2021 Reading – Mid-Year Review

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 IndiansStephen Graham Jones303
2. This is My AmericaKim Johnson398
*3. Black SunRebecca Roanhorse464
4. Plain Bad HeroinesEmily M. Danforth623
5. Down Among the Sticks and BonesSeanan McGuire187
**6. Hamnet: A Novel of the PlagueMaggie O’Farrell305
**7. All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions to the Climate CrisisEdited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson419
*8. Leave the World BehindRumaan Alam241
9. Flora and UlyssesKate DiCamillo. Illustrations by K. G. Campbell231
10. Shit, ActuallyLindy West243
11. A Deadly EducationNaomi Novik320
*12. The Other Bennet SisterJanice E. Hadlow463
**13. An American Sunrise: PoemsJoy Harjo109
*14. So BigEdna Ferber140
15. Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex LifeEmily Nagoski, PhD335
**16. The Mere WifeMaria Dahvana Headley305
*17. The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams DeferredChanda Prescodd-Weinstein286
18. Beach ReadEmily Henry358
*19. UntamedGlennon Doyle328
20. The Fourth IslandSarah Tolmie109
21. The MagiciansLev GrossmanAudio
22. The Beautiful OnesSilvia Moreno-Garcia323
23. The Glass HouseBeatrice Colin259
24. Emily of New MoonL. M. Montgomery339
25. The Eyes of the Queen: An Agents of the Crown NovelOliver Clements289
26. Good Omens, or The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchNeil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett369
*27. Ring ShoutP. Djèli Clark183
28. Klara and the SunKazuo Ishiguro303
*29. PilgrimDavid Whyte95
30. Come Tumbling DownSeanan McGuire206
*31. Such a Fun AgeKiley Reid305
32. The Blue CastleL. M. Montgomery218
**33. The Midnight LibraryMatt Haig288
**34. The Carrying, PoemsAda Limón91
35. The Memory TheaterKarin Tidbeck221
36. Fever DreamSamantha Schweblin183
*37. The Echo WifeSarah Gailey254
38. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of PlantsRobin Wall Kimmerer388
39. The Heart: Frida Kahlo in ParisMarc Petitjean187
*40. Minor Feelings: An Asian American ReckoningCathy Park Hong206
41. The Empress of Salt and FortuneNghi Vo121
42. Transcendent KingdomYaa Gyasi264

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