Fiction faves published in 2021

I'll start at the top with the Nancy Award winner, The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles. And not just because I'm from Nebraska! I'll be reading it again after the demand calms down a bit at the library.

More focused, intense, and beautiful than OverstoryBewilderment weaves a warning about our endangered planet through beautiful observations of nature and a powerful father and son portrait.

Hell of a Book has a hell of a structure telling a powerful story in a fascinating way. Is this the layer of the onion, or the memory of the onion, or a dream of an onion?

In the undiscovered gem category, I am pleased to present one of the most enjoyable books of the year, Raft of Stars. It's perfect for fans of Where the Crawdads Sing. Two ten-year old boys think they’ve committed a horrific crime, and light off into the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Four adults track them in the forest and down a river, including a sheriff recently arrived from Texas and doubting his future in law enforcement.  The wonder, the ferocity, and the healing power of nature make this a great adventure in reading. A terrific story well told, with characters worth caring about.

In the mystery and suspense category I recommend Bullet Train and Velvet Was the Night. Yes, Barack, I liked Harlem Shuffle, too. 

Should you happened to be annoyed with the governor of the Lone Star State and his disingenuous  nonresponse to the FEBRUARY WEATHER EVENT and POWER GRID FIASCO, I suggest Melanie Benjamin's The Children's BlizzardBenjamin does a great job describing northeast Nebraska in 1888. While this blizzard is the stuff of lore where I grew up, it is not as famous in other places. The novel is an appropriate read when you are wrapped in quilts with just a flashlight for illumination.

Honorable mentions:
David Eggers has an idea where to stick those algorithms.

It's weird calling a novel historical fiction when it's set during my lifetime. It's like hearing David Bowie in the grocery store...or Opal and Nev.
Even if you don't need to read children's book for work, I recommend The Beatryce Prophecy to brighten your life. Definitely the best literary goat of the year, and way more fun than Lauren Groff's Matrix. Keep your library card right next to your vaccination record, kids!

 © 2013-2021 Nancy L. Ruder


Ask your doctor if nonfiction might be right for you.

Let's think about advertising. There are many horrifying parts to the Sackler history revealed in Patrick Radden Keefe's Empire of Pain. As a person old enough to remember television before direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals, I blame the Sackler family for all those awful ads with side-by-side bathtubs.

Sifton's cookbook is inspiring, and also a fun cover-to-cover read.

Tasked with writing about a golf book for work, I was surprised to enjoy this audiobook.  While Coyne travels in search of “the Great American Golf Course,” he also ruminates about the future of golf, what makes a great course or hole, the ties across generations created by the game, as well as the changes in America since his newlywed parents first drove across the country during the Korean War.  He meets and golfs with an assortment of interesting characters along the way. Fun listening, but it made me miss my golfing father and championship golf enthusiast mom.

The late author's autobiography, allegedly for middle grade readers, is a fascinating, detailed story of a horrifyingly neglected childhood during and just after World War II. I recommend it to adult biography readers.

Spending time with Saunders exploring Russian short stories made me a better reader without that old English class feeling of having the story "spoiled."

Or, how to get the Texas lieutenant governor's undies in a bunch. 

© 2013-2021 Nancy L. Ruder


Roll out the red carpet for the 2020 Coveted Nancy Award Winner!

As soon as I finished Interior Chinatown I had to start over and read straight through again. That still might not be enough. While the tv cop show screenplay format makes the book fun, the explorations of racism, marginalization, aging parents, and self-limiting interior monologues are heart-breaking and revealing. 

Mostly, I've been more aware of the way I flatten my experiences and limit my options by my own interior monologue. Now I am wondering whether all women my age become invisible, or if we allow ourselves to become Generic Gray-haired Female in the background.

Highly, highly rec! Of course. being the National Book Award winner for fiction might be almost as good as  winning a Nancy Award

Favorite childhood picture book...

© 2013-2020 Nancy L. Ruder