LPL’s Top Books of 2021

During a year when many of us struggled to read as much as we have previously, we decided to open up our Best Books list to include *anything* our librarians have discovered in 2021 that rekindled the flame, no matter when it was published. So here it is, our favorite reads of the year, from freshly published hits, to obscure indie underdogs, to decades old melancholic reading slump busters...they all deserve their day in the sun.

In the Dream House

"In the Dreamhouse by Carmen Maria Machado more than lives up its reputation! A heart-wrenching and deeply troubling examination of the author's past trauma in an abusive relationship, this book is also somehow breathtakingly beautiful and bursting with hope. Machado has completely mastered prose, making this seem more like a recently discovered collection of twisted fairy tales rather than her own memoir. It's one of the best books I've ever read, period." - Kimberly

Late Migrations

“Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl topped my list for this year. Renkl writes about “backyard nature” as a contributor for the New York Times. The book is a collection of short essays that intertwine the author’s love of nature with a larger memoir of her life from childhood to caregiver in the American South. So many reviews suggest that readers “savor” this book, and that is exactly what I did. Maybe it was the timing of reading it during another Covid summer, or maybe it’s because the author and I are about the same age, but I found myself reading and re-reading excerpts because it was so beautifully written. I highly recommend it." - Kathleen

Mooncakes

“Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu is also a good graphic novel! They have a transgender main character and a character who has a hearing disability. It’s about the budding romance between two friends who are trying to fight a horse demon. Oh, and one of the main characters has two grandmas who are in love and own a witch shop!" - Anita

The Tea Dragon Society

"The Tea Dragon Society Series by K. O’Neill was one of my favorite finds! It’s a gem of a graphic novel series that has a sweet, soft storyline about two friends learning how to take care of tea dragons and developing a relationship. The illustrations and paneling are interesting, and it’s made even more interesting by the fact that these tea dragons are tiny dragons who have tea leaves that will show you their memories, if you drink their tea. It’s a gentle, sweet story. - Anita

Great Circle

"I read this over the summer and here I am, so many months later, still thinking about it. Just really flawless character driven historical fiction that sucked me in so completely." - Leah

A World on the Wing

"2021 may hold the record for books I started and didn't finish. However, I read Scott Weidensaul's A World on the Wing -- twice. It gets my vote for best book of the year. Sort of an expanded sequel to his 1999 book Living on the Wind, it's a fascinating and extremely clearly written look at bird migration. And it's not all gloom and doom, despite the fact that it's up to date with the climate crisis. A great read, and inspiration to get out in the fresh air and watch the birds." - Jake V.

A few more of Jake's favorites...

Entangled Life

The Dawn of Everything

Orwell's Roses

Falling

"Really makes me think twice about flying again. Written by a flight attendant, kept me on the edge of my seat while reading it. Lots of action. It really makes you realize how much faith and trust you have to put into the people who fly and work on the the planes." - Darla 

One Piece

"You can never praise 'One Piece' enough as far as I’m concerned, Eiichiro Oda’s manga masterpiece will be turning 25 years old in 2022 which is kinda of incredible. This year the stakes kept getting higher as Luffy and his loveable pirate crew travelled to the Japan inspired land of Wano. We cried, we laughed, and we loved the ridiculously inventive (and long) fight scenes. Can’t wait to see what next year brings." - Ian

Everything Sad Is Untrue

“Everything Sad Is Untrue” by Daniel Nayeri is a young adult memoir that I won’t shut up about! It is a tale about a young Iranian-American boy, Daniel (self-proclaimed refugee) living in Oklahoma whose colorful, outlandish, and astute tale-telling inspire the reader to embrace the “grey”ness of it all. In his attempt to reclaim his narrative/rationalize how he came to be (and came to be in the Midwestern US, of all places), Daniel capitalizes on his peripheral existence by observing and imagining things people around him cannot seem to–recounting them with a delivery that is earnest, humorous, and melancholic. I especially treasure this novel because I had such a hard time warming up to the explicit delivery of much of YA, but this is reminiscent of some of my favorite adult fiction (Arundhati Roy, Toni Morrison) that is sort of irreverent of binaries and hard-line truths and vulnerable/welcoming to the “yes, and, but…” - Kristin

Cloud Cuckoo Land

"Blew me away!" - Brad (and Leah seconds this sentiment!)

The Trees

"Holy moly!" - Brad

Heartland

"A bit behind the times in reading Heartland, I was surprised how challenging it was to digest but equally as important. Smarsh's writing stuns and awakens the reader." - Theresa

Failure Is An Option

"Hilarious, though the premise that it's really not a big deal to fail, was a helpful reminder to not take everything so damn seriously!" - Theresa

The Midnight Library

"Mixes dark truths with so much hope that I won't mind reading it again in the future (which is rare for me)." - Theresa "I loved this book for so many reasons. It gave me comfort feeling that my life wouldn’t necessarily be better or worse if I had made different life choices, it would just be different." - Traci

Wolf Hall

"I fell in total, rapturous love with Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (published in 2009). Narrative-wise, it's about the first years of Thomas Cromwell's rise to the court of King Henry VIII and the gradual change in favor afforded to all the king's subjects (queens included). But the layers of emotion and historical detail go so deep, and Mantel's writing is so affective, generous, and at times wildly funny, that Wolf Hall easily becomes the kind of story you can step into, inhabit, and emerge from with a changed spirit. I loved it so much! And I have the next books in the trilogy poised for the right moment." - Hazlett

The Power of the Dog

"It's a powerfully written book set in 1920's Montana, and the day after I finished reading it I heard that it had recently been made into a movie which is receiving a lot of critical acclaim." - Gregor

Wool

"This is a series I have kicked myself for not discovering sooner...I lament all those years I was not reading Wool, Shift, and Dust. Super compelling and expertly paced sci-fi with jaw dropping twists!" - Leah

The Ritual

"'The Ritual' by Adam Nevill was my first dive into a horror book in a long time. It was even darker and deeper than the Netflix adaptation, and a lot of brutal fun. - Logan

The Sentence

"The Sentence by Louise Erdrich is funny, heartrending and prize-worthy! A haunted bookstore is realistically rooted in Minneapolis and run by quirky booksellers—including one named Louise! Erdrich’s complex story with wry insight into social justice, counter marginalization, and validation for present day Indigenous people is a celebration of great books." - Shirley

Giant Spider & Me

"This surprisingly sweet and thoughtful slice-of-life manga has beautiful art and a compelling story about forging unlikely friendships. I would describe this manga as cozy, heartwarming, and like a good bowl of soup- which they actually make in the story! Our protagonist Nagi is a wonderful cook, and loves to share meals with her friends, including her giant spider. The recipes for every dish she makes are included in the manga! I think that’s a very nice touch." - Hannah

Peruse the full list for your holds placing needs! Happy New Year!

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Lawrence Public Library