Akil's Top 10 of 2021!

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The Every: A novel By Dave Eggers Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9780593315347
Availability: Comes From Our Warehouse - Usually Ships in 3-10 Days
Published: Vintage - November 16th, 2021

The Every takes place in the near future, where an e-tailer formerly named after a South American rainforest (you can extrapolate) has merged with a social media company and formed a proprietary online ecosystem called The Every that has access to every piece of personal data imaginable -- and is using it both to exercise control over individuals and make the world less interesting and more normative by prioritizing the market over humanity. Delaney, the protagonist, starts the book by joining The Every with the intention of destroying it from the inside by feeding it ideas that surely, people will find overly invasive and worth rebelling against. But it doesn’t happen no matter how hard she tries- raising questions about how far gone the human animal is to the technosphere, and if there’s at all a world in which the book’s dystopia doesn’t become the reader’s reality in a few short years. It’s incisive, darkly funny, and absolutely necessary reading today, in my opinion. My book of the year! PS: Eggers has ensured that the hardcover of this book will forever be an indie exclusive, with many unique cover designs - Which is awesome!


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Crying in H Mart: A Memoir By Michelle Zauner Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780525657743
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - April 20th, 2021

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Tell Me How to Be: A Novel By Neel Patel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9781250184979
Availability: Comes From Our Warehouse - Usually Ships in 3-10 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - December 7th, 2021

This book absolutely wrecked me. It alternates perspectives between a 28-year old closeted Indian American man and his mother, both of whom harbor past secret romances that eat away at them throughout the novel. They and Biju, the family's other son, are estranged, but come back together for a ceremony marking one year since the patriarch's death. It's a really raw and real portrayal of Indian Americanness, featuring family secrets, unexplainable comfort found in hip-hop and R&B, and reappraisal of the model minority myth. Easily the best Indian American fiction I've read in a while!


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Bubble By Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan, Tony Cliff (Illustrator), Natalie Riess (Contributions by) Cover Image
By Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan, Tony Cliff (Illustrator), Natalie Riess (Contributions by)
$19.99
ISBN: 9781250245564
Availability: Comes From Our Warehouse - Usually Ships in 3-10 Days
Published: First Second - July 13th, 2021

Oh my goodness, I've been waiting for something like this and I didn't even know it. I'm not familiar with the podcast on which this graphic novel is based, but based on how much I loved it, maybe I should start listening! The authors playfully skewer some aspects of millennial culture (including one of my favorite things I've seen in print recently, the phrase "a little cultsch appropes,"), but their real bite is reserved for the gig-ification of modern industries and commercialized "grind," and every critique is on point - and that's even before we get to the delightful worldbuilding and the ever-present fun that is monster hunting. If you like your fantasy with a little whimsy and timely, laugh-out-loud humor, this is absolutely for you!


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The Big Reveal By Jen Larsen Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781250252173
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) - December 7th, 2021

This book deserves far more than my allotted text for this review - I could spend several pages, probably, talking about all the ways that this book is so gosh-dang good. Addie is a fat dancer, and proud of it - not letting her peers or anybody else allow her to feel shame or inferiority because of her body. She has a group of truly excellent friends, who throughout the book are self-affirming, endlessly supportive for each other, and outright hilarious - I wish I'd had anything close to these friends when I was in high school - scratch that, I wish I had these friends *now.* Together, they hatch a plan to financially support Addie's potential post-graduation job with a dance company in Milan that involves an underground burlesque show, and through it, Addie discovers the self-affirming and body-positive power of burlesque, which she and her friends had previously cast aside as creative stripping. But she also has, and does, stand up to misogyny, slut-shaming, and fatphobia from her peers and superiors, and Larsen is truly excellent at illustrating exactly how internalized bigotry can hurt you even when you think you love who you are, just because we live in a world where anything that isn't the default is constantly assumed to be aberrant. The best YA I've read all year!!


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Brickmakers: A Novel By Selva Almada Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781644450697
Availability: Comes From Our Warehouse - Usually Ships in 3-10 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - November 2nd, 2021

Told in media res and semi-chronologically from constantly shifting perspectives, Brickmakers asks the reader to piece together how we've gotten to where the book starts us out, with two young men laying on the ground, slowly dying. Over the course of just 180 pages, Selva Almada builds a small world centered on their fathers, both brickmakers who hate each other, and their families. Oscar Tamai's son Pajaro is so much like him the two hate each other, while Elvio Miranda's son Marciano loved his father deeply and still can't seem to process his recent death. Their stories and histories are told as we slowly piece together what has happened to lead to Pajaro and Marciano dying at the beginning of the book, and what combination of family trauma, doomed machismo, and traditional pride has led to such a tragic end. It's incredibly well written and emotionally powerful, coming to conclusions about toxic masculinity and the undue pressure that poverty puts on children that aren't necessarily new but certainly feel a lot realer after reading. I do have to shout out Annie McDermott's translation work here, which takes a work written in Spanish and makes it incredibly readable for a non-Spanish-speaking English reader without sacrificing a sense of the book's Latin American setting.


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The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World By Dave Zirin Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9781620976753
Availability: Comes From Our Warehouse - Usually Ships in 3-10 Days
Published: New Press - September 14th, 2021

Dave Zirin pulls off a masterful piece of journalism in this book, always letting these courageous young men and women's stories, words, and calls to action take center stage without judgement or editorialism. Throughout these expertly collected testimonials, Zirin educates the reader on the intertwined histories of sports activism and US structural racism. The accounts of young athletes following the lead of Colin Kaepernick's famous national anthem protest range from harrowing and angering to heartwarming, but are always inspiring and educational. For anybody with even a passing interest in the world of sport and how it's been changing in the wake of renewed Black Lives Matter activism, this is a must-read!


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Light From Uncommon Stars By Ryka Aoki Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9781250789068
Availability: Comes From Our Warehouse - Usually Ships in 3-10 Days
Published: Tor Books - September 28th, 2021

I loved this so much! Katrina Nguyen is a young trans girl who runs away from unaccepting parents with nothing but her violin, and Shizuka Satomi is a violinist who's made a deal with the devil that requires she sacrifice the souls of her students in exchange for her own immortality. When they meet, they challenge and support each other in novel and ever-changing ways, and it's just engrossing to experience. There are also lesbian aliens. Aoki's a gifted writer and bars no holds about Katrina's life as an Asian trans person whose family doesn't accept her and who only sometimes passes in public, which I think is poignant and necessary reading. Even still, she spins an ultimately joyful, exhilirating tale that I couldn't put down.


The Heart Principle By Helen Hoang Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780451490841
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Berkley - August 31st, 2021

Helen Hoang just does romance right. I loved The Kiss Quotient, and this book, which takes place in the same universe, is just about as good. I'm a big fan of how Hoang spotlights women with ASD in her recent work, making sure to note how easily the condition gets overlooked in women because of social pressures to hide any self-serving behavior. Her characters are extremely likeable and understandable and she really understands relationship dynamics of all kinds - family drama, family without drama, self-discovery, romantic, and sibling interactions. This book's also an ode to care workers and how overworked they've been through the past almost two years, which I deeply appreciated. The romance is sexy and constantly emphasizes the importance of consent, just as in her previous work, and despite dealing with some heavy themes, the book is breezy and goes by in an instant. If you're into romance at all, or even hesitant, I don't think there's a better starting point than Hoang's work!


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Whereabouts: A novel By Jhumpa Lahiri Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780593318317
Availability: Comes From Our Warehouse - Usually Ships in 3-10 Days
Published: Knopf - April 27th, 2021

Jhumpa Lahiri is probably my favorite living author of fiction and somebody who had a formative effect on me as a maturing reader - reading Interpreter of Maladies as a freshman in college changed my life! Whereabouts is Lahiri's first work of fiction since she moved to Italy and began writing in Italian as her primary language (the book was first published as Dove Mi Trovo, or "Where I find Myself"), and isn't quite like anything she's written before - in a good way! In a series of connected vignettes - mostly about nothing in particular - that take place over the course of a year, Lahiri's unnamed protagonist wanders her home city contemplating her solitary life and those of the nearly-always-connected people around her, acquaintances and strangers alike. Lahiri's prose is arresting in its sparseness; not a single word feels superfluous or unnecessary as the protagonist progresses through emotional highs and lows, contemplates her past and alternate lives she could have lived, and finally arrives at a somewhat surprising, yet completely earned conclusion. Highly recommend this book for fans of Otessa Moshfegh and Lahiri's previous work!