Favorite books of 2021

No, that is not a typo. I really do mean 2021. Meanwhile, some people are already releasing their “Best of 2022” lists, haha. Well, better late than never.

Actually I did share my favorite kidlit reads of 2021 over with We Heart YA way back in February, but I would like to add a couple adult titles to the list here, and maybe say a few little things.

Although my reading time is limited in this season of my life, I seem to be doing a good job selecting books for myself. Most have been hits, and I don’t think any have been bad. Out of 16 books/stories read last year, these were the ones I loved — and you can see that I have listed 11. That’s almost all of them!

One of my favorite things about this collection of books is how connected I am to them in various ways. I share an agent with two of the authors (Brandy Colbert and Kelly Yang). I was already friends with three of the authors (Jasmine Warga, Becky Wallace, Margot Wood) and became friends with another (Meredith Ireland). Seven of the books deal with being either Asian or mixed race or both.

Three books I want to spotlight a bit further are:

Becoming – OK, I’m not saying it’s reasonable to compare Andy to Barack, or me to Michelle… but I did identify a lot with being a smart, ambitious, highly competent person who had a certain idea of how her life was going to go, and then meeting and falling in love with someone who was on a completely different kind of trajectory. And having to take a step back from your own dreams, in some ways, in order to support your partner and accommodate their brilliant and demanding ascent. (Also, Michelle’s writing was warm, and surprisingly funny.)

When We Were Infinite – This contemporary YA novel centers on a quiet, anxious halfie and her intensely close group of Asian-American friends. Although the plot differs from my own high school experience, that emotional core was like a mirror. One I’ve never seen so clearly in fiction before. Because how many stories are there (at least in Western media) where every single main character is Asian? And where their Asian-ness is not the point of the story, but just part of who they are and how they live? I kept thinking of my own close friends from high school, and wishing we could experience reading about “us” all together.

Crying in H Mart – Speaking of mirrors… This bracingly candid memoir by musician Michelle Zauner explores the deep and difficult relationship she had with her immigrant mother (who dies of cancer during the events of the story) and with her Korean heritage. Again, the “plot” of Zauner’s life is not particularly similar to mine, and yet, there are so many common threads between us that reading her book helped me rediscover pieces of myself. Also, the beautiful food descriptions, and loving memories of Asian supermarkets, reminded me of how much those things played a part in my own upbringing, and inspired me to encourage similar cultural touchstones for my own mixed Asian kids.

Here are Andy’s favorite reads of 2021:

Click here to see previous years’ favorite books.