Are you trying to cozy up with some good books as the weather gets cooler and we welcome in 2022? Are you looking for some compelling new reads with strong female protagonists and thought-provoking themes over the holiday season? Look no further. Here’s a round-up of BUST’s best 2021 page-turners. We’ve got everything from memoirs on grief to graphic novels to queer love stories. Check them out!
Grammy nominated musician, Michelle Zauner, also known by her stage name, Japanese Breakfast, beautifully weaves her experience of losing her mother to cancer and exploring the Korean half of her identity in her best-selling memoir of 2021. The Korean-American artist created another stunning piece of art along with her album, “Jubilee” this year. She tells her raw story of grief and identity by intimately detailing her mother’s decline and her Korean recipes.
Misfits: A Personal Manifesto - Emmy-award winning screenwriter, actor and producer Michaela Coel of ‘I May Destroy You’, writes powerfully about her experiences with racism and sexual assault in her new memoir. Her TV show, ‘I May Destroy You’, was a 12-episode sexual assault drama. In Misfits, Coel gives her unique perspective as a black woman on the racism and misogyny in the world of TV. The core of the book is a speech she gave at the 43rd MacTaggart Lecture. She was only the fifth woman to take the podium and the first person of color. At just 102 pages, her words can be read in an afternoon.
The Natural Mother of The Child - In the crowded space of memoirs about motherhood, Krys Malcolm Belc tackles the specific challenges of nonbinary parenthood in his new memoir. His book begins with his experience as a pregnant transmasculine person. Throughout the memoir, he begs us to ask questions about the highly gendered ways in which we think about parenthood. According to our reviewer, the book is “an absorbing book that challenges preconceived notions about what it means to be transgender and what it means to be a parent.”
When Women Invented Television – New York Times’ bestselling author, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong brings us another spectacular book that sheds light on the lost history of female television writers such as The Golden Girls’ Betty White and Soap Opera writer, Irna Phillips. Her research and book focus on four ambitious women who shaped television to this day.
The Barbizon – Historian Paulina Bren takes readers into the women-only residential hotel, The Barbizon in New York City. The Barbizon offered a safe place for young women who were new to the city to live. Bren’s work centers around place, but offers thought-provoking analysis on women's’ rights, class, and sexuality. The Barbizon hosted countless female icons from Sylvia Plath to Joan Didion. Bren lets us into the private rooms of these women in her new book.
This is how I Disappear - The French illustrator, Mirion Malle, depicts a portrait of all-consuming depression, trauma, and healing in her new graphic novel, This is how I Disappear. Her protagonist, Clara, is a young artist whose life seems to be coming together. She has a steady job and is about to publish a book, but on the inside she is unravelling. She struggles with depressive tendencies and suicidal thoughts. Malle is able to translate the deep agony of her protagonist onto the page through her gorgeous black and white drawings.
M.O.M.: Mother of Madness - In this brilliant first comic book in a new comic trilogy, ‘Game of Thrones’ actor Emilia Clarke and company create a magical world of powerful characters and emotions where the protagonist, Maya, gets superpowers from her period. Maya is a young single mother whose powers shine through when she allows herself to feel emotion. She must navigate through motherhood and a misogynistic office culture with these powers on hand.
The Other Black Girl - In this eye-opening novel, former editorial assistant at Knopf Zakiya Dalila Harris catapults readers into the racist world of the publishing industry. The book is a genre-bending “slow-burning thriller” that follows the protagonist, Nella Rogers, in a fictional publishing house full of micro aggressions and gaslighting.
Build Your House Around My Body - Writer Violet Kupersmith covers decades of Vietnamese history in her sweeping debut novel, Build Your House Around My Body. She tells the story of Winnie, a young American woman who disappears while abroad in Vietnam. This novel is a whirlwind of emotions, masterfully depicting everything from rage to fear to loneliness to loss.
One Last Stop - Queer love is put on display in Casey McQuinston’s romance novel, One Last Stop. August, the protagonist, meets Jane. But August soon learns that Jane is displaced from the 1970s and it is up to her to figure out how Jane got stuck time traveling. The adventure ensues over the back-drop of love.
Photo of Michaela Coel by Jeaneen Lund
Photo of Emilia Clark from Youtube