Literary Math + 10 Best Books of 2021

Hi Darling Ones,

I’ve read 165 books so far this year. I even read a two of them twice (Jeff Tweedy’s memoir & the Sylvia Plath bio). In the olden days I would write about every single book I read. When I started reading more and more books that became kind of a burden. Plus, I read a lot of okayish books and have nothing to say about them.

Here are my ten favorite books of 2021. I think. I didn’t closely check the publication dates on these because I didn’t feel like it. I took the Tweedy memoir off the list because I knew it wasn’t published this year. Same goes for Lily King’s Writers & Lovers which was on the list until I remembered I re-read it this year. When you read a lot of books it’s hard to keep them straight.

If you’re wondering what to get readers in your life for presents or want to ask for these from Santa, you can’t go wrong with this list. Those who pay close attention will see that many of the favorites from earlier this year remained on the list despite some tough competition.

To keep this list interesting, I will be doing some tough literary math* to give you the vibe of each book in a way that amuses me.


The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

Music + Sexism + Racism/Stories told by a variety of media = Daisy Jones & The Six – sentimentality + a political conscience.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

That Sally Rooney alchemy10

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

Angrboda + Loki + Norse mythology = my favorite novel of the year

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Hockey + Native American traditions + young adult narrator = unforgettable mystery that is rewarding to read on all levels.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

COVID in 2020 as it happened in Minneapolis = Haunted bookstore (a love letter to readers + Erdrich’s Native American magic)


Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran

A wonderfully clever title = a book of love and abuse + how music can save us

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark

Rage x Beauty + the feminine mystique of the 50s x 17 tons of anger at Ted Hughes = true love

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Food + Music – Mom = Book with the best final line of any I read this year. Also, that cover of Say it Ain’t So (which has nothing to do with the book but I just wanted to mention it again).

Blow Your House Down By Gina Frangello

Ferocity3 x Honesty + an unsparing look at your life = the bravest writing I’ve ever read.

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib

There is no mathematical equation, real or imaginary that can adequately convey the magnificence of this book, my favorite of 2021.

Happy reading, Darling Ones. I’d love to know what you read and loved this year,

*I know very little about math and am just making this up, obviously. It’s kind of like dancing about architecture.

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