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The Best Books of 2021 So Far

The Best Books of 2021 So Far

By Time

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About the list

This book list was crafted for you by Friendspire on 3 June 2021 based on a list by Time.

Reading is one of those hobbies that tends to stay with you for life. Sure, we might start reading children's books like Clifford The Big Red Dog, but as we get older, so too do the novels we read. It starts with a easy book, then it progresses to young adult novels, biographies, and classics. Reading takes us out of our daily lives and
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Who Is Maud Dixon?

2021 | Alexandra Andrews

A "stylish and sharp" character-driven suspense novel, "with wicked hairpin turns," about a famous novelist and a small-town striver locked in a struggle for fortune and fame. (Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette?) Florence Darrow is a low-level publishing employee who believes that she's destined to be a famous writer. When she stumbles into a job the assistant to the brilliant, enigmatic novelist known as Maud Dixon -- whose true identity is a secret -- it appears that the universe is finally providing Florence's big chance. The arrangement seems perfect. Maud Dixon (whose real name, Florence discovers, is Helen Wilcox) can be prickly, but she is full of pointed wisdom -- not only on how to write, but also on how to live. Florence quickly falls under Helen's spell and eagerly accompanies her to Morocco, where Helen's new novel is set. Amidst the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast, Florence's life at last feels interesting enough to inspire a novel of her own. But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory of the previous night -- and no sign of Helen -- she's tempted to take a shortcut. Instead of hiding in Helen's shadow, why not upgrade into Helen's life? Not to mention her bestselling pseudonym . . . Taut, twisty, and viciously entertaining, Who is Maud Dixon is a stylish psychological thriller about how far into the darkness you're willing to go to claim the life you always wanted. One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2021 GoodReads * LitHub * CrimeReads * Town & Country * New York Post * Wall Street Journal

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The Copenhagen Trilogy

2021 | Tove Ditlevsen

Called "a masterpiece" by The New York Times, the acclaimed trilogy from Tove Ditlevsen, a pioneer in the field of genre-bending confessional writing Tove Ditlevsen is today celebrated as one of the most important and unique voices in twentieth-century Danish literature, and The Copenhagen Trilogy (1969–71) is her acknowledged masterpiece. Childhood tells the story of a misfit child’s single-minded determination to become a poet; Youth describes her early experiences of sex, work, and independence. Dependency picks up the story as the narrator embarks on the first of her four marriages and goes on to describe her horrible descent into drug addiction, enabled by her sinister, gaslighting doctor-husband. Throughout, the narrator grapples with the tension between her vocation as a writer and her competing roles as daughter, wife, mother, and drug addict, and she writes about female experience and identity in a way that feels very fresh and pertinent to today’s discussions around feminism. Ditlevsen’s trilogy is remarkable for its intensity and its immersive depiction of a world of complex female friendships, family and growing up—in this sense, it’s Copenhagen's answer to Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels. She can also be seen as a spiritual forerunner of confessional writers like Karl Ove Knausgaard, Annie Ernaux, Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy. Her trilogy is drawn from her own experiences but reads like the most compelling kind of fiction. Born in a working-class neighborhood in Copenhagen in 1917, Ditlevsen became famous for her poetry while still a teenager, and went on to write novels, stories and memoirs before committing suicide in 1976. Having been dismissed by the critical establishment in her lifetime as a working-class, female writer, she is now being rediscovered and championed as one of Denmark's most important modern authors, with "Tove fever" gripping readers.

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On Juneteenth

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2021 | Annette Gordon-Reed

Rated by 1 people

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native. Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed’s On Juneteenth provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. All too aware of the stories of cowboys, ranchers, and oilmen that have long dominated the lore of the Lone Star State, Gordon-Reed—herself a Texas native and the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s—forges a new and profoundly truthful narrative of her home state, with implications for us all. Combining personal anecdotes with poignant facts gleaned from the annals of American history, Gordon-Reed shows how, from the earliest presence of Black people in Texas to the day in Galveston on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of legalized slavery in the state, African-Americans played an integral role in the Texas story. Reworking the traditional “Alamo” framework, she powerfully demonstrates, among other things, that the slave- and race-based economy not only defined the fractious era of Texas independence but precipitated the Mexican-American War and, indeed, the Civil War itself. In its concision, eloquence, and clear presentation of history, On Juneteenth vitally revises conventional renderings of Texas and national history. As our nation verges on recognizing June 19 as a national holiday, On Juneteenth is both an essential account and a stark reminder that the fight for equality is exigent and ongoing.

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Libertie

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2021 | Kaitlyn Greenidge

Rated by 1 people

Named One of the Most-Anticipated Books of 2021 by: O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, The Millions, Refinery29, Publishers Lunch, BuzzFeed, The Rumpus, BookPage, Harper's Bazaar, Ms., Goodreads, and more “An elegantly layered, beautifully rendered tour de force that is not to be missed.”  —Roxane Gay, author of Hunger “Libertie is a feat of monumental thematic imagination.” —Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, The New York Times Book Review “This is one of the most thoughtful and amazingly beautiful books I’ve read all year. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a master storyteller.” —Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award–winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with Libertie, an unforgettable story about one young Black girl’s attempt to find a place where she can be fully, and only, herself. Coming of age in a free Black community in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her light-skinned mother, Libertie will not be able to pass for white. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come. Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our past.

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Empire of Pain

2021 | Patrick Radden Keefe

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin. From the prize-winning and bestselling author of Say Nothing, as featured in the HBO documentary Crime of the Century. ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SUMMER 2021 READING LIST   The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions—Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis. Empire of Pain begins with the story of three doctor brothers, Raymond, Mortimer and the incalculably energetic Arthur, who weathered the poverty of the Great Depression and appalling anti-Semitism. Working at a barbaric mental institution, Arthur saw a better way and conducted groundbreaking research into drug treatments. He also had a genius for marketing, especially for pharmaceuticals, and bought a small ad firm. Arthur devised the marketing for Valium, and built the first great Sackler fortune. He purchased a drug manufacturer, Purdue Frederick, which would be run by Raymond and Mortimer. The brothers began collecting art, and wives, and grand residences in exotic locales. Their children and grandchildren grew up in luxury. Forty years later, Raymond’s son Richard ran the family-owned Purdue. The template Arthur Sackler created to sell Valium—co-opting doctors, influencing the FDA, downplaying the drug’s addictiveness—was employed to launch a far more potent product: OxyContin. The drug went on to generate some thirty-five billion dollars in revenue, and to launch a public health crisis in which hundreds of thousands would die. This is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d’Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.  Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability. The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama—baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom maneuvers; and the calculated use of money to burnish reputations and crush the less powerful. Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling. It is a portrait of the excesses of America’s second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super elite and a relentless investigation of the naked greed and indifference to human suffering that built one of the world’s great fortunes.

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Milk Blood Heat

2021 | Dantiel W. Moniz

"A gorgeous debut" (Lauren Groff) from Dantiel W. Moniz, one of the most exciting discoveries in today's literary landscape, Milk Blood Heat depicts the sultry lives of Floridians in intergenerational tales that contemplate human connection, race, womanhood, inheritance, and the elemental darkness in us all. A livewire debut from Dantiel W. Moniz, one of the most exciting discoveries in today's literary landscape, Milk Blood Heat depicts the sultry lives of Floridians in intergenerational tales that contemplate human connection, race, womanhood, inheritance, and the elemental darkness in us all. Set among the cities and suburbs of Florida, each story delves into the ordinary worlds of young girls, women, and men who find themselves confronted by extraordinary moments of violent personal reckoning. These intimate portraits of people and relationships scour and soothe and blast a light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, consumption, and what we may, or may not, owe one another. A thirteen-year-old meditates on her sadness and the difference between herself and her white best friend when an unexpected tragedy occurs; a woman recovering from a miscarriage finds herself unable to let go of her daughter--whose body parts she sees throughout her daily life; a teenager resists her family's church and is accused of courting the devil; servers at a supper club cater to the insatiable cravings of their wealthy clientele; and two estranged siblings take a road-trip with their father's ashes and are forced to face the troubling reality of how he continues to shape them. Wise and subversive, spiritual and seductive, Milk Blood Heat forms an ouroboros of stories that bewitch with their truth, announcing the arrival of a bright new literary star.

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Aftershocks

2021 | Nadia Owusu

In the tradition of The Glass Castle, a deeply felt memoir from Whiting Award–winner Nadia Owusu about the push and pull of belonging, the seismic emotional toll of family secrets, and the heart it takes to pull through. A Most-Anticipated Selection by * The New York Times * Entertainment Weekly * O, The Oprah Magazine * New York magazine * Vogue * Time * Elle * Minneapolis Star Tribune * Electric Literature * Goodreads * The Millions *Refinery29 * HelloGiggles * Young Nadia Owusu followed her father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Her Armenian American mother, who abandoned Nadia when she was two, would periodically reappear, only to vanish again. Her father, a Ghanaian, the great hero of her life, died when she was thirteen. After his passing, Nadia’s stepmother weighed her down with a revelation that was either a bombshell secret or a lie, rife with shaming innuendo. With these and other ruptures, Nadia arrived in New York as a young woman feeling stateless, motherless, and uncertain about her future, yet eager to find her own identity. What followed, however, were periods of depression in which she struggled to hold herself and her siblings together. Aftershocks is the way she hauled herself from the wreckage of her life’s perpetual quaking, the means by which she has finally come to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one written into existence by her own hand. Heralding a dazzling new writer, Aftershocks joins the likes of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and William Styron’s Darkness Visible, and does for race identity what Maggie Nelson does for gender identity in The Argonauts.

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Detransition, Baby

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2021 | Torrey Peters

Rated by 2 people

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE - "An unforgettable portrait of three women, trans and cis, who wrestle with questions of motherhood and family making . . . Detransition, Baby might destroy your book club, but in a good way."--Andrea Lawlor, author of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl "A tale of love, loss, and self-discovery as singular as it is universal, and all the sweeter for it."--Entertainment Weekly Roxane Gay's Audacious Book Club Pick - A Marie Claire Book Club Pick - Named One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year by O: The Oprah Magazine - Vulture - Marie Claire - Cosmo - Refinery29 - Bustle - BuzzFeed - Esquire - The Millions - Electric Lit - Autostraddle - Time - CNN - Daily Kos - Hello Giggles - SheReads - Hey Alma - Ms. Magazine - LitHub - The A.V. Club Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn't hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men. Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese--and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames's boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she's pregnant with his baby--and that she's not sure whether she wants to keep it--Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family--and raise the baby together? This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can't reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

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