We SURVIVED 2020 and continued with our books. We stayed involved in the literary life, even venturing into new reading areas. Here’s the yearend wrap-up!

Number of Books Read6937
Number of Female Authors2726
Number of Authors of Color2210
Number of LGBTQ+ Authors64
Number of YA/Middle Grade Books32
Number of Abandon Booked??
Number of Fiction Books3231
Number of Non-Fiction Books375
Number of Audiobooks 3530

Last year, we each said that our reading was reduced. We were distracted. We quit a lot of books. How was this year?

Lara: It was still a distracted year, although in different ways. Settling into a pandemic that isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future, in some ways, made reading easier. I didn’t quit as many books, and I met my reading goal of 36 books. Now that I have tallied everything up, I am in shock at my stats. 31 of my 37 books were via audio.

Jennifer: I read a ton. Though many were audiobooks, which I count. I didn’t write as much as I’d like to—so my reading picked up.

Be brave. Be direct. What were the Top Ten Books You Read in 2021?

Lara: Okay. I am actually going to rank order my Top 10. Here we go:

  1. Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy. Never thought I would get into a story about a woman chasing the migratory cycle of Arctic Terns. But when the writing is beautiful, and there are damaged people surviving tragic secrets, you pull me in. We reviewed it here.
  2. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour. This blew me away. Sharp as hell. It’s brilliant fiction, with a dash of personal development, and a shocking, but sadly not surprising, turn of events. I couldn’t put it down.
  3. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. I would normally want to read a book like this but took a chance with an audiobook and it was incredible. Three narrators truly brought Towles’ characters to life. You felt their pain, their joy, their disillusionment. If you loved Rudy in The Book Thief, prepare to love Wooly in The Lincoln Highway
  4. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. This was the first book I read in 2021, and it was a great way to start the year, months into an unending pandemic and so much polarization. It will remind you that there is goodness in most people. And that strangers can find common ground. AND I JUST FOUND OUT IT HAS BEEN ADAPTED FOR NETFLIX!
  5. Long Bright River by Liz Moore. The opioid crisis hits hard for two Philadelphia sisters, Kacey, an addict who lives on the streets, and Mickey, a cop, who walks those same streets on her beat. Then, Kacey goes missing. This is a fantastic literary thriller featuring fascinatingly flawed characters and their race against time to save themselves and their relationship.
  6. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I just loved this book about a very depressed Nora Seed and the unique opportunity she’s given to change her life, just by picking one from a thousand options in the Midnight Library. This book had just enough fantasy in it (a sprinkle) that I was mesmerized and had to know how the story would end.
  7. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. I realize Jones’ An American Marriage is probably her best known book, but I would encourage readers to pick up this mesmerizing novel of two teenage girls caught in the middle of their father’s deception and their family’s willingness to cover it up. So so so good.
  8. We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza. Two women, friends since childhood. Jen is white and married to a white cop. Riley is Black and a news reporter. The book opens with Jen’s husband involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager. Riley, hoping for a big break that will give her an anchor spot, is made the head journalist on the story. Told in alternating viewpoints, Jen and Riley work to navigate their friendship through a devastating event.
  9. The House of the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. Delightful and de-lovely story about acceptance and inclusion. The only way to consume this story is via audio. The single narrator slays the unique voices of a myriad number of unique characters that I just fell in love with.
  10. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. Dysfunctional family dramas are my jam and this one fit the bill! Marilyn and David Sorenson marry in the seventies and are as giddy as honeymooners 40 years later — and completely blind to the angst and drama going on with and among their four totally different grown daughters. Make a bowl of popcorn and settle in for this voyeuristic but surprisingly un-cringy read.

Jennifer: I can’t put them in order, and I’m not doing ten. And I also won’t include Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, which I read again this year. Let’s just acknowledge Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” Here are my TOP SEVEN READS (many not published this year). . .

  1. Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam. I was so into this. It was all borderline dystopian, contemporary literary, some American relevancy. We reviewed it here.
  2. No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. Original, smart. Not like the ho-hum offerings that are all too common. I was reminded of Leslie Jamison and Jenny Offill. She was cryptic at times; that’s my warning to you . . .
  3. Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy. Beautiful. We reviewed it here. Maybe a tad literary dystopian too—but I hate to say that lest I scare away some.
  4. Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory: Stories by Raphael Bob-Waksberg. I thought it was true and innovative and crazy and beautiful.
  5. A Place To Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca. I had to teach it, and what started off as an obligatory read turned into a love affair as this prisoner turns into a poet. Blew me away.
  6. Blow Your House Down by Gina Frangello. Frangello’s memoir lives up to its title: blowing down houses. It’s a literary feat with authenticity, candor, and the kind of rollicking, volitional prose that, um, can shred flesh.
  7. Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003-2020) by David Sedaris. When do I not include new Sedaris? There are snooze-worthy diary entries here, but some pure gold. PURE GOLD ON THE PLANET, RIGHT HERE, DEAR FRIENDS.

Guess what. To honor the above books, I’m only identifying them as the best. I liked others and I’ll include others below—but I guess that I think that those seven, up there, were doing something extraordinary, taking new risks or being innovative or revealing a literary finesse that pushed literature forward. Make sense?

But I did truly love others: Hell of a Book by Jason Mott (nice writing), Bright Ray of Darkness by Ethan Hawke (he’s pretty good, friends!), Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck (I really loved Cannery Row too), You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar (pretty crazy), Dracula by Bram Stoker (I finally did it!), Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts by Jaron Lanier (but I didn’t do it), The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (it took me way too long to read her), and I also read a lot of great books by Rachel Held Evans.

What books were the biggest disappointments of 2021?

Lara: Well, a few were disappointments for me. Cathleen Schine’s The Grammarians. I know so many loved Maggie Shipstead’s The Great Circle, but it was a great circle of meh for me. Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby. Yes, it’s an important book. So important. But the cavalier approach to pregnancy and pregnancy loss, and the way way way open door sex scenes turned me off.

Jennifer: Dare I say it? It was Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle. We reviewed it here.

This was the biggest disappointment. I had mini-disappointments. I liked Douglas Coupland’s Binge; I wanted to adore it. Seth Rogan’s Yearbook was outrageously dumb.

I thought Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell was a bit of a slog, and good-reading friends talked it up.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab was very “okay.”

I’ll continue reading Colson Whitehead, by the way. And Douglas Coupland.

Lara:  You might be surprised that I didn’t list Harlem Shuffle. I wasn’t expecting to love it. I am not sure Whitehead is a given for me to read the way authors like Ann Patchett, Yaa Gyasi, Amor Towles, and I think now, Tayari Jones and Charlotte McConaghy are for me.

What books do you feel like you really wish you had read?

Jennifer: Well, I’ve got a list . . .

  • Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower
  • Traci Chee’s We Are Not Free
  • Angie Cruz’s Dominicana
  • Charlotte McConaghy’s Once There Were Wolves
  • Francesca Marciano’s Animal Spirit: Stories
  • Amanda Montell’s Cultish
  • Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days
  • Phoebe Robinson’s Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes

Lara: There’s always the ones that got away. Here are mine:

  • Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner
  • The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
  • The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
  • These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
  • The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
  • Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
  • The Paper Place by Miranda Cowley Heller
  • The People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
  • We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
  • Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
  • How the Word Is Passed by Cint Smith
  • Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
  • Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
  • Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews

Were there any books whose titles and covers or hype just sucked you in before you actually read the book?

Jennifer: I think the book cover of Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour was my favorite cover; it’s a good book. My two favorite titles were definitely Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory and Blow Your House Down. Those are two kick-ass titles.

Lara: I love the chalk writing, all caps typography of Fredrick Backman’s books. When I saw the cover of Anxious People, I got excited for a new book by him. The cover of We Are Not Like Them reminded me of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett—a book I loved. The hype the book got on the What Should I Read Next podcast, where host Anne Bogel interviewed the authors had me on the hunt for it.

What book(s) surprised you the most this year?

Lara: Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents was in many ways an eye-opener. I don’t think many of us, especially us white Americans think of their being a caste system in the US. Her book makes a resounding case for it and should be required reading in our schools.

Jennifer:  Maybe Ethan Hawke? He really writes very well!

Um, I was so happy to have finally read Shirley Jackson. I can’t believe it, but I had totally never read “The Lottery.”

Books You Shamelessly Abandoned (or was there shame?):

Lara: No shame and no memory of DNFing any books this year.

Jennifer:  I tried and failed to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace. There was tremendous shame. I’m still not fully accepting that I’ll never actually read it.

Favorite movies? TV? Other dips into the Arts?

Jennifer:  Oh man. Streaming reached Renaissance-level, yeah? Spike Lee’s docuseries, NYC Epicenters 9/11→2021½, was seriously doing the right thing in remembering our past.

Capernaum was this 2018 Lebanese movie that had to be the best film I saw all year.

Three “limited series,” formerly known as mini-series, stick out to me as supreme: Maid, Dopesick, and Mare of Easttown.

Succession was the best ever. I love Handmaid’s. I’m faithful to Great British Baking Show. I can’t miss This is Us. But Succession is an artistic coup d’état.

We watched other great things; these were my faves.

Lara: I still haven’t returned to my pre-2010 level of tv watching. That was the year I read a book a week and something had to give. I will say that everyone, I mean EVERYONE, needs to watch Ted Lasso. I also got into The Morning Show. And just this past week I started watching and loving the adult animated series, The Great North.

Books not yet published that you’re excited about. AND books already published that you plan on reading?

Lara: Here’s what I am looking forward to in 2022. Now, if I actually read them is another story.

  • To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  • Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
  • The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias by Dolly Chugh
  • One In Me I Never Loved by Carla Guelfenbein
  • Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown
  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
  • Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl


  • Steve Almond’s All the Secrets of the World
  • Karen Joy Fowler’s Booth
  • Kate Oliver’s The Modern Caravan: Stories of Love, Beauty, and Adventure on the Open Road

Readers! Now we ask you: What were your Best and Worst Reads of 2022?

Let us know in the comments!

Next Up!

Join us in January 2022 for Ann Patchett’s current book of essays: These Precious Days

Until then, happy reading!


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Want to read more from Jennifer? Check her out at www.jenniferspiegel.com

Want to see what Lara is up to? Stay right here at www.onelitchick.com