I’ve loved books my whole life. When I was growing up, my mother took us to the library each week during the summer. As an adult, a lot of my reads for many years were books related to design, art and teaching. Once in a while, I go on a mystery binge. Fiction, non-fiction, historical novels, I love them all. Recently, when COVID-19 entered our lives, I started reading even more. Travel was restricted, but books allowed me to go to other places and brought other worlds into my own. My reading has continued with great enthusiasm (I now belong to 2 book clubs)! So, here we go, with my favorite books read in 2021.
by Jeanine Cummins
After her husband is murdered, Lydia and her son must flee their Mexican home. Their dangerous journey is filled with terror and anxiety. The story demystifies and humanizes what some may view as the anonymous facelessness of Central and South Americans who suddenly find themselves living as migrants. Compelling, compassionate page-turner, at the top of my list of favorite books!
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu and Obinze are Nigerian teenagers in love and have exciting, idealistic plans for the future. Bureaucratic obstacles lead them in unexpected directions, apart from one another. Ifemelu studies at a U.S. college, while Obinze finds himself in London. Each faces situations that force them to examine their blackness from new perspectives. A cross between mystery and drama, with nuances of race relations mixed in, this book is a fascinating and satisfying read.
by Min Jin Lee
Historical saga of a Korean family, spanning four generations, starting with Sunja’s modest life in a small coastal village. Vivid cultural details and great character development. I knew very little about Korea and the complicated relationship between Korea and Japan. My eyes were opened and my heart was touched, making this a favorite book for the year.
by Kathleen Grissom
An orphaned white girl, Lavinia, is placed as an indentured servant on a tobacco plantation. She lives and works with the kitchen house slaves, under the care of the master’s illegitimate daughter, Belle. Despite her whiteness, Lavinia is gradually accepted and nurtured by Belle and her family. The complex straddling of two worlds is interwoven with deep-seated racial tensions and deeply-buried secrets. It’s a story of love, loyalty, and hope that expands the meaning of family.
My friend, Tina, recommended this book to me and I’m so glad she did!
by Lisa Ko
The disappearance of Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant in New York City, leaves her son, Deming, confused and sad. He is adopted by well-meaning white professors in upstate New York and begins a life of assimilation. Despite the support and gentle prodding of his adoptive parents, it is not a smooth transition. Deming’s struggles are juxtaposed with the gradual unfolding of Polly’s experience.
I liked this book a lot. I thought it portrayed the challenges of cross-cultural adoption very well. It felt authentic. The author did a good job of making the reader understand all perspectives. My nephew is adopted, so it had a personal aspect for me.
by Judy Batalion
Well-researched case studies of several women who were key figures in the Polish resistance during WWII. Their pivotal roles in the fight against the Nazis is vividly revealed, making this a difficult yet important read. It was sometimes hard to digest the horrible details and despair. Ranging from traditional responsibilities as teachers and cooks to unconventional jobs as couriers, smugglers, and spies, each woman faced frightening, harrowing situations. Remarkable heroines. I am grateful for their strength and courage!
by Melanie Benjamin
The unlikely marriage of an aspiring American actress, Blanche, and suave French manager of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Claude, is portrayed in the context of World War II. The privileged world of the Ritz is a beacon for movie stars, famous novelists, and heads of state. With the onset of war and the Nazi occupation, this world begins to change, especially when the Nazis decide to use the Ritz as their headquarters. Unexpectedly, Blanche and Claude both become resisters, yet hide this activity from one another.
As a Jewish history buff, I am drawn to novels about the resistance. There were interesting twists and mysteries in this book that I really enjoyed. The character development was good, and made me empathize with this unusual couple.
by Kristin Hannah
Intense, gripping, remarkable story of two sisters in WWII occupied France. One sister, Vianne, lives in the quiet countryside. She watches with disbelief as the Nazis invade France and infiltrate her remote village. Alarmed when her home is requisitioned by a German captain, Vianne make a series of impossible choices in order to survive. The other sister, Isabelle, is rebellious, passionate, and searching for meaning. She joins the Resistance, risking her life in a succession of missions. Isabelle is guided by her principles and strength.
The widely different paths each sister takes are action-packed and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Another wonderful choice at the top of my favorite books list. Loved it. Reminded me of two things:
- We can never know how we would behave in any situation until we actually live through it.
- We should never judge people’s choices.
Sue Monk Kidd
A perfect title for Lily Owens’ heart-filled, poignant, deeply touching, metaphorical coming of age journey. Living on a South Carolina peach farm with her abusive father and vague memories of her deceased mother, Lily is determined to unravel the mystery of her mother’s past. She flees with her nanny, Rosaleen, to Tiburon, where Lily believes her mother once lived. They find refuge with three African-American, beekeeping sisters. Enveloped by the sisters’ warmth and support, Lily learns about the world of bees, divine woman power, and her role in her mother’s death.
I adored this book, which is filled with love, forgiveness, humor, and compassion. We witness all of life’s mysteries, instincts, and miracles in a redefinition of family. Right up my alley!
What Are Your Fave Books for 2021?
I’d love to hear what your favorite books of the year are. I’m always adding to my “to read” list. Let’s share: leave a comment!