I think this is the first time in a while that I feel like I had a good reading year. I had a lot of really enjoyable reads (but very few absolute favorites, not every book can be Brood sadly). So I thought I’d share with you some books I really liked but that did not quite make my list of favorites this year. All of these I HIGHLY recommend. Let’s get into it.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
I really enjoyed this odd little novel. It was the first thing I read this year and it had great staying power, as I still think about it a lot. I love the way Murata explored social expectations and the idea of a person who not only does not rise up to them, but also does not actually care to do so. I also enjoyed how Keiko embodies this feeling that we all get sometimes to just say “fuck it” to the society we live in and the unbearable pressure to conform. This was smart but also quite quirky and charming which I really enjoyed. The only reason this isn’t on my favorites list is because this isn’t a novel that focuses on characters (which is what I need in a book to love it), but I still really enjoyed this and would absolutely highly recommend.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Becky Chambers really injected a pure shot of serotonin directly into my veins and I love her for it. This is THE found family novel, and it was such a comforting read for me. It’s a slow, meditative story on humanity and I love that in SciFi stories. And I just love how Chambers interweaves themes of colonialism and xenophobia in here, while still focusing on making an intricate world and even more intricate characters. It was an all around stunning novel, and the only reason it isn’t on my top of the year list is because I think it’s quite long and self-indulgent, and could have used a bit more editing. But I would DIE for Ohan and that’s that. Highly recommend, and I cannot wait to read more from Chambers in 2022.
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
This book had all the potential to become an all time favorite, and while I did not enjoy the second part of this novel, I found the first part so enthralling. Luiselli’s writing is tailor-made for me, with simple but hard hitting prose. The novel is ambitious, and weaves together an extremely personal, insular narrative with a overarching theme of displacement and migration. I also loved the intertextuality of this novel, and it made me realize how that is one of my absolute favorite things in fiction. And while I did not love the second part of the novel, and felt like the narrative got too bloated, I am still so glad I read this one, and if you don’t mind child narrator’s, I’d recommend it.
Magma by Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir, translated by Meg Matich
At one point, everyone I know was reading this, and everyone seemed to love it, and so did I! This is a tense novella with an insular and accomplished exploration of an abusive relationship, and it’s highly effective. . What this novella nails for me is how insidious the abuse is, and at the same time, the psychological turmoil of Lilja. The self-blame and hatred are so incisively described, and the author never holds back. While I think that character work is hard to do in such a short time, I think the author does a fantastic job at making a really complex and layered character, which really left an impact on me. Ultimately, this did not make the final list since it is a novella, but I could not recommend it more. Also, this is my favorite cover ever.
No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
This is a controversial pick, but I really loved this and it stayed with me ever since I read it. As someone who Exists Online, I found this entirely relatable. I found this witty, and intelligent, with commentary on language that I really loved. The second part is very different in tone, and explores loss and grief in a way that I found really moving. It’s hard to recommend this one, because it’s so specific, but I really loved it. The only reason I am not including this on the final favorites list is because I am not sure if the novel as a whole worked for me, but I still think about it frequently, so it’s definitely an almost favorite. If you want to know more, here’s my review.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Okay this book has absolutely no faults, it’s a five star read that I loved, and it’s a brilliant piece of journalism. I just can’t help comparing it to Say Nothing, and it wasn’t say nothing.
Outline by Rachel Cusk
My first Cusk and what a banger it was. This book is a series of conversations and while that isn’t the most attention-grabbing description of a novel, it is actually quite an accomplished piece of writing. Cusk delivers a completely unobtrusive narrator, that becomes a vessel for other people’s thoughts and feelings, and it was such an accomplished piece of writing. I was so so impressed. It’s not on my final list because it’s not a very character-driven story, but I highly recommend it nonetheless. More of my thoughts HERE.
I would love to hear from you! What were your almost favorite books of this year – books you loved, but did not quite make your favorites list?
In the meantime, happy reading
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