In 2021, SunLit expanded its offerings from award-winning works by Colorado authors to some fresh-from-the-printer offerings that explored the challenges of rural life amid climate change, the complications of racial justice in Denver and the overlooked western chapters of Ernest Hemingway’s life. On top of that, an ongoing project called “50+ Books to Understand the West” revealed a robust, curated – by readers – list of opportunities to learn about our fascinating and many-faceted region.
Along the way, SunLit also published some bonus interviews, including a deep conversation with one of the nation’s most celebrated authors of children’s books – “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” creator Jeff Kinney.
Mixed among those were the usual array of Colorado Book Award and Colorado Authors League finalists and winners of their annual honors. Those volumes spanned all genres and offered terrific reads from both fiction and nonfiction arenas that made it a challenge to produce a best-of list for the year.
But after much deliberation, one version emerged of a top 10 that touches on many of the high points of SunLit’s year in review. Think of them as a jumping off point to explore all of the excerpts and interviews you may have missed from the last 12 months.
By Claire Boyles
The author’s collection of short stories grew out of an experience launching a sustainable farm in the midst of a “climate catastrophe.” The philosophical and political issues come to life as she explores the people making their way in this world, and with her first book Boyles displays a real gift for crafting a compelling story.
SunLit Special: Claire Boyles’ “Site Fidelity” delves into the trials of rural life
SunLit Interview: In “Site Fidelity,” Claire Boyles examines the power of place
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
By Darla Worden
Oct. 31, 2021
The public’s fascination with Hemingway ebbs and flows, but Worden has hit the topic on an uptick and doesn’t disappoint with this look at the writer’s trips to Wyoming.
SunLit Special: “Cockeyed Happy” reveals Hemingway’s Wyoming chapters
SunLit Interview: How a $1 volume of Hemingway’s letters launched Darla Worden’s quest
“Scholars of Mayhem”
By Daniel Guiet
Jan. 30, 2021
Imagine finding clues to your father’s earlier life hidden in a tin box. Then imagine they revealed him to have been a secret agent behind enemy lines. Guiet just had to write about it, and what he found is riveting.
In “Scholars of Mayhem,” a real-life WWII secret agent’s exploits remained hidden for years in a tin box
Daniel Guiet pieced together his father’s clandestine life slowly, from a discovery at age 5
With Jeff Kinney
March 6, 2021
SunLit normally doesn’t touch on children’s books, but what parent hasn’t gotten familiar with the “Wimpy Kid” franchise? Kinney took some time for an exclusive sit-down with us as he prepared for a unique book tour in the COVID era.
The SunLit interview: A conversation with “Wimpy Kid” creator Jeff Kinney
50+ Books to Understand the West
Compiled by Michael Booth
The West is a complicated and nuanced region, and the Sun’s Booth took on the challenge of compiling a list of books that explore, through several genres, that complexity from a variety of perspectives. Readers then added their choices to the collection in a project that remains open-ended. There’s something for everyone here.
Fifty books to understand the West
“The Loneliest Band in France”
By Dylan Fisher
May 8, 2021
The author didn’t just sit down to write a novel – he was playing a game. The object was, among many other things, to write an incredibly long sentence, which in a sense made this the shortest excerpt SunLit has ever published (but not really). The sentence structure may be a gimmicky device, but the thought behind this story is not. The interview with Fisher is a must-read.
“The Loneliest Band in France” takes on a new member to help perform its killer song
SunLit interview: How Dylan Fisher’s fever dream became a game to create the longest sentence
By Julian Rubinstein
July 25, 2021
The nationally acclaimed story of a former gang member seeking to help the place he grew up turned into a many faceted story of race and criminal justice in America. Author Rubinstein, who was living in Brooklyn, felt drawn back to his hometown as the story unfolded, and he produced a deeply reported chronicle of a man and the times.
SunLit Special: “The Holly” tells the story of Terrance Roberts, his Denver neighborhood and much more
SunLit interview: “The Holly” author Julian Rubinstein reflects on the story and its challenges
By Cary Unkelbach
May 22, 2021
Before she wrote this book, the author worked as a reporter, prosecutor and civil litigator. That experience – plus living with a dog abused by the unscrupulous breeder – gave Unkelback the tools and the impetus for a deep dive into the story of a sometimes unsavory industry.
“Heartbreak Kennel” tells a grim tale of abuse, but also the complex story of a breeder who fooled everyone
SunLit interview: Cary Unkelbach’s beloved dog Max spurred her curiosity about his breeder’s bizarre life
By Pemba Sherpa and James McVey
May 29, 2021
The crux of this book is the account of Pemba Sherpa, a man who developed deep roots in two very different worlds and used his experience to become not just a successful Boulder businessman, but also a philanthropist in his native land. Behind that story is another story, of a friendship that led to this collaboration with writer James McVey.
“Bridging Worlds” tells of Pemba Sherpa’s journey from Everest to Boulder, and back
SunLit interview: Pemba Sherpa had a story to tell but little time to write it. Enter James McVey.
By Andrew Altschul
August 15, 2021
This fictional account is based on the true story of Lori Berenson, an American activist convicted of fomenting revolution in Peru. Author Altschul, who spent two years in Peru as a young man and well remembers this episode, touches on several themes, including the impact of even well-meaning Americans who meddle in another country’s affairs.
SunLit Excerpt: Is “The Gringa” an international terrorist, or simply a dupe?
SunLit Interview: Andrew Altschul’s spark for “The Gringa” grew from his years in Peru