2021 roundup

2021—a year of huge changes (for better and for worse) but also the year I read the most I ever have. In the midst of all the major transitions and events in my life, books were my anchor.

2021—a year of huge changes (for better and for worse) but also the year I read the most I ever have. In the midst of all the major transitions and events in my life, books were my anchor.

reflection

The continuing pandemic has brought a lot of loss to this year and, at least for me, a sense of hopelessness and monotony. However, as I look upon this year in retrospect, I think I have experienced a lot, and have even grown from those experiences.

This year, I moved onto my college campus for the first time, took classes in person for the first time, formed new relationships with people I never expected to be friends with.

One of the biggest and hardest life changes for me this year was when my family moved to a different state. After 15 years in my hometown, I had to leave behind the people and places I knew and loved. Not only did this move happen right after I moved into college, but it was jarring to return to a completely different place where I knew nobody outside of my immediate family. Especially after a year of staying inside and neither being able to enjoy all the activities I’d normally do nor seeing all the people I’d normally see, it felt like I didn’t even get a chance to properly say goodbye. While I was at school and my family was in the midst of physically moving, it felt like I had no home. But more than ever, I had to learn that my definition of “home” can expand and change, and I’m proud of myself for my–albeit slow—acceptance that I can find home in people too, even when far from the places of my heart. It also made me think a lot about displacement and colonialism—how I have been so attached to certain places that, as a non-Indigenous person, I am a settler on. And how I’ve let “legality” define so much of my “claim” to certain places. It’s spurred a lot of reflection in me, and in this coming year, I want to dedicate more time and effort into learning a) how to reckon with the harm I create as a settler on Indigenous lands and b) how to be an ally and co-conspirator for Indigenous rights.

But this year, I also read more than ever. I found myself giving more priority to reading, and carving out time for it even in the midst of all my other stresses and obligations. I found so much solace in these stories. They took me away from reality when I needed them to, they reminded me of places I’ve considered home when I felt like I didn’t have one, and they made me feel seen when I was dealing with isolation and loneliness.

In the beginning of the year, I made a list of bookish goals for myself, and here’s how I think I did.

1. Read 30 books

I closed out the year with 100 books under my belt! Which feels pretty wild to say, honestly. I actually hit 30 books by the middle of the year, but I wanted to push myself to keep reading. Especially with the help of Subtle Asian Book Club’s summer bingo challenge, I got closer to 100 books than I ever have been in the past. So I asked myself, why not? and challenged myself to reach 100 books by the end of the year.

…Which was farther in reality than it seemed in my mind. I ended up binge-reading throughout my winter break, reading two to three books almost every day in order to reach my goal. I think there are both positives and negatives to this.

Positives: I am proud of myself for sticking with a goal and accomplishing something I was determined to do. I read so many amazing books during this period. I also expected myself to burn out or enter a reading slump, but I actually think reading so much in this short period just invigorated my love for it. I was truly reminded of how much I love it, and after all of that reading, I honestly feel a little bereft to not have a book in my hand all day. I also challenged myself to try out books of different genres, subjects, and forms during this period, and I truly feel like this last stretch of reading especially broadened my horizons.

However, I don’t think I want to pose myself a similar challenge again. I hadn’t wanted to put pressure on myself by setting an official goal, but I was so determined to reach 100 that I ended up feeling like if I didn’t reach it after getting so close, I’d be a failure…which is obviously an unhealthy mindset. So this arbitrary number I set in my mind ended up giving me immense pressure anyway. I also found myself purposely choosing books on the shorter end, books under 300 pages and books in verse because I knew they’d be quicker reads. While so many of these books were amazing and were books I’d wanted to read anyway, I don’t want to be choosing books just so I can reach a number faster; I don’t want to prioritize quantity over all else. Also, because I was on break and fortunately had little other obligations (which I know isn’t a privilege that everyone has), I had the time to spend basically all day reading. But this also meant I shirked other responsibilities and passions—working on other projects, focusing on personal growth, and spending time with family. It was a very unbalanced lifestyle that I don’t want to repeat in the future.

I hope that in 2022, I can lead a more balanced reading lifestyle: one where I don’t rush myself to finish books, or pressure myself to spend every free moment of my life reading.

2. Read more books by BIPOC, POC, and underrepresented authors

Somewhat. As I mentioned in my 2021 reading goals check-in back in August, while my 2021 reads (especially the books I read by choice and not for class) have almost all been written by authors of color, they skew heavily toward Asian American writers, especially those who are East Asian and cishet. Even despite intentionally choosing more books by non-East Asian and non-cishet authors in the last quarter of the year, these trends still persisted. I don’t mean to say that it’s a bad thing to read these authors, but I do want to make an increased effort to read books by other underrepresented authors as well: Black authors, Indigenous authors, non-white Latinx authors, Pacific Islander authors, queer authors, disabled authors, neurodivergent authors, and more.

3. Expand my horizons genre-wise

I’ve read a lot more memoirs this year than I ever have in the past, and honestly they have been some of my favorite books of the year. I’ve also read a few non-fiction books, graphic novels, short stories, poetry books, and collections. I’ve dipped my toe into some genres outside of my usual contemporary/literary/historical fiction: I’ve read a few translated works, a few that verge into sci-fi-ish areas, and have picked up some more fantasy books as well (whether more or less than other years, though, I can’t say).

While I do find it rewarding to read outside my usual forms and genres, I think I’ve pretty much accepted at this point that some genres (looking at you, sci-fi) just aren’t my thing and I’m not going to pressure myself to read books I’m not interested in. However, I do want to continue exploring non-fiction more!

4. Finally finish reading The Lord of the Rings

It’s still a no from me, haha. I was trying not to read any books by white men this year so that’s my excuse. Honestly, at this rate, finishing the series isn’t high up on my list of priorities but I do want to do so…at some point in my life. Maybe in the far future.

5. Participate in the Down Memory Jane Readalong

Unfortunately I didn’t keep up with this readalong but I did take a class on Austen that I loved, and there I got to read her novels that I hadn’t yet read before this year: Lady Susan, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park.

However, the readalong’s reading list contained a lot of adaptations that seem super interesting and which feature people of color. I definitely want to read those, as well as Austen’s other works, like Sanditon and The Watsons.

In regards to my blogging goals, I didn’t maintain a consistent posting schedule, nor did I interact much with other bloggers. To be honest, I think these are goals that I’ll have to put on the backburner, because between classes, work, extracurriculars, and my other obligations, I simply don’t have much time to spend on WordPress.

With Bookstagram, one of my goals was to focus less on numbers. I think this is definitely something I’m still working on, as I still often fixate on how many followers and likes I get. However, I think one improvement I’ve made in this area is no longer being part of an engagement group (I don’t think these groups are necessarily bad, but for me I found myself participating in one solely because I wanted more interactions with my content and not to create any meaningful relationships with other creators). I’ve also found a lot of joy simply in interacting with the friends I have made on Bookstagram! Even when I don’t get many likes on a post, I love that there’s a consistent group of people whom I’m always happy to see on Instagram. We’ll interact genuinely with each other’s content: DMing, commenting, and liking. Every time I see their profile pictures or handles, I get a happy little jolt like, hey, it’s them!

roundup

And now, for my annual roundup of the books I’ve read and a few of my thoughts on each! I really love this little tradition—even when I post nothing else, I always like to wrap things up at the end of the year and do a little reflection on all of the stories I’ve consumed.

  1. Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob 5/5 – I was really touched by this graphic novel memoir about family, race, parenthood, and immigrant experiences. Jacob has an amazing art style and a voice that’s cutting, humorous, and sweet all at once.
  2. Naturally Tan by Tan France 3/5 – As a casual watcher of Queer Eye, I enjoyed hearing France’s voice come through in his memoir. However, the craft wasn’t my favorite which made me somewhat disinterested as I was reading.
  3. Clues to the Universe by Christina Li 4/5 – This middle-grade novel is so heartwarming. I loved the found family aspects and how it’s a quiet story about kids who dream big. Read my full review here!
  4. Class Act by Jerry Craft 5/5 – The sequel to New Kid, Craft’s poignant but funny voice and captivating art style once again comes through.
  5. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander 5/5 – This book reminded me of why I loved reading so much as a kid—not to generalize, but this story made me think, they don’t make books like this anymore. The plot is just so. good. and Alexander’s verse is amazing.
  6. Know My Name by Chanel Miller 5/5 – This is definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. Miller’s writing is beautiful and I was struck over and over by her narrative. Definitely an important story to read, but also one about who Miller is beyond her “identity” as a victim.
  7. Happy Dreams, Little Bunny by Leah Hong 4/5 – Simply a sweet picture book with beautiful illustrations!
  8. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Illustrated by Michaela Goade) 5/5 – I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH—both the writing and the illustrations are absolutely stunning, and I can’t recommend it enough.
  9. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas 5/5 – Angie Thomas never ever disappoints. Her novels are always just masterful, with her voice, fleshed-out characters, captivating plots, and heartwarming relationships. Her writing always makes me feel the full range of emotions.
  10. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga 4/5 – This story definitely left an impression on me, with its striking imagery and themes of womanhood, colonialism, and class.
  11. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo 4/5 – Really loved the relationships in this story, the protagonist’s arc of personal growth, and of course, the food descriptions!
  12. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga 4/5 – This was not an easy book to read for me, with its dark themes and gritty descriptions. But I was captivated by the protagonist’s voice and his arc.
  13. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee 4/5 – Chee’s writing truly brought me into the lives of her characters. I was invested in them and all their heartbreaks, as well as their successes. A lot of the moments in this book are ones I’ll never forget.
  14. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid 3/5 – I really admire how Hamid uses form and motifs in this book. But to be honest, because I was rushing through it for class, I don’t really remember the actual story all that well.
  15. The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli 3/5 – Although the plot itself wasn’t all that interesting to me, this novel’s form is probably the coolest I’ve seen.
  16. There There by Tommy Orange 4/5 – All these different perspectives and yet I was wholly invested in every single one of these characters’ stories…Orange’s writing is gripping and multidimensional.
  17. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 4/5 – Bulawayo tells this story through the eyes of children and that perspective drew me into the story and left a deep mark.
  18. Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi 3/5 – Mixed thoughts on this one…the writing style and voice grated on me, the protagonist aggravated me, but ultimately the family narrative struck a deep chord within me.
  19. Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina 5/5 – THIS BOOK IS SO UNDERRATED—maybe I’m not looking in the right places but I don’t think this book is talked about as much as it deserves. I think everyone should read this touching memoir about Brina, her parents, and her family’s story and history. (The timing of my reading this book also made it an anchor in my life. Right when I found out I’d be moving to the area Brina grew up in, I read her words recounting her coming-of-age in this place. And having read it right when the Atlanta spa shootings happened, it provided me a framework for addressing the heartbreak and vast emotions I was feeling.) Huge shoutout to Subtle Asian Book Club for sending me this book as part of a giveaway.
  20. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le 4/5 – I thought this story was cute, but maybe my huge expectations upon hearing the premise dampened my enjoyment of the writing itself.
  21. Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo 4/5 Okubo’s striking illustrations and frank writing really pulled me into her memoir.
  22. The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai 4/5 Mai’s story is so expansive and her writing immersive.
  23. Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal T. Spitz 4/5 A story that’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
  24. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee 5/5 This is one of those books where I read it and immediately knew the story would stick with me forever. Lee’s writing gripped me from beginning to end.
  25. Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan 3/5 – I enjoyed this novel’s aspects of family and familial relationships but I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing nor the main romance of the novel.
  26. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner 5/5 Incredible, show-stopping, heartbreaking…Zauner’s writing is just…wow. Definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read but damn if Zauner’s poignant writing didn’t put me through the wringer. Although I obviously haven’t had the same experiences as her, as someone who’s also experienced the loss of a loved one to terminal cancer and has witnessed the effects of that diagnosis on family and caretakers, some of this writing just hit way too close to home, but in a way that was honestly therapeutic.
  27. The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali 3/5 – This is a really touching story that I enjoyed. I just had personal qualms with the writing style.
  28. Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha 3/5 Honestly I just don’t think I’m big-brained enough to fully understand Cha’s art but I was incredibly impressed with her use of form, technique, language, and so much more.
  29. Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje 3/5 I think this is a really impressive book, just one I didn’t particularly enjoy (maybe because I was reading it for class).
  30. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi 4/5 This is an immersive children’s fantasy. Read my full review here!
  31. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston 4/5 McQuiston always pulls out all the stops when it comes to filling their novels with all the fun tropes and quirky characters—and I love it. I found the backstory especially touching.
  32. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui 5/5 Honestly just a gorgeous and touching graphic novel memoir.
  33. Heartstopper: Volume One by Alice Oseman 4/5 These books are so cute and are serotonin boosters for sure.
  34. Heartstopper: Volume Two by Alice Oseman 4/5 See above.
  35. Heartstopper: Volume Three by Alice Oseman 4/5 See above.
  36. Heartstopper: Volume Four by Alice Oseman 4/5 Still see above.
  37. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin 5/5 I love Baldwin’s writing stye and the way he draws you into his words…a book that will stay with me for sure.
  38. Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Suntanto 2/5 I’m not the biggest fan of murder mysteries to begin with but I also didn’t enjoy the writing style and craft.
  39. Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram 5/5 What can I say about this book!! It made me cry but it also warmed my soul.
  40. Mó Dào Zǔ Shī by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù 5/5 I’M NOT OVER THIS BOOK AND I WILL NEVER BE OVER THIS BOOK. The plot and the way it reveals itself is so good, but man, despite the happy ending, this story hurts so much. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from the pain it has inflicted on me but I also can’t imagine not having this story in my life.
  41. Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang 4/5 Zhang’s writing is so raw, so real.
  42. The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen 5/5 Fun fact: I used to work at Barnes & Noble (it seems so long ago, but I actually quit just this year, when I was moving) and one of my coworkers recommended this book to me. It did not disappoint! The story is poignant and the illustrations are gorgeous.
  43. The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee 4/5 I learned so much from this book, histories that I didn’t know.
  44. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim 2/5 I’m going to be honest y’all, I desperately wanted to like this book because the premise sounded so good, but man was it a STRUGGLE to get through. Writing style and narrative was definitely not for me.
  45. XOXO by Axie Oh 5/5 I think this is the best YA romance novel I’ve read in a long time. I flew through this book. I loved the voice, characters, and relationships so much.
  46. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan 4/5 Honestly I didn’t care much for the characters. And I get that it’s a satire, but I’m kind of done with reading about rich people haha. While I enjoy Kwan’s writing, I think I was constantly comparing this one to the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and just felt like the plot, characters, humor, etc. didn’t match up to my expectations.
  47. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo 3/5 Enjoyed the friendships, food, and family in this novel, but didn’t care much for other areas. I think I’m just quite picky about romance novels because I get quickly turned off by certain aspects and writing styles.
  48. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi 4/5 Satrapi’s illustrations really open up the world of her memoir and I found the writing witty and poignant.
  49. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong 4/5 Some of these essays I really enjoyed—felt deeply impacted by, found the technique impressive. Others didn’t really maintain my interest or jarred me with the writing style.
  50. Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong 4/5 I listened to this on audiobook, which is self-narrated by Wong, and I really loved the experience. This book is [unsurprisingly] funny, but also touching. I think I had some qualms with some of the jokes (like ones about homeless people) and found some of the writing repetitive.
  51. Jade City by Fonda Lee 5/5 Honestly, I feel like the more I love a book, the more difficult it is for me to articulate what about it impacted me so deeply. The Green Bone Saga is definitely now among my all-time favs. Everything from the characters and their dynamics to the plot, the world-building, the dialogue, the action scenes, the politics and history, the explorations of class and colonialism and othering, the sense of hopelessness when the protagonists lose everything, but also the moments of joy in between…it’s all just perfection.
  52. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan 4/5 These characters are so so interesting, but I think I was somewhat let down by the writing and the pacing.
  53. Stargazing by Jen Wang 5/5 Just heartwarming, honestly. Kidlit for the win, always.
  54. How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang 5/5 The craft of this book is just exquisite and the plot is gripping too. I wish I could write like this—I admire Zhang’s techniques so much.
  55. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev 3/5 This book was okay, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it.
  56. Bestiary by K-Ming Chang 5/5 CANNOT SAY ENOUGH ABOUT CHANG’S USE OF LANGUAGE. The wordplay is just perfect, and Chang’s use of magical realism to explore colonialism, immigration, queerness, and womanhood is amazing too.
  57. Made in Korea by Sarah Suk 3/5 I liked the premise of the book but I found it difficult to invest myself in the main romantic relationship, as I found its foundations questionable.
  58. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan 4/5 So much can be—and has been—said about this book, and how we “write ourselves”. I have many [conflicting] thoughts on that subject which I won’t include here, but I honestly really enjoyed reading about a lot of the mother-daughter relationships in this book. Yes, it’s a subject that’s rehashed over and over in Asian American literature, but I personally don’t think it gets old. Some of these stories I enjoyed more than others: some were revelatory, some were clichéd.
  59. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo 4/5 This is maybe more like a 3.5 if I were to do half-ratings. While I found the prose absolutely gorgeous, I didn’t find the story particularly riveting. I think I was just super excited about the premise, but I feel like the novel didn’t add anything new to The Great Gatsby.
  60. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen 5/5 I was super impressed by the technique and form of this book. I think Nguyen’s command of language is captivating, and the plot interesting.
  61. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown 3/5 I had to read this book for a class and I’m going to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be into self-help books. While I did take away some genuinely helpful lessons to apply to my real life, most of this book felt cheesy, clichéd, and white.
  62. Lady Susan by Jane Austen 4/5 There is no end to Austen’s wit, dialogue, technique, and larger-than-life characters. I love it.
  63. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 4/5 Once again—Austen is so witty!! Honestly, although I love her observations of society and humorous dialogue, it’s her genuine romances that I love most of all, which is why Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are my favorite of her novels, and Northanger Abbey not so much.
  64. Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar 3/5 Cute sapphic fake-dating, which is one of my favorite tropes. Writing style and pacing didn’t fit my personal tastes.
  65. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen 4/5 See all the other times I’ve gushed about Austen. (But again, wouldn’t really consider the marriage plot a true romance, at least not one that I enjoy.)
  66. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant 3/5 Another book I had to read for class, but which I didn’t enjoy for its focus on capitalistic values.
  67. Jade War by Fonda Lee 5/5 I’ve already gushed over Fonda Lee but one thought that kept running through my head after I finished this book was if this one screwed me up so much, how I am going to survive Jade Legacy? (Spoiler alert: I didn’t.)
  68. Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong 5/5 This duology is so so good. Read my full review here!
  69. A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat 4/5 This is such an amazing middle-grade novel. The way it deals with justice and incarceration is incredible, and I loved the world-building.
  70. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala 2/5 Like I mentioned before, murder mysteries aren’t really my thing to begin with, but I found it difficult to get through this book because of its plot, voice, pacing, and craft.
  71. Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee 5/5 All I’m going to say is, this broke me.
  72. Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan 3/5 I think my expectations were just too high for this one (I got really excited when I saw it was xiānxiá). It was fine, but not exceptional.
  73. Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach 5/5 In full honesty, I expected to be super annoyed by the protagonist, who sounded like a “not-like-other-girls” character. However, I ended up LOVING this book. I really liked how Eliza learns more about what feminism means as the book progresses, because no one—high-schoolers or otherwise—should be expected to have it all figured out from the get-go. I also thought the main romance was super cute (that first kiss scene!) and as a Journalism major, it didn’t hurt that a lot of the story takes place in the newsroom.
  74. Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao 2/5 Yeah, remember when I said I was picky? I wanted desperately to like this novel because I love the fake-dating trope. However, the writing was way too cheesy for me, and I found the plot uninteresting and the romance too contrived.
  75. Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa 5/5 This one hurted. It’s such an expansive story that encompasses womanhood, marginalization, colonialism, imperialism, love, and so much more.
  76. All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks 4/5 I learned so much from this book. It was affirming and enlightening.
  77. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender 4/5 Really loved the story, pacing, and voice of this novel.
  78. Dear Martin by Nic Stone 4/5 This novel is riveting and insightful as the protagonist, Justyce, questions and learns. I found the ending kind of summative and anticlimactic.
  79. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 4/5 Really enjoyed witnessing the protagonist’s coming-of-age, but some of the verse fell flat for me.
  80. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon 5/5 I just had to sit for awhile after reading this memoir because it was so good and took me completely into its world. Laymon’s use of language is just exceptional.
  81. If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar 4/5 I love the way Asghar plays with form, and her poetry is really striking.
  82. The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige 5/5 This book opened my eyes to new possibilities in this world.
  83. It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi 5/5 I loved the protagonists’ chemistry and their voices, which felt natural but witty. The banter in this one is so good, and honestly my only issue with the novel is that I wanted more!
  84. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta 3/5 While I was touched by the protagonist’s journey, a lot of the verse didn’t work for me personally (I say this as someone who loves poetry).
  85. My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan 3/5 Mostly just liked this for its descriptions of Oxford and the allusions to/analyses of literature (what can I say, I’m an English nerd through and through). But the protagonist annoyed me (a “pick-me” white girl), and I didn’t care much for the main romance. The description of one of the characters of color just bothered me and reminded me of why I’ve been avoiding books written by white people.
  86. Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So 4/5 Really love So’s prose style and characterizations.
  87. Goodbye, Again: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations by Jonny Sun 5/5 So much of this resonated with me. Sun’s writing is poignant and introspective, in a way that invites rather than isolates his readers.
  88. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong 5/5 Forever in awe of Vuong’s way with words.
  89. A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen 3/5 Meh. I liked the food descriptions and thought the pacing was pretty good at keeping me relatively interested but wasn’t a fan of much else.
  90. I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee 5/5 I couldn’t stop reading this book. I loved the voice and the relationships. The pacing and plot kept me super interested.
  91. Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn 3/5 I wanted so much to like this one…I loved all the moments where Thai culture really shines through and I thought the romance backstory was cute (I always love a good childhood friends trope) but I couldn’t get over how the characters, dialogue, and narration are constantly contradictory and extremely dramatic. A lot of it just didn’t make sense to me and it got way too difficult to suspend my disbelief.
  92. Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey 5/5 Trethewey just has a way with words…this memoir was touching and raw and real.
  93. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn 3/5 This was a pretty cute story and I especially loved the grandparents. The descriptions of Kyoto and its sights made me think fondly of my own trip there. However, I think this would’ve worked better as a middle-grade novel. I found the voice way too aged down, a lot of the dialogue too expository, and the premise a little shaky because it’s made obvious from the beginning what Kimi will end up doing.
  94. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 5/5 I don’t read too much non-fiction (although this book leans more personal narrative than strictly non-fiction) but Coates’ prose is so beautiful and intimate that it really drew me in. I found this book super touching, especially in Coates’ explorations of fatherhood.
  95. Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers 3/5 The prose was a little too purple-y for me and I found it extremely distracting. While the protagonist goes on an extremely important journey of self-discovery and -growth, I found it difficult to be invested in the story because it read like the language found in uQuizzes and Tumblr posts about “what aesthetic are you?”
  96. Severance by Ling Ma 5/5 I expected to be bored by this story (especially after seeing it doesn’t use quotation marks, something I hated about Normal People by Sally Rooney and usually find pretentious) but I was actually enthralled from beginning to end. The writing is so descriptive and observational and the plot gripping (and a little too real in this day and age). I also found some of my own family’s history represented similarly on the page which struck me.
  97. Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu 5/5 This book is so—cool?! The FORM is just incredible and so meta. The writing is funny but also very touching and sometimes heartbreaking. Really loved that Yu explores Asian American masculinity and racial dynamics with nuance and in a more expansive way beyond the age-old Subtle Asian Traits-type discourse that’s found in a lot of Asian American literature and contemporary conversations.
  98. The Vegetarian by Han Kang 4/5 Not an easy book to read…but I found Kang’s writing really gripping and her craft excellent.
  99. Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim 4/5 A page-turner for sure. Loved the world-building and plot twists.
  100. Beloved by Toni Morrison 5/5 Morrison’s writing is never anything less than masterful. Her use of language is just so exquisite and revelatory. And she has a way of completely bringing you into the world of her books, opening up all the characters and their backstories. What can I say about Beloved that hasn’t been said before? It’s just exceptional.

looking ahead

As this post is already quite long, I’ve decided to make a separate post outlining my bookish goals for this new year!

Let me know if you’ve read any of the books I’ve listed in my roundup, and what your thoughts on them are! What were your favorite books of 2021?

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Author: april | lostinthebookstacks

hello! i'm april (she/her), an asian american reader who’s passionate about words and scallion pancakes.

5 thoughts on “2021 roundup”

  1. Wow great post. I was really tempted to try for 100 but I think your pros cons list struck very real of what I felt with just reading 52 last year. I just want to choose what I want to read nd not care about page count… but I want that sweet sweet motivation to get numbers ha

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