One thing I can say for #stayinghome, it’s been good for reading. It’s the weekends, in particular, that have opened up with stretches of time not spent hanging out with friends or doing grocery shopping or going to the movies. I miss those activities. I long for a return to certain aspects of “normal” (while I also dread others). But I’ve also discovered during this time that I fear two kinds of scarcity: food and books. I have been fortunate to still be able to access an abundance of both and for that I am deeply grateful.
I have read a lot of really great books this year so far, so many that it would be foolhardy to try to mention them all here and I can foresee a challenge in narrowing my end-of-year list to select my top picks. So for now I’ll simply call out some gut instinct favorites (in no particular order):
- While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in the Time of Climate Change by M. Jackson. In this memoir, Jackson wrestles with twinned griefs—the deaths of both her parents within a year of each other and the devastation already being wrought by the climate crisis. It’s a beautiful book.
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. The first young readers fairy tale I’ve read in a long time where I didn’t have a sense of exactly where it was going.
- Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir. I’ve recommended this to a few people who found it wasn’t their cup of tea. And that’s fine. But still. Lesbian. Necromancers. IN SPAAAACE!
- The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. If you’re able to stomach a more literary pandemic, this book about a plague of sleep that envelops a college town is well worth your time.
- Here For It, or How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thompson. I laughed, I cried, I grew. A lovely memoir-in-essays.
- Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. I’m still trying to figure out how Wilson managed to write something so funny and also so subtly profound. A magic trick of a book.
- The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. This book messed me up—in a worthwhile way.
- In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. The form and style of this memoir, Machado’s attempt to represent and understand her abusive lesbian relationship, results in the kind of book that makes me want to write. I can think of few higher compliments.
- The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery. I loved this stand-alone romance as a kid. I delighted in being back in this world as an adult.
- The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin. The best thing I can say about Jemisin is that she’s the pre-eminent fantasy writer of our present moment. The second best thing I can say about her is that she writes fast and thank the gods because I really want to get my hands on book two.
The list below includes title, author, page count, and if the book was re-read or not. A * indicates that I like and recommend the book. A ** star means I really, really liked it and think it’s truly great. Several of these books have longer posts on the site as well.
|*1. The Ten Thousand Doors of January||Alix E. Harrow||371||No|
|*2. While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change||M. Jackson||218||uNo|
|*3. The Girl Who Drank the Moon||Kelly Barnhill||386||No|
|4. What We’re Fighting For Now is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice||Wen Stephenson||220||No|
|5. Magic for Liars||Sarah Gailey||333||No|
|*6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane||Neil Gaiman||178||Yes|
|*7. The Yellow House||Sarah Broom||376||No|
|8. The Deep||Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes||166||No|
|9. The Witches are Coming||Lindy West||259||No|
|10. The Secret Lives of Glaciers||M. Jackson||236||No|
|*11. Gideon the Ninth||Tamsyn Muir||444||No|
|*12. Rebecca||Daphne de Maurier||403||No|
|13. Winnie-the-Pooh||A. A. Milne, w/ illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard||161||No|
|*14. The Dreamers||Karen Thompson Walker||299||No|
|*15. Till We Have Faces||C. S. Lewis||309||No|
|*16. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead||Olga Karczuk, Trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones||274||No|
|*17. The Return of the Soldier||Rebecca West||90||Yes|
|18. The Woman Destroyed||Simone de Beauvoir||254||No|
|*19. The Book of Delights||Ross Gay||271||No|
|*20. The Bear and the Nightingale||Katherine Arden||312||No|
|*21. The Mirror and the Light||Hilary Mantel||757||No|
|*22. Here For It, or How to Save Your Soul in America||R. Eric Thomas||257||No|
|*23. The City We Became||N.K. Jemisin||434||No|
|*24. Just Kids||Patti Smith||290||Yes|
|*25. The Passion||Jeanette Winterson||160||Yes|
|*26. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy||Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone||238||No|
|27. The Girl in the Tower||Katherine Arden||346||No|
|28. The Glass Hotel||Emily St. John Mandel||301||No|
|*29. The Winter of the Witch||Katherine Arden||358||No|
|30. Rose Madder||Stephen King||420||Yes|
|31. The Crying Book||Heather Christie||171||No|
|*32. The Blue Castle||L. M. Montgomery||218||Yes|
|*33. The Mermaid the Witch and the Sea||Maggie Tokuda-Hall||357||No|
|*34. In the Dream House||Carmen Maria Machado||242||No|
|**35. The Vanishing Half||Brit Bennett||343||No|
|**36. Circe||Madeline Miller||385||Yes|
|37. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms||N.K. Jemisin||398||No|
|38. Devotion||Dani Shapiro||343||No|
|39. Clade||James Bradley||320||No|
|*40. Nothing to See Here||Kevin Wilson||354||No|
|*41. Orange World and Other Stories||Karen Russell||266||No|
|42. The Mothers||Brit Bennett||275||No|
|*43. The Bone Clocks||David Mitchell||624||No|
|*44. The Song of Achilles||Madeline Miller||369||No|
Anything else on this list you’re interested in learning more about? Thoughts on any of these titles? What are you favorite books this year?