Books I Loved In 2021

Books I Loved In 2021

I am an enthusiastic practitioner of the art of looking backwards, of cataloguing all of the things I have experienced for an archive nobody ever asked me for and making conscientious notes for a test I’ll never actually have to take. These habits only really serve me well one time of year, and thankfully that time is now, because it is Best Of season. All across the internet, and probably also between the pages of plenty unseen diaries, lists assessing the sundry offerings of 2021 are being compiled: the best memes, and the best tweets, and the best of everything else.

I come to you, predictably, with my list of Best Books. Except I feel uncomfortable with the word “best”, for fear of offending all of the many other deserving books I read this year, so instead I am going with the more explicitly subjective qualifier of “Books I Loved.” Love, of course, is always complicated, and so it means different things for different titles. Some of these books made me laugh and some of them made me cry and one of them made me cry because of all the laughing. I was educated, entertained, and enraged at various points during my reading year, which is I think all I can really ask from a bunch of words on a page.

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Books I Loved in 2020

Books I Loved in 2020

Have we ever needed a quote to be true more than this one? Housebound, locked down and ~isolating for much of the past year, books were in many ways our single means of escape, our one opportunity to have meaningful life experiences outside of our steadily narrowing worlds. But this is pretty grandiose talk from someone who wasn’t an especially prolific reader in 2020. Books remained a significant part of my life, but I fell short of a lot of my literary goals. Plenty of books were returned to the library unread, and the majority of the year’s most discussed titles never made it to my shelves. I truly had nothing but time, so that’s no excuse. Let’s blame tiktok and instagram.

But even if my final tally number was disappointing, a handful of books still managed to leave lasting impressions in my brain and on my soul. Some were novels I was able to devour in a matter of days, others required more time to understand and to savour. Some were memoirs, some were journalistic investigations and some were, at their core, just old fashioned love stories. One was a novel I know I’ll think about regularly for the rest of my life.

Right now I have no idea what 2021 will hold for us, if we’ll be able to have real adventures on our own or if it will still be safer to live them vicariously. Either way, I hope I remember that it’s books, and not the instagram search bar, that never fail to provide the most rewarding and immersive escape.

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