Stacey’s Top Ten (or more) of 2021

As we approach the end of Year Two in a Global Pandemic, it remains equally difficult to concentrate on reading and impossible not to hide out in-between the pages of a book, yes? I don’t know if it’s a permanent change but I really leaned hard into audiobooks, with plenty of special appearances by SciFi and children’s classics. I didn’t include any of the classics, they get plenty of press, but I will note which titles I thought were particularly good audio editions. And so that’s my prepwork -all done! Now, are we ready to get into it? Let’s go!!

Special Shout Out:

Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

If we’ve talked at all this year, you’ll know at the top of my most favorite and most suggested books would be the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. A series of novellas and one novel, these stories are about Murderbot, a self-named AI created to be hired out to protect humans in various settings out in space. Murderbot is smart and funny and thought-provoking and there’s nothing I don’t like about this entire series. I’ve listened to the audiobooks and the narrator is now the voice of Murderbot to me.

True Stories:

Easy Crafts for the Insane by Kelly Williams (Audiobook read by the author.)

Kelly shares her rollercoaster of success and health struggles mixed in with her sanity-saving crafting, with instructions included for your own crafting experience. Thoughtful, funny, and uplifting.

The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams (Audiobook read by the authors.)

What an amazing individual Jane Goodall is, now I know more about her life story and I do feel more hope for the future (by taking action)!

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (Audiobook read by the author.)

So many great essays on topics ranging from her childhood to the recent loss of her friend Sooki. If you listen, it’s like finding a new best friend.

Storyteller by Dave Grohl (Audiobook read by the author.)

Nirvana and Foo Fighters fans will already be on this one but you don’t have to know all his songs to enjoy his story. And if you’re more into Hollywood than rock star legends -I’ll sneak in a mention of The Boys by Ron Howard and Clint Howard, equally charming and insightful!

Had a Laugh, and maybe a smol sob:

Good Eggs by Rebecca Hardiman (Audiobook edition is a joy!)

This imperfect but loving Irish family has its fair share of drama but the story is peppered with sweet and funny moments. The audiobook narrator reads the book with a charming Irish accent.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Winner of the 2017 Newbery Award, I’m late to this party but I’m glad to finally have joined the group! Luna is a baby when she’s saved by a kindly witch named Xan and accidentally receives magical powers, with both good and bad consequences.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T Kingfisher

Mona lives in a world where some people have magical abilities and some don’t, and those with magic manifest their abilities in a variety of ways. Mona’s magic is working with baked goods. If that sounds weak to you, just wait to see how she joins the battle against the bad guys wanting to take over her country! Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction in 2020.

Sheets (and Delicates) by Brenna Thummler

Sheets was a Barnes and Noble Best Book of 2018 and Delicates follows the same characters in this follow-up story of a family of ghosts living in a family’s laundromat. The human family is having a hard time financially and it might be their otherworldly guests have a solution, if they’re willing to work together.

Good People in Complicated Relationships

The Operator by Gretchen Berg

Back in the day, Vivian Dalton worked as a phone operator at Ohio Bell in Wooster and often accidentally overhears portions of private conversations. One misheard portion later, Viv and her world are upended. Great family relationships, historical tidbits, and a satisfying conclusion, all set in Northeast Ohio!

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

A modern Western with wide-open lands that still manage to hide plenty of dark secrets of the past and present. You’ll be rooting for everyone in this story-at bare minimum to survive but mostly to find a sense of peace in their lives.

How Not to Drown by Jaimee Wriston

After the death of her younger son, Amelia MacQueen has custody of her 12-year-old granddaughter Heaven. Grandmelia isn’t a cuddly kind of woman, her older son is still living at home and is agoraphobic, and Heaven’s mom is in prison for killing her dad, and they’re all doing their best in their own damaged way. And there are funny bits too, really!

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

After their mom’s death, Patrick O’Hara took his niece and nephew for the summer to help his brother out. The trio already have deep ties and the summer only increases their bonds, but there are tense moments when they work through complex feelings -individually and as a group but even more moments of laughter and love. I laughed out loud. I cried. I love Patrick and his family

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

Jane has taken a teaching job in the small town of Boyne City, Michigan and falls for the town lothario Duncan. Sometimes it seems like the best choice she’s ever made and sometimes the worst; but the joy of this story for me was in the quiet everyday moments, the small connections that show understanding of the people most important to your life.

Something Different:

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Subtle hints of what might really be happening are mixed in with a complex backstory that could lead a reader down the wrong path of this dark and creepy mystery. The end hints there could be more, or maybe we’ll all be left wondering what happened next…

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (The audiobook narrator does different voices for the characters -and it’s fantastic.)

In this world, people with special abilities are forced to register their skills and are tracked “for everyone’s safety”. The children who live in The House are more exceptional than other citizens and are more closely followed than any others. But they each provide a unique and special viewpoint, they’re funny and sweet and kind to each other, and the adults learn a lot -finally.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe is a 17-year-old Lipan Apache girl who can communicate with spirits, including her beloved childhood dog Kirby. When her cousin Trevor dies in a seemingly suspicious accident, Ellie and her parents travel to Texas to help Trevor’s widow care for their newborn baby. There is a dangerous force gathering strength in this small town, can Ellie and her family be the force for good that battles the darkness back? Supernatural forces, strong family traditions, and a ghost dog = winner!

A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers

The first in the Monk and Robot series, this novella takes place in a world where robots have been liberated and live far from human communities. When a tea Monk, tasked with creating special tea blends for each customer as they share what’s on their mind, goes out beyond his usual boundaries he meets a Robot who’s been sent by his collective group to see how humankind is getting along. It’s a quiet story of small comforting moments.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Keiko Furukura started working at the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart when she was 18-years-old and eighteen years later, feels truly at home in her job. She has a connection to the rhythms of the station, her customers, and the items they sell, but her family and friends tell her she should want something more. Should she listen? A unique character with an unique viewpoint, you don’t really see the full picture until you find yourself at the end of the book.

Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know! Also, if you have any recommendations to share… feel free! Happy Holidays!

– Stacey

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