The Best of 2021

By: 
Derek
Friday, January 7, 2022

The second year of the global pandemic was not without its challenges, but 2021 also brought extraordinary recognition of The New Press’s mission of publishing books that promote and enrich public discussion and understanding of the issues vital to our democracy and to a more equitable world. Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose novel Paradise was published in 1994, was awarded the Nobel Prize for LiteratureCritical Race Theory, edited by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas, a seminal collection of essays first published in 1995, served as a key resource this year as CRT became the latest target of the culture wars. Publishers Weekly celebrated New Press publisher Ellen Adler as their 2021 Person of the Year, one of the publishing industry’s highest accolades.

Before we close the book on 2021 and begin celebrating our thirtieth anniversary year, we rounded up the end-of-year superlatives that featured New Press titles, including recommendations from NPR to the New York Times to Civil Eats and more.

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By Christina Conklin and Marina Psaros
This beautiful and engaging guide to global warming’s impacts around the world was included in Bloomberg list of the year’s essential climate change reading, which called the book “a colorful global tour filled with artistic maps and imagined views from a 2050 when many problems have been addressed.” The Atlas of Disappearing Places was also recommended by Yale Climate Connections as “a beautiful work of art and an indispensable resource.”
 
By Mike Konczal
In Freedom from the Market progressive economics writer Mike Konczal redefines the national conversation about American freedom and the unregulated free market. Recommended as summer reading by the Financial Times, Freedom from the Market was named one of the Best Political Economy Books of 2021 by ProMarket.
 
By Dave Zirin
Celebrated sports writer Dave Zirin’s riveting and inspiring first-person stories of how “taking a knee” triggered an awakening in sports, The Kaepernick Effect was featured in round-up reviews in the New York Times Book Review and Cleveland.com, and as a recommended holiday read on NorthJersey.com.
 
Edited by Briona Simone Jones
A groundbreaking collection tracing the history of intellectual thought by Black Lesbian writers, including Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Jewel Gomez and Beverly Smith, Mouths of Rain was included on Ms. magazine’s list of the best books of the year, which described how “this outstanding collection honors the legacy and contributions made by Black lesbian writers throughout the last two centuries.” Mouths of Rain was also included on Literary Hub’s list of the 101 best covers of 2021.
 
By Michelle Alexander
GQ included Michelle Alexander’s landmark book The New Jim Crow on their list of the fifty best books of literary journalism of the twenty-first century. “The book, influential upon first publication, found new and even greater resonance a decade later, when it emerged as a foundational text for readers seeking a deeper understanding of the issues at the center of the Black Lives Matter protests.”
 
By Saru Jayaraman
A powerful examination of how the subminimum wage and the tipping system exploit society’s most vulnerable, Saru Jayaraman’s One Fair Wage was recommended by Civil Eats in their 2021 Food and Farming Holiday Book Gift Guide, which praised how, “Drawing on government data, more than 500 interviews with workers across industries, and more than 10,000 surveys of restaurant workers, Jayaraman builds a critically important and comprehensive case for abolishing the subminimum wage.”
 
By Martin Duberman, with a foreword by Jason Reynolds
Kirkus Reviews named this biography of Paul Robeson (adapted for young adults) by celebrated historian Martin Duberman as one of the Best of 2021. Kirkus calls the book “the definitive biography of 20th-century Renaissance man Robeson,” one of the most important public figures in the twentieth century.
 
By Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Online literary magazine Entropy included Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s novel The Perfect Nine on their list of the Best Fiction Books of 2020–2021. “A verse narrative, blending folklore, mythology, adventure, and allegory, The Perfect Nine chronicles the efforts the Gĩkũyũ founders make to find partners for their ten beautiful daughters—called ‘The Perfect Nine’—and the challenges they set for the 99 suitors who seek their hands in marriage.”
 
By Jocelyn C. Zuckerman
This groundbreaking global investigation into palm oil, the industry ravaging the environment and global health, was recommended by Civil Eats in their 2021 Food and Farming Holiday Book Gift Guide.
 
By Elly Fishman
Journalist Elly Fishman’s Refugee High recounts a year in the life of a Chicago high school that has one of the highest proportions of refugees of any school in the nation. NPR included Refugee High on their Books We Love list, saying “Fishman shows that when a school works to ensure students thrive, even against severe hardship and loss, refugee teens become the best of America’s melting pot.” Refugee High was also featured by The Progressive, the Chicago Reader, and the Seminary Co-op Bookstores on their lists of the best books of 2021.
 
For more book recommendations check out our 2021 Indie Bookstore Gift Guide, because who knows books better than independent booksellers?