A baker's dozen of books
It’s so easy to think the way we’ve always thought. Patterns, trauma, and exhaustion can stagnate us.
My favorite books this year are the ones that forced me to look at the world from a new perspective and, as a result, nudged me out of my own ruts. For me, fiction and memoir tend to be the most transformative. Universalizing the details of just one story is easier than applying macro concepts on an individual level.
By the time 2021 ends, I will have read 100 books (and will have quit about a dozen more). During a year largely devoid of childcare, it’s a little surprising that I racked up a list that long. If you want to follow along with my 2022 books, you can find me on Goodreads.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve let go of the need to finish a book if it’s not for me. I quit if I get to page 100, and the writing or topic doesn’t resonate or teach me something. What freedom!
The books below are my top 13 of 2021. These are the ones that after finishing, I closed the book, held it against my chest, and took a deep breath. The ones that permanently shifted something inside.
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
I wrote about this one in an earlier newsletter, and my love for this work of “eco-fiction” has not faded. I can’t wait to dive into her next book in 2022.
Beautiful World, Where Are You? by Sally Rooney
I think this is Sally Rooney’s best book. I absolutely wept. The details she picks to describe and the distance from which she narrates. Wowwowwow. I’m jealous of the people who haven’t read it yet.
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon
Thanks to Aubrey Gordon, my perspective on fatness totally changed in 2021. Because of her book, her Instagram account, and her podcast, I am newly educated on how I had participated in and benefited from the oppression of fat people. I have internalized the false belief that thin = healthy and she has taught me why that isn’t true. I am committed to continuing to learn.
Demystifying Disability by Emily Ladau
Emily Ladau, a brilliant activist, is endlessly kind and patient (even when, because of her willingness to engage on Twitter, she has every right not to be) and it’s these characteristics that make her the perfect person to write this guide on being an ally to disabled people. I LOVE THIS BOOK. Please consider buying this for your home. She is changing the world.
I am lucky to call Jenny True a friend and her book about parenting is the ideal gift for a new parent (or yourself). She is honest and witty and, importantly, inclusive. (Pregnant _people_, people) I love her blog too.
Stranger Care by Sarah Sentilles
This book was maybe my top book of 2021. Well, I don’t know. Now that I write that I start to think of other favorites. But, it’s up there. Sarah’s writing about foster parenting and interdependence is stunning. She is smart, thoughtful, honest, and observant. Her story of her child, Coco, will sit in your chest for months.
Maia Kobabe (e/em/eir) illustrated and wrote this graphic novel which generously gives insight into eir process of discovering and then sharing eir gender and sexual identity with friends, family, and now the public. I felt honored to read the stories that e shared and was impressed by the selection of details and the evocative picture e painted. An accessible place to start if you are looking to learn more about gender identity.
Raising a Rare Girl by Heather Kirn Lanier
This essay, years ago, introduced me to Heather Kirn Lanier. The way she thinks about the beauty of disability and the value of diverse bodies and minds changed the way I think about my own disabled body. Her memoir about how her disabled body changed Heather’s own approach to success, perfection, and a worthy life is thoughtful and transparent.
Between Two Kingdoms Suleika Jaouad
I am, obviously, not the only person who was impacted by Suleika Jaouad’s memoir this past year. She writes about living in that place between sick and well and what she learned after getting cancer in her early twenties. Her book is masterful and the community she has created through The Isolation Journals has been a balm for me this year.
The #metoo movement started with Tarana Burke and her memoir was life-changing. She is a wise leader and the world is a better place because of her advocacy and love.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Michelle Zauner, the lead singer of the band, Japanese Breakfast, wrote a moving and intelligent memoir about her mom’s cancer diagnosis when Michelle was in her twenties. I learned about Michelle’s experience as a woman who holds the tension between her Korean and American parents, and it expanded the way I think about those who straddle identities.
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
Ross Gay’s book of short essays brought me so many moments of joy this year. This book is a beautiful gift for yourself or others—a stunning way to start the day.
What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer
Kate Baer’s poetry must be pretty special if it tore me away from Mary Oliver on more than a few mornings. Thankful for the way she writes about being a woman, mother, wife, and friend.
May you find something that nudges you away from stagnancy and toward healing in the next year. I am always up for talking about books. And if you are ever looking for what to read next or the perfect gift for someone, I’m your person.
Wishing you moments of peace and joy this December.