Books did a lot of heavy lifting in getting me through this past year, I’ll tell you what. In Year One of the pandemic I didn’t read as much as I thought I would, but by 2021, I felt I was in the zone. I, like a lot of people, was better prepared in 2021 to deal. I mean, we’d already done almost a year, right? And, it’s true that some things did kind of get back to a type of normal, and even though my anxiety was still high, it wasn’t as high as it had been…especially if I made the decision to put down my phone, to log off the news sites. Which I did. Or at least tried to do. For the most part.
So, books. I managed to read quite a few and, in no particular order, here are the ones that stuck with me most, the ones that I still think about.
I suppose it isn’t shocking that all these books are by women; I don’t typically read a lot of men’s fiction. But what is surprising is the nonfiction representation here, because I think this might be the first time that not one, not two but THREE nonfiction titles appear on my best of list! Really love that journey for me.
As well, two collections of short stories made the list, and two novels. The bulk of my reading was novels, of course, and there is definitely something to be said for consistency, but I’m happy to have branched out just a little this year, too.
There’s not a real theme running through these top seven titles, except maybe the theme of “making me feel a lot of different feelings at the same time”.
I laughed and cried and spent time thinking “yikes” during All’s Well. Speak, Silence was overwhelmingly sad, and breathtakingly beautiful. I held my breath and peeked through my fingers while reading In The Dream House, and marveled at the beauty that can be found in trauma. And, The Most Precious Substance on Earth made me laugh and cringe and feel all the nostalgia, while stories in You Are Not What We Expected were startling and sad and fierce.
Crying in H Mart evoked laughter and heartbreak and feelings of loss, and Wintering made me wistful and pensive, with a desire to turn inward and spend time reflecting.
I’m not sure if my emotional response to what I read was heightened this past year, but I do know there were some books I had been anticipating that I was unable to read. At first I was beating myself up about it; “they’re books, you love all books, you’ve read harder books” but I eventually clued in to what my heart needed, and if I found a book’s subject matter ultra challenging, I gently closed it and told myself “Not yet” and moved on.
For the books I did read, I am so grateful to each of them for what they allowed me to feel this year, and if I had the time and inclination I would write small sentences for the other 44, too. Because when you don’t know what to do with your big, big feelings, it’s so nice to have stories as an outlet.