2021 in Reading

by Cam N. Coulter


Posted on January 10, 2022 reading


Photo of a library

Here’s most all the books I read in 2021:

  1. Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e by Eugene Marshall
  2. Uncanny Magazine Issue 37 edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
  3. Star*Line 43.1 edited by Vince Gotera (poetry)
  4. Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker (graphic novel)
  5. The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson (audiobook)
  6. Ozy and Millie by Dana Simpson (comics)
  7. Star*Line 43.2 edited by Vince Gotera (poetry)
  8. Fratelli Tutti by Pope Francis
  9. Star*Line 43.3 edited by F.J. Bergmann (poetry)
  10. Star*Line 43.4 edited by Melanie Stormm (poetry)
  11. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 1 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  12. Persephone Station by Stina Leicht (audiobook)
  13. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  14. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 2 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  15. More than Ready: Be Strong and Be You and Other Lessons for Women of Color on the Rise by Cecilia Munoz (audiobook)
  16. A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene
  17. Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Way to Reach Big Goals by Owain Service and Rory Gallagher
  18. Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind by Regine M. Gilbert
  19. Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood (audiobook)
  20. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Seventh Edition by Joseph M. Williams
  21. The Vital Abyss by James S.A. Corey (audiobook)
  22. Strange Dogs by James S.A. Corey (audiobook)
  23. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 3 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  24. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 4 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  25. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 5 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  26. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 6 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  27. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 7 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  28. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 8 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  29. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 9 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  30. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 10 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  31. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 11 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  32. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 12 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  33. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 13 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  34. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 14 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  35. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 15 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  36. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 16 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  37. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 17 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  38. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 18 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  39. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 19 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  40. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 20 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  41. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 21 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  42. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 22 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  43. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 23 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  44. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 24 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  45. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 25 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  46. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 26 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  47. Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 27 by Hiromu Arakawa (manga)
  48. Pizza Witch by Sarah Graley (comics)
  49. Star*Line 44.1 edited by F.J. Bergmann (poetry)
  50. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (audiobook)
  51. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (audiobook)
  52. The Feather Room by Anis Mojgani (poetry)
  53. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
  54. How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism by Cory Doctorow (audiobook)
  55. Think Like a Commoner by David Bollier
  56. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (audiobook)
  57. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (audiobook)
  58. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
  59. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
  60. A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (audiobook)
  61. Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition that Is Shaping the Next Economy by Nathan Schneider
  62. We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker (audiobook)
  63. Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma (audiobook)
  64. Tao Teh Ching by Lao Tzu translated by John C.H. Wu
  65. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (audiobook)
  66. Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel)
  67. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
  68. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin
  69. Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee (audiobook)
  70. Introduction to Web Accessibility: Essential Accessibility for Everyone by Ryerson University, The Chang School
  71. Professional Web Accessibility Auditing Made Easy: Essential Skills for Web Developers, Content Creators, and Designers by Ryerson University, The Chang School
  72. Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee (audiobook)
  73. Questland by Carrie Vaughn
  74. The Excellents: Excellent Princess Roleplaying by Adriel Wilson and Chris O’Neill

Now, let me shout out the books that I liked the most.

Prose Fiction

Here are my favorite novels and novellas that I read last year:

  • The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson: A fantastic novel about climate change. Although it’s filled with tragedy, it’s fundamentally hopeful — it imagines a path toward a sustainable future.
  • Persephone Station by Stina Leicht: A fun, far-future science fiction story, filled with badass women and nonbinary mercenaries.
  • Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood: A fun, modern, and colorful space opera adventure.
  • The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers: The fourth book in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series. (It stands well on its own, but I’d recommend you read the series in order.) This is the best “cozy” novel I have ever read. I highly recommend this series (and this book) to everyone.
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers: A beautiful, original meditation on vocation and sustainability. It’s about a nonbinary tea monk who befriends a robot. I am impatiently awaiting the sequel, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune: A fun, colorful, queer fantasy novel about found family. A little simplistic, but a real joy.
  • Questland by Carrie Vaughn: Take Jurassic Park, swap out the dinosaurs with a fantasy wonderland, and you’ve got Questland, more or less. This was an easy, fun, and nerdy read. I should note, however, that the protagonist survived a school shooting and has PTSD. I really appreciated this representation and thought it added a great dimension to the book, but if you’re closer to gun violence than I am, this novel will likely be a harder read for you.

Mistborn: Era One by Brandon Sanderson

I read Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages by Brandson Sanderson, which comprise era one of his Mistborn series.

This was the most fun I’ve had reading in quite a while. Although these are long epic fantasy novels, they are easy and captivating reads, and they flew right by for me. The worldbuilding is fascinating and immersive, the plot is creative and compelling, and I really latched on to the characters. I am eagerly looking forward to reading more Sanderson.

We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

I really enjoyed listening to We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker. It’s a near-future technology study about one family’s experience with Pilots, a brain implant that approximates functional multitasking. Here are some things I liked about this novel:

  • The family has two moms (in a queernorm sort of way).
  • One of the significant characters in the novel is a trans man (again, in a queernorm sort of way).
  • One of the major characters has epilepsy, and that isn’t the only character with a disability. I really appreciated the disability representation and themes in this novel. (Note: this isn’t a book in which the main character “just happens to be disabled.” Her disability is deeply intertwined with the plot.)

The Machineries of Empire Series by Yoon Ha Lee

I read Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, and Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee, which comprise the Machineries of Empire series.

It took me some time to get into this series, but I am so glad I read it. This is a military science fiction series that’s deeply critical of the military and of empires. Fundamentally, it’s about one character’s personal mission to change the toxic empire they serve. For me, the plot developed a little slow, particularly in the first book, but once it started coming together at the end of the first book, it really pulled me in and it paid off incredibly well. The third book, Revenant Gun, was my favorite. It went in a totally different direction than I was expecting, a direction that was compelling and surprising yet inevitable.

The best part about this series, though, was the world building. Yoon Ha Lee mixes Korean culture with a love of wild mathematics to craft an immersive civilization and a startlingly unique and magical science system. I go on walks in the morning, and as I read this series, I found phrases like “calendrical rot,” “exotic weapons,” and “Shuos agents” floating through my head as I walked. For me, there was just something so chewy and meaty about Yoon Ha Lee’s worldbuilding and the terms he uses — it was a fun challenge to wrap my head around, and it really captivated my imagination.

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

This was my first time reading Tehanu, and it was … not what I was expecting, which is kind of the whole point of this book. This is the fourth book in Le Guin’s Earthsea series. The first three books flip many of the traditional tropes of fantasy: they center women and people of color, and they eschew military conflict and violent action. Yet, those books still function under a certain patriarchal worldview. They center powerful people who don’t live ordinary lives, people who travel across the archipelago on epic journies. Tehanu, meanwhile, is a deeply feminist tale, feminist in a particularly domestic, reflective, internal-conflict oriented manner. This is a slow, character-driven story with a tone unlike the first three Earthsea books. For me, that made it the most interesting book in the series so far and, simultaneously, the hardest to get into. I look forward to re-reading this book when I’m older.

Fullmetal Alchemist

I read the manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa, and I really enjoyed it. The worldbuilding is immersive and creative. The magic system and the characters are lots of fun, and the plot was skillfully crafted. This is generally an optimistic story, but it certainly has heartbreaking moments and heavy themes — Fullmetal Alchemist is fundamentally about power, war, and genocide on one hand and about redemption, loyalty, and perseverance on the other. If this sounds up your alley, I highly recommend it.

Nonfiction

These were my favorite nonfiction reads from last year:

  • More than Ready: Be Strong and Be You and Other Lessons for Women of Color on the Rise by Cecilia Munoz: A smart and caring memoir about her time working at the National Council of La Raza and in the Obama White House. I highly recommend this to everyone, particularly marginalized folks interested in politics, service, and/or activism.
  • A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene: The best wedding book. If you’re planning a wedding, read this.
  • Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Seventh Edition by Joseph M. Williams (reread): This is the best book about writing that I’ve come across. I strongly recommend it to anyone who writes things other people will read.
  • Think Like a Commoner by David Bollier (reread): A great introduction to the commons. What’s the commons? A really promising alternative to the market and the state. If you’re trying to imagine futures beyond capitalism, read this.
  • Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma: A fun and intelligent memoir about accessibility and disability justice.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Do you have any book recommendations for me?

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash


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