For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:
December 28: Best Books I Read In 2021
I’m posting it a bit late today, but here is The Official List:
1. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl-This is a book that requires a bit of explanation. Beatrice’s boyfriend died, just before their high school graduation. The death was a presumed suicide. A year later, she reunites with her high school friends, and they spend an evening out. On their way home they have a car accident. They soon learn that they are in “Neverworld Wake” following the accident; a kind of limbo in which they will relive the day of the accident again and again. Only one of them will survive the accident and they must have a unanimous vote on who that will be. It soon becomes clear that in order to make this decision, they must learn the truth about Beatrice’s boyfriend’s death the year before. They began to investigate from inside “the wake.” But they quickly realize that they’re all hiding something about the night he died… This book combines Sci-fi/Fantasy with an Agatha Christie-eque murder mystery. It’s a mash up that works surprisingly well.
2. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro- Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF). She’s solar powered and therefore sees the sun as a deity. She watches from her place in the store as customers come in to browse. Eventually she’s chosen an moves to her new home. She movies in with teenage Josie, who lives an isolated life, and suffers from a mysterious illness. It’s hard to explain this book, since it’s sort of a fable. It’s about humanity and friendship and faith.
3. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I’m actually not sure how to explain this one, because I think it’s the kind of book that’s better the less you know going in to it. Suffice it to say that it’s a fun hybrid of genres including adventure, fantasy and historical fiction. Also, it’s about Doors (yes, I used a capital “D” on purpose.)
4. The Betsy -Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace I’d heard these discussed and cited as being very important to people’s childhood reading, but somehow I’d missed them as a child. I got a treasury of the first four books at a used bookstore and was utterly charmed. It follows the childhood of Betsy Ray and her friends in Minnesota at the turn of the twentieth century. I found these books to be very comforting and reassuring. Yes, things are sometimes hard for Betsy and her friends, but we know with a child’s innocence, that they’ll make it through their struggles. Is it totally realistic? No. But I think just reading about happiness can be very reassuring.
5. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce – This was another book that I’d heard of as being a very important childhood read for a lot of people. So when I saw a copy I grabbed it. It’s a slow strange story about a boy named Tom who is shipped off to stay with his aunt and uncle when his brother gets sick. He’s sure he’ll have a terrible summer. But one night he hears the clock chime an unexpected thirteen times. He’s transported to a garden where he meets a girl named Hattie. He returns to the garden every night, but as the summer ends and he has to return home, he starts to look for a way to his secret place.
6. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I came to this somewhat knowledgeable about what to expect thanks to having already seen the film and the miniseries. But in spite of prior knowledge about the content, I still found this book compelling. It’s a slim and rather slow moving novel about the disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher on a St. Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900 Australia. It creates a strong sense of atmosphere that manages to be gothic in spite of the sun drenched setting.
7. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– I’d had this on my TBR for a while. The author is one I’ve liked in the past and often pay attention too, but I’m about 50/50 on her books. This one had some not so great reviews, but it exceeded my expectations, which was nice. It’s about Julian, a handsome young man who falls in love with a mysterious woman named Josephine. But when he learns that she’s not what she seems, she vanishes from his life forever. Desperate to get her back, Julian takes a leap into the unknown… It’s the first in a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the rest in 2022.
8. Weather by Jenny Offill – This is a perfect read for those days when it feels like humanity, and the world itself, is headed straight downhill. The main character, Lizzie, is a librarian who takes on a side gig answering letters that come in to a doom-laden podcast called “Hell and High Water.” She tries to inject a note of hope into her answers, but it’s hard, especially when she spends her days answering people who write into the podcast, who tend to be rather pessimistic, to say the least. I saw this book as being subtly, and unexpectedly, optimistic. It has a wry sense of humor about itself. I also really like the title, the more I think about it. “Weather” can be a meteorological event or condition, but it can also be a verb that means both “to wear away by long exposure” and “to endure and come through safely.” I think it’s up to the reader to decide which definition is the most relevant to the book. It’s a quick read, but I found it an unexpected surprise.
9. Killers of the Flowers Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann– I’m not usually a true crime buff, but my book club read it this year and I found myself unexpectedly drawn into it. It takes place in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. The Osage Nation was extremely wealthy due to oil found on their land. Then they start to be killed off. People who investigated the murders were also killed. As the death toll rose, J Edgar Hoover hired a former Texas rancher to solve the mystery. The story that emerges has “stranger than fiction” qualities, but is still utterly believable.
10. The March Sisters: On Love, Death, and Little Women by Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado and Jane Smiley– This is a book that made me see an old favorite in a new way. Each writer takes one of the March sisters as her subject and reflect on their personal engagement with the book and what each character taught them about life. It made me want to reread Little Women in 2022.