Tuesday, December 28, 2021

What I Read: 2021 BOOKS OF THE YEAR

 Thank god for audiobooks, or it would have been impossible to meet my 2021 reading goal of 121 books. As it was, I shattered this goal, logging nearly 200 books on Goodreads, and I listened to many of them, doing dishes, folding laundry, and pounding the pavement with Minnie on our walks. Mostly, I use the Libby app from my library, and I need to be better at putting books on hold through it. I think I am going to clear out the rest of my 2021 holds and start reserving 2022 books (because you can only put 10 on hold at a time). I also joined Audible, but I only get one credit a month, and the unlimited selection is... not great. I have started buying audio books by the dozens, but when I first set a reading goal in 2013, I wanted to meet it WITHOUT buying books, and I would like to buy fewer next year.  

I do have a gaping hole in my reading knowledge, though. I have never read Brontë (any of them!) or Austin and only a teeny bit of Woolf. I can get lots of all of their stuff with my Audible membership, so maybe I should put tackling some classics on my 22 for 2022 list.

Something else I realized about reading myself: I am no good at reading when I don't have any deadlines. I seldom finish my Book of the Month books quickly because I lack a due date. Weird, huh? Also! I find it really hard to prioritize sitting down to read in the middle of the day, but I am usually too tired at the end of the day to open a book, and besides, I often have a bunch of stuff I need to do on my computer that I have literally not had time to do all day. I need to do a better job of refusing to let housework take over my whole day/ any non-actual work time I have.

But! On to the Books of the Year! It was harder than usual to compile this list because there weren't a lot of stand-outs this year. Everything I read was good (even though I am still terrible at quitting a bad book), but not a lot was transformative, you know? Anyway, here are my favorites:

10. Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny: I loved the characters in this book so much. They reminded me of Richard Russo, and you all know he is my favorite favorite.

9. The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny: Okay, full disclosure: this is not my very favorite Inspector Gamache book, but it is the one published this year. I listened to ALL 17 books in the Three Pines series this year, and it was a wonderful use of my time. I cannot recommend these books enough. I also adored the Louise Penny/Hillary Clinton thriller State of Terror. If you, too, adore Gamache, you should read it.

8. The Push by Ashley Audrain: SO ENTERTAINING! I read it pretty early this year and thought of it for MONTHS, which is always a good sign. Plus, ever since The Bad Seed I have a soft spot for books about scary kids.

7. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: For awhile, I didn't think I loved this book despite all of the glowing reviews and enthusiastic recommendations from friends. But then whole paragraphs would come back to me, and I would remember scenes at odd moments. I haven't been able to get it out of my head, and if that's not a sign of a good book, I don't know what is.

6. No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler: Oh, I love this Duke divinity professor so much I have read her whole oeuvre, including her scholarly works, and I now follow her on Instagram

5. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz: I read this book SO FAST despite having no time to read because that's how great it is. I love books about books and publishing, and a twisty little thriller? EVEN BETTER.

4. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro: This book was sad and haunting and wholly original. Klara's voice is a memorable one.

3. The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.: This story of love between two enslaved men in the antebellum south is doomed from the start, but I read it anyway. OH MY GOSH. It's so beautiful you guys, and, improbably, hopeful.

2. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr: The description of this book makes it sound awful, but really? It is mesmerizing from the first paragraph. If you loved All the Light We Cannot See... I have no idea if you will like this one because it is completely different.

1. The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki: This book is so sad and so perfect. I listened to it, which I think was probably a good call because it is kind of dense, and I might have been tempted to skim if I were reading.

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