My Favorite Books of 2021

My Favorite Books of 2021

Fiction

10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
A Pulitzer Prize winning novel that tells the story of a family of former slaves in the aftermath of their enslavement. Writers and critics ranked the novel as the best work of American fiction from 1981-2006. The impetus of the book comes from a real-life incident where an escaped slave killed her own daughter instead of allowing her to go back into slaving when the U.S. Marshalls came calling. For me it was an introduction to the horrors of slavery, but also the long-term mental damage that was inflicted on the characters.

9. Slade House, by David Mitchell
I liked this book. If you are one of the characters drawn to the Slade House, be careful. If you go through a black gate to get to the house, just don’t go upstairs. Bad stuff is going to happen. The residents are soul carnivores, who entrap people in the house every nine years to steal their souls to remain young. I liked the interconnectedness of the short story-styled chapters and how David Mitchell switched things up to keep you guessing. The Washington Post called it “devishly fun.” The book originated on Twitter as The Right Sort told in 280 tweets.

8. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
This book is about a girl on a train and what she sees looking out the window and what she imagines what she sees means. There’s a train stop where she looks at a particular couple living a life that she does not have. She gives this couple characteristics that she imagines. Later she sees something shocking. But no one believes her, so she interjects herself into the lives of those people in the nice houses near the train stop. You find out more about Rachel, the girl on the train. She likes gin, is recently divorced and other things. “The Girl on the Train has more fun with unreliable narration than any chiller since Gone Girl.” — The New York Times.

7. The Financial Lives of Poets, by Jess Walter

6. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson

5. Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward

4. Writers & Lovers, by Lily King

3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

1. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Non-Fiction

5. The Devil’s Highway: A True Story, by Luis Alberto Urrea
A Pulitzer Prize finalist detailing a group of men from Mexico, who get lost after crossing the border in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona. An eye-opener. Urrea tells the true story from 2001 from a variety of perspectives, the coyote who got them lost, the survivors — half died — and the border patrol. Most were looking to earn a few bucks in America picking fruit for the season and return to their homeland. These migrants were taken advantage of and lied to from start to finish. Due to unrelenting heat and no water, 12 of the 26 who started, survived.

4.Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir, by A.E. Hotchner
This book was written about a Hemingway friend, confidante and business partner, who hung out with Papa on trips around the world for 13 years. The relationship began shortly after the two African plane crashes that Hemingway survived, but suffered serious injuries. Hotchner kept notes of their conversations. The dialogue helps bring the author to life, gives you a taste of the experience to be in his presence. And what it was like to be him. Sadly, the book also documents Hemingway’s descent into mental illness.

3. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick
The telling of the founding of the Plymouth colony and the relationship between the Pilgrims and the Natives. The Europeans stole from the Indians almost from day one. If you want to know what happened in those early days, this book has the facts, “authentic details” as the New York Times put it. I learned about the interesting characters/real people and after receiving help from the Natives, creating alliances, more and more Europeans came to settle on the Natives’ land and they did that through bargaining deals. And then a lengthy war occurred, King Philip’s War, where whitey thought, ‘hey, a war would be a perfect way to grab more land.’ So that’s what they did. The book, while sad, is essential reading.

2. The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, by Douglas Brinkley
Teddy loved birds, which, of course, endeared him to me. This book is about Roosevelt’s role in protecting lands and wildlife. I loved the book, which explained that American’s freedoms, as it related to hunting animals to extinction or exploiting treasured lands, need reigning in. We can’t help ourselves, so people like Theodore Roosevelt and many other environmentalists — who you get to meet in this book — created a conservation and preservation movement that helped set aside national parks, forests, and water. Weirdly, Roosevelt had an addiction to killing animals. As a youth he killed a helluva lot of animals for his personal Roosevelt Museum. Roosevelt was a voracious reader, when he travelled he’d bring a crate of books. A knock on the book … there seemed to be a goal to include every single detail big or small.

1. Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo
Did I love this book, no. Was it enjoyable? It wasn’t. But I had to give my respect to the author Katherine Boo, an investigative journalist, and Pulitzer Prize winner for public service. She brings this world — the slums near the Mumbai airport — to life and to light. Boo spent three years observing and interviewing the people who live and die in this makeshift settlement. It reads like fiction, but it’s all brutally true. The book was the 2021 National Book Award winner for nonfiction.

My Favorite Books of 2020

Fiction
1. Straight Man, by Richard Russo
2. Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
3. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
4. Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell
5. The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zahon
6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
7. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, by Matthew J. Sullivan
8. The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac
9. The Muse Asylum, by David Crucklewski
10. The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman

Non-Fiction
1. Grant, by Ron Chernow
2. The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories about Defying the Impossible, by Catherine Burns
3. Kon Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft, by Thor Heyerdahl
4. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert
5. The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton

My Favorite Books of 2019

Fiction
1. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
2. The Passage, by Justin Cronin
3. These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Print, 1881-1901, by Nancy E. Turner
4. All the Names They Used for God, by Anjali Sachdeva
5. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
6. The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
7. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
8. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
9. Ocean of Words, by Ha Jin
10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling

Non-Fiction
1. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, by Dee Brown
2. It’s Garry Shandlng’s Book, edited by Judd Apatow
3. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle
4. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain
5. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, by Rachel Maddow

My Favorite Books of 2018

Fiction
1. Europe Central by William T. Vollman
2. Last Bus to Wisdom, by Ivan Doig
3. Plainsong, by Kent Haruf
4. Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories, by Ben Fountain
5. Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman
6. The Round House, by Louise Erdrich
7. World’s Fair, by E.L. Doctorow
8. The Cider House Rules, by John Irving
9. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloane
10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

Non-Fiction
1. H if for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
2. The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, by Ross King
3. The Escape Artist: Art, Thieves and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece, by Edward Dolnick
4. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101, Final Solution in Poland, by Christopher R. Browning
5. The Daily Show: An Oral History, by Chris Smith

My Favorite Books of 2017

1. Norwegian at Night, by Derek B. Miller
2. Pastoralia, by George Saunders
3. City of Thieves, by David Benioff
4. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
5. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, by Robert Olen
6. The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
7. Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safron Foer
8. The Guernsey Library and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
9. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
10. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

Non-Fiction
1. Sugar Salt Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss
2. Seven Years in Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer
3. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science Remembering Everything, by Joshua For
4. Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley
5. Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, by Elvis Costello

My Favorite Books of 2016

1. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
2. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain
3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
4. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
5. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
6. Native Son, by Richard Wright
7. The Man with the Golden Arm, by Nelson Algren
8. Euphoria, by Lily King
9. Marathon Man, by William Goldman
10. Big Fish, by Daniel Wallace

Non-Fiction
1. The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen, by Stephen R. Bown
2. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, by Jill Lepore
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
4. Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger
5. The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson

My Favorite Books of 2015

1. The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
2. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
3. Everyman, by Philip Roth
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
5. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, by John le Carre
6. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
7. The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro
8. The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink
9. Close Range, by Annie Proulx
10. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank

Non-Fiction
1. My Autobiography, by Charles Chaplin
2. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss
3. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, by Tadeusz Borowski
4. In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, by Pete Jordan
5. I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, by Martin Short

My Favorite Books of 2014

1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
2. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
3. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
4. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
5. A Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
6. Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
7. Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
8. Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder
9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
10. Holes, by Louis Sacher

Non-Fiction
1. Jackson Pollack: An American Saga, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
2. The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, by David Laskin
3. Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
4. Quiet, by Mary Cain
5. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu

My Favorite Books of 2013

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
2. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
3. Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem
4. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
5. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
6. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
7. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
8. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
9. High Fidelity, by Nick Hornsby
10. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin

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