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Best Books of 2021

Best Books of 2021

Powell's booksellers recommend the best books of the year

Playlist Tags: Powell's Books best of 2021

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The Shape of Thunder

By Jasmine Warga
Narrated by: Reena Dutt & Jennifer Jill Araya
Length: 7 hours 9 minutes

An extraordinary new novel from Jasmine Warga, Newbery Honor–winning author of Other Words for Home, about loss and healing—and how friendship can be magical.

Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend, Quinn, in a year.

Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her...

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Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

By Jessica Kim
Narrated by: Greta Jung
Length: 6 hours 3 minutes

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

“Young readers will connect with the challenges of pursuing interests that your family may not be too thrilled about, and the lengths you'll go to for your dreams to come true!”

Brain Lair Books image Jessica, Brain Lair Books
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Stuntboy, in the Meantime

By Jason Reynolds
Narrated by: Guy Lockard, Nile Bullock, Angel Pean, James Fouhey, Soneela Nankani, Leon Nixon, Chanté McCormick, Lamarr Gulley & DePre Owens
Length: 2 hours 47 minutes

AudioFile Magazine’s Best Audiobooks of 2021

A Schneider Family Award Honor Book for Middle Grade

From Newbery Medal honoree and #1 New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds comes a hilarious, hopeful, and action-packed middle grade novel about the greatest young superhero you’ve never heard of, filled with illustrations by Raúl the... Read more »

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The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

By Anne Ursu
Narrated by: Elise Arsenault
Length: 9 hours 47 minutes

From the acclaimed author of The Real Boy and The Lost Girl comes a wondrous and provocative fantasy about a kingdom beset by monsters, a mysterious school, and a girl caught in between them.

If no one notices Marya Lupu, is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a...

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Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

By Joanna Ho
Narrated by: Angela Lin
Length: 5 minutes

This lyrical, stunning picture book tells a story about learning to love and celebrate your Asian-shaped eyes, in the spirit of Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, and is a celebration of diversity.

"This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“A young girl finds beauty in her...

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This is a Gift for You

By Emily Winfield Martin
Narrated by: Imani Jade Powers
Length: 3 minutes

A stunning companion to the best-selling and beloved The Wonderful Things You Will Be, this book celebrates how we say "I love you" with gifts as heartfelt as a daisy, as magical as a dream, and as comforting as a place to belong. It is a poetic tribute to the simple joys of life and nature, and a reminder that the greatest gift we have is time... Read more »

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The 1619 Project

A New Origin Story

By Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman & Jake Silverstein
Narrated by: Nikole Hannah-Jones & Full Cast
Length: 18 hours 56 minutes

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A dramatic expansion of a groundbreaking work of journalism, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story offers a profoundly revealing vision of the American past and present.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • NPR • Marie Claire
 
In late August 1619, a ship arrived in the British colony of... Read more »

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No Planet B

A Teen Vogue Guide to Climate Justice

By Lucy Diavolo
Narrated by: Kyla Garcia, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Tavia Gilbert, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Suzie Althens, Sura Siu, Soneela Nankani, David Sadzin, Natalie Naudus, Lauren Ezzo, Kelsey Navarro, various narrators, Jesse Vilinsky & Frankie Maria Corzo
Length: 5 hours 42 minutes

Teen Vogue, the fresh voice of a generation of activists, curates a dynamic collection of timely pieces on the climate justice movement.

With accessible, concise explanations of the features and causes of climate change as well as pieces urging an intersectional approach to environmental justice, this book is the handbook for the emerging youth...

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A Little Devil in America

Notes in Praise of Black Performance

By Hanif Abdurraqib
Narrated by: JD Jackson
Length: 9 hours 38 minutes

A Little Devil in America

“Using Black performance as a loose organizing principle, Abdurraqib has written a brilliant, expansive, insightful, and personal book. There is something of Montaigne’s penchant for humility and brilliance in equal measure; of Susan Sontag’s use of cultural criticism to understand history and the self; of Zadie Smith’s verbal wizardry, playfulness, and wide-ranging curiosity; and Ross Gay’s sensitivity, sense of beauty and poignancy, and, ultimately, joyfulness. Another gift from this magical writer!”

Seminary Co-op Bookstores image Jeff Deutsch, Seminary Co-op Bookstores
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Islands of Abandonment

Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape

By Cal Flyn
Narrated by: Cal Flyn
Length: 9 hours 6 minutes

A beautiful, lyrical exploration of the places where nature is flourishing in our absence
 
"[Flyn] captures the dread, sadness, and wonder of beholding the results of humanity's destructive impulse, and she arrives at a new appreciation of life, 'all the stranger and more valuable for its resilence.'" --The New Yorker


Some of the only truly feral... Read more »

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Icebound

Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World

By Andrea Pitzer
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
Length: 9 hours 18 minutes

In the bestselling tradition of Hampton Sides’s In the Kingdom of Ice, a “gripping adventure tale” (The Boston Globe) recounting Dutch polar explorer William Barents’ three harrowing Arctic expeditions—the last of which resulted in a relentlessly challenging year-long fight for survival.

The human story has always been one of perseverance—often... Read more »

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Empire of Pain

The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

By Patrick Radden Keefe
Narrated by: Patrick Radden Keefe
Length: 18 hours 6 minutes

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE NOMINEE A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR 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... Read more »

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Hip-Hop (And Other Things)

By Shea Serrano
Narrated by: Bernardo Cubria
Length: 9 hours 55 minutes

HIP-HOP (AND OTHER THINGS) is the third book in the (And Other Things) series. The first two—Basketball (And Other Things) and Movies (And Other Things)—were both #1 New York Times bestsellers. Read more »

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The Sum of Us

What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

By Heather McGhee
Narrated by: Heather McGhee
Length: 11 hours 8 minutes

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • One of today’s most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone—not just for people of color.

WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • ONE... Read more »

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On Time and Water

By Andri Snær Magnason
Narrated by: Graham Halstead
Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

A few years ago, Andri Snaer Magnason, one of Iceland's most beloved writers and public intellectuals, was asked by a leading climate scientist why he wasn't writing about the greatest crisis mankind has faced. Magnason demurred: he wasn't a specialist, it wasn't his field. But the scientist persisted: "If you cannot understand our scientific... Read more »

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Work Won't Love You Back

How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone

By Sarah Jaffe
Narrated by: Sarah Jaffe
Length: 12 hours 59 minutes

A deeply-reported examination of why "doing what you love" is a recipe for exploitation, creating a new tyranny of work in which we cheerily acquiesce to doing jobs that take over our lives.

You're told that if you "do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." Whether it's working for "exposure" and "experience," or enduring poor... Read more »

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Crying in H Mart

A Memoir

By Michelle Zauner
Narrated by: Michelle Zauner
Length: 7 hours 22 minutes

Crying in H Mart

“I was struck by just how much I loved this book for how it walks through grief not as a way to leave it behind, but as a way to remember its exact shape. I’m grateful for its funny, self-deprecating, and wise observations, and for its difficult beauty.”

Parnassus Books image Steve Haruch, Parnassus Books
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How to Resist Amazon and Why

The Fight for Local Economics, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores, and a People-Powered Future!

By Danny Caine
Narrated by: Danny Caine
Length: 3 hours 39 minutes

When a company's workers are literally dying on the job, and its business model relies on preying on local businesses and even their own companies, and its CEO is the richest person in the world while its workers make minimum wage with impossible quotas...wouldn't you want to resist? Danny Caine, owner of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas,...

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What Strange Paradise

A Novel

By Omar El Akkad
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 6 hours 37 minutes

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR From the widely acclaimed, bestselling author of American War—a beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic, and profoundly moving novel that looks at the global refugee crisis through the eyes of a child.

"Told from the point of view of two children, on the ground and at sea, the story so astutely...
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Sorrowland

A Novel

By Rivers Solomon
Narrated by: Karen Chilton
Length: 12 hours 1 minutes

Sorrowland

“Vern is fleeing an abusive cult that targets Black people. As their body mutates into something entirely new, Vern must face the past before they can move towards their future. This book is many things: an adult fairytale, a Southern gothic horror, a thriller that twists and turns. A testament to forging pain into strength, this book is unlike anything else you’ve read.”

Rediscovered Books image Samantha, Rediscovered Books
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