Best of 2021

There are two authors whose work is so consistently excellent I don’t add them to my best of lists anymore, but I can tell you that William Kent Krueger’s prequel to his Cork O’Connor series, Lightning Strike, is beautifully written, felt and told; and Louise Penny’s The Madness of Crowds, a sly look at devotees of a flawed charismatic leader, is a beautiful read.  Both writers have a quality of heart and spirit that give their books an extra something, and their main characters, Cork O’Connor and Armand Gamache, are beloved by readers. Soon to join these two are Elly Griffiths and Ann Cleeves, both of whom turned in stellar reads this year (see below).  I invite readers to cast their reading nets a bit wider and consider some of these other fine titles.  These are all books that stayed with me and left me thinking after I finished them. read more

Naomi Hirahara: Clark and Division

This book is a knockout.  Hirahara, author of three different series set in contemporary Los Angeles and Hawaii, has turned her eye to 1944 and the plight of American born Japanese, as well as first generation immigrants, right after Pearl Harbor.  It is still shocking to me that we created internment camps for Japanese citizens who were simply going about their daily lives.  Hirahara brings it home by focusing intimately on one family, the Itos.

The Itos – parents and daughters Rose and Aki – are hardworking, successful citizens.  Mr. Ito manages a produce market and Rose and eventually Aki work there too.  Rose is the star, the center of the family.  Aki looks up to her and wishes she had her strength.  This book could simply be the story of Aki discovering that strength in herself, but it is so much more. read more