Another pretty good year for books, despite renos I’ve written about and a pandemic you may have heard of.
In the chronology of how I read them, here are my top books of 2021:
Zeroes is the story of what happens if some everyday, flawed people got superpowers. This particular group are known to each other and have worked together before, then split up. They have a history, for better or (and) worse, which of course colours each of their takes on how being together again would work, or if they even want it to.
I really enjoyed the mix of common human traits among these young people with powers I hadn’t seen before. My original attempt to read it was disrupted and I was finally able to finish it fully this year, but what I’d seen of it with that original attempt was fundamental in inspiring a series of short stories some of you have beta-read for me.
I summarized this back in March, but as a quick recap: Brilliant twelve-year-old girl Charlie Thorne is approached by the CIA to help crack a decades-long mystery around the last equation Einstein made and then hid. Charlie doesn’t trust the CIA–doesn’t think they’re any more deserving of having whatever that last equation means or makes than anyone else is–but they coax her to work with them, at least for now. Charlie ends up getting chased around the world by people who will do whatever they must to get that equation. But in Charlie, they’ve underestimated who they’re dealing with.
Another March read, Hell Yeah or No is an easily digested collection of short and sweet wisdom. Sivers helps you figure out what’s important to you and how to focus more on it.
I’m not a huge self help book guy, but this one caught my eye and I’m glad I got it.
A couple of years ago I decided I was going to stop counting how many books I read in a year simply because I wasn’t sure what should or shouldn’t constitute a book in an annual tally. A comic isn’t prose, but is by its nature a book. Yet when people talk about books they’ve read, they generally don’t mean comics. But I wanted to bring them more into the picture, because at times they’re every bit as deserving of attention and praise as prose books are.
Oh, hey, like this new Savage Sword of Conan comic series.
I’m a Savage Sword fan from decades back, and this first in the new series didn’t disappoint. If you like Conan at all and haven’t checked this out yet, do.
An enjoyable enough book that I recommended it to one and all. I had an early suspicion it would make my top ten list, and here we are. It’s an excellent collection of essays that were at once enjoyable in and of themselves but also important personally for teaching me that a book I was considering doing (currently in progress) with some of the same tones as this collection was worth my effort.
This first in the Murderbot series was a horizon-expanding book for me, as I mentioned in October. Simply some of the best science fiction I’ve ever read. I can’t recommend it enough.
This one was recommended by comedian Patton Oswalt (who, not coincidentally, also wrote the foreword for the collection). God is concerned that Jesus isn’t being taken seriously enough by humans, so sends him to live with the popular superhero Sunstar to learn a thing or two about how to make an impression.
It won’t be to everyone’s taste, of course–Russell mentions he’s gotten in plenty of hot water from people taking him to task for doing this with such a widely revered religious figure–but it’s very well done. We see that Sunstar isn’t nearly as perfect as he may initially seem, and Jesus opens his eyes about a few ways to see things.
Another Patton Oswalt recommendation. I had zero idea what to expect going into this story and loved the epic tale it became. So I’ll do the same for you and keep it quiet, and just leave it at this: Brian K. Vaughan is the writer of an all-time favourite graphic novel series of mine, Y: The Last Man. And he’s hit another home run with this series. Check it out if graphic novels are remotely your thing.
Full title: Everyone You Hate Is Going To Die and Other Comforting Thoughts on Family, Friends, Sex, Love and More Things That Ruin Your Life.
Which covers a lot of territory, but is certainly accomplished.
Daniel Sloss is a Scottish comedian who doesn’t hesitate to speak out about what he believes love is and who should get out of what kind of shortfallen relationship because that isn’t love and you deserve better.
There’s a ton of swearing in it–Sloss explains that it’s in his blood, quipping that Scots don’t have spacebars so much as long keys that add “fucking” into whatever they’re typing–but if you can get past that, it’s very well done and had me literally laughing out loud.
I’ve read most of Gladwell’s books and have gotten much out of each of them. This most recent of his works was no exception. I eagerly consumed it faster than most books, having only received it for Jolabokaflod.
Talking to Strangers isn’t an easy book to read. It talks about police brutality and suicide and murder and sexual abuse and highly divisive enhanced interrogation techniques (arguably torture given a more palatable name). But that’s all necessary for Gladwell to work his usual style of hooking the reader early and then building up the thrust of the book’s premise via each interweaving storyline. Here, he makes the case for how and why people so badly misread other people, and the danger and damage and fatalities that can occur as a result.
Heavy material, but an important read done with Gladwell’s typically engaging, educational, eye-opening style.