Photo: Jonathan Blanc / NYPL

Expert librarians and staff from across the NYPL system evaluated thousands of titles to determine this year’s best, recommending nearly 300 books across all age groups and multiple genres

The nearly century-long tradition of NYPL librarians choosing the best books of the year acknowledges important, impactful writing and connects New Yorkers with books that spark a true love of reading . . . and helps with holiday shopping! ‘There is something on this list for everyone,’ said Lynn Lobash, head of NYPL Reader Services

The New York Public Library has unveiled its Best Books of 2021, a selection of nearly 300 recommended titles across all age groups, genres and formats. The books were all published in 2021, and were selected by committees of dedicated, expert librarians from across the NYPL system (which serves the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island).

The longstanding tradition of NYPL staff members choosing the year’s best books is nearly 100 years old, and gives the Library an opportunity to highlight new, inspiring titles and connect New Yorkers with books that spark excitement, curiosity, and a love of reading. This year, the committees evaluated thousands of books to choose the top titles; 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.

All of the recommended titles can be viewed at nypl.org/bestbooks. All can be checked out for free (and, as of this year, with no late fines) from any NYPL location.

Categories of book recommendations this year include:

  • Best Books for Kids, (100 titles)
  • Mejores libros para pequeños (Best Books for Kids in Spanish) (45 titles)
  • Best Books for Teens (50 titles)
  • Best Books for Adults (100 titles)

Books cut across a wide range of genres, from picture books, young readers, chapter books, graphic novels, biographies, and more. They were selected by nine committees that each focused on a different age group, genre or format. kids, teens, Spanish-language kids, and books for adults in the categories of literature/non-fiction; comics; horror; mystery, science & thrillers; poetry; and romance.

“At the heart of the Library’s mission is encouraging and supporting a true love of reading in all New Yorkers; a critical part of that mission is using our expertise to recommend books we believe will capture imaginations, keep people turning pages, and spark a love of reading that lasts a lifetime,” said Lynn Lobash, the Library’s associate director of Reader Services who led the committee that evaluated adult literature and non-fiction. “The incredible, century-old tradition of naming the year’s best books gives everyone a place to start or continue their reading journey. There is something on this list for everyone. So whether it’s to support a resolution to read more in 2022, or to figure out holiday gifts or stocking stuffers, or to grab a book to read on a trip this holiday season, or just to find something new to read, we know this list will be helpful, and our gift to New Yorkers.”

The full list of titles (as well as the list of committee chairs) is available at nypl.org/bestbooks, and printed copies will be available in NYPL branches in early 2022. A list of all the best books is also available here.

A list of the top 10 books in each category (in alphabetical order) are below; for regular reading recommendations all year long, visit your local branch, check out nypl.org/recommends, listen to the NYPL podcast The Librarian Is In, or get a personalized bundle of recommended books based on your interests via Shelf Help.

Children’s Books

  • Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens
  • Barakah Beatsby Maleeha Siddiqui
  • The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Gracey Zhang
  • Living with Viola by Rosena Fung
  • The Magical Imperfectby 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

Mejores libros para pequeños/Best Books for Kids in Spanish

  • Érase una vez y mucho más será by Johanna Schaible
  • Escucha mi voz / Hear My Voice compiled by Warren Binford for Project Amplify
  • Lucero by Yuyi Morales, translated by Eida Del Risco
  • ¡Mambo mucho mambo! El baile que atravesó la barrera del colorby Dean Robbins, translated by Georgina Lázaro, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
  • Mis dos pueblos fronterizos by David Bowles, illustrated by Erika Meza
  • Nuncaseolvida (Neverforgotten)by Alejandra Algorta, translated by Aida Salazar, illustrated by Iván Rickenmann
  • Un pájaro en casa by Blanca Gómez
  • La selva de Zonia by Juana Martinez-Neal
  • Sunakay by Meritxell Martí, illustrated by Xavier Salomó
  • Tancho by Luciano Lozano

Teen Books

  • Boys Run the Riot, Vol. 1 by Keito Gaku
  • Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard
  • How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
  • Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
  • Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan
  • Nubia: Real Oneby L.L. McKinney, illustrated by Robyn Smith
  • Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi
  • Punching Bag by Rex Ogle
  • The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon

Books for Adults

  • Act Your Age, Eve Brown: A Novelby 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 Americaby 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

About The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming, and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves nearly 17 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.