Despite a few “schmeh” moments, it’s been a good year for reading. (When is it not? Because books are best.) I started out the year with Stephen Graham Jones’ remarkable The Only Good Indians and since then have wound my way through everything from poetry to essays, reimaginings of myths to new stories that feel like fairy tales, speculative fiction to unapologetic fantasy.
This year I have been spending more time savoring poetry, which has been a delight. Shout-outs to An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo (birthday gift from Megan – holla!), Pilgrim by David Whyte, and the heart-morphing The Carrying by Ada Limón.
Some of my current favorites have been redoing or building upon stories you’ve heard before. The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow extends the story of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by focusing on the experiences of sidestepped middle sister Mary. The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley brings Beowulf into the contemporary moment in one of the most beautifully written yet compulsively readable things I’ve read ever. Last, expect to hear again about Maggie O’Farrell’s absolutely magnificent Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague at year’s end.
I’ve had fun with speculative fiction, including the eerily ordinary Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam and the surprising The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey. And I’ve really enjoyed leaning into my love for non-traditional fantasy worlds or the sub-genre of “magic in a version of the real world,” including Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Morena-Garcia, the excellent Ring Shout by P. Djèli Clark, and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.
Plus I want to give an “Honorable Mention” to Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I don’t read a ton of contemporary realist fiction but this one was well worth the time. And also Minor Feelings: An Asian America Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong, which pushed me in vital ways and is a truly important, thought-provoking book.
There are longer posts for many of these on the blog as well. What are your favorites so far in the year and/or what should I try to get to in the second half of 2021?
A reminder, a * = I really liked it; a ** = I really, really liked it.
|*1. The Only Good Indians||Stephen Graham Jones||303|
|2. This is My America||Kim Johnson||398|
|*3. Black Sun||Rebecca Roanhorse||464|
|4. Plain Bad Heroines||Emily M. Danforth||623|
|5. Down Among the Sticks and Bones||Seanan McGuire||187|
|**6. Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague||Maggie O’Farrell||305|
|**7. All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions to the Climate Crisis||Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson||419|
|*8. Leave the World Behind||Rumaan Alam||241|
|9. Flora and Ulysses||Kate DiCamillo. Illustrations by K. G. Campbell||231|
|10. Shit, Actually||Lindy West||243|
|11. A Deadly Education||Naomi Novik||320|
|*12. The Other Bennet Sister||Janice E. Hadlow||463|
|**13. An American Sunrise: Poems||Joy Harjo||109|
|*14. So Big||Edna Ferber||140|
|15. Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life||Emily Nagoski, PhD||335|
|**16. The Mere Wife||Maria Dahvana Headley||305|
|*17. The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred||Chanda Prescodd-Weinstein||286|
|18. Beach Read||Emily Henry||358|
|*19. Untamed||Glennon Doyle||328|
|20. The Fourth Island||Sarah Tolmie||109|
|21. The Magicians||Lev Grossman||Audio|
|22. The Beautiful Ones||Silvia Moreno-Garcia||323|
|23. The Glass House||Beatrice Colin||259|
|24. Emily of New Moon||L. M. Montgomery||339|
|25. The Eyes of the Queen: An Agents of the Crown Novel||Oliver Clements||289|
|26. Good Omens, or The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch||Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett||369|
|*27. Ring Shout||P. Djèli Clark||183|
|28. Klara and the Sun||Kazuo Ishiguro||303|
|*29. Pilgrim||David Whyte||95|
|30. Come Tumbling Down||Seanan McGuire||206|
|*31. Such a Fun Age||Kiley Reid||305|
|32. The Blue Castle||L. M. Montgomery||218|
|**33. The Midnight Library||Matt Haig||288|
|**34. The Carrying, Poems||Ada Limón||91|
|35. The Memory Theater||Karin Tidbeck||221|
|36. Fever Dream||Samantha Schweblin||183|
|*37. The Echo Wife||Sarah Gailey||254|
|38. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants||Robin Wall Kimmerer||388|
|39. The Heart: Frida Kahlo in Paris||Marc Petitjean||187|
|*40. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning||Cathy Park Hong||206|
|41. The Empress of Salt and Fortune||Nghi Vo||121|
|42. Transcendent Kingdom||Yaa Gyasi||264|