It’s become my habit, on the last post of the year, to think back over the year in reading. This gives me a chance to give a separate boost to the books I found particularly valuable, for a variety of reasons. My Goodreads total for 2021 will end up being 70 (two haven’t yet shown up on my page). It’s easiest to do this by category, so I’ll begin with fiction. My favorite novels of this past year were Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, Stephen Graham Jones’ Night of the Mannequins, Lisa Tuttle’s Familiar Spirit, Hank Green’s A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, and Christina Henry’s The Girl in Red. I really enjoyed Joseph Bruchac’s Bearwalk as well, but it’s for younger readers.
For what might be called spiritual memoirs I found Ernestine Hayes’ Blonde Indian remarkable and Heather and Gary Botting’s The Orwellian World of Jehovah’s Witnesses revealing. Vine Deloria’s God Is Red was stunning. (It should be clear by now that I read quite a lot from indigenous writers.) If you count love of books as spiritual I would include Andy Laties’ Rebel Bookseller as well. As long as we’re on spiritual, books by religion professors might count, so I would add Intimate Alien by David Halperin. If you count just memoirs, I would also add Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington. And if reflective essays count, John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed. And Thich Nhat Hahn’s Love Letter to the Earth. I learn so much from reading about how others deal with their lives.
Books in the nonfiction category tended toward horror movie analyses (ahem), but some stood out even among the weirdness. Daniel Ogden’s The Werewolf in the Ancient World inspired me. Kendall R. Phillips’ A Place of Darkness was a well-written account of early horror movies. Tanya Krzywinska’s A Skin for Dancing in was insightful and helpful to my research, if difficult to locate. Likewise Hammer and Beyond by the late Peter Hutchings. Mathias Clasen’s A Very Nervous Person’s Guide to Horror Movies was fun and informative. For importance I’d rate Dag Øistein Endsjø’s Sex and Religion at the top. So much of the world’s conflict is based on these two factors. It’s difficult to believe that we don’t talk about them and end up fighting and killing over them. If we can’t talk about it, at least we can read about it. There are many other books I enjoyed over the year. Enough that even a brief mention of each would put me over my usual word limit. (They’re easily found, in any case, by using the “Books” category to the right.) 2021 may have been a challenging year, but books helped me make it through it.