My 34 Favorite Reads of 2021

book cover collage


I was just reading the intro to my 2020 post and, my god, it reads like a twisted version of one of those holiday newsletters sociopaths send out every December. Like, here’s this terrible thing my child had to deal with because of the pandemic. Here’s a story about how I left my job and lost my main source of income. Here’s this thing I launched that has not been monetized, but which brings me joy. Hopefully it will be sustainable? LOLOLOLOLSOB.

Anyway. Not much has changed since last year beyond getting vaccinated and boosted and sending my child back to in-person schooling. I’m still making significantly less money than I have in previous years. I still haven’t monetized this thing that nevertheless brings me joy. I’m still leaning heavily on genre fiction because super-serious nonfiction makes my head hurt. (Seriously. I have a low-level headache right now.)

At least I’ve taken up embroidery?

Anyway.

Here are the 34 books (out of the 172 I managed to read to completion) that made my heart sing this past year. Hope you find some gold nuggets in there with which to fill your own days.

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My 31 Favorite Reads of 2020

Favorite Books 2020


This year has been a weird horrific one. A global pandemic that’s killed over a million people. Rampant bigotry that’s risen to a boil. A near-miss with what was starting to look like an autocracy. How could one possibly have the wherewithal to read? And for pleasure?

And in fact, many readers reported that they couldn’t focus on books this year, what with all the anxiety and grief and fear swirling about.

As for me, I found that I could no longer read serious cultural commentaries about how terrible life was for women / minorities / everyone ever. I mean, if I wanted that, I could just look at my various social media and news feeds.

Instead, I leaned hard into genre fiction.

Other than that, it’s been quite the year. My 6-year-old daughter has been fully remote from school since March. I left a long-term part-time editing job — my primary source of regular income — in July. I launched a sex ed site in September. I ramped up my freelance writing again, despite having felt like I was in a writing slump for the past two years. And in the midst of all this, I still managed to read 150 books.

My favorites are below. As per usual, this list includes both new publications and backlist bumps. I hope you discover something new here that knocks you out of your own reading slump!

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My 35 Favorite Reads of 2018


Though I didn’t read as many books in 2018 (135 to last year’s 157), this was still quite the bookish year. At BookExpo America back in June, I stood on line so I could bask in the glory of longtime personal heroes Barbara Kingsolver and Susan Orlean, scoring signed copies of their latest books, Unsheltered and The Library Book. Later that day, I also got myself a signed copy of Bingo Love and chatted with the author, Tee Franklin, about the awesomeness of my favorite local comic shop, East Side Mags. I hit up New York Comic Con in October, too, where I tried not to squee too hard when I met Pornsak Pichetshote, the author of Infidel, one of the best horror comics out there.

I also became a more regular user of my local library, and even joined the Friends of the Library, where they immediately tried to crown me as their queen (the President). I was having none of it, but I’m still eager to do what I can for one of my favorite bookish places.

But the biggest excitement for me was the publication of my own book, A Dirty Word. Not only did I fulfill a lifelong dream by finally becoming a published author, but the launch of my book gave me an opportunity to connect with a number of awesome people (Linda Kay Klein, Christine Wild, JoEllen Notte, Lynn Comella, etc.) and visit several awesome places (Bluestockings and Cafe con Libros). The high point, however, was doing a joint event at Watchung Booksellers with Emily Nagoski, the author of Come As You Are. Chatting about female sexuality and rape culture with another personal hero of mine in a room filled with some of my favorite people was a dream.

Since my book launch, I’ve felt a bit depleted, unsure of what to write next. But that’s why I’m turning to books again. If anything can inspire me to create something amazing, it’s the brilliant works of others.

So what inspired me this year? Read on for my 35 favorite reads of 2018.

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