Books I read in 2021 (part 1)

stack of books and text that reads "books I read in 2021"

I thought it would be fun to share some book recommendations, so here are some mini reviews of 7 books I read in 2021. It’s a mix of science-fiction and non-fiction, with lots of essay collections. This is only one third of the books I read, you can check out the entire list here

Too Like the Lightning 

Ada Palmer 

Book 1 of the Terra Ignota series. It imagines a future in which everyone has access to flying cars that let you get anywhere in 2 hours or less. With the breakdown of borders, people are no longer bound to the government in which they are born . Instead they can choose from 7 Hives, each with different ideologies and interests. But that’s just the barest description of the world building, there is much more to this series. 

The book is framed as a piece of in-world history, told by an unreliable narrator. So, it’s pretty difficult to get into. I actually hated it when I first read it, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about it. So January 2021 I picked up where I left off in 2020 (turns out I only had 1 chapter to go), and was hooked on the series for the rest of the year.[4.5/5]

The Etched City: A Novel

K.J. Bishop     

I don’t remember much about this book, other than I really liked it. I’m tempted to describe it as a weird fantasy slice of life, but that doesn’t feel right. The setting is pretty vague, in a way your imagination fills in the rest of the details. Good characters who spend a lot of time talking about life and philosophy.  [4.5/5]

Savage Gods     

Paul Kingsnorth 

In December 2020 I purchased a bunch of essay collections from a local publisher, this is one of those.This one feels like a very good writer’s diary. Lots of random thoughts about writing, life, and Ireland. Honestly, not the most interesting premise, but I enjoyed the book. Made me want to check out some of his other work (haven’t done that yet, as of writing this). I may re-read this one. Reading about someone else’s struggles with writing (or any creative work really) is inspiring. It’s nice knowing that we all feel those ways sometimes.  [3/5]

Frequencies: Volume 1 & 2 

Various contributors

Lumping these two together. Another set of essay collections from the local publisher. All 4 volumes were very cheap, and after reading them, it’s easy to see why. I really hated just about all of these. Not a single essay in volume 1 was memorable, and I recall really liking one in volume 2 about someone traveling to a small town in South America. Never bothered to read volumes 3 & 4 after this. Vol 1: [1/5] Vol 2: [2/5]

A History of My Brief Body

Billy-Ray Belcourt 

Last of the Two Dollar Radio essay collections I read this year. The author writes about his life as a young queer, indgenous writer, in Canada. This one was the most difficult to read. The intro actually even makes a point of calling out that the language would be dense and difficult. Maybe it’s the way I read books (in bed before sleeping), but I had a tough time reading this one. Made me feel kinda stupid. That said, I did find it very memorable. Many of the essays had a lasting impression on me. I would like to revisit this one in the future and give it a closer read. [3/5]

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Haruki Murakami 

I’ve read quite a few Murakami novels*, but this one made me start to lose interest in him. It’s about a guy who’s cat goes missing, then his wife leaves him. This is a long one, with many scenes of people sitting in holes. After looking at a plot synopsis, there are parts I liked, but I mostly forgot about them. To be honest, a lot of my feelings regarding this book are related to how I feel about 1Q84, so I will elaborate more when I get to that book. Overall I thought this book was just OK. [2.5/5]

*Kafka on the Shore is my favorite Murakami novel. Great piece of magical realism. If you want a more grounded book I’d recommend Norwegian Wood. I also like the short story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

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