Top 3 Best and Worst Books of 2021

Hi Everybody!!!!

Today is the last Monday of the year! You know what that means??? It’s the 2nd annual year-end countdown of books I reviewed in 2021!

Like before, I’ll pick 6 books for this list – 3 for the best and 3 for the worst! Now, I have only one question for you!

I sure am! Let’s get started with the Best Books of 2021!

I read lots of wonderful titles this year, so it was a bit hard to chose. I wish I could include all of the 4- and 5-starred rated books, but I knew I had to select the best of the best for this year. At the end of the day, I found 3 of those titles that not only fit that criteria, but were also unforgettable.

3. Wild Women of Michigan: A History of Spunk and Tenacity by Norma Lewis

In my last installment of “What Am I Reading,” I mentioned Wild Women of Michigan since I’m currently reading The Women of Copper Country, which centers around the Copper Country Strike organized by Annie Clements. Ever since I started reading the latter, it has made appreciate the former all the more because of its celebration of women like Clements who defied expectations and who just happened to live in Michigan at some point in their lives. It includes those from various times and backgrounds, showing that anyone can be a game-changer. Despite its structural and glaring editing issues, it’s an essential read for those who want to learn more of Michigan history beyond a textbook.

2. Around the World in 80 Days With Michael Palin by Sir Michael Palin

I know you’re probably thinking, “Didn’t you put a book involving one of your favorite comedians on the best list last year?”

Yes, I did, and I put it on the list because it was written so well that I couldn’t get it out of my head. The same goes with Around the World in 80 Days With Michael Palin. It’s a fabulous travelogue of someone with money and proper backing who did what the title implies. Palin’s observations are hilarious and genuine, and I got the sense that he sincerely wanted to get to know the people he encountered on the trip. And most importantly, it made me want to travel. I completely understand why Palin got knighted in 2019 due to his “services to travel, culture and geography.”

1. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Now, I know you’re going to say, “Wait. Didn’t you put a book by Angie Thomas on last year’s best list?”

I sure did. Normally, I try to stay away from putting the same authors on my best lists, so I can give other ones the love and attention they deserve, but I couldn’t pass up On the Come Up. This YA book tackles a variety of issues like misogyny in the music industry, social justice, and poverty in non-sugarcoated ways. The best part of this novel is the main character Bri. She acts like a real teenager, flaws and all. It also helps that her rhymes and flows were incredible, and I was rooting for her all the way despite the impulsive and stupid things she did throughout. I can’t wait to see the movie when it comes out because the book is that wonderful. In addition, Bahni Turpin nailed the audiobook!

Before, we get the worst list, I want to mention that the titles listed are not all that bad. I found these to be the weakest of the ones that I read this year.

Now that we got that out of the way, it’s now time to get to the Top 3 Worst Books of 2021!

3. Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison

There were plenty of things I liked from Legends of the Fall like The Man Who Gave Up His Name short story. However, whenever I thought of the novella, I often remembered the aspects I didn’t like more than the ones I enjoyed. It illustrates the main problems I have with Harrison, namely his macho and overly self-indulgent style of writing, especially with the titular short story. Also, if he mentioned, “And she went mad” one more time, I swore I was going to go mad!

Also, from what I’m told, the movie version of Legends of the Fall is supposed to be different from the story. All in all, it has plenty of enjoyable elements; it just needs to be more concise and less self-indulgent.

2. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

We need to have books that discuss how people can improve their racial education. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism is certainly one of the more popular titles in that subject, but I would be hesitant to recommend it. Despite her revelations on the good/bad binary and her advice on how to combat it, DiAngelo tends to act like she knows everything because she is a diversity consultant, which is off-putting. It doesn’t help that she doesn’t use concrete examples for her points all the time. I wish it was written by someone who wasn’t on their high horse, preferably someone of color.

To summarize, I’ll quote the last the line of that review, “Whatever you do: don’t treat this like it’s the Bible of racial education because it’s simply not.”

1. Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

Even though I published the review for Carry the One last week, I knew even then it was the weakest title that I’ve read this year. Like the title I chose as my worst book of 2020, it took a potentially interesting story and executed it in the most boring way possible. It focused on three siblings and how they dealt with a tragic incident. The problem is that the novel focuses on the wrong elements. One of the siblings is not even actively involved with the event. If it emphasized the characters that were directly affected by the accident, it would’ve been a much better book.

And that was the Top 3 Best and Worst Books of 2021! I hope all of you enjoyed it. I look forward to having plenty of new reviews for 2022! See you next year!

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

Published by emilymalek

I work at two public libraries in southeast Michigan, and I facilitate a book club for one of them. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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