Best of the Best: 2021 Edition

2021 is at a close, and the Iowa City Public Library Staff reflected on some of the literary highlights of the year, voting for new favorites in a variety of genres. Coincidentally, 125 different titles were submitted as we celebrate the Library’s 125th Anniversary! Each genre had at least one stand out title, the Best of 2021. Browse that list of winners below, or view the entire list of 125 titles here.





The genius under the table book cover


The Genius Under the Table by Eugene Yelchin


Drama, family secrets, and a KGB spy in his own kitchen! How will Yevgeny ever fulfill his parents' dream that he become a national hero when he doesn't even have his own room? With equal amounts charm and solemnity, award-winning author and artist Eugene Yelchin recounts in hilarious detail his childhood in Cold War Russia as a young boy desperate to understand his place in his family.

Graphic Novels (all ages)



It’s a tie!


Seek You by Kristen Radtke


In Seek You, Radtke uses an image of her father sending signals out on his ham radio as her jumping off point into a piercing exploration of loneliness and the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another.


Big Apple Diaries by Alyssa Bermudez


In Big Apple Diaries, a heartfelt diary-style graphic memoir by Alyssa Bermudez, a young New Yorker doodles her way through middle school--until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack leaves her wondering if she can ever be a kid again. 

Young Adult


We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal


In a world inspired by ancient Arabia, seventeen-year-old Zafira and the sultan’s son Nasir continue their quest to uncover a lost magic artifact and discover that the prize they seek may be even more dangerous than any of their enemies.




Razorblade Tears by S.A Cosby


A black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance. Provocative and fast-paced, S.A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

Science-Fiction / Fantasy


Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir


The sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission to save both humanity and the earth, Ryland Grace is hurtled into the depths of space when he must conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.


Act your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert


Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding, her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself. Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner is on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell.


Biography / Memoir

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner


From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean-American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.


A World Without Email


A World Without Email by Cal Newport


Outlines recommendations for business leaders on how to maximize a working team’s professional productivity by improving administrative support and streamlining digital traffic.




Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro


In this luminous tale, Klara and the Sun, Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?


What about the Best of the Best, you ask? Tied, with the highest number of staff votes, we have “Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro and “Act Your Age, Eve Brown” by Talia Hibbert.

With all of these great ideas for your next read, don’t forget to sign up for the Winter Reading Program (running until February 12, 2022)!


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