Literary fiction tops Maureen Corrigan’s list of 2021 best books


It’s been a spectacular year for literary fiction, so my “Best Books” list is all about novels and short stories – and I wish I could triple its length, but I’ll keep it at 10.

Klara and the sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the sun takes pride of place in this list. As he did in his 2005 novel Never let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro here explores what it means to be human from the point of view of a being seen as simply “human”. Ishiguro is the master of gradually deepening our awareness of the fragility and inevitability of death – all of this, even as he deepens our awareness of the temporary magic of being alive in the first place.

Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr

Cuckoo Earth Cloud

by Anthony Doerr

Of all our contemporary literary fiction writers, Anthony Doerr is the one whose novels seem to be the most sincere response to the overriding demand, “Tell me a story.” the last of Doerr, Cuckoo Earth Cloud, spans eight centuries and shows how an old tale gives light and hope to five young people, each living in a dangerous time, with correspondences with our own.

Perpetual Light, by Francis Spufford

Perpetual light

by Francis Spufford

historical novel by Francis Spufford, Perpetual light, is a miracle not only of art, but of empathy. It opens with a real-life incident: the dropping of a V-2 rocket on a Woolworths in London on a Saturday in 1944. What follows is a tale that painlessly imagines the lives five of the victims, all children, would be said to have. could live. Perpetual light is a resounding novel about chance, as well as a divine meditation on mutability and loss.

Matrix, by Lauren Groff


by Lauren Groff

Don’t be fooled by the title, Lauren Groffthe historical novel of Matrix is not a dystopian thriller, but rather a radiant novel about the 12e-th century poet and mystic Marie de France, whose life we ​​know almost nothing. No matter. Groff richly imagines Mary’s decades of exile in a royal convent, which she ends up directing. A novel loaded with female ambition, Matrix also dramatizes Mary’s astute political acumen that: “Most souls on earth are uncomfortable unless they find themselves safe in the hands of a force far greater than themselves. ”

Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle

by Colson Whitehead

I’m starting to think that any year Colson Whitehead is releasing a new novel, I should just save it a spot on my “Best Books” list. Harlem Shuffle is a crime story in the sardonic style of Chester himes‘classic Cotton arrives in Harlem, crossed with all the black films ever made about a good man caught in a bad situation. Ray Carney, a father, sells used furniture in New York from the late 50s and early 60s: you can smell the dust on the blond wood console radios he tries to unload then that televisions take over. When Ray’s cousin lures him into a heist at the Theresa Hotel – the so-called “Waldorf of Harlem” – Ray’s hard-earned respectability threatens to crumble.

Afterparty by Anthony Veasna So


by Anthony Veasna So

Afterparties, by the late Anthony Veasna So, was one of the big buzz books this year and it exceeded and rocked my expectations. So, who died aged 28 before the book’s release, was a first-generation queer Cambodian American who wrote clever, stunning, crass, funny, sexually explicit and compassionate stories about the Cambodian refugee community in Stockton, California.

Mon Monticello, by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

My Monticello

by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

The title novel of Jocelyn Nicole Johnsoncollection of, My Monticello, takes place in the near future when a group of mostly African-American figures take a final stand against the forces of racism atop the “little mountain” that gives Thomas Jefferson’s plantation its name. This news is a rich and strange riff on American mythology.

Skinship, by Yoon Choi


by Yoon Choi

The eight stories from Yoon Choi’s collection, Skinship, stand out to touch on decades of family history shaped, sometimes distorted, by immigration. Choi picks up on this familiar subject and makes the difficult situations of his characters vivid and nuanced.

Oh William !, by Elizabeth Strout

Ah Guillaume!

by Elizabeth Strout

In Ah Guillaume! Elisabeth Strout returns to her writer character, Lucy Barton, who, along with her ex-husband, sets out on a road trip that takes them deep into the wilderness of their failed marriage and personal past. This summary sounds grim, but if you’re familiar with Strout, you know she compresses in the most ordinary conversations of epiphanies about love, parenthood, and the unspeakable ways that we humans spoil.

We run the tides, by Vedela Vida

We run the tides

by Vendela Vida

Finally, I want to give a final word to a novel that I think hasn’t gotten all the recognition it deserves yet: Vendela Vida‘s We run the tides. Set in the mid-1980s in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood perched on the edge of the Pacific, the novel follows a team of four 13-year-old girls also perched on the edge of things. Haunted, harsh and exquisite, this fragment of a novel evokes a world of female adolescence in which I, for one, wanted to remain lost – and yet I also felt relieved at having grown too big.

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