Nothing has brought me more comfort in my life as a good book, and almost nothing has brought me more joy than when someone enjoys a book I recommended to them.
In 2021, I read 101 books, and I’ve consistently read around ~22,000 pages for the last several years. Of course, this does not count the many times I read my own book as I went through rewrites and edits or the pleasure of reading my friend Max’s unpublished first novel.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many books you read in a year, only that you are reading and you are enjoying what you read. Goals help me. My primary goal was to read at least 40 books I’d had on the to-read shelves since 2020.
For my friends who struggle to read books:
Whatever reading assignment made you hate reading in school, don’t do that. You can stop reading a book at any time, say, “Not today, Satan,” and put the book in a free little library because it might be someone else’s cup of tea.
Can’t focus: try audiobooks. That’s reading too!
And perhaps, most importantly, carve out time for reading. I read before I sleep, and it helps me sleep better. But my favorite reading is stolen moments when I cannot put the book down, and I’m supposed to be doing something else (usually working or doing chores).
Now, for my reader readers, maybe we challenge ourselves with “assignment” reading. For me, it’s usually work-related or self-improvement or a worthwhile book, but the text is dense or the prose style different than we’re used to. Sometimes, I might take notes! Other times, it’s one chapter at a time, and then I can go back to reading cotton candy fun.
Especially since we’re still in this terrible pandemic, it’s perfectly acceptable to put a book down. Maybe it goes in the Did Not Finish pile to get rid of — or maybe you march it right out to your little library in front of your house (oh, hi, it’s me) — or maybe it goes on pause as you read something else for a while. A while can be a couple of days or six months.
Okay, let’s get to those books.
My Top 10 Books from 2021
1. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Genre: contemporary fiction
In his essay, “Smaller Than Life,” James Baldwin reviews a biography of Fredrick Douglass, and he argues that the book is terrible, not because it’s poorly written, but because it doesn’t show Douglass in all of his humanity with all his flaws. Thus, turning Douglass into a heroic representation of his race instead of a human with whom people can empathize, especially people who are not Black and especially white people. Baldwin argues that this heroification does an incredible disservice to Douglass and the project of racial equity.
I think about this essay a lot in terms of my writing and the types of books I’m drawn to, such as the book in question: Detransition, Baby. Baldwin’s assertion certainly applies to any minority group. The characters and situation in Detransition, Baby are messy. They don’t apologize to cishet people. They are very human, and none of them are or can be a heroification of a trans woman or the model of what it means to a woman. They just are. Continue reading “Books I Read in 2021 & Think You Should Read in 2022”