Our Favorite Books - 2021

Published Thursday, December 16, 2021
The Liar's Dictionary
by Eley Williams

I am a word geek. I love them. Ask anyone who knows me. I loved my Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a kid and would relax by reading a page or two. When I saw this book on the new book shelf, I was immediately interested. I was not disappointed. I found the book to be clever and down right fun to read.

Do you know what a mountweazel is? Read this book and you will find out. The book is about two lexicographers living 100 years apart. They both work for Swansbys, a lesser known dictionary. One of them puts words in the dictionary, and the other proofs the dictionary and finds some interesting entries. This is a book about language and love. There is a bit of mystery thrown in. Some may find there is too much word play in the book, but I absolutely loved it!
- Sally

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Red Rising
by Pierce Brown

I really enjoyed Red Rising because it has an interesting premise, and a well fleshed out world. Red Rising is a Sci-Fi novel that takes place in the far future, when a strict caste system, further reinforced by genetic modifications of each different caste to further specialize them, has risen up. The main character, Darrow, is a miner in a colony on Mars, preparing the way for the rest of humanity, or so he thinks. When he discovers that humanity has been on Mars for hundreds of years, he infiltrates the highest caste of the Society. Red Rising reminded me a lot of the Hunger Games for vast portions of it. Like in the Hunger Games, a group of teens, including Darrow, is put into a simulated environment where they have to fight, and even kill, to win. However, unlike in the Hunger Games, there are hundreds of people fighting, and they are put into different "houses", based on the Roman/Greek deities, and have to try and help their house win by conquering all of the other houses. There are huge amounts of political machinations, fights, and of course Darrow trying to succeed in his infiltration of the highest caste. In addition to this, Pierce Brown obviously put a lot of work into building the world of Red Rising. There are lots of small details, interesting tidbits of lore, and unique technologies. Red Rising is the first book in a series, but even just on its own it is very good. I highly recommend it, and am currently about half way through the second book in the series myself.

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The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family
by Ron Howard

This book is a warm, loving generational look at Ron and Clint Howard and their parents. I grew up with the Andy Griffith show so I enjoyed their look back at growing up on television and the creation of movies and television shows as this family experienced it. It is both biography and period history told as Ron and Clint saw it then and now can reflect back on that time.
- Joyce

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr

There is a lot going on in this book, so much so that some readers may find it overwhelming. But I really enjoy reading books that have multiple story lines in different time periods with story threads that come together in the end. Plus, the way Anthony Doerr writes is amazing -- so much talent. I will be recommending and gushing about this book for a very long time.
- Katherine

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The Arsonists’ City
by Hala Alyan

In a novel teeming with wisdom, warmth, and characters born of remarkable human insight, award-winning author Hala Alyan shows us again that “fiction is often the best filter for the real world around us” (NPR).
- Jill

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Wind, Sand, and Stars
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I love Saint-Exupéry's lyrical and poetic writing style. I learned quite a bit about the 'Golden Age of Flight' on the European continent. Post WWI is a period of history that I find endlessly fascinating and it was great to enjoy a first-hand account of the period. I recommend this book to anyone who likes adventurous memoirs with the occasional philosophical aside.
- Patrick

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Better to Have Gone: Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville
by Akash Kapur

Auroville is a community in India and a survivor of the 1960s counter culture. I found this book to be a fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at a place that promotes itself as being free of crime and money written by one of its citizens.
- Mason

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by Maggie O’Farrell

I loved this book because it was a unique perspective into the life of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne (or Agnes). Sometimes, I don’t love historical fiction when it involves real people. I had no troubles with this book and I think it’s partly because it’s written so well and I love the subject. Also, there really isn’t much information about Anne so there’s a lot of room for speculation. It’s interesting to me that Shakespeare is not named anywhere in the book, but he needs no introduction and he is not the focus here. This book is about the death of their son, Hamnet, and the author delves into how both might have coped with this tragedy. Highly recommend!
- Megan

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The Magic Fish
by Trung Le Nguyen

One of my favorite parts about this graphic novel was the use of colors to differentiate between the different parts of this book. Red illustrations focus on the main character, the child of an immigrant who is struggling to communicate with his parents through a language barrier, and struggling to find the words to tell them he's gay. Yellow illustrations recount the events that brought his parents to the United States as refugees. Purple illustrations weave the fairytales that bring this family together. I also loved the use of fairytales as a way for this family to connect and communicate with each other, and the idea that fairytales change with each retelling in order to fit the situation where they are being shared. Anyone who has talked books with me know that fairytales and fairytale retellings are some of my favorites stories, and this graphic novel does a wonderful job sharing a number of different fairytales, some familiar, some new, and all of them beautifully illustrated.
- Kaylee

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Isobel Adds It Up
by Kristy Everington, A.G. Ford

I have not always been a fan of math but this book’s lead character, Isobel, makes it fun, exciting and relatable.
- Gwen

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Beetle & the Hollowbones
by Aliza Layne

Broom-riding lessons, magical creatures, evil plots, and a haunted mall – it has everything! Beetle is a young goblin-witch who takes on a mission to save the threatened home of her BFF named Blob Ghost, while struggling to maintain a cool appearance when an old friend (now an online celeb) returns to town. This vibrant graphic novel will thrill readers looking to fulfill their post-Halloween spook factor needs.
- Kristen

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Meet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson

This lovely book is written entirely in the form of letters between a disillusioned farmer’s wife in England, and a near-retirement, widowed museum curator in Denmark. Brought together serendipitously, due to their shared interest in the bog remains of “Tollund Man,” their communications and evolving relationship will change their lives forever.
- Cary

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The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead

At around 200 pages, The Nickel Boys is a short, poignant look at race in America. I enjoyed Whitehead’s beautiful writing as he explores the ugliness of human nature. I appreciated the sense of place as we spend most of this novel in a Jim Crow-era Florida reform school for boys. I’ll always remember the bittersweet and/or tragic stories of the characters at this reform school and especially the narrative gut punch near the end. I’m grateful that EPL’s I.D.E.A. Book Club finally got me to sit down with The Nickel Boys.
- Jacob

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The Prince and the Dressmaker
Jen Wang

This book is about a prince, and a dressmaker. The prince is hiding behind a double life because he loves to wear dresses. He secretly hires the dressmaker to make elaborate, gorgeous gowns so that he can express himself in the way that he feels most comfortable and they both take the fashion world by storm. I loved this book so much. It made my heart so happy to see this prince living his best life, finding that piece of himself that he had to hide before, and also finding acceptance. This is a wonderful and wholesome book.
- Sam

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The Reading List
by Sara Nisha Adams

If you love libraries and the people you meet in them you'll love this book! A crumpled up piece of paper containing a list of books is discovered by a teen named Aleisha while working a summer job at a library. Mukesh, a widower, visits the library in hopes of finding a book that will help connect him to his granddaughter. The two forge a bond by reading the books on this list in order and discover that they help transport them from the painful realities they’re facing at home. It's the author's debut novel about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps create an unlikely friendship between two very different people. I liked this book because I felt as though I knew the characters. I enjoyed the book and didn’t want it to end...and it took place in a library!
- Mary

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Lost in the Never Woods
by Aiden Thomas

I really love twists on familiar fairytales and children's stories so I was immediately drawn to this book. Although it centers around familiar characters, the story is dark and mysterious right from the get go with a very unexpected and heartbreaking twist. I would gladly read this again so I highly recommend giving this a chance.
- Beth

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