Saturday, January 01, 2022

2021 in Books (Martha & Shirley)

Martha and Shirley: Time for our annual look at the year in books  When we started doing this, it was books published that year.  Then there started to be book discussions of a book someone considered to be an evergreen, an older book still worth reading, that popped up at community sites or in community newsletters and those books started making it into the top ten.  We began to be a list of top ten favorite books less about when the book came out and more about what interested us at that time -- meaning each year's top ten is really a snapshot of where we were and what we were interested in.  

This year, we have a diverse line up in terms of both genres and publication dates.  

1) HARLEM SHUFLE by Colson Whitehead.

Hilda held a roundtable on this book for HILDA'S MIX and she also wrote an eleven page analysis of the themes and subplots in this novel about Ray who is about to become a father for a second time and who works a job but also fences stolen goods as a side hustle.  Because he fences, he ends up a part of three capers.  In the roundtable, Beth's comment stood out to us: "It's like OCEAN'S 11 only in the real world and without all of George Clooney's pompousity." 

2) LITTLE SISTER by Lana Wood.

Rebecca covered the book when it came out.  Lana is trying to sort out how her sister Natalie Wood died?  Read it and grasp that there is a very good reason that the authorities named Robert Wagner as a person of interest.  The community had huge interest in Howard John's DROWNING SORROWS: A TRUE STORY OF LOVE, PASSION AND BETRAYAL  (reviewed by Marcia) came in at number 13 while Marti Rulli and Dennis Davern's GOODBYE NATALIE, GOODBYE SPLENDOUR came in at number 21 (Stan reviewed it here.)  In next Friday's round-robin, will share the books that came in from elenth to fifty.


3) THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris.

Ava and C.I. reviewed the book for THE GINA & KRISTA ROUND-ROBIN and noted how the novel weaves through suspense to ponder wheter ignorance really is bliss and how much responsibility one has to act if they have little known information?  The struggles for Nella are both external and internal. Many community members voting for this book noted that Ava and C.I.'s praise for the book and summary of key elements made them want to read it.  Several, including Keesha, expressed that they didn't even know about the book until they read Ava and C.I.'s piece and Keesha cited this passage: "Zakiya has written a book about a woman of color exploring the gray areas of life as she factors in what she can do and what she can't while she inhabits a highly restrictive world that sees her as an outsider."

4) THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Attwood.

HULU's continued series of Atwood's work left the book some time ago.  But the book remains the source material and many community members took  up KINDLE UNLIMITED.  Let's quote from Ava and C.I. and their work at THE THIRD ESTATE SUNDAY REVIEW:

In 2018, community sites took turns covering a book every week.  You can see "In 2018, we read books" to review that coverage.  We didn't want to repeat ourselves in 2019 or 2020.  So when Marcia came up with a way to cover books but with a twist, we were all for it.  Marcia's idea was for us to digital books -- we're largely a printed text crowd -- and to use AMAZON's KINDLE UNLIMITED.  So for 2021, we'll be trying to do a book a week and trying to just use KINDLE UNLIMITED.

A lot of community members signed up for KINDLE UNLIMITED.  When Ruth covered THE HANDMAID'S TALE, some of us re-read it and some of us read it for the first time.  Enough of us loved it to get it int he top ten for this year's list.

5)  THE PEYTON PLACE MURDER by Renee Mallett.

This book is "a hidden gem" according to James in Brighton.  No one in the community had heard of it until Ann reviewed it.  (By the way, Ava and C.I. do an interview for every book review published at a community website online -- an interview with the reviewer -- at THIRD.  Susan praised that move and noted that it was helpful to her because she loves books and would have missed a few if Ava and C.I. hadn't done their interviews.  They interviewed Ann about this book here.)  The book is a true life detective story and it grabs you very quickly.  Thank you, Ann, for finding such a delightful book to share with us.  We, Martha and Shirley, loved this book so much it was our number one ranked choice on our ballots.

6) THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee.

At THIRD, Jess reviewed this post-apocalyptical novel and noted, "It's one of those books that you read, look up at the clock, realize you should have been in bed an hour ago but tell yourself, 'Five more pages, just five more'."  Sabina noted in comments for her ballot selections [we do rank choice voting, by the way] that "Jess nailed it with that review.  I could not put this book down.  It was addictive and I didn't want to do anything else but finish it after I was two pages in.  The world around me narrowed and, except for my family, pretty much vanished as I spent a Saturday devouring this book."


This book had built in interest.  Afer all, as Julia Roberts says in PRETTY WOMAN, "Don't you just love Prince?"  Yes, we do and we did.  And we love a good book on Prince.  But a lot of books on interesting people aren't worth reading.  (See Stan, RebeccaDona, Kat, Kat again Trina and Marcia for examples of books to avoid.) So when Betty put us wise that this was a book to read, we grabbed it on KINDLE.  And we loved it.

8) BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

Isaiah covered it at his site.  And who knew comic books were so popular with the community?  THIRD used to do comic book coverage (championing the comic BATWOMAN especially) but the huge number of votes this recieved indicate that it might be time to start covering comics again.


Like Prince, Judy Garland comes with built-in interest.  Probably Liza Minnelli as well.  But this was the book Rebecca and Marcia selected for their annual summer read.  Some of you loved the book without reservations, some of you agreed with Rebecca's point that Liza shouldn't have been in the title because the book ends with Judy's death -- long before Liza's triumph in CABARET and her Oscar win, let alone her drams with Broadway productions and Martin Scorsese's NEW YORK, NEW YORK.


The late Truman Capote remains a literary legend and a literary giant.  This is a book of transcripts of conversations Lawrence Grobel had with Capote.  Mike reviewed it here.

So that's where we were 2021 -- a year when the pandemic continued though many -- especially Big Business -- wanted to pretend otherwise, a point Trina raised repeatedly throughout 2021.  We see an interest in the familiar in the list above.  We were interested in learning more about titles or people we knew of.  To go into something completely new and foreign to us, we needed a big push -- by Hilda and Ava and C.I., for example.  We wanted to read something we knew what to expect of.  Comfort food?  Maybe or maybe just needing some structure/encouragement in a world with little.


Martha and  Shirley have also done the year in books for 2020,  201920182017, 201620152014201320122011, 20102009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005.