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Every year, Barnes & Noble picks the 10 best books of the year that were celebrated for their incredible messages, gripping stories, and timely importance to our society. This year, B&N chose 11 titles because 2021 “had so many blockbuster reads [it] couldn’t stop at 10!”
The selections span all genres and age groups, from a historical fantasy novel for middle school readers to a beautiful memoir for adults. If you’re looking for an amazing book to grab before the end of 2021, here are the 11 best books of the year, according to Barnes & Noble.
“The Lyrics” by Paul McCartney, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $60
“The Lyrics” is an astounding personal collection of lyrics, notes, and photographs surrounding 154 Paul McCartney songs. Perfect for any Paul McCartney or Beatles fan, these lyrical commentaries breathe new life into his classics with handwritten texts, paintings, and hundreds of previously unseen photographs that illuminate the songs, the artist, and those who inspired both.
“Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $18.57
This novel is both a historical and futuristic science fiction/fantasy story that connects five characters across hundreds of years through their relationship to a book: “Cloud Cuckoo Land.” The book they find is about a shepherd named Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so he can reach a paradise in the sky. As each character finds this book, from a 15th century orphan to a young teen on a futuristic interstellar ship, their stories converge in this complex yet grippingly fascinating read.
“The Sentence” by Louise Erdrich, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $22.99
“The Sentence” is a contemporary ghost story about Tookie, a bookstore employee, and Flora, a ghost who is lingering in Tookie’s bookstore. This rich and emotional novel begins on All Souls’ Day in 2019 and ends on All Souls’ Day in 2020, with the fictional characters experiencing the devastating real-life events that occurred in Minnesota during that time.
“Under the Whispering Door” by T.J. Klune, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $21.30
Wallace Price finally believes he may be dead when the reaper collects him from his own funeral and takes him to a small village in the mountains, where he meets a tea shop owner named Hugo. With only seven days before Hugo must take him to cross over to the afterlife, Wallace is determined to do everything he never had a chance to do before he died in this contemporary fantasy intertwined with a magical, queer love story.
“Harlem Shuffle” by Colson Whitehead, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $17.75
In 1960s Harlem, Ray Carney is a respectable furniture salesman with a wife and a second baby on the way. When his cousin, Freddie, falls into a plan to rob a wealthy hotel, Ray volunteers his assistance, thrusting him into a heist that doesn’t go as planned, complicates his entire life, and risks his safety and reputation.
“The 1619 Project” by Nikole Hannah-Jones, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $24.99
In 1619, one year before the Mayflower would arrive on the shores of the future United States, another ship landed on the shores of Virgina, carrying 20-30 enslaved people from Africa, and launching an era of slavery on American soil that would last 250 years. “The 1619 Project” is an essential reframing of history that centers around the devastating legacy of slavery, oppression, and resistance and the ways in which racism came to permeate nearly every aspect of American history and society.
“Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $16.16
When Michelle Zauner was 25, her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis changed her life forever and forced her to reckon with her Korean American identity in a desperate attempt to stay connected to her mother. A talented musician, Michelle had previously drifted from her roots, but quickly turned to food to keep her mother’s memory alive in this powerful and heartbreaking memoir.
“Pony” by R. J. Palacio, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $14.22
“Pony” is a historical, middle-grade adventure novel about a 12-year-old boy named Silas who is woken in the middle of the night to see his father being taken away by three horsemen. With only his ghostly companion named Mittenwool, and a stray horse named Pony by his side, Silas sets off on a perilous, life-changing mission to find his father.
“Call Us What We Carry” by Amanda Gorman, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $14.53
Amanda Gorman is most famous for her presidential inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” and returned in 2021 to release this stunning poetry collection. With themes of identity, grief, and memory, these poems continue to solidify Amanda Gorman as a breathtaking and unstoppable voice in American poetry.
“You Will Get Through This Night” by Daniel Howell, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $14.60
“You Will Get Through This Night” is a nonfiction read about mental health that offers both a personal and professional perspective on how to survive the hardest mental health days. Splitting the book into three chapters — This Night, Tomorrow, and The Days After — Daniel Howell wants readers to not just survive the hard nights but properly care for our mental health so we may thrive in the future.
“Burnt Toast and Other Disasters” by Cal Peternell, available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble, from $19.78
Cal Peternell is a chef and artist who wants to help disastrous home cooks transform their leftovers, less-than-desirable ingredients, or seemingly ruined dinner attempts into delicious meals. In “Burnt Toast and Other Disasters,” Cal teaches readers who don’t have the kitchen tools, ingredients, or budgets of master chefs how to make something special from burned, packaged, or lackluster food.
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