Some of my 2021 reading highlights

Here’s a partial selection of books I particularly loved or that made a deep impression on me in 2021. I’m not a fan of lists/favourites*… but I am a fan of sharing recommendations, so here we are.

The Quest for New England trilogy by Dark Age Voices would also be on this list, for teaching me about a whole part of history I knew almost nothing about, but eBooks don’t really go with the photo aesthetic. So here’s a link instead. I also read all but the last few pages of Som Paris’s book in 2020, so that might be cheating, but it’s great, so I don’t care. Raven Nothing is on one level a fantasy novel with a trans main character, but in fact explores ideas of transness in a much more interesting and complex way then that description suggests.

As for the other books, I’m not going to say a lot. Kintu is just a great story, brilliantly told. Doughnut Economics introduces a simple but brilliant idea that helps us look at economics through the lens of social and environmental justice, and also provides a really great potted history of economics. Whitechapel Noise is a bit more specialist but if you’re interested in what Yiddish songs tell us about life in Whitechapel in the late 19th and early 20th century – which I definitely am – this is the book. I don’t know what to say about The Song of Achilles. It spoke to me so deeply that I either say nothing or give it a blog post of its own.

Codex 1962 is crazy and brilliant and strange and I loved it. Rebel Ideas is about cognitive diversity i.e. the importance of having different ways of thinking brought together to solve problems. This addresses a major problem – ie lack of cognitive diversity – which most people don’t even know is a problem! The Transgender Issue is more than just the book to go to if you want to understand current debates about trans rights and trans identities – though it’s definitely that too – it’s also brilliant on how the struggles that trans people face fit into the wider picture of social justice. Necessary reading for all cis people, I’d suggest.

There’s no logic to the order the pictures are in, beyond how they came up on my phone, so Milkman is certainly not least. In fact none of the books are least, that’s the point! Milkman isn’t just a clever way of looking obliquely at a troubled part of recent history; it’s also a brilliant story with particularly great narrative voice.

Anyway that’s it for now. There are quite a few good books I’ve read and missed out, mainly because this started as an Instagram post and I focused on books that I either had on hand to photograph or had already photographed before passing them on to others to read.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, cos I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or feel free to ask me more about them. I’d like to hear your book recommendations for my 2022 reading too!

*That said, if I did have a top 10 books of all time ever, which of course I don’t, The Song of Achilles would definitely be on it.

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