Happy New Year!
While 2021 was pretty much a dumpster fire, there were still fabulous books published and I was thrilled to hit my goal of reading 100 books (technically I read 105 but who’s counting? Ok, me, I’m counting!)
It was really hard to narrow down my favorites of the year so I broke them down into categories.
Between Two Kingdoms: This book blew me away. I listened to the audio twice and then purchased a hard copy for my shelves.
Suleika Jaouad chronicles her illness that starts with a painful itch & exhaustion, to her diagnosis of leukemia with a 35% survival rate, to a 4-year fight for her life including chemo, radiation, bone marrow transplant and countless hospital stays…to recovering and having to rediscover who she is and how to live again.
Suleika is one of the most beautiful writers and I am in awe how she could take us along on this journey so vividly with honesty, passion and hope. She details not only medically what was happening to her but also mentally and emotionally. Her illness took a toll on her & everyone she loved and she doesn’t shy away from talking about all she lost- from fellow patients, relationships, friends she made, her time, her energy, and her fertility…she lays it all out there. But she also discusses what she gained- mostly through writing about her experiences in her blog and her NYT column – including online/letter writing friendships from the most unlikely people who she later had the chance to meet face-to-face while embarking on a 100-day road trip after her doctors deemed her well.
This story will make you pause and reflect on the fragility of life and of your own mortality. Most of all, it provides a new perspective on the time we are allotted here on earth. This book is beautiful and brilliant.
The Beauty in Breaking: Michele Harper shares her journey from living a difficult & broken childhood to becoming a compassionate and powerful ER doctor. She details her youth, muddled with violence in her home, followed by marrying and then divorcing her husband she met at Harvard, to what it is like to be a black woman ER physician in an often predominately white male position.
Her stories from the ER are captivating, insightful and heartbreaking at times. Through her experiences in the ER, she begins to build herself back up from her divorce, examines how her past has molded her and how she will not let it determine the outcome of her future.
Michele is a gorgeous writer. She intimately shares the details, her reflections, and her hope… not only of lessons she has learned over the years but how she is changing the narrative moving forward.
Live Your Life: This was the first Covid-related book I read and it packed a hard punch. While most of us simply heard about the horrors of COVID-19 and the lives it stole, Amanda Kloots lived through it after her husband Nick Cordero, a well-known Broadway actor, contracted the virus in early 2020 and passed away 95 days later after a grueling fight.
This is the story of his epic battle, his family’s determination for his recovery and the global community who rallied for his victory. Written by his wife Amanda and her sister Anna, Live Your Life is an extremely personal look inside their lives before and after Nick contracted Covid.
This book is raw and real and while it’s heavy, it’s also moving, full of love and even laughter.
All You Can Ever Know: After being born severely premature, Nicole Chung was placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. While she believed her adoption was a product of the ultimate sacrifice her birth family made so she would have a better life, she struggled with her identity as an Asian American in a primarily white community and felt out of place as a transracial adoptee. While she loves her family, she felt the pull to search for her birth family and learn the truth about where she really came from. Nicole’s writing is heartfelt and graciously brings you inside her emotional search for answers.
Finding Freedom: This is another book I could not shut up about last year. I first learned about the author Erin French after stumbling on a TV show on Discovery+ called “The Lost Kitchen” which was based on a small restaurant turned national sensation located in Freedom, Maine.
After binge-watching the show one weekend, I was thrilled to learn Erin had a book coming out, “Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story- Remaking a Life from Scratch” which is an inspiring memoir detailing her journey from being a little girl in Maine with a dream of something more- to where she is today.
Erin’s path was filled with obstacles – she was a single mom, jobless without money or college education, stuck in a small town, struggling with substance abuse, and a relationship that went horribly wrong, taking nearly everything away from her, including her son.
Finding Freedom is Erin’s survival song. It’s not only the story of a woman who overcame it all to marry her passion for food with her desire to create community but how she had to find strength in herself to see her dream come to fruition.
Those are my top 5 favorite memoirs from 2021. It’s hard to imagine loving anything like these in 2022 but the book world is constantly churning out new stories so I am excited to see what’s on the horizon.