End of Year 2021: Favorite Reading

While we are a community focused on games and how they intersect with our lives, we’ve never shied away from exploring and discussing other media critically and enthusiastically. It only seems appropriate, then, that our End of Year event offer up a space for us to share our own “Waypoints” from 2021.

This topic is dedicated to anything that you read. That could be a book, a short story, an article or a blog! It could also be a comic, whether it be a big superhero comic, a serialized manga, or an independent webcomic! Whatever you share, we’re excited to read about reading.

I have read dreadfully little this year, especially things that came out this year, in part because my library tends to take a good six months after something is published to get it in stock, and in part because in July I decided - for reasons unknown to us all - to read Les Aventures de Télémaque, a 1699 book written in French, despite myself not speaking much French at all. I’m only a third of the way through. :’)

So bearing in mind that I have read exactly five books published this year, my favorite was Beowulf by All, a community translation of Beowulf. Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism, by Harsha Walia, and Sorrowland, by Rivers Solomon, were both great, too. I’d recommend all three, and add that I think Solomon is one of the best writers in SFF right now.

Manga is much the same; I kept up with the handful of series I follow, but didn’t start any new ones.

I was also super bad at reading this year, mostly due to feeling just exhausted by everything. (So, I ended up, at one point, just rereading all of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series, although I’d read them all before.)

I did, however, finally manage to read Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze’s AntiOedipus, and even bits of A Thousand Plateaus. Considering the backlash against the poststructuralist philosophers, there’s surprisingly little I find controversial in the philosophy - and parts of it even remind me of Hofstader’s GED. (I do think it’s probably better to be able to read them in the original French, though - there’s a lot of “fun with language” which the translators are clearly having to do the best they can with - starting with a pun on Freud’s “Id”, which is simply named the same as the word for “it” in both German and French… of course, the pun cannot work in English due to the questionable choices of the original translators of Freud into the language…)

Michelle Zauner’s memoir Crying in H Mart hit me like a truck when I read it. I remember sobbing through her essay in the New Yorker, so I knew what I was getting into, but it still moved me deeply. I’ve never suffered the kind of loss at the center of the book, but her story of cultural disconnection and reconnection through food resonated with me a lot.

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I promise I have an article from 2021 to share, but what I really want to say is that this past year I have really fallen in love with pretty much anything I’ve read from Ursula K. LeGuin and Kim Stanley Robinson. This year I made my way through the Mars trilogy, The Dispossessed, and 5 of the 6 Earthsea books, plus all of my internet searches for articles about these authors and books, plus listening to podcasts with KSR. Especially this year, it feels like the kind of utopian scifi they are known for is incredibly important right now, and for me this year its really helped rethink my view of the world and how important having a utopian vision can be to making positive change in the world.

This leads me to my introduction to solarpunk this year from a VICE article:Solarpunk Is Not About Pretty Aesthetics. It's About the End of Capitalism, and from Saint Andrewism’s videos on the topic: What is Solarpunk? - YouTube
Solarpunk to me feels like a potent vision and dream that can help drive me to actually make change in the world, instead of miring myself in the doom and gloom of the present, or even the bleakness of some dystopian fiction that can only lead to paralysis.

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My favorite book this year was Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. It is just expertly crafted fiction. I started it on a Friday night, went to bed, and finished it Saturday morning. I just couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know what was going on! The mystery unravels splendidly and I just can’t praise this book enough.

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Two end of year threads I just made:
books

Comics

I’d nominate Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro for books and No Longer Human by Junji Ito for comics. Both really spoke to me…very different stories but if there was a theme that bridges both it would an outsider wanting to be loved and their struggles with empathy.

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I’ve been following along with a range of manga, but a special shout-out to Spy x Family which is finally getting an anime. Just a fantastic series and I’m looking forward to the anime adaptation.

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I’m only a third of the way through the book, but The Dawn of Everything has so far been one of those wonderful experiences that has given me a new way to look at or understand the world every chapter. If you’re into anthropology or why the world is the way that it is, give it a look!

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