Wondering which book to read next? This year BookSparks’ founder Crystal Patriarche raves about the books (shows and movies, too) that she loved every month. As an ultimate bookworm who reads across all genres, and devours all kinds of content across platforms, she definitely knows how to spot a great story. Here are the Best Books of 2021 on Your Radar that should definitely be on your radar according to this pro!
Crystal’s best books of the year for your radar:
Feature Image Credit: @thepaperbackbruncher
Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina
Inspired by a real phone booth in Japan that’s been a place of pilgrimage and solace since the March 2011 tsunami, this old, disconnected telephone booth is used as a “wind” phone by dozens from all walks of life who visit it to find the strength to speak to their lost loved ones and come to term with their grief. It’s simultaneously a heartbreaking yet heartwarming read and I will be recommending this book to everyone I know. I absolutely loved this book and cannot say enough about it.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Shane Hall, reclusive award-winning literary author, and Eva Mercy, a best-selling erotica author and single mother, unexpectedly meet at a literary event in the middle of a hot Brooklyn summer. Sparks instantly fly and it raises the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati and brings forth buried trauma. However, what people don’t know is that Shane and Eva spent a crazy week madly in love twenty years ago. During the next seven days, the two reconnect and Eva isn’t entirely sure if she can trust Shane again, but she attempts to get her questions answered before he disappears again. CP’s bottom line: I devoured this book and have recommended it to everyone I know. The snappy, hot, fresh dialogue, the sexiness, pop culture, the incredible characters I can’t stop thinking about and the intense writing that feels effortless and on point at all times – all of these things contribute to this book going down like a tall drink of summer iced tea and I want a refill now!
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Named a best book of April 2021 by TIME, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, Wall Street Journal, and more, this beautiful mother-daughter memoir was an instant New York Times bestseller. It’s a powerful raw portrait that Zauner paints, lyrical and radiant, about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity. With humor and heart and family photos, Zauner tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Oregon, the struggle over mother-daughter expectations, and reckoning with her identity after her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, bringing her to reclaim the gifts of language, history, and flavors her mother had given her. CP’s bottom line: Everyone should read this beautiful book, but do know that you will need a box of Kleenex at the ready. And you’ll be hungry, so hungry and so sad—yet so happy you read this incredible moving memoir.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Great Circle is the unforgettable intertwining of two stories: That of a daredevil female aviator, Marian Graves, determined to chart her own course in life at any cost, and a century later, Hollywood starlet Hadley Baxter, cast to play Marian in a film that centers on her disappearance in Antarctica. Through Prohibition and World War II, from Montana to London to present-day Hollywood, the reader is taken on an epic journey of two women’s fates and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times. CP’s bottom line: Shipstead is one of my favorites. I loved Seating Arrangements. This is a departure for the author for sure, and a giant undertaking for any reader (so many characters, a big meaty book!), but it’s so well researched and planned and plotted out, it all comes together and is worth the adventure.
These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall
In case you missed me raving last month about These Toxic Things, you need to add this to your TBR now! When her latest client dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors Nadia’s dying wish by working on a digital scrapbook of the most prized possessions she has collected in her travels across the country. As Mickie begins Nadia’s project, she starts receiving threatening messages from a serial killer urging her to leave the dead woman’s past alone. Between the peculiar choice of souvenirs and the mystery behind the killer’s identity, Mickie soon begins to investigate Nadia’s past—and quickly realizes she may be in way over her head.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
This is a warm and deeply funny novel about a once-famous gay sitcom star whose unexpected family tragedy leaves him with his niece and nephew for the summer. With the humor and heart we’ve come to expect from bestselling author Steven Rowley, The Guncle is a moving tribute to the power of love, patience, and family in even the most trying of times—something a lot of us need to be reminded of this year. CP’s bottom line: I got to read this early and it’s the perfect poolside summer read. Full of fun and humor and Palm Springs and emotion and all the best things rolled into one book. And you can just see it as a show.
He Gets That From Me by Jacqueline Friedland
Maggie Fisher just wanted to go to college and become a teacher, but her job at a checkout counter in downtown Phoenix doesn’t afford her much financial flexibility. As a young mother with a toddler and a live-in boyfriend, she laughs at the ad offering thousands of dollars to women who are willing to gestate other people’s babies. The extra money would do wonders for her life, though, and before she knows it Chip and Donovan Rigsdale, a married couple from New York, have chosen Maggie as their gestational carrier. One labor and two babies later, Maggie hands over twins to the Rigsdale, and gets her life on a more positive track. So, why is it 10 years later that the fertility clinic is calling her and asking her for a follow-up DNA test?
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
Ever since she was a child, Elle has spent her summers at “The Paper Palace.” Now the time has come for fifty-year-old Elle to spend the summer with her three children and beloved husband, Peter, at her beloved destination. However, after a steamy night with her childhood love, Jonas, without either of their spouses knowing, everything starts to fall apart. During the next twenty-four hours, Elle must choose between the life she made with Peter or the life she dreamed about with Jonas before a tragic event forever changed the course of their lives. CP’s bottom line: Added this to my top 10 list of best books of the year!
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Layers upon layers of distrust and displacement lead Jeanette, the daughter of Cuban immigrant Carmen, to struggle with addiction and take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. To learn more about her fractured family, Jeanette travels to Cuba to visit her grandmother and is met with the secrets of betrayal that shaped her family relations.
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
New York Times best-selling author Mary H.K. Choi is known for pushing the boundaries of young adult fiction—and this comical yet deeply emotional story about two estranged sisters doesn’t disappoint. Jayne and June, once thick as thieves, moved from Seoul to San Antonio to New York together—but now they want nothing to do with each other. That is, until June gets cancer, and they have to decide how far they’ll go to save one of their lives—even if it means swapping identities. CP’s bottom line: If you have a sister, you’ll cringe (because you see yourself being totally mean to your own sister), laugh, and cry your way through this fantastic novel. Content warnings: eating disorders, sex and language.