Favourite books of 2021

This is always one of my favourite blog posts to write and it took me nearly three weeks into the new year to finally have it up. This does not bode well for my blogging year but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

My reading year went well – quality wise. I only read half as many books as I used to but I got better at picking books I would love rather those I read for hype or fomo reasons, so this was a nice side effect. As a result, I have 10 books to share today; the first threeI rated a high 4.5 stars, the latter seven all got 5 stars. I tried to put them in order of enjoyment but as always this is a snap shot and could have been different on any other day.

10 Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
I am a huge fan of Sally Rooney and this book worked for me the same way all her books work for me. I thought it was structurally brilliant with its introspective email chapters and the more aloof third person chapters alternating and give different lenses through which to understand her characters – and her characters are what shine as usual. I didn’t love this as much as Conversations With Friends but more than Normal People I think and I cannot wait to see what she does next, or rather what variation on her theme she dos next.

09 Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
This broke my heart. Here the whole was better than the sum of its parts but even the weaker essays are great. Febos puts herself and the reader through the ringer and her honesty and special attention to themes and repetitions makes this a perfect fi for me. I will be reading as much of her work as possible.

08 Animal Wife Stories by Lara Ehrlich
The only short story collection to make my list but what a brilliant book it is. It reminded me exactly why I love short story collections. It is weird and extremely well written, with a strong theme of feminism and motherhood and the stories are the exact perfect length each time (varying from the very short to the slightly longer than most short stories).


07 Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
This an impeccable researched and structured deep dive into the Sackler family (of OxyContin “fame) – my main takeaway is, as usual, capitalism is the worst and regulation is indeed not the enemy. I didn’t quite love this as much as Say Nothing by the same author which took the very top spot of my favourite books on 2020 but it is incredible nonetheless. The Sacklers are indeed the worst and I had a running ranking who was the very worst of them (spoiler alert: it’s Richard).

06 White Magic by Elissa Washuta
This is just brilliant but in a way that I find difficult to put into words, again. It’s both a structurally perfect memoir and one that doesn’t pull any punches and I adored it. Washuta disects her own trauma, both immediate and intergenerational, while writing circularly about a relationship disintegrating. It is very introspective in the best possible way and I love how she focusses herself more than anything else.

05 The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
I knew I would enjoy Didion but I loved this even more. The prose is impeccable, the thoughtful use of repetition and returning to earlier themes and ideas is perfect and the emotional punch is harsh – there is a reason she is counted amongst the best stylists. I want to read as many of her books as possible.

04 Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Pretty much all of this worked for me, from the characters to the peculiar prose to the structure; especially the first half was near perfect for me. I do admit that this just hits a lot of my pleasure buttons and I can see where it might not work for other readers but I am glad that many people have taken a chance on this. Ultimately, on a metaphor-level I think this is a book about loneliness and about the structures we impose to deal with it. Clarke is chronically ill and you can tell she knows what she is writing about here. For me, this hit particularly hard given the slowly becoming unbearable pandamic and the intrinsic loneliness of new motherhood. I will treasure this book.

03 Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger
If you pick up any of my non-fiction recommendations from this list, please pick this one. I loved this and I want so many more people to read this. It took Dancyger 10 years to write this book and it shows. It is so good. She achieves a level of reflexivity that is very rare in memoirs and it is structurally so very well done. It also packs an emotional punch while wielding its sentimentality as a weapon and I am just so impressed with this.

02 Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
I have not been able to stop thinking about this book but at the same time I have trouble putting my thoughts and feelins into words. This is brilliant. I knew very little going into this book except that I will read anything Emily St. John Mandel writes and as such the book surprised me again and again. It is losely connected to her most recent two novels, Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, and I love her extended universe so much. She does this better than David Mitchell, whose writing I also adore, and I cannot wait to read whatever comes next. This book is both perfectly structured and compulsively readable, and as always her characterwork is beyond compare. So yes, I loved this.

01 No Gods, No Monster by Cadwell Turnbull
I ADORED this. So much, that I actually wrote a proper review for it. No Gods, No Monsters is literary fiction maquerading as urban fantasy and if there is anything that is my absolute catnip, it is this. The prose is brilliant, the character work perfect, and the structure made me happy. Turnbull does something so very clever with perspective that it made me giddy with joy – I love a clever play on perspective and here it did not only work stylistically but also made perfect sense in-universe.

Wrap Up November 2021

This was a MONTH.

Books I read in November:

I started the month strong with the incredble Animal Wife by Lara Ehrlich (4.5 out of 5 stars) which reminded me exactly why I love short story collections. It is weird and extremely well written, with a strong theme of feminism and motherhood and the stories are the exact perfect length each time (varying from the very short to the slightly longer than most short stories). It did get a bit repetitive but not enough for me to not round the rating up. Then I finished yet another Ilona Andrews book: Sweep With Me (Innkeeper Chronicles #3.5) (4 out of 5 stars) – which I obviously enjoyed. I always love their writing and am slowly making my way through their backlist while I wait for the next books in the two series of theirs I am current with. Afterwards I finished my oldest ARC (let’s just not talk about how long that sat unread on my kindle): Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt (2.5 out of 5 stars). I am conflicted about this because the prose was truly spectacular and I do like the framing device and the way Celt chooses to end her book. I did however not enjoy the pacing at all – it felt a lot longer than the 240 pages it was long and for vast stretches of it I was, indeed, bored. I then finished the absolutely brilliant Abandon Me by Melissa Febos (4.5 out of 5 stars) which broke my heart. Here the whole was better than the sum of its parts and I was right – this is an author whose complete works I want to read. Afterwards, my month went to hell. Which is why I finished a book that was sure to be comforting: Last Guard (Psy-Changeling #20) by Nalini Singh (3.5 out of 5 stars). As always, I enjoyed the worldbuilding and I am excited to see where the series goes next – because I always trust Nalini Singh in her macro plots, but this one didn’t completely work for me. The pacing was off and the central couple not my favourite. The final book I read, I inhaled in a day: The Trouble with Love by Lauren Layne (4 out of 5 stars). This was just what I needed with the perfect mix of funny and angsty. I loved this a whole lot, especially the focus on friendship – I will surely read the rest of this series and the follow up series. I am not often a fan of second chance romances but this worked perfectly because the past storyline never overwhelmed the present storyline (and because what happened in the past was just deliciously angsty without being a dealbreaker – and without them being horrible to each other).

Favourite of the Month:

Animal Wife was not only my favourit book of the month but my favourite short story collection of the year. Really recommended!

Stats(ish):

I somehow finished 6 books, five of which were written by women and one by a husband and wife team. One romance, two speculative romance, one short story collection, one historical fiction and one memoir.

Currently Reading:

Wrap Up October 2021

This did not feel like a bad reading month even though I finished very few books. Mostly because I am in fact reading regularly and I am also reading fantasy again which is making me very happy indeed.

Books I read in October:

The first book I finished in October was an ARC of How High We Go ind the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (4 out of 5 stars). I enjoyed many things about this – it is basically custom-made for me after all. I loved the changing perspectives as we moved further into the future, I loved revisiting people from earlier chapters as side characters in the later chapters, I enjoyed the weirdness Nagamatsu embraced and how unlikable he lets his characters be – but I did not love this book as a whole the way I wanted (and honestly expected) to. Parts are to do with the prose that did not always work for me, parts are definitely the increasingly bleak outlook of the stories. Overall, I found this slightly uneven but in parts genuinely brilliant. The book comes out in January 2022. I then read The Devil You Know (Mercenary Librarians #2) by Kit Rocha (4 out of 5 stars) which gave me exactly what I needed. I cannot wait for the next book in the series because I just love this world and its focus on community so very much.

Favourite of the Month:

I adored The Devil You Kow and I am very upset I will need to wait until next year to be able t read the next book.

Stats(ish):

I finished two books, both of which were speculative in nature. One written by a man and one written by two women.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

Apparently not a lot. I am in the middle of enough books to be occupied for the whole month.

Wrap Up September 2021

I am so stressed. Is anybody surprised? I am not surprised. September is always busy and I am trying to juggle so very many things, professionally, that I am glad for every minute I manage to read for fun.

Books I read in September:

During Rachel’s and my ARC-readathon, I first finished two romance novels instead – because of course I did. If I was good at TBRs, the state of my NetGalley shelf would not necessitate a readathon to catch up. I read I Hate, I Bake, and I Don’t Date by Alina Jacobs (2 out of 5 stars) which was banana-pants but I could not look away. If the central couple had been less awful (especially him, whose name I have forgotten but who is a trash person) I would have rated this higher because I was indeed very entertained. Afterwards, I did what I always do when I read a particularly weird and/or awful romance novel and reached for a favourite romance author. I read Love According to Science by Claire Kingsley (3 out of 5 stars) which was my least favourite in the series so far but still a whole lot of fun. Then I finished the absolute brilliant No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull (5 out of 5 stars) which I liked so much that I have written a full review for the first time in half a year. I lso read One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona Andreas (3.5 out of 5 stars) which I obviousy enjoyed – I do not think they even can write a book I won’t like at this point. I then finished the incredible White Magic by Elissa Washuta (5 out of 5 stars) which is just brilliant but in a way that I find difficult to put into words. It’s both a structurally perfect memoir and one that doesn’t pull any punches and I adored it.

I also decided to DNF Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone during our readathon which meant two reviews written in the two weeks, which at this point, I’ll consider a win. I got increasingly more bored with this and put it down 40% in. I do not think this book knows what it wants to be – it’s a thriller without having thriller pacing but with thriller plot beats, it’s a coming of age story without actually dealing with the coming of age, It’s literary fiction but the language felt more self-indulgent than anything else. This just did not work for me at all – and I am very sad because the premise and the promise of a dysfunctional sibling relationship really are brilliant.

Favourite of the Month:

No Gods, No Monsters – which is so far also my favourite book of the year.

Stats(ish):

I read five books, three of which were written by women, one by a man and one by a husband and wife team.Two books were romance, two can broadly be categorized as speculative, and one essay collection/memoir.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

Whatever I feel like. I won’t try to police my reading at all.

Most anticipated non-fiction releases of 2021

I love thinking about all the great books that will come out in an upcoming year. I am not always that great at following through and actually reading the books but writing these posts is always a favourite part of my blogging year. I have already talked about my most anticipated SFF releases of 2021 here, today I want to highlight some of the amazing sounding non-fiction titles I am excited about (although I should probably just call it as it is: my most anticipated memoirs with the odd essay collection thrown in). Clicking on the covers will lead to the books’ Goodreads pages because I am not good at giving summaries.

As You Were by David Tromblay (published by Dzanc Books, February 16th 2021)
I am already reading this and it’s as brilliant as I hoped but also as gruesome as I figured it would be. Tromblay talks about intergenerational trauma, PTSD, abuse, and growing up Native. It is written in second person, addressing himself, in a way that seems custom-made for me to love.

Women and Other Monsters: Bulding a New Mythology by Jess Zimmermann (published by Beacon Press, March 9th 2021)
A book combining Greek mythology, female monsters/ villains, and feminism?! Sign me right up! I have an e-ARC of this book and I am very excited to get to this. I haven’t read Zimmermann’s writing before but couldn’t just not grab this when I had the chance. This sounds RIGHT up my alley.

Girlhood by Melissa Febos (published by Bloomsbury, March 30th 2021)
I have wanted to get to Febos’ writing for ages and somehow never do read her. I am determined to change that in 2021 – and this collection of essays, combining theory and memoir (my favourite kind of non-fiction writing) sounds incredible. It has also been compared to The Argonauts, a book I really enjoyed.

Broken by Jenny Lawson (published by Henry Holt, April 6th 2021)
I enjoyed the previous two memoirs by Jenny Lawson and cannot imagine this one being much different. I like her tone and her unflinching honesty regarding her mental illness while remaining funny. Here she chronicles her experience with an experimental treatment of transcranial magnetic stimulation, and I am very interested in this angle.

White Magic by Elissa Washuta (published by Tin House Books, April 27th 2021)
Another memoir-in-essays about growing up, about addiction, and about mental health, this one connects these musings to cultural beliefs and, yes, white magic to explore “questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule.” This sounds incredible and Washuta is brilliant on twitter.

Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger (published by Santa Fe Writers’ Project, May 1st 2021)
Somebody on Twitter said that this is already their favourite book of 2021, I cannot remember who but it instantly made me add this to my TBR. I am particularly interested in this angle of the book: “But what happens when a journalist interrogates her own rosy memories to reveal the instability around the edges?” What I’ve read of Dancyger’s writing so far, I enjoyed, so I will probably love this.

Well, This Is Exhausting by Sophia Benoit (published by Gallery Books, July 13th 2021)
I adore Benoit on Twitter and really enjoy her advice column (I love a good advice column). I also particularly like memoirs-in-essays, so I have high hopes for this. Especially because I already like Benoit’s way of talking and thinking about feminism. I also expect this to be funny and I could do with more funny books. The brilliant cover doesn’t hurt either.

Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders (published by tordotcom, August 17th 2021)
I adore Charlie Jane Anders – which is basically the only reason I am interested in a book about writing. Anders wrote this book during the lockdown and as such it might really help me deal with the way our lives have all been drastically altered. Her writing is usually optimistic which is something I really need right now.

In Open Country by Rahawa Haile (published by Harper, February 2nd 2021 or maybe September 21st 2021 or maybe January 11th 2022)
This sounds incredible: Haile hiked the Appalachian Trail as a Black woman and I am here for a memoir exploring that. I love a well-done travel memoir, especially if it includes hiking. I really hope the book publishes next year but I am finding many different publication dates, no final cover, and no final description. Still, I am stoked for this. (Goodreads page here)

What are your most anticipated non-fiction releases of the year? I am particularly interested in titles in genres other than memoir.

Reading more books by Indigenous authors – a sort of TBR

November is Native American Heritage Month in the US – and one of the things I planned on doing this year was to read more books by Indigenous authors. Both because they are underrepresented in publishing and also because so far I have not read one book by a Native author I did not like. So this seems like the perfect opportunity to get to a few more books before the year’s end.

I sat with the idea to do something for Native American Heritage Menth for quite some time and thought long and hard whether I really wanted to do a proper TBR post for this vague idea I have. On the one hand, TBR posts are fun! I like putting them together and this seems like a good way to shine some light on what I am planning. On the other hand, I seriously suck at following TBRs – and if I don’t have some follow through here, this will look (and honestly be) performative and also fairly problematic. So finally I decided on this: here is a list of books on my radar written by Indigenous authors and I hope to get to at least three of those over the month of November.

I already own two of the three books I want to read in November.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
This is one of my most anticipated books of the year and I am glad I finally have a copy in my hands. I need to finish one of the other physical books I am currently reading and then will dive into this. I am very excited for Roanhorse’s take on epic fantasy; her post-apocalyptic series is a favourite of mine. I have heard incredible things so far.

As You Were by David Tromblay (published February 21st, 2021)
I was contacted by the publisher (Dzanc Books) if I was interested in reviewing this. This is a memoir and sounds absolutely harrowing but also really interesting. Tromblay writes about his difficult childhood, intergenerational trauma, and identity; all things I am interested in. Tromblay names Lidia Yuknavitch as an influence which is always a plus for me.

I also want to get to one of these three non-fiction titles (I mean, it is also Non-Fiction November), probably on audiobook.

Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos
I have wanted to read this book since it came out in 2017 – everything about this sounds like my kind of book. It apparently focusses identity and love, Febos was partly raised by a sea captain, the language is described as visceral, and the blurb promises thatg she mixes the personal with the theoretical which is my favourite kind of non-fiction writing.

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
This has also been on my TBR for what feels like forever. I found this on one of those “best memoirs”-type lists and the audiobook especially sounds really good as it features poetry and music.


A Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliott
I have heard nothing but brilliant things about this memoir dealing with intergenerational trauma, legacy, and addiction. The reviews I have seen are overwhelmingly positive and especially the audiobook has gotten a lot of praise.

Finally there are two books that sounds super intriguing but might be too scary for me.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones and Empire of the Wild by Cherie Dimaline both sound INCREDIBLE. But I scare easily and I recently gravitate more towards books that do not stress me out too badly.

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts? Are there other books you think should be on my radar? I am particularly interested in speculative works written by Indigenous authors.

PS: There is also a Readathon that takes place in November focussing on Indigenous authors. I am never good at actually participating but thought I should shout it out for others anyways. You can find information and reading prompts on their twitter account.