Our friend Carole Barrowman joins us to review her top 5 books of 2021. Carole is an English professor at Alverno College, author of Hollow Earth Series, and reviewer for both Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Minneapolis Star Tribune.
1. Favorite Romance Novel: Hana Kahn Carries On by Uzma Jalalludin (Berkley)
This is a wonderfully charming romance novel that falls into the “enemies to lovers” category about two competing restaurants in a tight-knit neighborhood in Toronto. Instead of You’ve Got Mail, it’s You’ve Got Falafel. A tasty treat of a book.
2. Favorite Mystery: Velvet Was the Night by Sylvia Garcia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)
Set during the violence of the Dirty War that ravaged Mexico’s shaky democracy in the 1970s, this slyly feminist pulp novel is a riveting read. Yes, Moreno-Garcia’s story of a lonely secretary inadvertently caught up in a political conspiracy is violent, but it has an impressive narrative swagger and characters radiating style and substance.
3. Favorite Non-Fiction: How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith (Little Brown)
This extraordinary book focuses on famous historical landmarks like Monticello and iconic monuments and tells us the real history that shaped them. Smith writes with a strong voice and presents a compelling and necessary narrative about American history.
4. Favorite Fantasy: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Viking)
Nora’s life is a struggle. When she tries to end it, she finds herself in the midnight library where every book tells the story of a different version of her life. This is the literary equivalent of The Good Place and it’s a wonderful life-affirming message. Although this book came out last year, I didn’t read it until this spring.
5. Favorite Children’s Book: The Beatryce Prophesy by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Candlewick)
This book’s opening page launches readers brilliantly into the tale of Beatryce, a sickly little girl, a pushy goat with sharp teeth who saves her life, an exasperated kindly monk, and a prophesy involving them all. This is a perfect family read aloud book.