Best Books of 2021
“We like to think of ourselves as the traveler’s local bookstore, meaning that we want to be rooted in and representative of our individual communities, with stores that are familiar and welcoming, while also offering content reflecting global perspectives and the thrill of discovery. I am proud of the way our “Best of 2021” participants and selection showcase those values.”
- Sara Hinckley, Senior Vice President of Books, Hudson
Book of the Year
Cathy Connell National Book Operations Manager, Hudson
Recommends Crying in H Mart By Michelle Zauner“Michelle Zauner’s memoir is a loving tribute to her Korean American upbringing, love of Korean Food, and most importantly the bond with her exacting Korean mother who passed away from cancer as Zauner was finding her way in the world by starting her band, Japanese Breakfast. It’s a wonderful & heartbreaking mother-daughter story."
Best Fiction, Non Fiction, & Young Readers Books
Adrian Newell Book Buyer, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA
Recommends Razorblade Tears By S.A. Cosby"Blacktop Wasteland was one of my favorite thrillers of 2020, so I couldn't wait to dig into S. A. Cosby's 2nd book, Razorblade Tears. I was not disappointed! Cosby writes rural noir like no one else. Relatable, flawed characters, a great sense of place and a storyline that packs a mean punch. This is a kick-ass thriller with race, revenge, family & friendship driving the dark & often violent narrative. If you require nice neat endings or are uncomfortable with good people doing some really bad things to protect their loved ones, this is not the book for you. Otherwise dive in & enjoy! "
Recommends Harlem Shuffle By Colson Whitehead"You wouldn't know it based on his last two novels, back-to-back Pulitzer winners The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, but Colson Whitehead is most at home writing about his native New York. Here he vividly depicts the hustle and bustle of Harlem in the early 60s, shuffling through moods as he chronicles the saga of Ray Carney, a furniture salesman with a somewhat reluctant relationship to the city's criminal underworld. Carney balances dreams and family life with schemes and high stakes heists, but the presence of one always threatens the other as his moral compass spins with the winds of history."
Ann Patchett International Bestselling Author & Co-Owner, Parnassus Books, Nashville
Recommends The Beatryce Prophecy By Kate DeCamillo"The Beatryce Prophecy is the definition of a modern classic. You turn the pages realizing that people will be moved by Kate DiCamillo's words and Sophie Blackall's drawings for generations to come. Brave Beatryce, fierce Answelica and gentle Brother Edik are indelible characters. Buy it in hardback and keep it forever"
Bob Miller President & Publisher, Flatiron Books
Recommends Crossroads By Jonathan Franzen"The book I read this year that haunts me the most is Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads. I think that this is Franzen’s best work since The Corrections, for its pitch-perfect depiction of the cultural shifts of the late Sixties, and especially for the brilliance with which Franzen depicts the way those changes created seismic shifts within one particular family. I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy…"
Cherish Barrett, Sales Representative, Ingram Content Group
Recommends Open Water By Caleb Azumah Nelson"A stunning debut novel about two young Black artists who fall in love despite all the odds stacked against them. A story about race, discrimination, masculinity … all written in a truly lyrical way. This will be a story that will touch and resonate with readers everywhere."
Cindi Buckwalter, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Hudson
Recommends Malibu Rising By Taylor Jenkins Reid"When I first read that Malibu Rising takes place over a brief 24-hour period ending in the ultimate party scene, I wondered how the author could possibly execute this, but she did it flawlessly and kept me captivated the entire time. With the back stories, I was immediately drawn into the lives of each of the four siblings and their parents, as well as their highs and lows, both individually and as a family. Even after I finished the book, I found myself caring for the characters and wondering what lay ahead for them. And as a beach lover, I especially enjoyed the beautiful Malibu setting."
Heidi Bassett Regional Director, Hudson
Recommends Where the Crawdads Sing By Delia Owens"With all of the hype regarding Where the Crawdads Sing, how could I not read it?!! The story though quite sad at the beginning told the amazing tale of a girl who came from nothing, learned how to make it on her own and with a little help grew up to be a successful person all the while taking control of her circumstances. Who would have thought that Kya the Marsh Girl would really get the “last laugh?”"
Jennifer Enderlin, President, St. Martin's Press
Recommends The Good Sister By Sally Hepworth"Sally Hepworth's The Good Sister is one of my favorite books of the year because this is a thriller that's full of heart and humor, but at the same time chilling and twisty. It's very hard to pull off this combination, and she did it by creating characters who say and do the unexpected--just like the most interesting people we know in real life. This is a book for anyone who loves quirky, unique characters, a mystery that deepens with every page, and a satisfying ending that makes you want to recommend it to your best friend--or sister!"
Jordi Martin-Consuegra, Chief Executive Officer, Hudson
Recommends Exhalation By Ted Chiang"A book of short stories whose common link seems to be somewhere between science fiction of a magical sort and the unanswered questions that come with technological progress. Savor each of these pieces: no binge reading is allowed here, or you might miss something, for many are the treasures to be found between these covers. A story about what our world would be like if the existence of God were scientifically demonstrated? You have it. One with virtual reality worlds? It is there. And so many other pearls, including the wisdom that only a man who has traveled to the future and made it back could impart to us. Go find it, it’s here in these pages - and so much, much more."
Justin Hennequant Director of Books, Hudson
Recommends The Antisocial Network By Ben Mezrich"Ben Mezrich is the king of explaining complex industries using stories that you won’t want to stop reading. This time Ben weaves the tale of GameStop, high frequency trading, Reddit, and the biggest companies in the financial industry. It is David vs Goliath if David is a guy in his basement, Goliath is short selling hedge funds, and the slingshot is a Reddit board made up of normal people looking for community during a pandemic. The perfect book to keep your mind off the hassle of travel."
Karen Hayes Co-Owner, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
Recommends Graceland, At Last By Margaret Renkl"Margaret Renkl is my favorite essayist. Every week I look for her column in the opinion pages of the New York Times. In a time when the country has such deep divisions, I can rely on her writing to be all heart, no snark. I’m so proud to have this fellow Nashvillian’s newest collection on my shelf."
Kate Whitman Sales Manager, Penguin Random House
Recommends The Ugly Cry By Danielle Henderson"Danielle Henderson's debut memoir chronicles her childhood years being raised by her grandparents, but especially her foul-mouthed and horror film loving Grandmother, after her Mother continually abandons her. At times heartbreaking but always hysterically funny this book shows that families come in all different formations, and that love sustains us through the most difficult and awkward times in life."
Kathryn Doser, Readerlink
Recommends Sorrowland By Rivers Soloman"Sorrowland is bizarre, beautiful, and horrifying. The author blends science fiction elements, body horror, cults, the history of racism in America, and the struggles of parenthood all while maintaining a lyrical prose style. Once you’ve read this book, you can’t help but want to talk about it with everyone you see."
Kelly Ragland Vice President, Associate Publisher/Editorial Director, Minotaur
Recommends Finlay Donovan is Killing It By Elle Cosimano"This year I want to nominate Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano. This series debut featuring a divorced mom who is mistaken for a professional assassin has the perfect combination of a puzzling plot, a warm and authentic vibe, and a hilarious narrative voice that had me laughing out loud, nodding my head in solidarity, and racing through the pages to see how Finlay would get out of one outrageous situation after another. It's 368 pages of pure escapist entertainment, and it was my favorite discovery of 2021."
Kristin Cipolla Associate Publicist, Harper Collins
Recommends Black Girls Must Die Exhausted By Jayne Allen"Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is everything I love about the world of literature. Jayne Allen has written a stunning debut that will make you laugh, cry, and fall in love with Tabitha Walker. This is an empowering and honest novel filled with an unforgettable cast of characters that make Black Girls Must Be Exhausted the showstopper it is. You will be rooting for Tabby from page one.” "
Leonard Foote Business Partner Manager, Barbara's Bookstores at O'Hare, Hudson
Recommends Mike Nichols By Mark Harris"Fascinating biography of the improv comedy pioneer and legendary director of film and stage. Harris gets inside Nichols’ head so well that it feels like an autobiography."
Lillie Walsh National Account Rep, HarperCollins
Recommends All Her Little Secrets By Wanda M. Morris"I picked up All Her Little Secrets and could NOT put it down! The story is so layered and intriguing. I loved how the author set up this perfectly believable corporate world and just one by one peeled back the layers which get more and more horrifying. The main character has a compelling and sympathetic backstory, so you’re really rooting for her. All in all, a terrific modern day thriller! "
Lucille Rettino Vice President, Director of Marketing and Publicity, Tor/Forge
Recommends Under the Whispering Door By TJ Klune"Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune is a extremely special book that gave me all the feels. A contemporary queer fantasy about a ghost (Wallace) who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with, the book is hilarious, haunting and kind. An uplifting story for anyone who has thought about how they are spending their life, which today I think is most of us. In Whispering Door, Wallace's story is about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home."
Megan Lynch, Senior Vice President & Publisher, Flatiron Books
Recommends Somebody's Daughter By Ashley C. Ford"My Book of the Year is Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford. I knew and loved Ashley's wise and inimitable voice for some time before I read this memoir, but what made it a revelation for me was its beautiful distillation of the complexity of familial love. This is a book for anyone who has ever tried to heal, forgive, and grow, even in incredibly difficult circumstances."
Mitzi Angel Senior Vice President & Publisher, Farrar Straus & Giroux
Recommends Beautiful World, Where Are You By Sally Rooney"Beautiful World, Where Are You is one of the best novels I've read for years. With its exquisite depictions of the challenges in love and friendship, it brings us wisdom and understanding in an uncertain world. I first read it at the height of the pandemic and found it offered comfort and delight--and a vision for how we might begin to heal."
Pam Brown Senior National Account Manager, Penguin Random House
Recommends Broken Horses By Brandi Carlile"I’ve probably told more people to download the audio of this book than any other book (to listen to or to read) this year. Brandi has so much heart, tremendous talent, and amazing storytelling skills. When she sings in between the chapters where she’s just told you the story behind the song, it hits home in a big way. "
Patricia Doherty Senior National Accounts Manager, Macmillan
Recommends The Four Winds By Kristin Hannah"The Four Winds comforted me and gave me so much hope at the start of the year. As the New York Times put it, "The Four Winds seems eerily prescient in 2021 . . . Its message is galvanizing and hopeful: We are a nation of scrappy survivors. We’ve been in dire straits before; we will be again. Hold your people close.” "
Paula Amendolara Director of National Accounts, Simon and Schuster
Recommends Three Girls From Bronzeville By Dawn Turner"Three Girls from Bronzeville is a profound, vividly written, and unforgettable true story of three promising young Black girls who grew up in the same neighborhood in Chicago in the 1970s, and how their lives took wildly different turns. It’s a riveting narrative with the surprising plot twists of a novel. The journeys of Dawn, her sister Kim, and best friend Debra, are full of heartbreak, loss, and even murder, but also fierce love, humor, and beauty against the odds. It’s a personal story, yet a story of America too. Who gets second chances and who doesn’t? Why do some kids succeed while others fall off the path? As our country reckons with race, class, and opportunity, stories like Dawn Turner’s offer us nuanced answers—and above all, Three Girls from Bronzeville offers us hope."
Recommends A Swim in a Pond in the Rain By George Saunders"This is a charming "master class" in how to read and enjoy fiction, but it's more entertaining and informative than that sounds. Saunders (a master craftsman in short fiction himself) takes us through some classic Russian short stories, pulling us behind the curtain of how they work, what each scene does (not just what is says). It rekindled my love of short stories, jump-started my reading after a lull, and made me smile or even laugh more than any other book in the last few years. "
Rebecca Harkenrider, Book Buyer, Hudson
Recommends Iron Widow By Xiran Jay Zhao"Iron Widow is the Chinese feminist mecha book that I didn’t realize I needed in my life. Inspired by the only female emperor in China, Xiran Jay Zhao crafts an enthralling story about giant monster invaders and the monsters that were created to defend against them called Chrysalises. Iron Widow is the tale of the male pilots who are treated like celebrities and the female concubine “co-pilots” who are sacrificed due to the strain on their minds during the battles. Of a female, Wu Zetian, who is not content with playing the role of a subservient sacrifice and fights to overthrow the system even as she is attacked and threatened by the men in power. With fascinating characters who overcome their limits and the societal codes around them, impressive action-packed battles, and ample surprises; Iron Widow is a raw and empowering book that will stay with me for a long time."
Russell Roth, Marketing Associate & Buyer, Hudson
Recommends Blindness By José Saramago"Blindness is Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago’s story of an unnamed city struck by an epidemic of “white blindness”. It follows the first patients afflicted with the mysterious disease and the makeshift society formed by those unable to see. Brutal in every sense of the word, Blindness outlines our devolution from society to savagery and our individual and collective reactions to tragedy. Tremendously relevant in today’s world, this literary masterpiece is both beautiful and grotesque, filled with horror and hope. Saramago’s writing style is edgy and inventive, a poetic stream of conscience with minimal punctuation, but I found myself so engrossed in the book that I hardly even noticed. Blindness can be read as an allegory or enjoyed for its enthralling story, but either way, it will surely stick with you for a long time."
Sandra Monk Book Manager, SeaTac International Airport, Hudson
Recommends A Little Devil in America By Hanif Abdurraqib"A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib is dedicated to Josephine Baker, who was a poor black girl from St. Louis who rose to international fame. The title comes from her 1963 speech at the March on Washington. I am grateful to Hanif for his deep honesty and respect for the impact of performance in black culture. He pays tribute to Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Soul Train and even breathes life into a game of Spades with his magical prose. This book highlights so many unique ways of interacting with performance that you will want to read it again and again."
Sara Hinckley Senior Vice President, Books, Hudson
Recommends Chasing Me to My Grave By Winfred Rembert"While the horrors of the Jim Crow South have been well documented, Winfred Rembert’s memoir in words and paintings lends immediacy and specificity to their lasting trauma. Rembert’s survival could be described as miraculous if that didn’t seem to discount his own tenacity or absolve his tormentors. Chasing Me to My Grave is painful to read, but it also celebrates beauty and joy and kindness. It is a powerful testament to America’s most shameful history, but even more so to Rembert’s talent and vision as an artist, and to his unique and indomitable spirit. "
Scott Broker Bookseller Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Recommends Afterparties By Anthony Veasna So"In the wake of So's tragic passing, this book feels like a minor miracle for the way it serves as a living record of his inimitable mind. Queer, biting, hilarious, and tender, the stories here---focused on the lives of Cambodian-American immigrants-consider the ongoingness of history and trauma as they stand in relation to young people who are equally concerned with sex, comedy, and getting stoned. Easily one of my favorite reads of the year, and one I will keep nearby always."
Susan Goodyear, Bookseller, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Recommends World Travel By Anthony Bourdain, Laurie Woolever"Not a traditional travel book. It's where and what to eat regionally and world-wide--with anecdotes! From dive bars to the swankiest restaurants! Plus: Vroman's own Book Soup gets a big shout out on page 334. Excellent reading."
Tracy Dowd, Hachette Book Group
Recommends The Memoirs of Stockholm SvenBy Nathaniel Ian Miller"Stockholm Sven is a book, and a character, that has stayed with me long after I finished reading. Sven is a curmudgeon who banishes himself to a solitary life in the Arctic Circle, destined to be alone, only to learn that good friends, a loyal dog, and the arrival of an unlikely visitor can change everything. If you are a fan of Frederic Bachman or A Gentleman in Moscow, you too will love this debut novel from the incredibly talented Nathaniel Ian Miller."
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