It’s always a bit staggering — to find oneself and the world arriving yet again at a December 31st. Here we are, on the precipice of hope, and yet, how easy it is to feel the loss of the year past — how we want to hold so much in ourselves at once.
It has become a tradition of mine to celebrate December 31st with a remembrance and appreciation for some books I encountered during the year, books that brought company, wisdom, linguistic splendor, and perspective — for in times of uncertainty, books are a stalwart, omnipresent friend. Throughout electric days, blue days, and the always-prowling fog, look — a book is here, waiting to sing to you as you hold each other close.
It would be impossible to include them all, but here is a sampling of a few books I would like to highlight: texts that were exquisitely staining and impactful to me in one way or another — and have inevitably shattered and rearranged my glass body, my glass path … books that after reading, I will never be quite the same.
2021 was a year in which I also became reacquainted with the audiobook — a wonderful format to slow down, marvel at the sound of language on a tongue, and invite voices and oral storytelling into our private ear rooms. The book via the voice vessel becomes a secret companion on so many walks. Another reminder that a life with books is a life of abundance. A star next to a book title means that I listened to and enjoyed the audiobook version, and you might enjoy it, too! (Hint: Did you know you can borrow audiobooks from your library system through the Libby app?)
So, on this pensive day of old and new, I give a fizzy thanks to those who write books, make books, bind books, share books, give books, read books, and love books! Happy New Year, and Happy Reading.
(in no particular order:)
I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart
Pew by Catherine Lacey
Another Country by James Baldwin *
Cleanness by Garth Greenwell *
Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon *
Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo
The Pastor by Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
Figuring by Maria Popova *
Sleep, Death’s Brother by Jesse Ball
Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Two Big Differences by Ian Ross Singleton
Keen by Erin Stalcup
How I Became a Nun by César Aira, translated by Chris Andrews
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer *
Water I Won’t Touch by Kayleb Rae Candrilli
Woolgathering by Patti Smith
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich *