Here are the favorite "Reads" from our staff for 2021.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Like her excellent debut novel, The Dry, this story is set in the Australian outback. The threatening landscape is as much a part of the story as the long-held secrets that unravel to reveal why an experienced rancher was found dead and unprotected in the middle of barren terrain. It's a page-turner and kept me reading well past bedtime.
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Slow going at the beginning, but the gradual reveal of knowledge heightened the suspense and balanced the storylines well. Skillful shifting between the two time sequences adds another layer to this enjoyable historical fiction of the WWII codebreakers at Bletchley Park.
The Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
The Yellow Wife follows the life story of a young woman born into slavery but promised her freedom. When the plantation owner dies, this promise of freedom dies with him and Pheby's life is forever changed. She achieves an elevated status in another household but at a tremendous personal cost. The main character, Pheby, was inspired by the life of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman living in Virginia in the 1800s. Rich in history and with well-developed characters, this is a book I could not put down. A book about Mary Lumpkin's life and achievements, The Devil's Half Acre, is due out in April.
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
We Begin at the End is a character-driven crime drama. As the title suggests, the plot works back in time to solve a current-day crime while at the same time revealing layers of each character's complicated relationship both in the present and 30 years ago when a tragedy forever changed each of their lives.
Thura's Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq by Thura al-Windawi
A happy, college-going, Nineteen-year-old Iraqi girl, Thura al-Windawi's world was swiftly uprooted in 2003 by the incumbent war between the United States and Iraq. And it is in her trusted diary that she finds her solace. By recounting the harrowing experiences and her perspectives leading up to, during, and after the war, this book, similar to Anne Frank's diary, offers a look into the complex dynamics of living through a war-torn country, especially it's bearing on children and youngsters. It is a quick and easy read, and young adults will enjoy reading this thought-provoking book.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Everything I loved about The Martian - the science, the problem-solving, the MacGuyver "can-do" attitude - is here, and this time the stakes are even higher. One man, adrift in space, on a critical time-sensitive mission he can't recall due to amnesia. Weir sets out interesting scenarios and "what ifs" and then extrapolates and follows them to their logical conclusions-and we're happy to follow him for the ride.
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
Imagine being 22 years old and having your life turned upside down with a diagnosis of leukemia. Suleika Jaouad, an Emmy Award-winning writer and activist, takes the reader on her journey as she navigates through the turmoil of illness and finds her way to healing. This story will stick with you long after turning the last page.
Woke up This Morning: The Complete Oral History of The Sopranos by Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa with Philp Lerman (2021)
The companion book to the popular podcast, Talking Sopranos, also starring Imperioli and Schirripa, which breaks down the iconic HBO series episode by episode. The book features interviews with cast and crew alike such as Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano) and creator David Chase and contains a myriad of content beyond what's just on the podcast. With over five hundred pages of behind-the-scenes information and photographs, this book is a must-have for any fan of the show and is another example of why The Sopranos is considered by many to be one of the best, if not, the greatest, television series of all time.
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
A man and a woman in mid-life who live in different countries begin a correspondence. What began as a request to obtain information about visiting a museum exhibit, turns into a wonderful story about strangers sharing simple details about their lives through letters and developing a meaningful friendship. When one of the writers suggests corresponding via internet to get faster responses to each other's questions, what will happen? Will the rhythm of their growing friendship and the texture and depth of their thoughts written in the letters change?