Books, Lists, Reviews

My Favorite Books of the Year

Today’s post lists a few of my favorite books of the year. I definitely could keep adding to this list but could not see how to remove any of them once I added the obviously more than ten here! So I stopped. Considering that I devoured way more books than I thought I could this year, and stopped keeping track early on after really doing a good job for the first few months, this limited listing is a miracle of sorts. I decided to completely skip the YA books I read as part of the Cybils readathon, simply to keep that separate for now.

The books on today’s list is a mixed bag, from picture books to books for adults, from poetry to verse novels, and a whole other range. So without further ado, for this week’s Top Ten Post (well, mine has many more than ten obiouvly) for this week’s theme of favorite reads of the year over at ThatArtsyReaderGirl, here are a few of …

My Favorite Books of the Year

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Picture Books

Hans Christian Andersen

Title: Hans Christian Andersen : The Journey of His Life
Author: Heinz Janisch
Illustrator: Maja Kastelic 
Length: 56 pages
Genre:  Children’s Literary Biographies (4 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: NorthSouth Books (September 1st 2020)
Source: Digital review copy from Edelweiss + Currently, my personal copy

A moving, inventive story about the life of Hans Christian Andersen.

Amazon || Book Depository

This book takes its readers on a beautiful journey of Andersen’s fascinating life. Janisch’s narrative works hand in hand with Kastelic’s amazing illustrations to take us on the journey of his life!

Read my complete review here

I Sang You Down from the Stars

Title: I Sang You Down from the Stars
Author: Tasha Spillett-Sumner
Illustrator: Michaela Goade
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Fiction/Native American Books, American Folktales and Myths, Diverse Reads(4 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 6, 2021)

A unique baby book that sings with Native cultural detail, while striking a universal chord in its celebration of the blossoming of love that comes with expecting and welcoming a new baby.

Amazon || Book Depository

This book is a tug-at-your-heartstrings, then wrap-it-in-a-warm-hug kind of book. 

Read my complete review here

Sounds All Around

Title: Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works
Author: Susan Hughes
Illustrator: Ellen Rooney
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Picture Books/Science Books(5 – 8 years)
Publisher: Kids Can Press; Illustrated edition (May 4, 2021)
Source: Edelweiss e-ARC

A comprehensive exploration of sound for young children that’s friendly, fun and easy to digest. 

Amazon || Book Depository

This book is a sound example of a great science book for children (and older readers too)! Pun totally intended and well-deserved!! Sounds All Around is a brilliant exploration of different kinds of sounds, and the science behind how sounds are made and heard. With sweet colorful yet informative illustrations and detailed yet easy to understand narrative, this book is perfect for all readers. So much to learn in such a fun way!

Middle-Grade to YA Reads

Breathing Underwater

Title:  Breathing Underwater
Author: Sarah Allen
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Children’s Fiction/Travel, Social Issues (10 – 14 years)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (March 30, 2021)
Source: Netgalley e-ARC

Breathing Underwater is a sparkly, moving middle grade novel from Sarah Allen, and a big-hearted exploration of sisterhood, dreams, and what it means to be there for someone you love.

Amazon || Book Depository

Breathing Underwater is a beautiful book, which focuses on the important issues of mental health and depression from many angles; not just how it impacts those suffering from the issues but their loved ones as well. I loved the poignant portrayal of sibling relationships, and of the power of sisterly love. And of course, the fun of road trips, the joy of photography, and the pure happiness of magical musical lists. It was on my list of most anticipated reads for the year and definitely worth its place on the list as it is now here on my list of favorite books of the year too!

How Do You Live?

TitleHow Do You Live?
Author: Genzaburo Yoshino
Translator: Bruno Navasky
Length:  288 pages
Publishers: Algonquin Young Readers (October 26, 2021)
Genre: Children’s Fiction/Asia, Historical, Multigenerational, Multicultural
Age-Range: 10 – 14 (and up!)
Source: Publisher ARC

First published in 1937, Genzaburō Yoshino’s How Do You Live? has long been acknowledged in Japan as a crossover classic for young readers. 

Amazon || Book Depository 

A beautiful and brilliant, insightful and inspiring, tender and timeless, and thoroughly thought-provoking book that is a must-read for everyone, regardless of age. Read it yourself, gift it to loved ones, and yes, make sure you read it before the Studio Ghibli movie based on this book (currently in production) comes out.

Read my complete review of the book here.

Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance

Title: Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance
Author: Nisha Sharma
Publishers: Random House Children’s, Crown Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: 13 July 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Teen & YA
Source: NetGalley eARC

To All the Boys I Loved Before meets World of Dance in this delectable love story that combines food, dance, and a hint of drama to cook up the perfect romance.

Amazon | | Book Depository

This is for you if you are looking for a sweet, refreshing YA read. Like me, if you are a fan of Indian food, of Bollywood dancing/culture, of sweet romances, and oh yes, also of dance competitions, you will finish this book in one sitting.

Read my complete review here.

While I Was Away

Title: While I Was Away
Author: Waka T. Brown
Length:  312 pages
Publishers: Quill Tree Books (January 26, 2021)
Genre: Children’s Non-Fiction/Asia, Memoirs, Historical, Multigenerational, Multicultural
Age-Range: 8 – 12 years (and up!)
Source: Netgalley e-ARC

A middle grade memoir from debut author Waka T. Brown, who takes readers on a journey to Japan, where she was sent as a child in the 1980s to reconnect to her family’s roots.

Amazon | | Book Depository

I have been meaning to review this book from the day I read it earlier this year, but somehow it slipped through. Anyways, here it is now: a quick mini-review for a book that I devoured from end to end.

Waka is amazing at taking her readers directly to the story with exactly the right amount of details needed – like perfection! She does a superb job of capturing the frustrations of her middle-school self, and all that comes with it; including about being suspended between two cultures, of experiencing a culture shock least expected; about the complex and not so easy yet heartwarming and very real relationship with her grandmother, as well as her relationships with the rest of her family and friends (old and new); and last but not least, her look into life in both Japan and in the US in the 1980s.

As a parent of teens who very likely have that same feeling of suspension between cultures, and as someone who was a tween/teen in India in the 1980s, I was able to relate to and identify with a lot of this simply wonderful, must-read memoir. That said, Waka has managed to make this 1980s memoir of balance between two cultures timeless and universal, and just about anyone can identify with all that she writes about here.

Verse Novels

Love That Dog

Title: Love That Dog
Author: Sharon Creech
Length: 112 pages
Genre: Children’s Verse Novels/Dog Books(8 – 12 years)
Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (July 24, 2001)
Source: My personal library

Love That Dog shows how one boy named Jack finds his voice with the help of a teacher, a pencil, some yellow paper, and of course, a dog. 

Amazon || Book Depository

A sweet, sweet, sweet read that I read earlier this year and you can see how and why I read it here. Nothing more to say about this but – read it if you have not already (or read it again if you have!)

May B

Title: May B.
Author: Caroline Starr Rose
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Children’s Verse Novels (9 – 12 years)
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (January 10th 2012 )
Source: Library copy

Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

Amazon || Book Depository

A quick read that is beautiful, moving, and inspiring, that tells readers a story of survival against all odds. One that will appeal to even reluctant readers.

Read my complete review here

The One Thing You’d Save

Title: The One Thing You’d Save
Author: Linda Sue Park
Illustrator: Robert Sae-heng
Length: 72 pages
Genre: Children’s Novels in Verse(8 – 12 years)
Publisher: Clarion Books (March 16th 2021 )
Source: NetGalley e-ARC

If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save? Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park explores different answers to this provocative question in linked poems that capture the diverse voices of a middle school class. Illustrated with black-and-white art.

Amazon || Book Depository

This is a book that will work perfectly for all ages; a book that will make pause and ponder about the things that really matter.

Read my complete review here

Red, White, and Whole

Title: Red, White, and Whole
Author: Rajani LaRocca
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Children’s Verse Novels (8 – 12 years)
Publisher: Quill Tree Books (February 2nd 2021)
Source: Library copy

An #ownvoices novel in verse about an Indian American girl whose life is turned upside down when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia.

Amazon || Book Depository

Heart-warming, heart-breaking, heart-healing, a tugging-at-heart-strings, leaving you with all the feels beautiful novel in verse!! A must read that explores identity & cultures, family & friendships, love & loss, and life & all that it includes!

Read my complete review here

Three Things I Know Are True

Title: Three Things I Know Are True
Author: Betty Culley
Length: 480 pages
Genre: Teen and YA Novels in Verse ( 13 – 17 years, and up)
Publisher: HarperTeen; Reprint edition (January 12, 2021)
Source: Library copy

This moving debut novel in verse about a teenage girl dealing with the aftermath of an accident that nearly takes her brother’s life is a stunning exploration of grief and the power of forgiveness.

Amazon || Book Depository

A beautiful beautiful tugging at heartstrings read.

Read my complete review here


Title: Zorgamazoo
Author: Robert Paul Weston 
Illustrator: Víctor Rivas 
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Children’s Novels in Verse/Fantasy (8 – 12 years, and up)
Publisher: Razorbill; Illustrated edition (September 2, 2010)
Source: My copy and Library Copy

Zorgamazoo is the story of an adventurous girl; a mysterious creature; a bizarre lottery; a secret map; an alien world; some outrageous kidnappings; and a sport that brings together the finer points of cricket, swimming and chess

Amazon || Book Depository

Zorgamazoo is a zany zany must-read!! You can read an excerpt here.

Read my complete review here

And the Rest

The Shadow of the Wind

Title:  The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
Translator: Lucia Graves 
Length: 487 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group (January 1, 2018) (first published May 2001)
Source: My copy and Library Copy

The Shadow of the Wind is a literary thriller set in Barcelona in the first half of the 20th century, with elements of mystery, historical, and comedy of manner genres but it is most of all a tragic love story which echoes through time.

Amazon || Book Depository

While I never got around to reviewing this book after finishing it, what I said about it when I first started reading it is still true of the book.  Zafon’s writing is magical; and this book is truly a work of love written for book-lovers everywhere. If you are not a devourer of books already, this book is bound to make you one!!

The Paris Library

Title: The Paris Library
Author: Janet Skeslien Charles
Publishers: Atria Books (09 Feb 2021)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: NetGalley eARC

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Amazon | | Book Depository

Another book that was in my list of most anticipated reads for this year, The Paris Library is deserving of both lists as well. I have always loved books that have something to do with books, and when you add in the fact that this is WWII historical fiction with dual timelines and based on true stories, that seals the deal for me. While I loved the historical timeline set in Paris during WWII way more than the one set about 40 years later in Montana, overall, the obvious love of books and the passion to share that love shines throughout the book, and kept me reading to the end.

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World

Title: The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World
Author: Laura Imai Messina
Publishers: The Overlook Press (March 9, 2021)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Source: NetGalley eARC

The international bestselling novel sold in 21 countries, about grief, mourning, and the joy of survival, inspired by a real phone booth in Japan with its disconnected “wind” phone, a place of pilgrimage and solace since the 2011 tsunami

Amazon | | Book Depository

A book that is so much more beautiful than its simply elegantly beautiful cover! This is yet another book from my anticipated reads list at the start of the year, and at the time I wrote the following:

I knew I had to read this book the moment I saw what it was about — inspired by a real phone booth in Japan with its disconnected “wind” phone, a place of pilgrimage and solace since the 2011 tsunami

In lieu of a review for this book, I will simply say, I am so very glad I read this book, and I know you will be too.

When Breath Becomes Air

Title: When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanidhi
Publishers: Random House; 1st edition (January 12, 2016)
Genre: Biographies
Source: My copy

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Amazon | | Book Depository

I made so many attempts to write a review for this profound book, but failed each time.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain

Title: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
Author: George Saunders
Publishers: Random House; First Edition, Later Printing (January 12, 2021)
Genre: Short Story Literary Criticism/Writing, Words, Language, and Grammar
Source: NetGalley eARC

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.

Amazon | | Book Depository

A book about reading, writing, the short story, and books!! Well, if that does not say why I read and loved this book, then I am not sure what else will! Anyway, a more detailed review of this book will follow at some point but until then, suffice it to say, that this book is another one that is a must read for anyone who loves the written word!! And now I am off to see if I can attend a class by this master, and also to read his Lincoln in the Bardo that I totally skipped reading the previous year.

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Related Reads

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read any of these books? If yes, your thoughts on them are totally appreciated and welcome, even the differing ones 🙂 If not, do any of these titles intrigue you enough to pick them up and read for yourself? Any similar suggestions? And last, but not the least, what were your favorite books of the year?

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