s books have been. I read the first two books of this series out of order but that worked in my favor on Book 3 because the character carry over was more direct here and I liked that. For an it-is-what-it-is series, I really enjoy these!
  27. Vera by Carol Edgarian — It’s remarkable to read stories of survival after moments of devastating destruction and loss such as an earthquake + fire in the early 1900s which is the setting for this book. I liked how the story unfolded with a hyper focus on the days after followed by learning more of the story in a long arc sort of way beyond that. I ultimately was confused by a statement on page 1 that never did resolve (for me) in the rest of the book, which means either I missed something or something is missing. Either way, this would make for an interesting book club discussion.
  28. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayern — To be fair this style is outside my normal comfort zone so this was just an OK read for me but that may just be because I no longer read thriller/fantasy books much if ever. This one seemed part Hunger Games, part Handmaid’s Tale, part Twilight (not really, there are no vampires, just odd, surreal and supernatural messed up fairy tale stuff) but I appreciated the concept of a fairy tale turned on its head and the overall message behind the quest. (finished 4.4.21)
  29. Wonder by R.J. Palacio — Love this book so much. This is a second read for me as my own 5th grader just read it and wanted to discuss with me and all I could remember was how much I liked it. Now I remember why and can’t wait to discuss it with him.
  30. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy — I loved the way this was written (focusing on roughly a third of the members of a family with 13 kids) both in terms of the present day storyline and then the periodic flashback chapters to the POV of each parent each time it happened. It was such a good look at big family life, life in Detroit, and just life in general. I LOVED the line “Humans haunt more houses than ghosts do.” and the paragraph that followed it all about how houses become homes that mean so much to the people who reside in them.
  31. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall — This is a must-read and a must-read-again because the scope of everything being addressed within this book is wide and deserves to be given attention more than once. The subtitle on my copy is different from what is listed online; mine reads “notes from the women white feminists forgot” which is an accurate description of what the book entails.
  32. Behold the Dreamers by Imblo Mbue — These are characters and a story that crawl under your skin (in a good way) and settle in for longer than it takes to read the book. Set around the time of the 2008 Recession, this is written in such a tangible and honest way. It would make for an excellent book club discussion! (finished 4.15.21)
  33. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd —

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Dear Martin/Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Ordinary Light by Tracy Smith

Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Janye Allen

Queenie by Candice Carty Williams

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

A Song Below Water by Bethany Morrow

I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillian

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey

A Black Woman’s History of the United States by Diana Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

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