Organizing my favorite books of the year is always a challenging task. How to sort through so many remarkable books, particularly when preferences are so subjective? How to make some sort of sense or cohesion out of such a disparate array of texts? Ultimately, the books that made the final cut are the ones that stuck with me, that my brain kept coming back to, and that I kept recommending to other people to read.
Favorite Reads of 2021
- My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem, a.k.a. Most Practical, Heart-Centered Work for Racial Justice
- Ring Shout by P. Djèli Clark, a.k.a. Best Black Girl Magic, a.k.a. Best Trolling of the KKK, a.k.a. Best Novella
- The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu, Best Haunted Future, with a Library!, a.k.a. Best Fantasy
- Honorable Mention: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
- Redemptor and its sequel, Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko, a.k.a. Best Fantasy to Give to Your Bad Ass Young Person
- All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions to the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson, a.k.a. Most Motivating to Get Involved to Solve the Climate Crisis
- The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in the Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, a.k.a. Most Motivating to Embrace Whatever Comes Next
- Honorable Mention: Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction by Annalee Newitz
- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, a.k.a. Most Horrifying Reckoning with Past Sins
- The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón, a.k.a. Most Heart Exploding Poetry
- The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey, a.k.a. Best Bone-Chilling, Thought-Provoking Your Ex-Husband Clones You Book, a.k.a. Best Sci-Fi
- What Strange Paradise by Omar El-Akkad, a.k.a. Most Heart-Breaking Realist Fairy Tale
- Hamnet, a Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell, a.k.a., Most Impossible to Describe Without Making it Sound Boring and Thus Doing a Disservice to this Remarkable Novel
- The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley, a.k.a. Most Beautiful, Compulsively Readable Re-Telling of Beowulf.
- Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller, a.k.a., Most Likely to Make You Run Up to People and Say, “Read this!”
Last, an Honorable Mention, I suppose. I re-read Parable of the Talents this year. I’m mostly done with Wild Seed, reading along with the Octavia’s Parables podcast on it. Just read Octavia Butler. Do it.
82 books read, 22,300 pages. (More texts, less pages than 2020.) 11 re-reads, 71 first timers.
For the first half of the 2021 list, see this post. For last year’s list, go here.
There are longer posts for many of these books on the blog as well.
One star = I thought it was quite good; Two stars = I thought it was really good.
Zero stars is not a value judgement beyond that, some I liked quite a bit, others not so much.
|*43. Raybearer||Jordan Ifueko||N|
|44. Emily Climbs||L.M. Montgomery||Y|
|*45. The Library of the Dead||T. L. Huchu||N|
|46. The Plot||Jean Hanff Korelitz||N|
|47. A Darker Shade of Magic||V. E. Schwab||N|
|*48. On Immunity: An Inoculation||Eula Biss||N|
|*49. The Marrow Thieves||Cherie Dimaline||N|
|**50. Parable of the Talents||Octavia Butler||Y|
|*51. What Strange Paradise||Omar El Akkad||N|
|**52. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in the Capitalist Ruins||Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing||N|
|53. Shadow and Bone||Leigh Bardugo||N|
|54. Marrow Island||Alexis M. Smith||N|
|*55. Gods of Jade and Shadow||Silvia Moreno-Garcia||Y|
|56. Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology||Jess Zimmerman||N|
|57. The Ordinary Princess||M.M. Kaye||Y|
|58. A Master of Djinn||P. Djèli Clark||N|
|59. Our Riches||Kaouther Adimi. Trans. by Chris Andrews||N|
|60. The Blue Castle||L. M. Montgomery||Y|
|*61. My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauman and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies||Resmaa Menakem||N|
|62. Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age||Annalee Newitz||N|
|63. Redemptor||Jordan Ifueko||N|
|64. My Heart Is A Chainsaw||Stephen Graham Jones||N|
|65. A Wrinkle in Time||L. M. Montgomery||Y|
|*66. Build Your House Around my Body||Violet Kupersmith||N|
|*67. Exhalation: Stories||Ted Chiang||N|
|**68. Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation||adrienne maree brown||Y|
|69. The Future of Another Timeline||Annalee Newitz||N|
|70. The Final Girl Support Group||Grady Hendrix||N|
|*71. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction||Annalee Newitz||N|
|72. Becoming||Michelle Obama||N|
|**73. Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Live, and the Hidden Order of Life||Lulu Miller||N|
|*74. Wintering: The Power of Retreat and Rest in Difficult Times||Katherine May||N|
|75. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain||Nghi Vo||N|
|*76. On Fragile Waves||E. Lily Yu||N|
|77. Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel||Sherril Tippins||N|
|78. Binti||Nnedi Okorafor||N|
|79. Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol||Mallory O’Meara||N|
|80. The Ministry for the Future||Kim Stanley Robinson||N|
|*81. Ninth House||Leigh Bardugo||N|
|*82. Oceanic (poems)||Aimee Nezhukumatathil||N|