The Best Books I Read in 2021
These are the best books I read in this year chock full of every last feeling on the Feelings Wheel.
I spent a good part of 2021 learning how to parent my teenagers. I also changed jobs, sent a kid to college, finally realized I needed glasses to read, enjoyed a very short hot vax unmasked summer, then masked back up again. I commuted to San Francisco to an office to Zoom and also commuted all the way to NYC for a canceled holiday party.
And I read a lot, but not as much as I wanted to. Here’s my list for this year.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw. This collection of short stories was my favorite book I read this year and the one I remember the details of most vividly. There’s an HBO show coming soon and I will watch the hell out of it.
Sea Wife by Amity Gaige. The Sea Wife is the kind of book that ruins you for any other book for a long time. It’s a portrait of a marriage that’s struggling. It’s a sea story. It’s the story of a great adventure and a woman who is so much stronger than she thinks she is.
Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill. I tried to read this book when it came out in 2014. I might have even finished reading it in 2014. But I was much more tired then and didn’t appreciate it nearly as much as I did when I read it this year.
The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker. This was the first book I read in 2021 that was actually written in 2021. If you don’t like dark and violent novels, don’t read this one. But if you “enjoy” novels where the darkness and violence are there to tell an important story about motherhood and mental health, then do read this one.
Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin. If you spend as much time thinking about technology and surveillance as I do, then add this book to your queue. It’s so weird and wonderful and if you need an excuse to set all your smart home devices with cameras on fire, reading this will give you one.
Luster by Raven Leilani. I love reading books about lost and vaguely depressed millennials who make very bad choices. Is this a particular kind of Gen Z schadenfreude? I don’t know and I don’t care. This was a lovely read.
Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier Another book about a lost millennial! The main character doesn’t know what to do with her life and is pregnant. More bad choices, more good pages.
And in no particular order, here are the rest of the books that I enjoyed this year:
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
But You Seemed So Happy by Kimberly Harrington
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Dear Girls by Ali Wong
Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan
Facing the Climate Emergency by Margaret Klein Salamon and Molly Gage
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
A Burning by Megha Majumdar
Don’t Let It Get You Down by Savala Nolan
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
Breath by James Nestor