Last Year’s Books (Part II)

Unlike my colleague Craig, I do NOT read 200 books a year. Not even close! My annual tally is more like 50, and the books I enjoy range in genre from historical and dystopian fiction to short stories and fantasy. My standouts for 2021 include:

1) Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

One of my favorite authors, Maynard writes about women and families facing present-day challenges. This novel follows Eleanor and Cam from the hopeful early days of their marriage and parenthood through heartbreak, divorce, hope and forgiveness.

2) The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah

This is the story of Elsa Wolcott’s struggle to raise two children as a single parent during the dust bowl in 1930s Texas. Abandoned by her husband and facing the complete destruction of his family farm due to the relentless dust storms, Elsa flees Texas and travels to California in search of a better life for herself and her family. Once in California, Elsa and her children end up picking cotton and living in a migrant camp in deplorable conditions. With little hope for improving their circumstances, Elsa and her adolescent daughter become involved in the fight to unionize the workers. While it sounds like a pretty bleak story, The Four Winds is actually a triumphant tale as Elsa matures into a strong and confident woman despite her family’s dire circumstances.

3) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Though not published in 2021, I perversely could not resist reading this 2015 book about a flu pandemic which ends civilization as we know it within weeks of its onset. Moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, a small troupe of actors and musicians moves between the settlements of the altered world. Calling themselves The Traveling Symphony, they are dedicated to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. When they encounter a violent prophet the tiny band’s existence is threatened.

4) The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Just days after Raynor Winn learns that her husband of thirty-two years is terminally ill, their house, farm and livelihood are taken away. With nothing left and little time, they make an impulsive decision to walk the 630 mile South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, through Devon and Cornwall. Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea, and sky. Through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable and life-affirming journey. A powerfully written memoir, The Salt Path is ultimately a portrayal of home and how it can be lost and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

5) The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Nora Seed has lived a life full of misery and regret. When she finds herself in the Midnight Library, the books there contain a different life, a possible world in which she can make different choices and finally make things right. But things aren’t always how she imagined they’d be. Before time runs out, Nora must answer the ultimate question: What is the best way to live?

So there you have it; my five favorite reads of 2021. I’m already working on my list for 2022! I’m half-way through A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins and its proving to be as suspenseful as The Girl on the Train. Stop by the library for more great book recommendations! Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Lynn Michels