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I looked over my 2021 books this morning and put together my "best of" list.

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor is set in contemporary Ghana. The main character is the adopted daughter of death.

The Moorchild by Eloise Jarvis McGraw was published in 1996 but reads like it was written much earlier. Moql is a halfling who sets out on a quest to return a human child to its family. To do this she must visit the fae who rejected her.

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley is a book with drugs at its core. Prejudice, drugs, and rape are not just tearing a family apart, they are destroying a community.

Phoenix and Ashes is book 3 of Lackey's Elemental Masters series. The books are only related in setting and the theme of elemental magic; they can be read in any order. This one loosely uses Cinderella as a leaping off point but sets it in London during WW1. Women's sufferage, shell shock, and workers' rights are all themes that she uses in this story. I've probably read 20-30 of her books and this is my favorite.

Elatsoe by Darcy Little Badger is about the magical world that exists along side our normal world. Elatsoe can raise the ghosts of dead animals. This is a Hugo nominee this year in YA SFF. If I voted, it would have been my #1 choice.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson is a book that if I was still teaching I would read it book every year before starting the school year. It goes straight to the heart of teaching.

You'd Be Home Now by Kathleen Glassgow is the story of a family being torn apart by drug addiction and more.

I read four books by P. Djèlí Clark this year and they are amazing. He uses magical realism in early 20th century America and Egypt. Ring Shout is a fantasy alternate history centered around the 1915 movie The Birth of a Nation and the rise of the KKK. The Black God's Drums is a story of a steampunk New Orleans where magic of all kinds is real. A Dead Djinn in Cairo is the story of Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi case to routinely investigate a suicide that turns out not to be either routine or a suicide. And The Master of Djinn adds more to the world of Fatma el-Sha’arawi.

Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley is probably the sweetest book on this list. It is as if the writer of the film Amilé decided to write an offbeat version of the Incredible Journey with a horse, a dog, a rat, a raven, and a pair of mallards as the cast of animal characters touching the lives of several humans on their odyssey.

The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers is the final book in the Wayfarers series. I am going to miss reading more about the characters and civilizations in this series.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chanbers is a novella that is tightly written and thought provoking. It reminded me a book doesn’t need to be a 700 page tome to be totally engrossing, build a world full of fascinating characters, and deal with problems both personal and galactic in scale.
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