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If you need a little inspiration to close out the year, we've got a list of some staff favorites from 2021. There are mostly books, but some movies in there, too. We hope we point you in the direction of your new favorite!

Here are our Executive Director Annie Miskewitch's picks, too!

Book River
Book River Title
Staff Picks: Best of 2021
Book River Items

Maybe (2021)

by Chris Haughton

Maybe by Chris Haughton is his newest picture book that explores curiosity and adventure with hilarious and thought-provoking illustrations and only a few words of dialogue on each page. Along with Shhh! We have a plan and Oh No, George!, Haughton continues to be a delight to read. — Vicki Heller, Collection Development Librarian

"Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?" (2021)

by Harold Schechter

This graphic novel collaboration between noted true crime writer Schechter and comic book author/illustrator Powell is a heartbreaking, harrowing and insightful look at the often misunderstood and mischaracterized "Plainfield Ghoul." Its purpose isn't to justify or revel in Ed Gein's crimes, but rather to provide context for his tragic life and show how his upbringing and lack of a support led him down such a path. — Emily Vinci, Fiction Manager

The Upstairs House (2021)

by Julia Fine

New motherhood is shown in an honest, tender and raw light in this beautifully written and exquisitely researched novel. Megan is left to care for her newborn daughter mostly on her own as her husband travels for work, and in addition must balance the opinions about child-rearing from nearly everyone she encounters both in person and online. Add to that the appearance of a new upstairs neighbor: the ghost of children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown, whose existence no one else will acknowledge. This postpartum haunting is a powerful metaphor for a woman’s fraught relationship with her body and mind that readers won't soon forget. — Emily Vinci, Fiction Manager

My Heart is a Chainsaw (2021)

by Stephen Graham Jones

This is the story of Jade Daniels, an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father and an absent mother. She is an outcast in her town and lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies ... especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. In channeling her her anger she also narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. What results is a heart-wrenching and at times downright terrifying own voices novel that bleeds heart and soul. — Emily Vinci, Fiction Manager

Starfish (2021)

by Lisa Fipps

This is a heartbreaking and hopeful story about one young girl learning to love her fabulous self as she deals with being fat shamed/bullied by strangers, her classmates and even her own mother. This middle school novel about acceptance is a must-read for kids and adults. — Allison Riggs, Teen Librarian

You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey : Crazy Stories About Racism (2021)

by Amber Ruffin

These true stories are horrifying and eye-opening, and told in such a manner that will have you laughing out loud while you are also cringing. I recommend this one via audiobook, it's available through Overdrive on the Libby app! — Allison Riggs, Teen Librarian


by Warner Bros

My anticipation far exceeded the actual success or all the hype, but it was still good. I have missed The Sopranos and the movie gave you a look at the characters from an earlier time. I love the '60s & '70s era. Michael Gandolfini made a perfect Tony Soprano, and I'm sure made his Dad smile from above. The soundtrack was really good. Overall (and so far) this was my favorite movie for 2021. — Kathleen Chantrey, AV Information Desk Assistant

Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021)

by Legendary Entertainment

As a huge fan of Godzilla, I really enjoyed the sequel Godzilla vs. Kong. I was super excited to see two major franchises come together for an epic showdown. The special effects and visuals were amazingly well done! — Dina Ragano, AV Librarian 

Book River Items

Jungle Cruise (2021)

by Walt Disney Pictures

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was busy in 2021! This movie takes me back to when I visited Magic Kingdom as a kid and rode the Jungle Cruise ride. This movie has everything from adventure, comedy, a little romance and a lot of unexpected plot twists! The Rock and Emily Blunt have amazing chemistry and make the perfect pair to go on a crazy journey together. — Dina Ragano, AV Librarian

Matrix (2021)

by Lauren Groff

Loosely based on the real 12th-century poet Marie de France, this tightly crafted novel takes place in a self-sufficient abbey of nuns during the reign of Eleanor of Aquitane. Though the setting is ancient history, the themes of female ambition, power and creativity feel current and exciting. — Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Director

Crying in H Mart : a Memoir (2021)

by Michelle Zauner

This memoir from the Korean-American founder of the band Japanese Breakfast will have you feeling all of the feels. Zauner's heartbreaking story of losing her mother to cancer is also a journey of connecting with her cultural heritage through food, and finding herself as musical artist. If you enjoy memoirs, sad though they may be, this is a gem. — Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Director

Fuzz : when Nature Breaks the Law (2021)

by Mary Roach

Take a deep dive into the world of animal and nature crimes and the people who investigate and work to stop them. Roach, the queen of deep dives into fun and unusual topics, tours the world exploring thieving bears, vandal gulls, killer trees and the like. A great book for nature lovers or readers of nonfiction that is both entertaining and educational. — Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Director

Cloud Cuckoo Land (2021)

by Anthony Doerr

A love story to books and storytelling by a master storyteller. This epic, magical novel spans from 15th century Constantinople to the year 2146 and is both a thrilling page turner and a beautiful ode to the power of the written word through time. — Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Director

Seek You : a Journey Through American Loneliness (2021)

by Kristen Radtke

This beautifully drawn and expertly researched graphic novel explores the ideas of loneliness, isolation and solitude throughout history and their root causes and consequences in today's world. Anyone who reads this graphic novel will recognize themselves somewhere in the pages of this brutally honest and strangely comforting book. Some of the book's powerful takeaways include loneliness as a universal human emotion and that we all need each other to make it in this world. — Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Director

Winter in Sokcho (2021)

by Élisa Shua Dusapin

Newly translated from the French, Dusapin's atmospheric debut novel follows a 24-year-old French Korean woman working as a receptionist in a guesthouse on the border of North and South Korea who is intrigued by the arrival of a mysterious middle-aged Frenchman named Yan Kerrand during the off-season, in the midst of the winter slump. Captivating characters, quietly powerful descriptions, and exquisite writing make this a slim volume a debut not to be missed. — Magan Szwarek, Reference Services Director

I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness (2021)

by Claire Vaye Watkins

Reckless, fearless, ferociously funny and unflinchingly honest, Watkins' quasi-autobiographical novel dives deep into her narrator's quest for the source of her unprocessed grief. As she avoids returning to her infant daughter and husband after a short work trip, Watkins dives headfirst into hedonism with a collection of her old friends as she reflects on those who are missing from her life (Manson family member father, opiate-addicted mother) in an attempt to find authenticity. — Magan Szwarek, Reference Services Director

We Could Be Heroes (2021)

by Mike Chen

Jamie Sorenson has superpowers. As the Mind Robber, he has been robbing banks and saving the money to get away from San Delgado and its new hero, the Throwing Star. As the Throwing Star, Zoe Wong figures at least she can pound on some bad guys while she tries to figure herself out. These two enemies have one thing in common: neither of them have any memories from before two years ago. Chen's fast-paced, solid writing wraps hard topics with heartfelt and humorous prose, creating a delightful novel of the steps and missteps of power, friendship and trust. — Magan Szwarek, Reference Services Director

A Little Devil in America : Notes in Praise of Black Performance (2021)

by Hanif Abdurraqib

Broken into five “movements” consisting of essays, fragments and prose poems, Abdurraqib weaves cultural analyses with personal stories as he chronicles Black performance in  American culture. Filled with nuance and lyricism, Abdurraqib’s luminous survey is stunning. — Magan Szwarek, Reference Services Director

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet (2021)

by Laekan Zea Kemp

This young adult contemporary novel is not to be missed. Not only will the vivid descriptions of food make you hungry, but the lovely characters will pull on your heartstrings. I loved this book and I can’t wait to see what the author writes next. — Magan Szwarek, Reference Services Director