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December 10, 2021

Bookreporter Reviewers Share Their Three Favorite Books of 2021: A Special 25th Anniversary Event

Posted by tom


On Wednesday, December 8th, we hosted a very special and FUN “Bookaccino Live” event. As part of Bookreporter's 25th anniversary celebration, 10 of our longtime reviewers --- Sarah Rachel Egelman, Megan Elliott, Pauline Finch, Harvey Freedenberg, Bronwyn Miller, Rebecca Munro, Eileen Zimmerman Nicol, Ray Palen, Norah Piehl and Stuart Shiffman --- talked about their three favorite books of 2021. Their selections cover a wide variety of genres, and there may be a few titles here that you didn’t have on your radar that you will want to check out.

Please note that Jana Siciliano, who was to be our 11th reviewer guest, was not able to join us due to illness. She did submit notes about her three selections, and we were planning to read them towards the end of the program. But as the event ran a bit longer that we had anticipated, we are sharing her comments below.

If you missed the event, click here to watch the full presentation and here to listen to the podcast. We have timestamped the video, so if you would like to hear from a specific reviewer, you easily can do that! Also, a list of all the featured titles (including Jana’s picks) are here. Above you can see Carol Fitzgerald; our Editorial Director, Tom Donadio; and all 10 reviewers as we appeared on Zoom, “Brady Bunch”-style.


Jana Siciliano's Top Three Books of 2021 (not included in the program):

THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DU BOIS by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
This Oprah Book Club fave is a multi-generational stew in which W.E.B. Du Bois’ problem of race relations in the US, which he called “double consciousness,” is a sensitivity that every African-American must claim in order to survive.

Ailey Pearl Garfield, who is named for her great-grandmother, a descendent of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers, grows up in the North in the “city” but spends summers in a small Georgia town where her family has lived since their first ancestor arrived from Africa in bondage. As she comes to terms with her own identity, the spectre of the past continues to haunt her. Ailey embarks on a journey through the Deep South where she finds some answers and a lot of new questions about what it means to be Black in America.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a poet first and foremost, and this, her debut novel, offers a gorgeous and thought-provoking look at the past, present and future of race through one young woman’s search for her own path.

GHOSTS by Dolly Alderton
GHOSTS is another debut novel that hits the center of the zeitgeist target with both wicked humor and a heartwarming sincerity.

Like Bridget Jones before her, Nina Dean is a singleton living in London, about to publish her second book on food and enjoying a healthy social calendar. When she downloads a dating app, she meets a great guy. And as inconceivable as this might seem at first, she latches onto him and their new love with trust and excitement. But when he ghosts her just as she thought everything was going perfectly, she ends up getting dumped in more ways than one. Her father is in the last throes of Alzheimer’s, her mother is losing her patience with him, her new editor hates her book, and her best friend moves out of town and into a mommy world that Nina cannot break into. The term “ghosts” becomes so many things as Nina tries to journey back in time with her dad, stay present with her mom, and conceive of a future where she ends up married and mothering herself.

GHOSTS is a deeply funny look at interpersonal relations in the world before the pandemic. It also skewers the archaic mores of the social and family relationships that don’t work anymore in this tech-savvy world.

BOTH/AND: A Life in Many Worlds by Huma Abedin
The decades-long right hand to Hillary Clinton has penned a compelling and thrilling tale of an immigrant’s daughter who, by luck of a George Washington University internship, ends up at the hip of one of the world’s most powerful women.

From the Bill Clinton impeachment to her formidable campaign, Hillary takes the young scholar under her wing, and Abedin grows into a first-class politician herself. However, a bright career becomes unhinged as Hillary battles for the White House, and Abedin’s husband, disgraced former US Representative Anthony Weiner, finds himself drawn into an embarrassing sex scandal that hurts the Clinton campaign. Mired in scandal and personal difficulties, Abedin blames no one but herself for her role in these political and personal traumas.

BOTH/AND is an exciting confessional that takes us on a heartwrenching journey and teaches us how those who we take into our lives can affect us in ways we never could have imagined.