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2021 reading list

maura @ 3:02 pm

I came into writing this post feeling mopey and down because I didn’t think I’d read that much in 2020. But I was surprised after counting these up to find that I’ve read 39 books this (last [since I’m writing this on January 2]) year, more than I would have guessed. I’m trying to resist the urge to type “but several of them were graphic novels/comix” (guess I couldn’t resist after all, sigh). Definitely I had high reading and low reading times — summer obviously a high time, but also early spring, even though the semester was in full effect. And this fall was a low low time, probably lower than is usual during the fall semester, which is traditionally our busiest at work. We’d just gone back to a more onsite schedule at work, and even with the kid finally back at his own college (which made my work from home days easier) I was tired which made reading harder. Blame pandemic season 2 — wow it’s just so much more tiring than season 1. I also taught a graduate class in the fall so I had that reading to do, too.

Looking back at my fiction reading I feel like there was a bunch of meh in there, books that I kind of don’t remember much now, which makes me both glad that I keep a reading journal and a little bit wistful that I spent the reading time on meh when it could have been spent on awesome. Only one book was so meh that I ditched it halfway through: Homeland, by Cory Doctorow, which I started reading when my co-teacher and I thought we might assign it to our students and ditched when we decided not to. I also read Feed for that same reason, though I finished that one — zombies aren’t really my jam but this YA book was fun enough, extra bonus points for a pandemic causing the zombification.

Thankfully the meh fiction was in the minority compared to the awesome fiction. I reread Station Eleven when I was feeling especially glum and like I needed to read about a worse pandemic than this pandemic, and it hit the spot — such a terrific book, and with the story fresh in my mind I’m ready to watch the TV show (bonus!). Early in the year the library was still closed to patrons (though I worked in my office once/week or so) and I kept walking by The Need on a book truck, admiring the cover, until finally I picked it up only to see that the author is a Brooklyn College prof. Read in a gulp and it was intense: about parenting and archaeology and time, all my jam. I borrowed some more challenging books from work too; both An Untamed State and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous were heartbreaking and incredible. Early in the year I was delighted to learn that Emma Newman had written additional books in the Planetfall universe (I loved that book, why did I forget to check for sequels for so long?), and I tore through Before Mars and After Atlas. I also tore through Disappearing Earth, which was compelling and dreamy and had me looking at maps of the Kamchatka Peninsula repeatedly. And The Vanishing Half absolutely bowled me over with its gorgeous writing and gripping story, just amazing. I am so grateful for all of these authors during this hard hard year.

During the quieter times when I could find daytime hours to read I got through some academic books that I’d been meaning to read for ages. Finally finished Living a Feminist Life, begun in 2017 (!), which was terrific of course, and my last book of the year was Gamer Trouble, a fun read in a discipline (game studies) that I’m always feeling under-read in, so go me. In other nonfiction reads The Sum of Us and Mediocre were also both terrific and necessary — the former in particular is super comprehensive and approachable and I think will be a book about racism that I share with folx when they ask for reading suggestions. I ended up buying and rereading Burnout because pandemic season 2. But the real standout was Laziness Does Not Exist, reading this was so useful and comforting to me, thinking I might buy it, too. And my ever-present climate change anxiety was soothed somewhat by reading All We Can Save, picked up after hearing Tressie McMillan Cottom and Roxane Gay interview the editor on their podcast Hear to Slay. It’s a huge book that took me two rounds of library borrowing to read, punctuated by a couple of months’ break when I had to wait for it to be available again after it expired from my phone. Realistic but hopeful, which is the energy I need to take me into 2022.

My list below, as per usual in reverse chrono order and with these indicators: asterisk = ebook, tilde = books we own (which I seemingly forgot to indicate last year).

~Gamer Trouble: Feminist Confrontations in Digital Culture, by Amanda Phillips
*Remote Control, by Nnedi Okorafor
*Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Secret to Superhuman Strength, by Alison Bechdel
~Menopause, A Comic Treatment, by MK Czerwiec
*No One Is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood
*All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Keeble Wilkinson
*We Have Always Been Here, by Lena Nguyen
*There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job, by Kikuko Tsumura
*Feed, by Mira Grant
*Yolk, by Mary H. K. Choi
~Living a Feminist Life, by Sara Ahmed
*Follow Me to Ground, by Sue Rainsford
*Pew, by Catherine Lacey
*You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience, by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown
Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado
*Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, by Ijeoma Oluo
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
~Comics For a Strange World, by Reza Farazmand
*The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee
*The Memory Theater, by Karin Tidbeck
An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
~Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
The Need, by Helen Phillips
~Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
~Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke
*Laziness Does Not Exist, By Devon Price
*Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
~Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, By Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
*Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips
*Luster, by Raven Leilani
*After Atlas, by Emma Newman
*Double Bind: Women on Ambition, by Robin Romm
*The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, by Christopher Emdin
*Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
*Before Mars, by Emma Newman
*The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa
~New York Drawings, by Adrian Tomine

Here’s the past, to help me keep track: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

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