Best & Worst Books I Read in 2021
I read 24 books in 2021, doubling my goal from 2020. There were some I loved and some I found hard to finish. Here are a few which stuck out among the 24, both as honorable and dishonorable mentions.
Best Re-Read | A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara
I know what you're probably thinking - why would you read this book AGAIN when most people can barely finish it once? Simple answer - I like this book, a lot. I understand its controversy surrounding it's torture-porn narrative, but I still love the character development (and occasional lack thereof), which is why I reread it this year. Not only did I enjoy it, but I believe I enjoyed it more the second time around. When you take the shock factor out of the story, you can really dig deep into the characters and spot many things you hadn't the first time. With the shock factor gone, you can sit back and enjoy, or, well, appreciate this book.
The Pleasant Surprise | The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
I went into this book not really knowing what to expect. I was a fan of John Green's books many years ago, but Turtles All The Way Down left a lot to be desired and I worried if John had another book in him. The answer is yes, and the pleasant surprise is it's a nonfiction book. The Anthropocene Reviewed breaks down reviews of common, everyday items and places by putting them under a microscope and evaluating it along with tales from Green's life. It was easily digestible and perfect for when you just want to learn a fun fact or two.
The Biggest Letdown | Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig
The end of 2020 saw me reading and falling in love with two of Haig's writings - The Midnight Library and Reasons to Stay Alive. Both, in very different ways, perfectly captured mental health and discovering a person you didn't know you were. In an effort to read more of Haig's work, I picked this book up when I spotted it at my local used bookstore. I was disappointed, to say the least. A very different concept to the other pieces I read by Haig, this book follows the tale of a young boy whose voice is perhaps captured too well. With vocal fillers and a narrative style which can only be perfected by a young kid, this book was painful to read.
Hardest to Read | Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
While Dead Fathers Club was painful to read, this one was just difficult. In a writing style which is very poetic and lustful, I believe I may have bitten off more than I can chew, and I read books by Mark Z. Danielewski. This is at no fault of Valente, her writing simply isn't a type I enjoy reading. She is an amazing writer who deserves more attention, but I don't believe I'm the reader for her.
Most Heartfelt | Not Just Me by Lisa Jakub
If you're wondering what the eldest daughter from Mrs. Doubtfire is up to, it's writing amazing books. I read this while struggling with some of the most crippling anxiety and agoraphobia I've ever experienced. While this book did not "cure" me, (because there is no cure for anxiety), it did make me feel more understood. This book acts as both a personal narrative of Jakub's life as a child actor turned normal person, combined with terrific mental health resources which can be exceptionally valuable. Sometimes, being heard or understood is the first thing you need to start pulling yourself up out of a dark place, and I think this book did this for me.
Best New Release | How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith
When you grow up in Pennsylvania and a reasonable drive away from Gettysburg and Philadelphia (though I live in Philly now), your K-12 education discusses a lot of American history, especially founding fathers and their relationship with slavery. Unfortunately, like most history, the facts you're taught are very much skewed. This book, however, provides an excellent and accurate history of how slavery made its way through American history. I could not put it down once I picked it up and it deserves to be on the reading list of every high school history student. I would be surprised if this didn't become part of some academic cannons, because frankly, it needs to be.
Easiest to Recommend | TREJO by Danny Trejo
You have definitely seen a Danny Trejo in a movie. He's been in over 400 of them, which is somehow 4x the amount as Nicholas Cage. Whether you know Trejo as Manchette, the Uncle from Spy Kids or any of his other films, he's always playing the tough guy. While many know he's seen his fair share of crime, his autobiography provides an immense amount of detail. This is another book I could not put down once I picked it up. The book is broken down by individual stories, starting from his childhood and moving to modern day. The stories are easy-to-read and highly entertaining. I could recommend this to anyone (over the age of 18).
This past year, I read more nonfiction books than any other. This surprised me, but looking back at the ones I read, I was very happy I decided to branch out of my Bildungsroman bubble. In 2022, I will push myself with 24 books again, though who knows, I may be able to read more next year.