I’m still shocked that 2020 is finally coming to an end. I know that 2021 isn’t going to magically change anything, but I’m more hopeful that the end of 2021 will be better than its beginning. Can’t say the same for this year.
Out of the 38 books I’ve read (so far) these are my favorites:
1 Axiom’s End – Lindsay Ellis
Over the summer my reading suffered as the stresses of the outside world were continuously building. For over three months I had a hard time finishing anything. Reading became a burden. Axiom’s End was a book I had been looking forward to for months due to the respect I have for Ellis’ commentary on a variety of subjects.
Axiom’s End got me out of my funk. A first contact that is focused on the relationship between human and alien, similar to Bumblebee. Being a fan of the ‘monster boyfriend’ storyline (Beauty and the Beast, Phantom of the Opera, etc.) I became invested pretty quickly and raced through the book. Can’t wait for the sequel that comes out fall 2021.
2 Dawn – Octavia Butler
After reading the amazing Kindred I’ve been looking forward to reading another of Butler’s books. Dawn leans a little harder into sci-fi, centering around the Oankali species saving what humans they could from the destruction of Earth. They have also found a way to ‘restart’ Earth, and wake the last of humanity right when Earth is ready to be inhabited again. But this benevolence comes at a very steep price.
Dawn’s first contact story is one about colonization and the Oaklani thinking they know what is best for humans at every turn. As the story progresses we see the gaps in their judgement and the high cost the humans pay. I truly appreciate the depth and nuance of Butler’s storytelling and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
3 Dune – Frank Herbert
Let. That. Spice. Flow! Hahaha
I’m actually in the midst of writing my review of Dune so for now I’ll just say that this was nothing like what I expected going in. I’ve heard Dune described for so long as one of the ‘best Sci-Fi books ever written,’ but what I got was more fantasy.
Of course there’s space travel and it’s set in the far off future, but the story feels more Game of Thrones than Star Trek. I feel like this genre melding is one of the many reasons this book really worked for me. Of course there’s much more, but I got to save something for the review! 😉
4 The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison
This is one of the books I had to let go of over the summer. The worldbuilding was dense and I just couldn’t handle the heaviness. I’m so glad to have picked it back up, for I needed its positivity.
Maia, half elf/half goblin, ascends to the throne after a terrible accident kills his father, the Emperor of the Elves, and his three older half brothers. Maia is not prepared by any means to become a leader and meets opposition on all sides.
What I loved about The Goblin Emperor is that Maia’s biggest assets are his cleverness and kind heart. Through this he is able to slowly make it through an impossible life that has been dropped in his lap.
5 A Head Full of Ghosts – Paul Tremblay
I feel like I already stated from my religious horror post what I found fascinating about A Head Full of Ghosts:
“I […] read A Head Full of Ghosts, about a teen girl who starts showing signs of acute schizophrenia and as things progress her religious father decides to bring in a priest. Cue the exorcism.
There are many elements at play in this book, including if there’s actually any supernatural goings on, but honestly that wasn’t the horror for me. It was how the priest, along with the reality crew (oh yeah, they also film the exorcism), manipulate the situation for their own purposes using a sick young lady. It’s a manipulation I’ve seen before.”
6 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie
That tricky Christie. Throughout most of this book I was a little puzzled that this was so highly rated. Seemed like a fine mystery but not a heavy hitter.
And then that ending. Punch me in the face why don’t ya? Due to the nature of the book I can’t get into much detail but please, if you haven’t read it and it hasn’t been spoiled for you, give this one a chance.
7 The Open Curtain – Brian Evenson
As I was studying mormonism and reading Under the Banner of Heaven (see below) I ran across the horror book The Open Curtain. At first I thought this was in the vein of ‘coming-of-age’ as young Rudd discovers the torrid history of Brigham Young’s grandson, William Hooper Young (this part actually stems from the real life gruesome murder of Anna Pulitzer, which Young was found guilty).
Rudd, as he is dealing with his own personal struggles, starts to become obsessed with Pulitzer’s murder and of blood sacrifice, which was seen as a possible motive of Young’s. That’s where things get really dark. I’m still surprised by where this story ended up and I’m definitely reading more from Evenson in the future.
8 The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying – Grady Hendrix
This was my most stressful read this year and honestly I’m shocked I was able to finish it, which is a testament to how much I loved the story. I think what helped was that the beginning was so heartwarming and I really needed to see Patrica (our heroine) win the day. Because boy oh boy, this was gaslight central.
I thought the vampire at the center of the story was a solid symbol for the white male privilege/oppression of the ‘90s, where ‘greed is good’ was more than just a motto.
9 Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith – Jon Krakauer
In 1984, Brenda Lafferty and her baby girl, Erica, were both brutally murdered. What was even more shocking is that the killers were Ron and Dan Lafferty, Brenda’s brother-in-laws and Erica’s uncles. The brothers’ defense was that they were given a revelation that Brenda and Erica had to be blood sacrificed.
From here, Under the Banner of Heaven is part true crime story but mainly an in-depth examination of the mormon church and its fundemantalist off-shoots. This might be dry for some, but if you have an interest in the subject matter then it’s an amazing dive into not only a facet of American history but a current reality.
Other books I really enjoyed this year:
Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann
The Low, Low Woods – Carmen Maria Machado
Monstress vol 4 – Majorie L. Liu
We Live Inside Your Eyes – Kealan Patrick Burke