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These are the best books of 2021 according to the New York Public Library

Librarians combed through thousands of tomes to come up with the very best picks.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

A nearly century-long tradition continues: the New York Public Library just released its annual list of the best books of the year—a selection that makes for some pretty awesome holiday gifts, of course.

A committee of expert librarians from all branches of the system combed through this year's latest titles and selected nearly 300 tomes that span genres, format and age groups. 

"This year, the committees evaluated thousands of books to choose the top titles," reads an official press release about the news. "The children's committee, as an example, read 1,665 titles by itself. Criteria included literary merit, audience appeal and whether titles are representative of the diversity of New York City." 

The full list of best books can be found here, broken down by genre. All library branches will carry the titles closer to the beginning of 2022.

Among the year's standouts in the adult category are Hell of a Book: A Novel by Jason Mott, which explores racial themes on a sometimes satirical note; The Rock Eaters: Stories, Brenda Peynado's debut collection of short stories; and Shadow Life, a graphic novel by Hiromi Goto.

In the children's category, the librarians selected, among other titles, Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson, a picture book about a long subway ride; Living with Viola by Rosena Fung, about a girl coping with anxiety; and Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens, a coming-of-age story about a young girl and avid photographer.

This is only a selection of the library system's recommendations. The staff advises on top reads on a more regular basis throughout the year. You can always consult those suggestions on this website.

Below, we highlight the top ten picks in some of the categories in alphabetical order—namely, best books for adults, best children's books and best poetry books for adults. While we're at it, here is our list of very best bookstores around town.

Happy reading, New Yorkers!

Books for Adults
  • Act Your Age, Eve Brown: A Novel by Talia Hibbert 

  • All Her Little Secrets: A Novel by Wanda M. Morris 

  • The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories by Mariana Enriquez, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell

  • Hell of a Book: A Novel by Jason Mott 

  • How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith 

  • Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki 

  • Mama Phife Represents: A Verse Memoir by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor 

  • The Rock Eaters: Stories by Brenda Peynado 

  • Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto 

  • She Who Became the Sun: A Novel by Shelley Parker-Chan 

Children's Books 
  • Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens

  • Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui

  • The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Gracey Zhang

  • Living with Viola by Rosena Fung

  • The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron

  • Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

  • Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Qin Leng

  • Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Raúl the Third

  • Welcome to Your Period! by Yumi Stynes and Dr. Melissa Kang, illustrated by Jenny Latham

  • The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom by Lita Judge

Poetry Books for Adults
  • Doppelgangbanger: Poems by Cortney Lamar Charleston 

  • Extremely Lightweight Guns: Poems by Nikki Moustaki

  • frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss

  • If God Is a Virus: Poems by Seema Yasmin

  • Mama Phife Represents: A Verse Memoir by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor 

  • Oh You Robot Saints! by Rebecca Morgan Frank

  • The Perseverance: Poems by Raymond Antrobus

  • Popular Longing by Natalie Shapero

  • Transversal: Poems by Urayoán Noel

  • What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. Bailey

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