I read 28 books in 2021. 95% of them were wonderful reads. Just as in 2020, I’m getting better at using my intuition to choose and finish books that really appeal to me.
I’ve listed the books in the order in which I read them. In past years, I’ve picked my top ten books for the year, but this year, instead of focusing on a number, I decided to highlight as many that felt right to recommend. So, I’ve chosen my top six and these books are in bold and are also hyperlinked for your convenience.
- See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
- Displacement by Kiku Hughes
- Change Me Prayers by Tosha Silver
- The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice
- Sheets by Brenna Thummler
- Wintering by Katherine May
- Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey
- Okapi Loves His Zebra Pants by Terri Tatchell & Ivan Sulima
- Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
- Healing the Gut by Shepherd Hoodwin
- Find Me by Anne Frasier
- Nomadland by Jessica Bruder
- The Light Through the Leaves by Glendy Vanderah
- She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
- Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
- Amoralman by Derek DelGaudio
- Launch by Jeff Walker
- Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
- The Miraculous by Jess Redman
- The Golden Bird by Edith Brill
- Boy: Tales from Childhood by Roald Dahl
- Retreat and Grow Rich by Darla LeDoux
- Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
- The Half-Acre Homestead by Lloyd Kahn & Lesley Creed
- Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
- We Hereby Refuse by Frank Abe, Tamiko Nimura, Ross Ishikawa & Matt Sasaki
- Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall
* = I’ve read this book before
I read some excellent graphic novels in 2021 and there are two that I especially recommend. They are Displacement by Kiku Hughes and We Hereby Refuse by Frank Abe, Tamiko Nimura, Ross Ishikawa & Matt Sasaki. Both books focus on the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II, and while the former is fiction and the latter is nonfiction, they both tell engaging, personal stories about what it was like to survive such an incredible injustice. I find that Americans are generally pretty bad at learning from history in order to not repeat history. Through the power of personal stories, these two books can help us to face history and learn from it, rather than ignore it.
Nomadland by Jessica Bruder has a great subtitle: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. That is what it’s about. It’s not about admiring vast landscapes shot at dusk or the romanticization of van life. It’s about the “invisible casualties of the Great Recession” and how everyday people are trying to survive in a country that would rather forget that they exist. It’s a very engaging read, and something that I’m feeling the pull to read again this year.
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper is my favorite fiction pick from 2021. This thriller is summed up well by the book jacket’s first sentence: A propulsive, gritty novel about a girl marked for death who must fight and steal to stay alive, learning from the most frightening man she knows–her father. It’s one hell of a ride. Not for the faint of heart. Highly recommended.
Most people have read a book or two or three by the amazing children’s book author Roald Dahl, but I bet 99% of his readers have no idea what his childhood was like or what inspired him to write his stories. If you’ve enjoyed any of Dahl’s books, I implore you to read Boy: Tales from Childhood by Roald Dahl. It’s quite amazing.
Now we’re at the end of my list. As luck would have it, the universe saved the best for last and gave me a gift during the last, dark, snowy days of December 2021. It was during that time that I read Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall and it quietly and profoundly changed my life. This sentence from the book’s jacket sums it up well: From the best-selling author of Born to Run, a heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America, and, in the process, discovering the life-changing power of the human-animal connection. Read it. I bet you’ll enjoy it. Then later this year, I’ll share how it changed me.
Hope this list gives you some good ideas for books to read in 2022. If you’ve read any of these already, please let me know what you thought of them in the comments box. I’d love to hear from you.
Wishing you a marvelous and healthy new year filled with loads of fantastic reading!
Peg Cheng is the author of Rebel Millionaire, a guide for how to retire as a millionaire even if you make a modest income, and The Contenders, a novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is also the proud owner of Plaid Frog Press with her husband Marcus Donner. Born in Southern California to Taiwanese parents, Peg currently lives in Seattle, Washington.
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Photo by Susan Q. Yin.
OMG Cubby, I read Running With Sherman too! Really liked it–am looking forward to what you have to say about the human–animal connection. I liked all his various detours (the Amish, cold water therapy, red state trucker women) as well.
This reminds me, the Jungian analyst Marie Von Franz studied fairy tales all during her career. She said (roughly, this is from memory), “I cannot predict the endings of fairy tales, except for one thing: he who befriends the animal will win in the end.”
Peg Cheng says
What?! Edgy, you read Running With Sherman too?!??! I shouldn’t be surprised (we are simpatico on quite a few things and you also have excellent taste, my dear) but I am surprised. I loved this book SO much and like you, I loved all the detours McDougall goes on while telling the rescue donkey turns ultrarunner story. It’s a fascinating read. I totally agree with Marie Von Franz too–the one who befriends the animal will win in the end! What a great quote.
I’m wondering, since you’re a runner, were you inspired to run differently or run more after reading Running With Sherman? And have you read McDougall’s other book, Born to Run? I just finished it and loved it almost as much as Running With Sherman.
Yes, I read Born to Run several years ago. In a way, it made running possible for me: I was always getting injured, but after reading it and changing my form, I was able to run pretty much injury free. (Switching to Altra shoes helped too.) And yes, I loved the Tarahumara, the couple who ran while reciting Beat poetry, and all the other great tangents.
Reading Running With Sherman didn’t change the way I ran (except for the sprinting exercise McDougall used for altitude training), but it did give me a shot of enthusiasm: I tried a four library run. (Sometimes I play running games. Once I decided to touch the doors of three libraries, without mapping it out or checking the mileage beforehand . The three library run was around 8 miles, the four was a bit over 11.)
The cool thing about the longer run was that it took me past some mirrored windows downtown. I thought I was running upright, but I was actually bent forward at the waist. At the time, I had a residential cleaning job for a lawyer who used to be a running coach, and still coached part time. I offered to pay him to look at my form, but he insisted on doing it for free. I gave him my copy of Running With Sherman as a thank you.
Well, maybe I should pick something else from your list, since our minds seem sistered! Maybe Harper or Dahl…
Peg Cheng says
11 miles?!?! Ahh, I can’t wait to get to your level of running someday, Edgy. Right now, I can barely do half an hour of 4 minutes of walking plus 30 seconds of sprinting. Half way through, I’m “sucking air” like McDougall likes to say. But hey, you gotta start somewhere.
I think you’ll dig She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper and you’ll be amazed at what Roald Dahl went through as a kid. Can’t go wrong with either.