The King County Library System (KCLS) has released its 2021 Best Books, with enthusiastic input from staff.
Each year, Best Books are nominated by KCLS librarians and staff members across the Library System who, collectively, read thousands of books for work, education and enjoyment. In 2021, staff interests and the books they championed ranged widely, spanning genres from memoirs and world history to poetry, graphic novels and science fiction.
In all, there were 386 nominations. A selection committee then reviewed the submissions and determined the final list of 100 top books, with 25 titles in each of four categories: fiction, nonfiction, children and teens.
Many of the nominations were accompanied by thoughtful and insightful comments, including gratitude for books that reflected the difficulties or lifted spirits during COVID-19.
“The story is very real, compelling and powerful,” said Dela G. of her adult fiction choice, Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. “The story of resilience, women’s power, immigrants’ dreams, the pioneers’ struggle during the Great Depression…What we all need during the pandemic–resilience, unity and hope.”
Staffer Kate J. commended Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke. She said the “graphic narration of loneliness and being alone resonated with me after emerging from the COVID shutdown. The author does a great job of bringing in all sorts of facts about how people interact together and apart.”
A number of staff members chose the children’s book, Outside, Inside by Pham LeUyen. Robin H. said the book “celebrates community helpers from the perspective of a child shut in once the pandemic hits. (It) reflects many peoples and cultures in her wonderful illustrations.”
The nonfiction book, Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green also drew multiple nominations. Staff member Melinda R. described it as “an uplifting, beautiful love letter to the human-centric world. Green’s writing is vulnerable and funny and tugs on the heartstrings.”
Also nominated were several books on musicians, including one about jazz virtuoso Charlie Parker, Chasin’ the Bird by Dave Chisholm. Another, Broken Horses by Brandi Carlisle, drew praise for both the audio and written versions from Barb B., who added that the local artist “gives a shout out to KCLS for positively influencing her life.”
Diverse titles and formats and books on racial unrest and individual identity also drew staff nominations. Rachel A. nominated Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo, saying, “The lyrical prose writing in this book is beautiful and powerful. (It) follows a teen’s experience as a second-generation immigrant who is grappling with her identity. It is about growing up and finding yourself, but also about finding strength in your family’s past experiences.”
So did books that transported the reader to other places. The chance to savor Italian food through Stanley Tucci’s Taste: My Life through Food prompted a rave review from Angelina B., who called the witty memoir “divine.”
KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum noted that 2021 was the first time staff were photographed sharing their favorite books, with happy (but masked) faces posted on kcls.org/bestbooks.
Rosenblum’s own choice was Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell. She said she is “a big fan of everything Gladwell writes. This book resonates with me because my father served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. It is also one of the first audiobooks that adds extra audio features beyond just reading the text version, which makes it a very enjoyable listen.”
KCLS Director of Collection Management Services Tracey Thompson said the 2021 Best Books list is a great chance for staff and patrons alike “to dig into some of our favorite books, and perhaps discover a new one of your own!”