One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been more time to read. I am one of those people that has stacks of “to-read” books throughout my house and a long list on goodreads. And in case you need more books for your to-read list, here are a few highlights from the last year.
Most Controversial Book Forget the Alamo has elicited book bans, unfortunate comments on Facebook, whispers among Alamo historians, and one virtual book club chat. The big ideas within the book aren’t anything new to anyone that has been following historical scholarship in the last 20 years. But, this book is written for a broader audience. I particularly enjoyed the last half about the site’s preservation, interpretation–and the shady origins of some of Phil Collins’ famous collection. Essential reading for Texas museum professionals and fans of Texas history–even though you might not like everything you read.
Best Retelling of a Classic Years ago, YA author Rachel Hawkins was on one of my panels for the North Texas Teen Book Festival for her Rebel Belle series. I started following her on twitter, and she’s a delight. When she announced that she was going to do a grown-up, Southern Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre (one of my favorites), I knew I had to read it. The Wife Upstairs is a book that will likely keep you up too late reading. With just enough nods to the original, there are still plenty of modern twists. Such fun!
Book With Staying Power My friend Drew handed me Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight–and it sat on my desk for months. I knew I’d like the women’s history aspect, but definitely not as big of a flight nerd as he is. But it was so good! These women totally reinvented themselves–and couldn’t stand each other. Sometimes, there’s this perception that all women fight for rights in the same way–we need more books about the conflicts. Throw in a smaller appearance by Wally Funk, who finally got to space at 82 this year, and 2021 was the perfect year to read this.
Author I can’t believe I hadn’t already read Drew also sent me Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. I knew that I would probably like Pratchett, but somehow had never gotten around to him. Oh my. There will be more Pratchett in my future for sure, but where to begin? Such a prolific author!
Book I Annoyed the Family With One of my vacation books was Susan Orlean’s The Library Book–and I kept reading tidbits to the family. The book wanders all over the place, sharing stories of the LA central library fire, but also stories about library history and current challenges. And so much fun trivia!
Eagerly Anticipating the Sequel Thanks to the FYA book club, I read a lot of YA. And one of my favorites this year was Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. King Arthur’s roundtable still a thing–and hiding in plain sight at the University of North Carolina? Undoing decades of family secrets, plus facing racism in universities? Great romance and action? Yes to all of that and more. But alas, no release date for the sequel yet.
Best Gift (I hope!) For the kids in my life, I always give books–because you can have too many toys, but you can never have too many books. Sometimes I give favorites of mine (two little girls might have gotten an Anne Shirley picture book to prepare them for later) and sometimes I choose new to me. One that I picked up on a whim was Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt. Based on the camels that were brought to Texas as a possible Army pack animal solution, it was also a story of families you create along the way. It’s a beautiful book, wonderfully written, and I just hope my nephew also likes it!
Most Anticipated Read Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been gradually reading Louise Penny’s Armand Gamanche mysteries. They are so good and rich and well written. I want to devour them all, but have been pacing myself. So, when I saw that she was collaborating on a thriller with Hillary Clinton, I was intrigued. State of Terror was excellent–though definitely a little scary considering the state of the world right now. But it didn’t disappoint, and I also loved that Three Pines made an appearance.
Always happy for additional recommendations–or to chat about some mutual favorites! With this current variant raging right now, I think extra reading time will remain a part of our lives for a while longer. Here’s to a year full of more great books!