Top 10 Titles for One Maryland One Book 2021

January 11, 2021
by Eden Etzel, Maryland Humanities

It is time for us here at the Maryland Center for the Book at Maryland Humanities to reveal the Top 10 books for One Maryland One Book 2021! The theme for this year is “hope” and we have ten strong contenders.

Two of the nonfiction titles are accounts of events that happened in Baltimore. The first, Wes Moore’s Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City, details the days of unrest in the city of Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. Alejandro Danois’s The Boys of Dunbar: The Story of the Greatest High School Basketball Team is also directly related to Baltimore. It chronicles the lives of the boys who came to be on Baltimore’s Dunbar High School’s basketball team in 1981–1982 during the crack epidemic. The team’s devoted coach, Coach Bob Wade, made the boys see a future for themselves, and four of them went on to play in the NBA.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (who hails from Baltimore) are all books that ask the reader to examine the history of institutional racism in the United States, and how it affects our day-to-day lives. In these titles, there is hope for what the future can be for this country when people have difficult conversations, learn more history, and work together to build a more equitable world.

Also in our Top 10 are two outstanding memoirs. Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz tells the author’s story of growing up in a turbulent environment, overcoming familial strife, colonialism, and sexual assault, and finding hope in the version that of herself that she always imagined. The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper, MD, is the account of a Black female emergency room physician. In addition to the book being her own story of self-healing, Harper comes to see how each of us is broken and uses accounts of her patients to show us how we can mend what is broken and heal ourselves.

One genre that we have not seen before as a One Maryland One Book selection is a collection of essays, and that’s what The Book of Delights by Ross Gay is! Gay reflects on the joys of life, such as nature, and tougher issues, such as what it is to be a Black man in America. The book is about the connection we have with the world and each other.

Finally, the last two books in our Top 10 are novels that have both been Oprah’s Book Club picks. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is about a couple that is torn apart when the husband is sentenced to prison for a crime they know he did not commit. Years later, when his conviction is overturned, he’s looking to return to his married life only to realize that his wife may have moved on. It is a look into how people can look for hope in the darkest of times. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is about two families, a Cameroonian couple living in Harlem, and a senior executive at Lehman Brothers and his wife. The financial crisis of 2008 upends all of their lives. The Cameroonian couple, the Jongas, are having their own issues, but must work together to keep their jobs, and their search for hope for the future.

Only one of these titles will be the 2021 One Maryland One Book pick! We hope you consider these titles as you’re looking to add to your to-be-read lists this year. We will announce our pick in March.

20 thoughts on “Top 10 Titles for One Maryland One Book 2021

  1. As a librarian I would love to see the whole list. These all sound good and I know it is hard to select one book for a large audience. (I personally lean toward the essays as there is usually something for everyone in a collection of essays and everyone can participate in the discussion even if they haven’t read all the essays especially if some participants have reading challenges. )

    I would love to suggest for the future His Truth is Marching On by Jon Meacham. (biography of John Lewis)
    Talk about inspiration and hope and especially peace and love, fortitude and grit. This is the book!! The author uses Lewis’ life to share the life of an amazing man (whose beginnings are similar to Morgan
    president, Dr. David Wilson’s). Lewis was part of the whole of the civil rights movement so it gives the audience so much of the different aspects of the movement rather than shining a light just on one group or
    organization. It is not a difficult book to read and it is not real long. And it shows how democracy can work with strong strong leadership. A man we can all look up to both politically and personally and we should all know more about.

    1. Hi Hannah,

      Thank you for your input. We always love to hear from librarians! You’ll have to be sure to put forth “His Truth is Marching On” when the call for titles for One Maryland One Book 2022 goes out later this fall.

  2. My first choice is Stamped by Reynolds and Kendi. My second choice is The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper.

  3. All the nominees sound like worthwhile reads for our community when we need to inspire hope. Thank you for the selections! I vote for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me.

  4. I urge you to select “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” for the OMOB this year. At our high school, a group of teachers and students are engaging in a study of this book. The adults are learning as much as the students. It has provided an excellent basis for giving context to recent events. The deep discussions that we have had have brought us closer together as a school community. Every student should have the opportunity to read this book before they graduate. But they need to be able to read it with their families, neighbors, and friends as well as their classmates. We all need the multiple perspectives and experiences gained from community experiences with the text. With the entire state reading this book, we can have tough, much needed conversations based on a solid understanding of our history.

    1. Hi Polly,

      Thank you for sharing your school’s experience with us! We are glad to hear that everyone is learning and having deep discussions. Our Selection Committee is certainly taking “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” into consideration when choosing the One Maryland One Book. We’ll have to wait and see what they select.

  5. First choice is Stamped as it is relevant and accessible. There is also the local connection with Jason Reynolds being an Oxen Hill High grad. It is accessible from Middle school to adult.

    1. That’s a very good point, Heather! Our Selection Committee weighs a lot of factors when selecting the One Maryland One Book. We’ll have to wait and see what they pick!

  6. I highly recommend Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I read this last year and I truly think it was the best book I read all year.

  7. I would love to see Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi be the OMOB! As a high school teacher in Maryland, we read it as an optional book study with some colleagues in order to help support our students. It was very eye opening for the amount of history I did not know and let me take a hard look at some of my own actions and really analyze where they came from. It would be great to get into the hands of all educators and students to promote an antiracism education.

    1. Hi Helen,

      The One Maryland One Book Selection Committee is definitely taking all of these factors into consideration when selecting the book. That’s great to hear about your school’s book study and how eye-opening the experience was for you. We’ll have to wait and see what the Selection Committee picks for the Top 3!

  8. I strongly vote for “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” for OMOB 2021. There are so many things in this book that unbelievably not taught in all my history classes as a student, and I’m in the 12th grade. Jason Reynolds as a writer also makes the novel easily digestible and very interesting. Stamped also has a way of sticking in your mind and making you think of all the things you didn’t notice or care about and causing you to strongly care about the things discussed in the book. It’s quite the page turner, and is a great book for those who don’t like to read because it keeps you on your toes while also being funny! And this book fits perfectly for theme of hope because even though it steps into some of the most horrible things of our past, its whole existence is to inform and then inspire youth like me to take part in real, long-lasting change in America.

    1. Hi Maryam,

      Each year the One Maryland One Book is chosen by a Selection Committee. They consider a variety of factors when choosing the book. It’s great to hear from readers like yourself who are participants in the program. Thank you for sharing your experience of reading “Stamped” with us!

  9. My vote is for Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. This book has the potential to be a true community read! The original book is a tome that can be intimidating to many readers, but this adaptation makes the content and text accessible to middle school readers through adults. I can see community groups, classrooms, and most importantly families reading this book and discussing it together. A final point I’d like to make in my push to have this selected as the OMOB is that you have the opportunity to really help schools out by getting copies of this book into the hands of our students and teachers. Many high schools have been and are in the process of adding more diverse and relevant selections to their approved list of novels. Even once a book is approved, it takes funding to get enough copies of the actual books for teachers to effectively use those titles in the classroom setting. Having Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi be the OMOB means that schools that participate could really hit the ground running by eliminating the barrier of having to wait for funding to teach the novel. Please pick this book.

    1. Hi Dedra,

      Thank you for sharing your preference with us! The One Maryland One Book is chosen each year by a Selection Committee that weighs a lot of factors when choosing the book. It’s encouraging that young readers can get so much from “Stamped.” We’ll have to see what the Committee chooses for the Top 3!

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