The best I can say for 2021 is that it was certainly A Year. Entirely too much turmoil for my liking, but we made it through, and that’s not nothing.
I read a great many books in 2021. More than I ever have previously in my life, in fact. A response, I suppose, to all the rocky happenings in both the world and my own personal life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: stories are my bright, shining beacons in the dark. The warm, warm, safe spaces I seek out when life, the universe, and everything get to be too much. In 2021, things got much too much, and so, naturally, as often as I could, I headed towards the light.
THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin
This story wrecked me, plain and simple. Which is infuriating because in some ways it’s so full of clichés and well-trodden tropes that it shouldn’t have worked on me. It shouldn’t have been able to manipulate my feelings. But it did, and welcomed it. A beautiful story.
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart
This middle grade novel dealt with death and grief better than most adult fiction I’ve read. A heavy book, full of wonderfully realized characters that are designed to break your heart — and they most certainly will. I will miss reading about all of them.
The title of this book is totally accurate.
MAGPIE MURDERS by Anthony Horowitz
Went full in with murder mysteries this year. It’s a genre I’ve always enjoyed in some form or another, but it’s become a favorite and a safe space in the last couple of years. Knives Out has a lot to do with it, yes, as the film has basically become my lodestar in terms of what I look for in these stories. This delightfully twist, heavily meta story comes closer to that ideal than pretty much any other thriller I’ve read so far. So much fun.
THE TRULY DEVIOUS SERIES by Maureen Johnson
The first half of my summer this year was spent reading this series, an event that was well-documented in my Instagram page.
I thoroughly dug all the mystery and atmosphere conjured up in these books, but I loved them because of all the amazing characters. Stevie, in all her anxious, stubborn glory, has definitely become one of my all-time favorite sleuths.
THE BOX IN THE WOODS by Maureen Johnson
I finished the Truly Devious books thinking that Johnson could write mysteries indefinitely and I would well and truly be on board. It seems we’re getting exactly that, and I was elated to find that this book was even better than those that preceded it. Johnson injects the story with a higher dose of horror that serves the story remarkably well, setting it apart from the cozyesque feeling of Stevie’s first case. I had a blast reading this, and I can’t wait for the further adventures of Stevie Bell and her gang.
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman
The murder mysteries continue! I read this at the close of the year, but I finished it thinking it was a definite favorite. Just a lovely, whimsical, funny story — a bright light in the darker half of the year.
I grew up loving The Golden Girls, so I have a soft spot for quirky groups of charming older folks, and I loved the members of the Thursday Murder Club so much that I wished they were real.
MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I’ve read three novels by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and I have loved — and been destroyed by — every single one of them. An amazing author who writes some of the most complex, realistic characters I’ve ever come across in fiction. The Rivas family continue this tradition by being messy and ugly and glorious and captivating like a wildfire.
THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN by Becky Chambers
Another author whose work I’ve deeply fallen in love with these last couple of years. Ground Within serves as the finale for her much-beloved Wayfarers series, a set of interconnected stories set in space that are less about shiny spaceships and more about relationships and perseverance. It’s a series that features more alien species than it does humans but still manage to be some of the most humany-wumany stories I’ve ever read. I will miss this universe, and will gladly and eagerly travel with Chambers to any other corner of space she might explore.
SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN by Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru
In a year where I consumed a lot of great comic book-related content, it was this small story of Superman fighting against a hate group targeting a family of immigrants that stuck with me the most. It’s just such a quintessential Superman story.
Gene Luen Yang has long been a favorite storyteller, but his more recent work continues to be on another level entirely. I will read whatever he writes.
A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT by Becky Chambers
Chambers again, exploring another corner of space. The first book in a new series centering around the travels of a monk trying to find their purpose in life and a robot wishing to understand humanity. It’s a story of feeling drained and burned-out and trying to find stillness in the world.
After two years of both physical and mental exhaustion this book spoke to me more than any other I read this year. I loved it, utterly and completely. So much so that I started reading it again immediately after finishing it, which I have never done before. I finished yet another re-read just before I started working on this post.
My favorite book of the year, needless to say.
Have a safe and happy New Year. Remember to always seek out the light. See you on the other side.