I’d like to share my ten favorite books that I read in 2021. I rarely catch books in the year when they’re released; I hope you enjoy this chance to support an author’s earlier titles.
- There There by Tommy Orange, 2018. From the blurb: “A wondrous and shattering novel that follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize.” It is sad, but as someone who struggles with sad stories currently, I found the beauty of the story uplifting.
- Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, 2002. “With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis.” I bought this used ages ago, and am delighted to present it as evidence to my family that I do in fact get to the unread books that I’ve had for years.
- The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang, 2016. “Meet the Wangs, the unforgettable immigrant family whose spectacular fall from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings them together in a way money never could.”
- A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers, 2021. “One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot.” A peaceful, gentle book, well-fitted to our times.
- Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, 2020. “After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis finds himself launched into a wider world than he’s ever known, discovering not only the secret history of Chinatown, but the buried legacy of his own family.”
- Tribe by Sebastian Junger, 2016. “We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–‘tribes.’ This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.” This book made a huge difference in the ways I consider the meaning of community as I drafted my current WIP.
- Lanny by Max Porter, 2019. “Dead Papa Toothwort, a mythical figure local schoolchildren used to draw as green and leafy, …is listening to this twenty-first-century village, to its symphony of talk: drunken confessions, gossip traded on the street corner, fretful conversations in living rooms. He is listening, intently, for a mischievous, ethereal boy whose parents have recently made the village their home. Lanny.” Haunting and imaginative, this book uses text itself in bold ways.
- The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley, 2018. “In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall with an injury that almost cost him his leg. When the India Office recruits him for an expedition to fetch quinine,” he travels to Peru and discovers unexpected mysteries in the high mountains. A shamefully overlooked earlier title from the other of The Kingdoms.
- Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener, 2020. I love memoirs almost as much as I love fiction, and this story of a journey into and away from Silicon Valley should be required reading for anyone hoping to write near-future SF.
- Prosper’s Demon by K. J. Parker, 2020. “In a botched demonic extraction, they say the demon feels it ten times worse than the man. But they don’t die, and we do. Equilibrium.”
I also want to note that while it might happily occupy a place on the very commercial end of the literary spectrum, I had more fun reading the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, starting with Midnight Riot, than anything else this year. A set of paranormal mysteries – urban fantasy meets police procedural – it’s the rare series that improves as it goes.
Thanks for checking out my list. Here’s to more great stories in 2021!