2021 IS GOING TO BE FULLY BOOKED

2021 IS GOING TO BE FULLY BOOKED

Content warning: Book recommendations #9 and #19 contain mentions of sexual assault that can be triggering for some readers. 

 

With 2021 in full swing now, we thought it would be a great time to release 21 reads for 2021. Despite the school year starting to get busy again, we still find ourselves reading content that isn’t only school-related. 

 

These are the books that will make you laugh, cry, smile, feel warm inside, and inspire you. Keep scrolling to find out why we have selected each book – and find your next read!

 

#1: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Socio-political Fiction

Get the gist: An eye-opener on many levels that will make you feel countless emotions. Americanah details Ifemelu, a Nigerian immigrant, who moves to the United States to attend a top tier university. Following her time in America, with flashbacks from her past, Americanah details Ifemelu’s life and love. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke about the dangers of a single story in 2009 for TED.

 

#2 The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Mystery 

Get the gist: The aftermath of a serious incident, the fall of a Ponzi scheme, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat for a full 320 pages. And the cherry on top – not only is the author Canadian, but the book is set in Canada too! The Glass Hotel is a new and noteworthy book that should make its way to the top of your 2021 reading list for numerous reasons.

 

#3 To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Memoir

Get the gist: Forced into a life he didn’t choose, Jedidiah Jenkins drops everything to search for himself. Jenkins sets out on a bike journey from Oregon to Patagonia in search of the meaning of his life. Accompanied by one friend, the book follows all of their adventures and realizations about the world we live in today. It’s time you take the journey with him. 

 

#4 Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Poetry

Get the gist: Traditional lyric poetry mixed with media conveys racial relations within the United States. This piece was chilling, inspirational, sad, and happy at all once. While some think that poetry isn’t their thing, Citizen: An American Lyric will prove that connotation wrong. There is something in this book for everyone – there is even poetry about Serena Williams!

 

#5 North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Memoir

Get the gist: About surviving the wilderness and a not so ‘normal’ family and the escape from civilization as a whole. North of Normal was released in 2014, but still manages to top many reading lists today. The memoir opens readers eyes to the world we are so often funneled into, and truly puts the meaning of life into perspective.

 

#6 Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Self-help

Get the gist: What does it mean to dare greatly? It’s something that we all struggle with, whether we know it or not. No matter who you are, you will find yourself in this book and learn a lot about what drives and motivates you. Brene Brown has quickly risen to fame for her books, and even has a movie out on Netflix now. Daring Greatly can help anyone and everyone no matter what point in their life they are at.

 

#7 Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Literary Fiction

Get the gist: Conversations of desire, sex, and relationships between an unnamed narrator and people that surround her. Topics of Conversation explores the good and the bad that is alive in our ever-changing society. As the narrator listens, women share their perspectives on what they think love is – and is not. This piece of literary fiction is relatable for many, and, therefore, that much more enjoyable.

 

#8 Where the Crawdads Sings by Delia Owens

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Mystery 

Get the gist: Following two storylines that slowly intertwine, this mystery is one that you could finish in a day – it’s that good! Delia Owens is a well-known and respected author, who released this mystery novel in 2018. Nearly three years later, it is hard to get your hands on a copy of this book!

 

#9 Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Autobiography 

Get the gist: This was a tough one. Many people cry their way through it. Although, it helps us to better understand that things are that bad – and that they are allowed to be. Oftentimes people take on the mentality that things are ‘not that bad’ in comparison to someone else’s life or experiences. Roxane Gay reminds readers, that things are that bad and that it is okay to acknowledge that.

 

#10 Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Biography, Autobiography 

Get the gist: While I haven’t gotten my hands on this just yet as it was released on January 26th, it’s currently sitting at the top of my reading list. Joan Didion needs no introduction. This is a collection of her work that lets you better understand her processes and experiences with writing and life. Let Me Tell You What I Mean is twelve pieces of Didion’s work, from the beginning of her career, that touch on a variety of topics.

 

#11 The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke

Genre: Fiction

Get the gist: After getting pregnant as a teenager, Ruth puts her son up for adoption and pursues an Ivy League education. The book looks at the life of a Black Chicago woman after the U.S. 2008 Presidential election. The expected release date is February 2, 2021 – so keep an eye out!

 

#12 Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Poetry

Get the gist: This collection of poems by the beloved Chicana writer is not only a captivating reflection on one’s cultural identity, but an unapologetic celebration of femininity and desire. Lush and vulnerable yet snarky and sexy, Loose Woman paints a self-portrait that’s larger than life.

 

#13 The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure

Get the gist: Living in Brooklyn, New York, on the eve of WWII, cousins Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay embark on a quest for fame within the comic book industry. As the story of their lives expands over decades and continents, Michael Chabon captures every detail in his exhilarating, gorgeously descriptive prose. This might just be the great American novel.

 

#14 Severance by Ling Ma

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Science Fiction, Satire

Get the gist: Ling Ma’s surreal and bleakly humorous debut novel depicts a world ravaged by the mysterious Shen Fever, whose victims compulsively repeat mundane routines until their bodies decay—essentially, they work themselves to death. Severance follows Candace Chen, a pregnant publishing assistant living alone in an abandoned New York City, who reflects on her past and struggles to find meaning in her life even as the threat of fever looms closer. A must-read for the pandemic era.

 

#15 The Travelers by Regina Porter

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Get the gist: Reading this book feels like watching a perfect jigsaw puzzle falling into place. Spanning from the 1950s to the early Obama years, Regina Porter’s mind-blowing debut depicts the intertwining lives of two very different American families. Porter’s voice is funny and compassionate, and even though she constantly meddles with chronology and space, it’s her hefty cast of endlessly fascinating characters that truly give the story a heart.

 

#16 A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Music Criticism

Get the gist: Due to be released on March 30th, this book examines the legacy of Black performance in American history. Through his signature lyrical prose, ruminations on love and grief, and juxtaposition of personal narrative with iconic Black performances, A Little Devil in America is sure to further cement Hanif Abdurraqib as one of the most brilliant writers working today. (Extra recs: literally everything else Abdurraqib has ever written, especially They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us).

 

#17 Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Autobiography

Get the gist: Under the name Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner creates effervescent yet piercing dream-pop and rock tunes. But Crying in H Mart, based off a brilliant essay she published in The New Yorker, is primarily about her experiences growing up Korean-American, as well as her complex relationship with her deceased mother and the healing power of food. Though it’s not coming to bookstores until April 20th, I’m already ready to cry over it.

 

#18 Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Nonfiction, Essay

Get the gist: Who among us has not found comfort in going on a walk? Especially as there’s little other reason to leave the house, lately. In Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit explores the history of walking, its cultural significance, and its usefulness in a world that convinces us to stay indoors, trapped by technology. A delightful, enigmatic, and surprisingly poignant read.

 

#19 Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Poetry, Fantasy

Get the gist: This “novel in verse” is both a romantic, devastating coming of age story and an experiment in recreating Greek myth. Geryon, the protagonist, is a young boy who is also a winged red monster—it is ambiguous whether this aspect is metaphorical or literal. After escaping from his abusive brother and weak-willed mother, he finds comfort in the shape of a man named Herakles. With witty, incisive language, Carson expertly examines the process of self-discovery and the mortifying ordeal of being known.

 

#20 Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Fantasy

Get the gist: Piranesi is the dreamlike tale of a man imprisoned in a labyrinthine house that seems to defy all logic. Piranesi knows nothing of our world; he lives solely to explore the halls. Yet he is hounded by a visitor called The Other, who asks him for help with research into “A Great and Secret Knowledge.” The secrets of the house, and what else might reside within, quickly begin to unravel. It’s a bizarre and often unnerving read, but it’s also a brilliant study of solitude, and you’re sure to be caught up in trying to solve the mystery alongside Piranesi.

 

#21 The Idiot by Elif Batuman

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age

Get the gist: The Idiot is a wryly existential and semi-autobiographical story of Selin, a freshman attending Harvard in the 1990s. She develops an unlikely and complicated friendship with Ivan, an older student, wherein they cannot seem to profess their feelings for each other. She spends the ensuing summer in Europe, where she continues to explore the terrors of not only first love, but becoming a fully realized person, independent of others. Batuman writes with humour, not sentimentality, but the narrative is painfully relatable and often surprisingly tender.

 

Bonus Book Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

Recommended by: Fiona Meeson

Genre: Theory, Nonfiction

Get the gist: A necessary read for anyone who identifies as a feminist. Legendary Marxist academic and activist Angela Davis examines the history of women’s rights in the context of the civil rights movement and working class struggles. Davis critiques the racism and classism inherent in mainstream feminism with precision and confidence, and builds a visionary argument (remember, this is 1983) for cooperation and solidarity amongst marginalized communities.

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