- American Dirt, Jeanine Cummins: Really loved how Cummins slowly built the tension in this, layer by layer.
- The Echo Wife, Sarah Gailey: Weird and unputdownable domestic thriller with a sci-fi bent.
- The Effort, Claire Holroyd: Really intersteing but suffered a bit for one too many side plots.
- A People’s Future of the United States: This was full of great stories, I had a long list of ones that I particularly liked.
- She Come by It Natural, Sarah Smarsh: A great bio of Dolly Parton, but I wanted a little more depth. (That said, this was an essay series that she got published, so it’s naturally going to be a bit shorter.)
- The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander: You’ll leave this with a much clearer understanding of the scope and scale of the War on Drugs and resultant mass incarceration of Black men.
- Fugitive Telemetry, Martha Wells: Murderbot and the Locked Room Mystery. Fun stuff, as usual!
- To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, Christopher Paolini: My occasional reminder to see how long the print version is when I’m reading the ebook and am not super into it. This was not good enough for how long it was.
- Quiet in her Bones, Nalini Singh: Murder mystery featuring some pretty intense paranoia at times.
- Foul is Fair, Hannah Capin: This was intense and I was HERE for the absolute ruthlessness of the teenage girls at the centor of it. (Recommend a quick re-read or re-watch of Macbeth first.)
- The Psychology of Time Travel, Kate Mascarenhas: Good but a little thin on the main concept.
- Milk Blood Heat, Dantiel W. Moniz: A series of stories that are dark, melancholy, and end without a resolution.
- A Beginning at the End, Mike Chen: Really enjoyed the focus of this and the characters, though I think it would have been even better if it was tightned up a bit. (FYI it is a post-pandemic universe, with some authoritarian undertones to the new government structures.)
- The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman: Folks at a British retirement home investigate a murder. Delightful.
- A Thousand Ships, Natalie Haynes: Another look at the Trojan War, through the eyes of the women.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, Becky Chambers: Another great installment in the Wayfarers series, which I’ve really enjoyed. (She was recently on the podcast Imaginary Worlds discussing a bit of how it came to be.) The world she’s created is really rich and I’ve especitlaly enjoyed how they aren’t human-centered stories.
How Much of These Hills is Gold, C. Pam Zhang: Melancholy and absorbing.
Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam: I loved the slow build of this one.
The Mothers, Brit Bennett: A story about how some choices will never leave you, and what that can really mean.
Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang: I didn’t enjoy this as much as I expected. Some of the stories were a little flat; there wasn’t enough to them beyond the “what if” of the concept.
Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey: This was really fun, but I wish there’d been a bit more to it.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab: This was lovely, and I liked how the chapters wove the story together.
The Guest List, Lucy Foley: Very fast-paced and absorbing.
Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway, Sara Gran: This was good, with the exception of a drug addiction subplot that I found kind of distracting.
The New Wilderness, Diane Cook: I got a little distracted at times by some inconsistencies in the plot.
And Now She’s Gone, Rachel Howzell Hall: I really wanted to like this more than I did but I just . . . didn’t.
Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, Anne Helen Peterson: This was good, but I think it would have been better if it wasn’t framed around Millennials. She’s essentially discussing the state of work, capitalism, productivity culture, etc. There are definitely some ways Millennials were set up for a world that was simultaneously being dismantled, but it’s impacting all of us.
Long Bright River, Liz Moore: I wanted the protagonist to be better developed so I could understand why they made some of the questionable choices they made.
A Burning, Megha Majumdar: For me, the balance of politics against character development was a little off.
Crosshairs, Catherine Hernandez: Scarily possible, with an uplifting but ambiguous ending.
Earthlings, Sayaka Murata: This was something else. If you are interseted in this, please seek out the content warnings for it first.
If you only read one, I’d recommend The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue or Crosshairs.
- Plain Bad Heroines, Emily M. Danforth: A book about a movie about a book about a creepy old girls’ school. Fun characters.
- The Other Bennet Sister, Janice Hadlow: Turns out Mary Bennet is a delightful young woman.
- The House in the Cerulean Sea, TJ Clune: Delightful! Also I immediately pictured one of the main chracters as Newton Pulsifer from Good Omens and let me tell you, it worked perfectly.
- The Resisters, Gish Jen: This was a little uneven for me.
- Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food, Hsaio-Ching Chou: Lots of tasty-looking recipies, but when this library hold came in I wasn’t feeling particularly like I wanted to try new recipies.
- Beowulf, Maria Dahvana Headley: Big bro energy, very fun to read.
- The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow: This was so great, I loved how the relationships between the sisters evolve. I really hope someone options this for a limited series.
- The Survivors, Jane Harper: A big, messy plot contained by a small beach town. So good.
- Burnout, Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski: Very informative and very validating.
- The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller: Wish I’d read this sooner after I finished The Silence of the Girls.
- Scribe, Alyson Hagy: Unsatisfying.
- The Terranauts, T. Coraghessan Boyle: ’90s biosphere drama. Good, but a bit too long.
- The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates: Really enjoyed watching the protagonist realize that not everything is what it seems to be.
- Cinder, Marissa Meyer: Very fun cyberpunky Cinderella story.
- The Midnight Library, Matt Haig: Awesome concept, fun read.
- The New Plant Parent, Darryl Cheng: I picked up one or two good tips but this is truly for a newbie to houseplants.
- Dear Miss Kopp, Amy Stewart: Continue to love this series.
- Still Life with Murder, P.B. Ryan: This was fine. First in a series but not sure I liked it quite enough to continue. Also not sure why it was on my kindle.
- Hench, Natalie Zina Walschots: Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a supervillian’s henchperson? Why not?
- Scarlet, Marissa Meyer: Sequel to Cinder, not quite as engaging.
- A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, Hank Green: This needed just a little more reminder about where we left off with book one. I had a hard time connecting the dots.
If you only read one, pick up Hench or The Song of Achilles.
According to Goodreads, this year I read 84 books (28,000 pages). Of them, 41 were written by authors of color, and 20 of them were published this year. There were 9 that I didn’t finish, which I think is more than past years, though I haven’t checked.
This is actually fewer books than I read last year (92) and I think it points to my reading habits prior to the pandemic. On a day to day basis, I was only only reading in bed, before going to sleep. I did a lot of reading while traveling: at the airport, on the plane, over a solo meal on a work trip, by the pool, on the beach, at my in-laws’ house, etc. I traveled a lot, so that added up.
In the spring, I realized I was spending a lot of time doomscrolling. At the same time, I was buying more print books to support my local bookstore. (If I counted correctly, I read 15 books in print this year. That’s a lot compared to the last few years.) Since I very much prefer reading on my kindle when I’m in bed, I primarily read print books during the day. If I caught myself doomscrolling, I would trade my phone for a book, or at least switch into the kindle app. I’m certainly not perfect at actually doing this, but I’ve gotten better at it, as this month’s list will attest.
- The Arrest, Jonathan Lethem: For me, this suffered for not quite being as surreal or strange as it could have been.
- The Winter of the Witch, Katherine Arden: Third in a trilogy. Needed more to help the reader remember what had already happened.
- Gods of Jade and Shade, Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Very cinematic, but a little slow going.
- Me and White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad: I started this in the summer, slowly working my way through it and doing the reflective journaling. I learned a lot about myself and encourage you to read this if you haven’t, and to take your time with it.
- Version Control, Dexter Palmer: A time travel story that’s not really a time travel story. Very engaging.
- Interior Chinatown, Charles Yu: Holds you away while also pulling you in. Really great read and absolutely deserving of the National Book Award.
- The Silence, Don DeLillo: I read some reviews afterward and folks weren’t really talking about whether or not they enjoyed the book. They discussed what DeLillo had accomplished with it. Which to me is a very academic way of saying “I’m supposed to like this, but I didn’t.” Yup.
- The Space Between Worlds, Micaiah Johnson: Really great multiverse story – highly recommend.
- Alice Payne Arrives, Kate Heartfield: A delightful time-travel novel that spends sometime in the 1780s.
- The Future of Another Timeline, Annalee Newitz: Women waging a time war against a bunch of misogynist creeps. What’s not to like about that?
- When No One Is Watching, Alyssa Cole: Fast-paced and very creepy. Excellent thriller in which gentrification and white supremacy play a big, unsettling, part.
- Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir: Over-the-top complex, and for me the complexity didn’t add anything. A. month after finishing it I can’t even give you a five-word summary of the plot beyond “Space necromancers . . . did things? Maybe?”
- The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin: A bit rushed at the end, and needed something more to hold it all together.
- Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank: Nuclear armageddon in the late 50s. Great once I got past the language and social attitudes.
- Good Talk, Mira Jacob: Loved the scrapbook style she used to share these memories.
- Kopp Sisters on the March, Amy Stewart: This remains a delightful series.
- Luster, Raven Leilani: This was one of those books where I couldn’t believe what the protagonist was doing, but I was cheering for her all the same.
If you only read one, pick up Luster.
- Exhalation, Ted Chiang: Great collection of stories, in particular I liked “The Lifecycle of Software Objects.”
- The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai: A story set in two different times, which was intersting. But I really wanted the whole thing to be about the timeframe I was enjoying more.
- The Searcher, Tana French: Really absorbing and great writing, as usual.
- The Broken Earth Series (The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky), N.K. Jemisin: This trilogy is absolutely worth a read – and a re-read, which is what this was. This time, I re-read them all back to back, which was a great experience. I was more able to keep track of characters and more easily able to keep a grip on the plot, which was really great.
- Sourdough, Robin Sloan: Sentient starter in the Bay Area tech-meets-artisanal food scene. What else do you need to know?
If you only read one, make it The Searcher. If you only read one, but need it to be lighthearted, pick up Sourdough.
- Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston: Please tell me someone has optioned the film rights to this. Delightful! (Defintiely rated R though.)
- Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo: A really wonderful book of interlocking short stories.
- Lightspeed Magazine Special Issue: Women Destroy Science Fiction!: I skipped some of the interviews and non-story stuff, but this was fun to work my way through.
- The Grammarians, Cathleen Schine:
- Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Jane Eyre and 50s glam in Mexico, what’s not to like? This was fantastic.
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin: I went into this expecting to love it, and did not. Even once I got into it there was a little more politicking than I care for in my fiction.
- Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips: I think if you go into this ready to read some interlocking short stories, you’ll enjoy it more than I did.
If you only read one, make it Mexican Gothic.
- Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir: Wizards in space, but make it spooky.
- The Lager Queen of Minnesota, Ryan J. Stradal: Women brewing beer, what’s not to like?
- Big Machine, Victor LaValle: The concept was really interesting, but the main action of the novel wasn’t clear enough until way to far into things.
- Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem: Teenage rejects working for a small-time mob boss.
- Big Friendship, Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman: A memoir about a deep friendship, but also so much more.
- Beneath the Rising, Premee Mohamed: This was a weird book for me. Apparently I enjoyed it, but I kept forgetting what it was about every night when I picked it up, and I have no idea now.
- The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett: Really compelling story about twins who take two very different paths in life, and their daughters.
- Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor: Teenagers discovering their magic powers in Nigeria.
If you only read two, pick up The Vanishing Half and Big Friendship.