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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 Shimmering State

A Novel

By Meredith Westgate
Narrated by: Ali Andre Ali, Emily Tremaine, Cassandra Campbell & Shaun Taylor-Corbett
Length: 11 hours 58 minutes

Named a Book You Need to Read in 2021 by Harper’s Bazaar

A “moving, astounding, and totally unsettling” (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author) literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives.

Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an... Read more »

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Several People Are Typing

A Novel

By Calvin Kasulke
Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews, Neil Shah, Dani Martineck, Sophie Amoss, Neil Hellegers, Cary Hite, Sean Patrick Hopkins, Joshua Kane, Amy Landon, Nicole Lewis, Brittany Pressley & Jonathan Todd Ross
Length: 3 hours 27 minutes

A Good Morning America Book Club Pick! • A work-from-home comedy where WFH meets WTF.
 
"An absurd, hilarious romp through the haunted house of late-stage capitalism."—Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

 
Told entirely through clever and captivating Slack messages, this irresistible, relatable satire of both virtual work and...
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Peaces

A Novel

By Helen Oyeyemi
Narrated by: Ben Allen, Intae Kim, Jade Wheeler, Deana Taheri, Rosa Escoda & Deepti Gupta
Length: 7 hours 50 minutes

“Enchanting . . . the most surprising, confounding, and oddly insightful couple’s trip in recent literary history.” —Entertainment Weekly

The prize-winning, bestselling author of Gingerbread; Boy, Snow, Bird; and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours returns with a vivid and inventive new novel about a couple forever changed by an unusual train voyage.


... Read more »

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No One Is Talking About This

A Novel

By Patricia Lockwood
Narrated by: Kristen Sieh
Length: 4 hours 43 minutes

No One Is Talking About This

“Patricia Lackwood's Priestdaddy is one of my favorite memoirs of all time, so I knew I just HAD to get my hands on her debut novel. As expected it's weird and quirky as hell, a tad inappropriate but makes you literally LOL. She creates a plot through a constellation of nebulous observations and witticisms that, as I said, is expected from her. And the narrator's voice drips with that certain sarcasm that is perfectly in line with Lockwood's. What I did NOT expect, however, is for these drifting sentiments and sediments to suddenly unify as one sharp needle point at the book's climax and rip out my still-beating heart. The audacity of Patricia Lockwood! After I was done ugly crying, I was able to take a step back and truly appreciate how marvelous this book really is. Do yourself a favor and just read it.”

BookBar image Conner, BookBar
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Morningside Heights

A Novel

By Joshua Henkin
Narrated by: Kathe Mazur & Shane Baker
Length: 8 hours 57 minutes

Morningside Heights

“I loved this book! The writing is beautiful, and the character development is phenomenal. I was moved by all of the characters in the story, but quirky Arlo stands out as a favorite. I also shed a few tears, so this book has it all. It’s a winner with so much heart! I highly recommend it.”

Titcomb's Bookshop image Sarah Fox, Titcomb's Bookshop
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Milk Fed

A Novel

By Melissa Broder
Narrated by: Melissa Broder
Length: 6 hours 48 minutes

Milk Fed

“This has it all: an eating disorder, mommy issues, frozen yogurt, sex, the spirit of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, and lots more. The detail Broder brings to this story of appetite (that of spirituality, sensuality, and food) is magnificent. You feel like you're under the neon lights of the kosher Chinese Polynesian American restaurant in the middle of LA, rooting for Rachel as she starts feeding herself in more ways than one. Let me assure you that it's not for everyone, with a big trigger warning and explicit sex scenes, but it could be for you. And, as the narrator, Broder brings Rachel's voice to life in her breezy, LA cool-girl tone that slides over her captivating prose.”

Third Place Books image Emily, Third Place Books
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A Ghost in the Throat

By Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Narrated by: Siobhán McSweeney
Length: 7 hours 51 minutes

When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries.

On discovering her murdered husband's body, an eighteenth-century Irish noblewoman drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary lament. Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill's poem travels through the centuries, finding its way to a new mother who has narrowly avoided her... Read more »

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

By Dawnie Walton
Narrated by: Janina Edwards, Bahni Turpin, James Langton, André De Shields, Dennis Boutsikaris, Steve West, Gabra Zackman & full cast
Length: 13 hours 16 minutes

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

“If you read the first twenty pages of this book and think, like I did "this seems exactly the same as Daisy Jones and the Six KEEP GOING. The way the stories are setup is similar, but Opal and Nev have a unique story that demands to be heard. Walton combines oral music history, intense relationship dynamics, and strong character development to result in an engaging read. I highly recommend the full-cast audiobook on Libro.fm!”

Carmichael's Bookstore image Maggie, Carmichael's Bookstore
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Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

A Novel

By Rivka Galchen
Narrated by: Natasha Soudek
Length: 8 hours 47 minutes

"It’s both transfixing and destabilizing. It’s the best thing I listened to all winter." —Alexis Gunderson, PASTE Magazine

The startling, witty, highly anticipated second novel from Rivka Galchen, the critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances.


The story begins in 1618, in the German duchy of Württemberg. Plague is spreading. The...

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Detransition, Baby

A Novel

By Torrey Peters
Narrated by: Renata Friedman
Length: 12 hours 31 minutes

Detransition, Baby

“This book led to my favorite book club conversation to date. The characters are messy and mostly unlikeable and Peters unflinchingly dives straight into topics in trans identity often considered taboo, without worrying about placating a cisgender audience. A quietly chaotic and fascinating character study.”

Phoenix Books image Miriasha, Phoenix Books
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The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

Stories

By Mariana Enriquez
Narrated by: Rebecca Soler
Length: 5 hours 47 minutes

If you enjoyed Things We Lost in the Fire, then you’ll love The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.

“"The Dangers of Smoking in Bed" by Argentine writer Mariana Enriquez, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, revisits themes found in her 2017 collection "Things We Lost in the Fire." Her disquieting stories, populated by ghosts, disappeared adults and exploited children, examine economic pain, social unrest and violence through the lens of literary horror. Characters observing the slow burn of a society in decay find themselves asking, as the titular story does, "Why not just let the fire keep going and do its job?" Supernatural elements become compelling metaphors for societal breakdown. In ""The Cart,"" a poor neighborhood experiences bad luck after a homeless man--worse off than the people there--is driven away. ""There had to be an accumulation of misfortune for the neighborhood to feel like something strange was going on,"" says the narrator. Jobs are lost, utilities turned off and food is hard to come by, causing people to turn feral to survive. The only family left untouched by bad luck, one that offered some comfort to the homeless man, is forced to flee before neighbors turn on them. ""We were scared, but fear doesn't look the same as desperation,"" the son in this family knows. Child exploitation is represented as an actual haunting of society. In ""Rambla Triste,"" abused children wander the streets of Barcelona, leaving a stench and creating havoc for everyone. In ""Kids Who Come Back,"" children in Buenos Aires who were lost or disappeared begin to reappear, unchanged, at the same time. People have ""no idea what was happening and couldn't explain it; they only knew that they were very afraid."" Josefina, in ""The Well,"" discovers her paralyzing fears result from trusted adults who used a sorceress to rid themselves of fear and pass it to her when she was only a child. ""They said they would take care of you. But they didn't take care of you,"" she is told. Adults do not save the children in these stories. It's impossible to miss the fear that permeates The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. Young girls are afraid to leave their homes, a ghost baby is afraid to be alone and young men are afraid to stay in the cities. Throughout, Enriquez skillfully uses the tropes of horror to expose the everyday atrocities that occur in societies that abandon the fight against corruption. Even as these stories provide chills, they elicit a deep feeling of sadness for innocence lost. -reviewed for Shelf Awareness 11-17-20"”

The River's End Bookstore image Cindy, The River's End Bookstore
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Damnation Spring

By Ash Davidson
Narrated by: CJ Wilson, Rebecca Lowman, Mark Sanderlin & Candace Thaxton
Length: 15 hours 38 minutes

Damnation Spring

“With this debut set in a Pacific Northwest logging town, Ash Davidson has immediately established herself as a true writer of the American experience, in all its potential for self-destruction and beauty.”

Odyssey Bookshop image Josh Popkin, Odyssey Bookshop
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Caul Baby

A Novel

By Morgan Jerkins
Narrated by: Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Length: 10 hours 52 minutes

Caul Baby

“Mothers and daughters and their fraught relationships are the heart of this novel. Secrets, loss, tragedy, and tradition inextricably bind and trap seven women in ways completely unknown to some and only partially known by others. In modern-day Harlem, as gentrification threatens and changes the landscape, life inside one brownstone continues remarkably unchanged and mostly hidden. Using magical realism and fascinating characters, Jerkins creates an often shadowy world. She masterfully highlights the effects of gentrification, racism and inequality, and abuse, while weaving a mesmerizing story of these mothers and daughters.”

Raven Book Store image Nancy, Raven Book Store
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Beautiful World, Where Are You

A Novel

By Sally Rooney
Narrated by: Aoife McMahon
Length: 10 hours 3 minutes

Beautiful World, Where Are You

“Another incredible story! The characters are vibrant and familiar, and the intimate moments are uniquely painted. It’s as if a close friend is confessing their life to you and you are seeing yourself in it.”

Bank Square Books image Katie Kenney, Bank Square Books
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Afterparties

Stories

By Anthony Veasna So
Narrated by: Jason Sean
Length: 6 hours 56 minutes

Afterparties

“These stories of the members of a compact Cambodian-American community, from the refugees to the business owners to the gay teenagers, seamlessly balance humor with hardships.”

Sofia Silva Wright image Sofia Silva Wright, Phoenix Books Burlington
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