Too often it can seem like literary coverage is dominated by scandal, that people don’t want to read books as much as they want to read about writers doing bad things. Whether it’s the parade of former Trump administration officials inking lucrative publishing deals (and then some of those deals being canceled) or a highly anticipated biography being pulled from the shelves after its author’s predatory past comes to light, the first half of 2021 has done nothing to diminish this perception. But (and here’s where we say that the “real” readers are always there reading, appreciating books, loving books, having meaningful conversations about books, etc.) that’s why we’re glad to call attention to the writing itself in our mid-year favorites. As with any such list, these 10 books are as eclectic as our individual tastes. A pair of novels in translation make an appearance here, as do nonfiction and poetry collections that have flown under the radar, and a couple books that don’t come out until later this month (we simply could not wait). And while many of these works focus on what you might call timely subjects like climate change, social media, and birding while Black, all of these books are urgent to us.
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