Favorite Books of 2021

My favorite book of the year was The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris. After the Emancipation Proclamation, two brothers find work on a Georgia farm but the community is not as open-minded as their landowner employer. Conflict ensues as the brothers continue to struggle for freedom. This novel has gorgeous prose, memorable characters, and a beautiful ending.

A close second was Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Set in late 16th century England, a Latin tutor and his unusually talented wife deal with the effects of the Black Plague on their marriage and family. Also beautifully written with a memorable ending.

Other notable fiction I enjoyed include:

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Favorite non-fiction & inspiration:

Taste (My Life Through Food) by Stanley Tucci. A  fun read, especially if you watched his CNN series traveling throughout Italy on gastronomical adventures. While reading the book, I could hear Tucci’s distinctive voice.

Incidental Inventions by Elena Ferrante. A year’s worth of personal essays originally published in The Guardian. I love everything written by this reclusive, talented author.

Devotions by Mary Oliver. The poet curated this final collection of her favorite poems. It makes a calming bedside companion.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. My mother introduced this book to me decades ago. It was a sort of bible to her and I see why. I’ve read it several times and, like she did, I keep it on my nightstand.

What was your favorite book of the year?

Happy reading and Happy New Year!

The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia

Reading literature is “an exercise in empathy,” says Sofia Segovia, author of The Murmur of Bees.

This rang true for me while reading the novel. The setting is early 20th century Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. A wealthy landowner and his family struggle with the Spanish flu pandemic and civil war while trying to protect their land. When they rescue a baby boy abandoned at birth, they see past his facial deformities to his unique abilities that inspire and help the family.

Beautifully written (although at times a bit slow) here are passages where I empathized the most.

“In her world, a woman took her parents’ home with her wherever she went: to school, on a foreign voyage, on honeymoon, to bed with her husband, to the birth of her child, to the table each day to teach her children good posture and good manners, and–she believed–she would even take them to her deathbed. In her world, a woman never left her parents behind, even when the parents left her.”

“ . . . you leave a place or say goodbye to someone, and thereafter, you feel the existence you have left behind is frozen by your absence.”

” . . . she would never lose the now-gentler grief that she felt at her father’s absence.”

“At my age, one realizes that time is a cruel and fickle master, for the more you want it, the faster it appears to vanish, and vice versa: the more you want to escape it, the more stagnant it becomes.”

“I didn’t see the defect or any reason to be shocked. I saw only my brother, and I loved him.”

“The empty hours of the night do not pass unnoticed, because in their unrelenting cruelty, they do not allow one to rest; they force one to think, and they demand a great deal. Because it is at night that fear is most frightening, yes, but it is also when sorrow becomes deeper and one regrets what one did or did not do more. It is in the deepest darkness that one sees things most clearly.”

“Contrary to what I had believed, what I came searching for isn’t here, strewn among these ashlar stones. It was never here, because it was always in me . . . “

” . . . he reminded me how important it was to listen. To listen to what life sometimes murmurs into your ear, heart, or gut.”

Thank you, Sofia Segovia.