‘Consent,’ Crossroads,’ ‘Empire of Pain’: Best books of 2021

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Sarah Sweeney

Two top book critics share their favorite books of 2021, which could make good Christmas gifts for the reader in your life. 

Picks from Laura Miller, books and culture columnist for Slate: 

- “Things I Have Withheld” by Kei Miller. This Jamaican poet’s collection of essays and short stories look into what we don’t say when it comes to race, sex, and gender. 

- “Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radden. This is about how the Sackler family got rich off the prescription opioid OxyContin. 

- “Crossroads” by Jonathan Franzen. This is about a middle class Midwestern family facing a moral crisis in 1971 Chicago. Franzen’s novels are usually full of flawed and complex characters. 

Picks from Parul Sehgal, former book critic for the New York Times and current staff writer for The New Yorker: 

- “Consent” by Vanessa Springora. This created a stir in the literary world when it was published in France last year. It’s a memoir about a teenager’s relationship with a 50-year-old French writer, and speaks about love, consent, trauma and healing.

- “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel. This graphic memoir is about fitness crazes and what it means to improve yourself. 

- “The Copenhagen Trilogy” by Tove Ditlevsen. This three-part memoir has been called a masterpiece by many, including the New York Times. It was originally published as three separate books in 1967 and 1971.