Favorite Books of 2021

Book(s) of the year:

Legend of the Condor Heroes series by Jin Yong (A Hero Born, A Bond Undone, A Snake Lies Waiting, A Heart Divided

Notable Reads:

Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne – A vital funkified, absurdist, P-Funk and Sun Ra voice in the genre. The language dances with the complex but fun intensity of be-bop and free jazz. If this is the revolution I’m here for it.

Busted Synapses Erica Satifka – I will gladly take more Appalachian rural punk please

The Flying None by Cody Goodfellow – Cody Goodfellow’s mad cap imagination never fails to amaze and entertain.

Marigold by Sara Gran – Audible only production. A nested box of a haunted house tale. Great writing and great voice acting too.

The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin – Might just be Vlautin’s best book yet. Brilliantly realized characters. Backed into a corner and forced out into the night, a young woman will allow a part of herself that she has kept at bay out to achieve her goals.

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby – Two men, linked by tragedy, have something else in common: their only language of self expression is violence. They’re about to express their grief. One man is visited by ghosts, the other lives with them. Blacktop Wasteland is about a son dealing with the ghost of a father and about fathers dealing with the ghosts of their sons.

Tears of the Trufflepig by Fernando Flores – A bold mixture of styles and genres that always kept me on my toes.

Collection of the Years:

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung – Filled with gonzo, feminist, surreal ideas

Notable Translated Reads:

The Aayakudi Murders by Indra Soundar Rajan – A Tamil mystery novel that, at times, had a bit of a Golden Age of Mystery vibe to it.

Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate – This isn’t crime fiction but, in some respects, it reminds me of Megan Abbott’s work. Take some of the elements from noir and hardboiled fiction (lonliness, alienation, desperation, etc) and transplant them to a non-traditional setting (the world of cheerleading for example or like here, the world of J-Pop idols and their fans). With Abbott’s work, there is always a crime fiction framework to fall back on, which makes sense given the specifics of her academic background and that framework isn’t present here because again, this isn’t crime fiction.

It’s split into two halves. The first half covers the story in the synopsis. The second half flashes forward a couple of years and looks at the aftermath. The first half is more gnarly and the second more philosophical.

The Cock is the Culprit by Unni R – I saw someone mention this on Twitter in Passing. When I saw it was available for a couple of bucks, I grabbed it. After I bought it I realized that he wrote a short story that was the basis for the film Ozhivudivasathe Kali, which I enjoyed. It’s a simple story about how something small can spread and grow like wildfire, fracturing a community.

The Hole by Hye-young Pyun – Simple story that wound up sticking with me long after.

Sin is a Puppy that Follows You Home by Balaraba Ramat Yakubu

I read this simply because I was intrigued by what it is.

“Beginning in the late 1980s, northern Nigeria saw a boom in popular fiction written in the Hausa language. Known as littattafan soyayya (“love literature”), the books are often inspired by Hindi films—which have been hugely popular among Hausa speakers for decades—and are primarily written by women. An Islamic soap opera complete with polygamous households, virtuous women, scheming harlots, and black magic and the first full-length novel by a woman ever translated from Hausa to English.”

I have no frame of reference to judge a book broadcast on such a specific frequency but man am I glad I read it.

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