My Top 10 Books of 2021

It’s finally here! The day I announce my Top 10 Books of the Year! If you’d like to catch up on the other “Best of…” posts, here’s the link to 2020 and 2019.

My Absolute Favorite Book of the Year:

Honor by Thrity Umrigar

In Honor, Umrigar explores the consequences of the cultural clash between Muslims and Hindus that has plagued India for generations. Through Smita’s journalistic lens, Umrigar examined Indian culture, the concepts of honor and sacrifice, and, ultimately, love in all its forms: relational, familial, cultural, and unconditional.

This book is a love letter to India – to all the ways she is beautiful and resilient, and also all the ways she is cruel and unkind. Truly though, this is message to all of humankind, reminding us that we can be soft and hard, kind and cruel, happy and sad, all at the same time.

This book will stick with me for a long time!

A Nonfiction + Fiction Pairing That Will Blow You Away:

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

A nonfiction companion that pairs perfectly with Infinite Country (see below), The Undocumented Americans is timely and informative; this is a book that we all should read.

Villavicencio seamlessly weaves her personal story with those of other undocumented Americans and the result is an emotional gutpunch that totally wakes you up!

Villavicencio travels to specific parts of the United States, and I really appreciated getting an more in-depth look into what is going on behind the headline news (ie: Flint, Michigan). This is certainly a book I will return to over and over again. It’s powerful!

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

This was the first powerful book I read in 2021 and it has had staying power throughout the rest of the year. I was literally moved to tears, sobbing as I finished the last pages.

Infinite Country is about a family split between two countries: the United States and Columbia. Mauro and Elena decide to travel to America in seach of a better life, but when Mauro is deported, Elena is left to figure out how to care for her three children. She makes the heartwrenching decision to send the baby back to Columbia to be raised by her mother and Mauro because it’s impossible to find childcare for a baby while she works to make money to keep her family afloat.

When the baby, now fifteen years old, decides she wants to go back to her mother and siblings in America, Mauro is left behind. He doesn’t begrudge his daughter’s desires to go, but where does it leave him? 

Engel’s emotional writing pulls the reader in making it feel like a real life event, not just a fictional story.

Books Set in the Middle East That Will Absolutely Capture Your Heart:

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

I absolutely fell head over heels for this book – the story, the characters, the cover, the writing. All of it blew my expectations out of the water.

Vijay takes her readers and sinks them into this deeply layered, deeply complex story. I felt transformed to India and the story weaved itself right into the fibers of my being. I know will think of Shalani many, many times in the future – both with happiness and frustration.

For me, everything about this book worked. The pacing was slow, but that only added to the mystriousness and quietness of the novel overall. It made it so much more atmospheric and Vijay took her time deepdiving into these moments which absolutely brought the whole experience to life.

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

The book begins in 1978 in Afghanistan where Sitara has an idealic life. Her father is a close advisor to President Daoud, so the palace and all its lush gardens are her playground. One night, the military turned on the President, invaded the palace, and killed everyone – except Sitara. For whatever reason, one of the military guards has mercy on her and smuggles her out to an American diplomat who eventually adopts and raises her in America.

Flash forward to NYC in 2008 where Sitara (but now known as Aryana) is a successful surgeon. On a chance encounter, she comes face to face with her past and, once again, her world is flipped upside down.

Hashimi’s writing immediately pulled me in. While her writing is succinct, it is also quite metaphorical and profound. I sunk into her lyrical prose first, and eventually found that I had also sunk into the story as well. I loved Hasimi’s character development, but most of all, I loved returning to Kabul and learning more about the history of Afghanistan.

This book felt like I took a journey and I came out on the otherside better for having took it!

A Book That Should Be Required Reading Based On Our Current Social/Racial Climate:

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

This was an incredible work of nonfiction. I felt much the same way I did after reading Caste, How To Be an Antiracist, and Just Mercy: blown away by my own ignorance, incredibly grateful for deeper insight, and a feeling of standing before a vast opening of further education.

It’s a book that should be required of all Americans to read (especially at the high school level), and a book that would make for some insighful discussions at book clubs. Not only does Smith write in beautiful, lyrical sentences, he also relays important information in easily digestible bites leaving absolutely no room for one to claim ignorance any longer.

A Mystery/Thriller With Tons of Depth:

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

Anna Hart is running away from her life. She settles on her childhood hometown to try to regroup and figure out what to do with her life going forward. She is a detective, primarily focused on childhood abduction/murder cases, so when a girl goes missing in her hometown, she can’t help but get involved with the case.

Some would call this a slow-burn. And it is primarily a character-driven story; however, the chapters were short which kept me compulsively reading, and I just really wanted to find out who kidnapped this teenaged girl!

I was immersed in the story from the first page and was so happy to get lost amongst its pages!

A Book That Totally Took Me By Surprise:

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

With strong themes of loss, grief, and resilience, O’Farrell builds up to a bombastic conclusion that reiterates the idea that grief strikes us all differently and how we chose to handle that grief isn’t necessarily wrong.

From the first page, the reader is pulled in by the gorgous writing. While many are worried this is about Shakespeare, it’s really more about his wife, Agnes, and their three kids. (In fact, Shakespeare isn’t mentioned even once, so don’t let that be a deterring factor when deciding to pick this one up or not.) I was struck by Agnes’ strength and character; she felt so life-like and heroic that I became an adoring fan of her quickly.

If you love strong female protagonists, add this to your list because you’ll end up loving it just as much as I did.

A Book That Puts It All In Perspective (Which We Can All Use From Time To Time):

No Cure for Being Human: And Other Truths I Need To Hear by Kate Bowler

I listened to a podcast that interviewed Bowler and I immediately went to the interent and bought myself a copy of her book. I knew it would be a favorite and that she would write in a such a way she cut straight to my heart. I wasn’t wrong, and this is a book I will treasure and return to over and over again.

I feel like it was synchronicity to read this one during the same month of my mother’s death anniversary; Bowler was able to make me feel peace and comfort during a time that is full of anxiety and heavy grief.

Yes, it talks about her cancer diagnosis and journey, but it also gives the reader applicable life lessons we all need to be reminded of.

A Book On the Lighter Side (But Also A Truly Delightful Read!):

People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry

And because this list needed a little lightening up, People We Meet On Vacation was a book that stole my heart. I loved the story, but I adored the relationship between Poppy and Alex…their witty banter and inside jokes back and forth totally made the book for me. They were such a breath of fresh air, and I only wish I could read it again for the first time.

Just for fun, I thought I’d remind you of the books I chose for my Halfway Top 10 List earlier this year:

It’s worth noting that the five books knocked off this list are books I struggled with eliminating. I would still highly recommend all of them!

What were some of the books that defined your reading this year? I’d love to hear!!

12 thoughts on “My Top 10 Books of 2021

  1. Wow, thanks for putting this list together! I discovered your blog while browsing WordPress and I’m so glad to have found it. Once I’m finished with the CPA exam, I’ll actually have time to read again and I can’t wait to check out your recommendations. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, well… I hear you about Hamnet. Last year it took the top spot on my “best of the best” list, and I as much as I read some excellent books this year, none of them come close to beating it out of that top spot!

    Liked by 1 person

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