I read 62 books in 2021. Here are my favorites!
Thank you, authors, for the adventures and fun
Thank you for being here. I have a few books that I am stoked to share with you.
Since you clicked through to this post, I presume that you are a reader. And that means that you likely spent quite a lot of last year with a book, hopefully tucked up on the couch with some fresh tea. I certainly did.
So much so that I got through more books last year than in the preceding few. A rare COVID silver lining, I suppose.
Below I have selected a few titles and series that stood out. These are stories that I have come to love, full of characters that I now count as friends. May the words contained bring you the same joy and escape that they brought me.
Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer: The last book I finished in 2021 was one of the best. I’ve had book three of this series on my shelf for a while, begging me to buy its predecessors and dive in. I finally did. And my god did I wait too long. When it comes to world-creation, political speculation, and religious commentary, Palmer is without peer. If you like your books to challenge you, this is an utter bop.
The Teixcalaan series, by Arkady Martine: Two of the books in this series are out thus far — A Memory Called Empire, and A Desolation Called Peace — and I am waiting in quiet agony for the next installment. Much like Palmer, Martine creates a world for humans to play in that is at once utterly foreign while also being completely believable. But while Palmer’s series is more Terran in its setting, Martine’s own is past the stars. Read these books.
Deacon King Kong, by James McBride: I have the good fortune of being in a few book clubs — one with friends, one with my father — which bring stories from outside my usual sci-fi lane into view. This was one such book. Deacon King Kong is the story of an old man, a community in transition, religion, crime, and redemption. It’s hard to encapsulate in just a few words, but as an alcoholic myself the Deacon was an instant friend.
The Last Graduate, by Naomi Novik: I promise after this short paragraph I will shut up about this book, as I already wrote about it for TechCrunch. Novik is one of my favorite authors living, and her current set of books in the Scholomance series is her best. The Last Graduate, book two in the set, came out last year and if you trust me at all read its predecessor and the recent sequel. You deserve to meet El and cheer her on. Even if she wouldn’t like you or I very much!
The Salvation Sequence, by Peter F. Hamilton: Hamilton manages something that most science fiction authors fail at in this series Namely creating something utterly alien and managing to make it real. Lots of future fiction deals with big concepts, or the far-reaches of space. Hamilton’s series, especially towards the end, takes a human economic story and stretches time itself to bring about the, well, salvation of our species. When the next book in the series comes, I will probably reread every prequel to prepare. Join me!
Robert Jackson Bennett: Ah yes, Mr. Bennett. Fuck you, Mr. Bennett. Seriously. Fuck you, for writing not one, but two sets of books that blew off the top of my dome last year. The Founders Trilogy and the Divine Cities Trilogy are so shockingly good that I still find myself thinking about them — the protagonist and their economic milieu from the former, and the religious underpinnings of the latter. Just, how. How did he make up so much stuff and make it sing in such clear harmony? Twice? Bastard.
Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire: What happens when you take the fantasy genre, center it around children, and set it in our own world? Well, McGuire found out for us and the results are a number of shorter, quickly-paced books that will leave you heartbroken, wistful, and somehow more alive after reading. A hard, hard recommend for Every Heart A Doorway an its sequels.
I did read More Serious Stuff in 2021, including the excellent Guns of August, some business books, and too little poetry. But what I want to share with you is not a list of books that might make you think I am smart, or interesting. So, instead, I shared the books I would corner you during dinner to rhapsodize about, and buy you copies of.
Happy reading, my friend. — Alex