As we head in to 2022, we asked staff who contribute to our Staff Picks to share their favorite books from 2021. Check out our “Best of the Best” list below!
Dennis: The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield
My best of the best book from 2021 was The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield. I found the author’s use of real events and real people to tell a fictionalized murder mystery creative and interest enhancing. The story takes place during the Cold War and Space Race between the United States and Russia. An interesting note is the author was a part of the Space Program and was the first Canadian in space.
Original review: Hadfield is a CSA astronaut and retired colonel from the Canadian Armed Forces, and his personal insights make the book come alive. He tells the story of the US Apollo 18 mission (yes, the launch happens in this alternative history story) and a space encounter with Russian cosmonauts. The story takes place during the US and Russian space race, with each country trying to outdo the other. Characters include real historical figures and space events you will recognize. The Apollo 18 original mission is to land men on the moon and determine why a Russian land rover has been investigating a specific land area. Prior to the launch, the Apollo 18 team leader dies in a helicopter accident. While the Apollo 18 crew are in space, an investigation of the accident determines the helicopter had been sabotaged. Suspects include the Apollo 18 crew members. On the Russians’ side, they successfully launched a spy satellite, Almaz, and NASA has determined that the station can photograph amazingly detailed photos putting the US space programs at risk. NASA decides to modify the Apollo 18 mission to include disabling the Russian Almaz spy station. Once the US crew reaches the spy station they find the spy station is manned and armed.
Diana: The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica
Original review: This addictive thriller kept me reading way into the night hoping I could reach the end before my conclusions about the ending changed again. With every twist and turn I believed I had it figured out. I did not! I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery and have added Mary Kubica to my list of favorite authors. A definite must read!
Karen: Pack Up the Moon by Kristan Higgins
The book that has stuck with me the most is Pack Up the Moon by Kristan Higgins. The story and characters just stayed with me for a really long time after reading the book, and gave me lots to think about in regard to illness, death, and the grieving process. Also, the alternating timelines added so much depth and complexity to the story.
Original review: A heartbreaking but touching story of how a person on the autism spectrum handles the terminal illness and death of their spouse, and how challenging it is to keep living despite being totally and utterly devastated. The depiction of how every person handles grief differently is realistic, and the characters are well written and stay with you long after the end of the book.
Leah: Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Original review: This Kristin Hannah novel is a great read. It’s a fast moving story about friendship, family and love. The story follows two best friends growing up, coming to adulthood and facing the challenges of life. They learn to love and forgive during life’s hardest times. This book is full of surprises, with every chapter it keeps you on edge waiting to see what will happen next. While this title was originally published in 2008, Firefly Lane is gaining renewed popularity due to a new series Netflix has released based on the book.
Megan: Matrix by Lauren Groff
Matrix has stuck with me long after I originally read it. I very much enjoyed this look into a different time period, one that gets little attention in either academic or fiction realms. Following Marie de France from her desperate teen years to her formidable venerable old age is fascinating. She is by no means a perfect person, but in that, she is very real.
Original review: The life story of a 12th-century nun might sound incredibly boring, but Lauren Groff’s novel is anything but dull. Marie is cast out of royal court and sent to an abbey, which she transforms from starving to thriving through sheer force of her incredible will. This book made my head spin – it’s fascinating, feminist, and very compelling. Get thee to the nunnery!
Trish: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Four Winds is by far the best read for 2021 and the best novel the author has published.
Original review: This story hits all the marks. A story of self-discovery, determination, love for family and home, hardship and survival during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. A must read.
Vicki: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
Original review: It’s not easy being an “outlaw” but you must be fierce to protect your mother, a junkie pummeled by memories of her sister’s death and the men who follow her home, and your little brother —still unscarred. But when young Duchess Day Radley carries revenge too far, her mother is murdered and the kids are spirited away to live with their estranged grandfather.
Whitaker’s slow-boil thriller, thick with character development and a layered plot, explores how the repercussions from mistakes made link genes through generations, that there are no easy answers and loves evaporate into thin air.
It’s too early to declare We Begin at the End the best novel of the 2021, but I guarantee it will make lots of year-end lists.