Kate’s Top Books of 2021

I feel bad making this post because I don’t think I reviewed anything in 2021. And I barely read anything. I just haven’t had the bandwidth for books. Maybe it is that I need to really focus and put down my phone more because social media has broken my brain. or maybe it is the pandemic. Perhaps it is that I work in an industry where the bulk of the employees, myself included, are on varying lengths of short-term contracts and I am never not looking for my next job. Meh. I don’t know. So, I don’t think I finished five books this year. I have listened to a fair number of podcasts that have inspired my reading, so here are my faves from this year, as thin on the ground as they are.

In April, I listened to Jamie Loftus’s Lolita podcast. I think Vladimir Nabokov is a thoughtful and adept writer and his controversial classic, Lolita, falls into my favorite genre of horror, where the absolutely horrifying thing is presented as normal or even desirable. (Dolores Haze is twelve years old when the book begins. Twelve.) So, I was interested in the podcast and found the added context and the number of different ways of approaching the material presented interesting. Following the podcast, I listened to the memoir Being Lolita by Alisson Wood. This is also a thoughtfully presented, if uncomfortable, narrative about an inappropriate relationship between a high school student and a teacher.

Most weekdays I start my day with a series of news podcasts and some music. Spotify makes a couple of lists. What a Day from Crooked Media is often on the list. I like Gideon Resnick and I love former co-host, Akilah Hughes. The new co-hosts Josie Duffy Rice, Tre’vell Anderson, and Priyanka Aribindi have big shoes to fill, but they’re doing a good job. More than once this year they interviewed Stacey Abrams. I already knew she wrote romance novels, but through these interviews, I found out her first thriller was released this year. It’s called When Justice Sleeps and a big part of the story is about what we do when a supreme court justice is incapacitated but not dead. The founding fathers did not anticipate a world in which there were living wills and life support. I don’t read a lot of thrillers, but this was a lot of fun. I do recommend it.

I read a book that incorporated the lore surrounding the Salem Witch Trials. It was okay, I guess. I don’t actually remember a lot about it. How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. The book trailer is here. It wasn’t a bad read around Halloween. I started Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco, but I haven’t finished it. I will, though. If I can get back to it. I’m also listening to the Ripper podcast and I would like to read the book The Five by Hallie Rubenhold but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I know I’ve listened to a few romance novels on various road trips but… I can’t remember which ones or what they were about. Except romance. Obviously.

This year has been a lot. Last year was a lot. Next year one of my goals is to get back to listening to audiobooks while I cook. If you have suggestions, I am all ears! What have your favorites (in particular non-fiction) been?

What I’m Listening to Now: Being Lolita by Alisson Wood

I went down a bit of a rabbit hole this week and listened to almost the entirety of Lolita Podcast. It’s made me want to re-read the book, but I realized that I only have it as an audiobook in the house and not a physical book. So, I thought, why not read…listen to… a recently published memoir by one of the folks Jamie Loftus interviewed on the podcast instead. So, I’ve picked up Being Lolita by Alisson Wood.


Since Beth and I set ourselves a summer challenge of re-reading the Twilight books (that neither of us completed), we are obviously not opposed to re-reads. I found out over Christmas that our Mother re-reads a book every year. It is the last book of a romance series in which a couple is getting married and all the couples from the previous books attend the wedding. I think, for her, it’s like checking on in old friends. I have, for the past few years, re-listened to the audiobook of the Hogfather. I enjoy it, but I also find myself, at the end of the year, thinking about Death giving a young girl a real sword for Hogswatch. (Perhaps it is that, around Yule, I am often doing a lot of grading and find myself thinking, “May this F be an important lesson to you.” I get pretty petty at the ends of semesters ;))

So, now I’m wondering: What do you re-read? What are your favorite worlds to revisit? What characters to you find yourself wanting to catch up with? And, do you catch up in other ways? Do you find yourself, instead of re-reading, diving into fan art/fan fiction? Let us know in the comments!

A Non-exhaustive list of things I liked and didn’t like about a Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I finished a challenge this year! Huzzah! I am so excited! And I am pretty into this book and I will read the next one. (I hear there is also a TV show I can get into.) I have some thoughts, though. I’m going to provide them in list form because that is where I am in my life. So, in no particular order, here are some things I liked (and didn’t like) about the book. (CONTAINS SPOILERS! SO MANY SPOILERS!)

Stuff I liked

  1. Accurate representation of ongoing scholarship. Yup, cryptids and assorted fair folk, your professors spend all summer in libraries and labs. On purpose!
  2. The main character is a smart, educated lady!
  3. The main character is a smart, educated lady who is not constantly and entirely being undermined by the love interest! (Although, she’s not not undermined by him either.)
  4. The story was interesting
  5. The world building was good.
  6. Hamish. Just Hamish. I hope there is more Hamish in the next book.
  7. I literally screamed, “DOUBLE O MARLOWE” at my cat. I’m excited about where the next book is going to be set.

Stuff I didn’t liked

  1. They get vampire-married after like, three weeks of knowing each other. Which okay. But I felt like there should have been a bit more to it than that. Also, that their commitment to each other shouldn’t have been, “welp, he’s decided he’s yours forever, so what do you think?” Like, what? Come on.
  2. Her parents tied her magic to a dude she’d one day meet. That felt like some someday-my-prince-will-come bullshit. It also made me think about some mythical couples. Like, Rama and Sita, in particular the story of Rama breaking the bow and winning Sita’s hand in marriage.
  3. I can’t stress enough how much it bothered me that her finding out about herself and her powers was tied to a dude. By her family.
  4. Lots of people discussing the reproductive capabilities of other people in a way I’m sure wasn’t meant to call back Handmaid’s Tale. That might be just an artifact of reading this book for the first time in the Fall of 2020…Autumn of 2020. For some reason calling the season Fall sounds extra ominous this year.

There are probably more things that need to be added to both of these lists, but unlike someone who is good at running a blog, I didn’t take notes while I was listening. I instead messaged all my feels as they happened to my sister. And, y’all, we talk about a lot of shit on more than one messaging platform on any given day, so I, at some point, got tired scrolling up.

Did you do the challenge? Did you complete it? Have you read the book? What were your favorite parts? What did you hate? Tell us in the comments!

Happy Midnight Sun Day?

It is Midnight Sun’s book birthday! And…Beth and I are both still stuck in the first book of our re-read. Speaking for myself, my enthusiasm for these characters and this story has definitely waned since I first picked up the novels. Bella is kind of an unredeemable bitch. Edward is a creepy stalker. Jacob’s goodness drops off as the series goes on and he picks up some of Edward’s tactics in order to get in there with Bella. But, I plan on finishing them since it is the pop culture homework assignment (and since I did finish last year’s…in October…and then never wrote the reviews…because I am not the best blogger.)

Ally Box!

Greetings! About a month ago, I saw that Fulton Street Books and Coffee was putting together an ally box, containing books to help folks wanting to learn more about race, racism, and white supremacy in America. So, to further my education (and to be a better and more informed teacher) I signed up. The subscription is running for three months (and there are still some subscriptions available through Fulton Street Books website! Click through on that link above!)

In this first box, there are flash cards with key terms that you’ve seen popping up in the media and two books. They’re both books that are on my to-read pile and I am super excited about them. The first book is So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo. I think this will be an overview to some of the issues in the current moment.

The second book is The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. As someone who grew up in largely white communities, I think this one will probably contain a lot of information to help me better understand how I have benefited from our current systems that harm Black citizens and other citizens of color. Despite what I said about the first book probably being a good overview text, I think I’m going to start with the second one.

These look like they’re both going to be good reads, and I can’t wait to see what’s in the next box!