I feel like whenever I do end of year reading wrap-ups, there are always books that I don’t get to talk about, despite how much I loved them. I had a very good reading year in 2021, and which meant I especially couldn’t talk about all the books I enjoyed, so my options were either force you to endure a thousands of words long post, or shut up. I chose to be merciful. (But clearly not merciful for very long, hence this post.)
Because I have been feeling lots of love for reading in general and didn’t want to miss out on talking about these gems of books, I thought I’d talk about 7 books I read and adored last year that I feel like I haven’t given much love to on my blog—but deserve it!
I feel like people never love most short stories in short story collections/anthologies, myself included, but this book broke that curse—I loved all but one in this collection. From hoodoo dolls to supervillains to vampires, every story is unique and captivating, many reading like fairy tales or twisting regular tropes into new shapes. If you want fresh takes on fantasy with powerful magic and women, told through gorgeous writing and set in enthralling worlds, this is a book you absolutely have to pick up.
Content warnings: murder, death, violence, gore, depictions of blood [see review linked above for more]
I’ve loved every Anna-Marie McLemore book I’ve read, each newly read one adding on to the expectation that I’ll love the next—and this one did not disappoint. It was heartbreaking and beautiful, as all McLemore books are, and so wonderfully gentle. Following two characters in the aftermath of their sexual assault, this is a book of healing from trauma in all its messy, broken forms, and miraculously finding solace in other people when it’s difficult to feel safe at all.
Content warnings: sexual assault, victim blaming, racism, homophobia
This is such a brilliant book, especially for how it manages to emotionally impact you despite its short length. I love Akwaeke Emezi’s writing style, how simple yet slicing it is, and it works so well for this story of sexual abuse told from a young teen’s perspective, of realizing that the world is not perfect and it is perhaps this illusion of perfection that allows monsters to breed. I feel like this is a book best left to discover on your own, so that’s all I’ll say—but this is truly a story like no other.
Content warnings: child sexual abuse
While a bit slow at times, there’s no doubt that The Ghost Bride is just a gorgeous book. From its detailed descriptions of Malacca and the Chinese afterlife, to its mysterious, dreamlike atmosphere, the world of The Ghost Bride is vivid and a wonder to experience. It’s so entrancing to follow along on the protagonist’s journey, both physically, romantically, and emotionally, and Yangsze Choo’s delicate writing makes it all the more magical.
Content warnings: death
This collection of Audre Lorde’s essays is a must-read, its topics ranging from the intersecting difficulties of being a Black lesbian woman in a racist, homophobic, misogynistic world, the complete failures of white feminism, and the anger and criticism Black women (mis)direct toward each other. Each piece was interesting and thought-provoking in their own ways, Lorde’s writing smart and incredibly engaging. Lorde’s background in poetry clearly shines through in this collection and her words—sadly—hold so much significance even now.
I hadn’t expected much from this book, but I came out of it feeling close to tears. It’s about friendship and how the good friends are everlasting, about trying new things and realizing that who you are changes as you grow. It’s a special story in that even though it’s geared towards kids, I think teens and adults can also find themselves soothed by it—I think we all are a little fearful of growing up sometimes, but this book does an excellent job of showing how being able to grow old is a gift. And of course, the whimsical and cute art adds so much to the story and the comforting feel of it.
Content warnings: talk of death, illness
This book truly captures the heart of middle grade: lovable characters, fun adventures, and humor—all paired with important themes and messages. It tackled generational trauma and the importance of remembering the pains of the past so well, especially for the target audience of children, as well as general themes of grief and guilt. Tristan was such a wonderful protagonist, a kid who wants to be a hero but still with fears and doubts. Both immensely enjoyable and well-crafted, what more could you want!
Content warnings: death, violence, references to slavery
what are the books you loved last year but didn’t get to discuss much? or beyond last year? have you read any of these books?