Are you looking for a few more books to round out your 2021 reading? Or maybe you’ve already set some reading goals for yourself in 2022 and need a few titles to get excited about. In any case, I read quite a few books this year, and today I’m sharing 10 titles I can’t stop thinking about. From graphic novels and romance to memoirs and cookbooks (yes, cookbooks!), I feel pretty confident every reader can find something on this list to interest them.
If you need even more recommendations, I shared a list of my favorites from the year so far in July, and I still stand by all those titles (especially Ghost Forest and Crying in H Mart—even months later, I cannot shut up about those gems). Happy reading!
This nonfiction graphic novel about loneliness was no doubt one of my top books of the year, but at the same time, I hesitate to recommend it widely because it was incredibly difficult to read. Typically, I can read a graphic novel in a sitting or two, but Seek You was so heavy, I had to take breaks. I suggest you consider taking your time with it too.
A personal tidbit about my reading habits this year is that I set a goal to read 365 short stories in 2021 (and I think I’m going to make it!). Among the many short story collections I read, The Rock Eaters stood out for its gorgeous writing and genre-bending stories. I tried to note my favorite stories from each collection after I read them, but with this one, I couldn’t choose!
In the category of “books I don’t see around enough,” Butter Honey Pig Bread is the story of twin sisters from Nigeria who move to separate continents and have a semi-estranged relationship, and it’s also about their mother and her mysterious, magical past. Plus, it’s full of delicious food descriptions and cooking scenes, so that’s always a bonus for me!
And now for a nonfiction entry in “books I don’t see around enough,” I decided to read Names for Light purely because it won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize from one of my favorite independent publishers. This is the memoir of a writer who was born in Myanmar and raised in Thailand and the United States that weaves in her family history over multiple generations. The writing was uniquely gorgeous, and I learned a lot about the history of Myanmar.
I adored this sweet and emotional graphic novel about a young boy in the United States grappling with how to tell his Vietnamese immigrant parents that he is gay. Much of the story is conveyed through fairytales that the mother and son tell to each other, and the artwork is absolutely stunning.
I don’t cook often, but I love reading cookbooks that tell the stories of food and the people who cook it. Especially in a year where I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked, reading cookbooks like Ripe Figs helped me escape to other locations through gorgeous photographs and drool-worthy recipes. I especially appreciated Ripe Figs because the author focused on the stories of migrants and refugees in Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece and described how their cultures are influencing the local food traditions.
Written by an Ojibwe investigative journalist, Seven Fallen Feathers tells the stories of seven First Nations young people who died in Thunder Bay, Ontario between 2000 to 2011. Throughout the book, Talaga also weaves in the wider history of Indigenous schools, the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous communities, and the resulting intergenerational trauma.
For a much more fun nonfiction book, Cultish explores the use of language in cults and cult-like organizations and movements. Written by a linguist, this title is punny in two ways: First, “Cultish” can sound like a language itself (similar to “English”) and second, some of the chapters in this book focus on groups that are not quite cults but rather are cult-ish. Get it? (Plus, we have to admit this book looks great on Instagram, which is a little cultish in itself...)
This debut collection contains one novella and five short stories, all set in and around Charlottesville, Virginia. My Monticello is a great book to pick up if you have limited time because the stories are all quite short (no more than 16 pages) and will keep you engaged. If you like audiobooks, the full cast of narrators for this one looks very impressive.
And finally, for a heartwarming romance when you need a pick-me-up, this story about finding true love behind the scenes of a reality dating show is the perfect escape! Even as someone who has never watched an episode of The Bachelor (I know!), I was completely invested in these sweet characters and was rooting for them all the way.