My Favourite Reads of 2021

2021 was yet another dumpster fire of a year but at least we all have books. Here are some of the best books I read this year.

I think we’re all a little hesitant about what 2022 could possibly bring considering how the last few years have gone. We’re all approaching it with cautious optimism and concern. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t made a resolution since 2019 and I’m not mad about it. Regardless of what 2022 will bring and the shit show that was 2021 (and 2020, and 2019…) at least we have books. I struggled to meet my reading goal this year for the first time in years. I blame the stalemate that the pandemic has created as we all wait for our lives to get back to normal. I know many places have resumed some form of normalcy but Hong Kong is living in a twilight zone due to its zero-covid goal, meaning our borders have practically been shut for two years now. It’s hard to leave and pretty much impossible to return with a mandatory three-week hotel quarantine meaning travel is out of reach for your average joe-schmoe. To make matter worse, despite not having any local covid cases in over 80 days we still have social restrictions. Here’s hoping we can escape in 2022…

Non-Fiction


5. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

A book club selection that I finished at the tail end of 2021. This non-fiction explores how the psychopath test came to be and how it’s been used in criminology and science. Jon Ronson is known for his humour which created an interesting and entertaining read.

Review to come.


4. Underground by Haruki Murakami

If you follow my blog you know how much I love Murakami. This book is very different from the normal whimsical fiction he writes. Murakami interviews the victims of the sarin gas attack that happened in Tokyo in the 90s and he pieces out the events of the tragedy through the words of the people who lived it. This was another book club selection but I would have eventually read it anyway as I’m very near having read almost everything by Murakami.



3. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Another book club selection that really surprised me. I knew little about Trevor Noah when I started this book and was surprised by how much I enjoyed Trevor’s writing and tone. The book recalls his life growing up ‘coloured’ in South Africa during the apartheid, in which he was literally born a crime since white and black people were not allowed to be together.


2. The Choice by Edith Eger

A holocaust memoir unlike any other I’ve read so far. Dr. Edith Eger is a working psychologist and holocaust survivor. At 16, Edith was an aspiring Olympic gymnast before those dreams were robbed by Hitler. Only she and her sister survived the camps but little did she know that the hardest part was still yet to come. Edith gives the details of her life and how she struggled to overcome the horrors of the holocaust and how it led her to her current profession and her desire to help others.


1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This book hit me hard and is one of the most beautiful pieces of non-fiction I’ve read to date. Paul is a young and reputable neurosurgeon who finds out he has stage 4 cancer, meaning that it cannot be cured. While he pursued science, literature was his first love and he had always dreamed of writing a book. This is Paul’s effort to come to terms with his impending death and to leave one last impression for the daughter he was won’t get to see grow up.


Fiction


5. Blankets by Craig Thompson

This graphic novel came highly recommended but it took me ages to get a copy. This book is warm and full of nostalgia as the author details his first love and wrestling with his faith and upbringing.


4. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A stunning graphic novel about one woman’s recounting of growing up in Kabul amidst some of its worst unrest. It’s a coming of age story unlike any I have read before and was a poignant read considering the recent events of 2021 with Afghanistan with the return of the Taliban.


3. Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

This graphic novel really took me by surprise. It’s beautifully illustrated and tells of the author’s experience of abruptly moving to America with her mother against her will. The story details the issues she experienced growing up as an immigrant and the troubles she faced with her family.


2. Rodham by Curis Sittenfeld

If someone told me I would love a fiction about Hilary Clinton I would have laughed at them. When this book was picked for my book club I was not looking forward to it. This premise of this novel speculates how things might have turned out if Hilary didn’t marry Bill. It’s extremely well written and provoking. I thoroughly enjoy this novel.

Review to come.


1. Diamond Hill by Kit Fan

This was novel was a Netgalley find from a local Hong Kong author who now lives in the UK. This novel has Murakami qualities the melds the feel of historical and modern-day Hong Kong. Rich in actual history and set in the 1980s, this is the unique story of a drug-addicted Buddhist monk who finds himself inside a temple in Diamond Hill. He meets an array of unique characters who come to feel like a dysfunctional family. The story captures the feel of Hong Kong while exploring some of its difficult history and future. The writing is exquisite and I can’t wait to see what else this author has to offer.



My Favourite Reads of 2020

2020 was a dumpster fire but I read some decent books…

Let’s just skip over the fact that 2020 (as well as 2019 for me) was a dumpster fire and that I’m late in publishing this post, okay? Right, so this is where I summarise the top five fiction and non-fiction books I read over the last year. I read some solid books this year so decided to expand it to my top six (lucky you). I guess I should I also mention that I’m a bit behind with my reviews so if there is a review missing from my selection I will add it soon and update this post as soon as I can. So, without further ado I present my favourite reads of 2020.

Non-Fiction


5. Unfree Speech – Joshua Wong

I’ve lived in Hong Kong for five years now and its a place I’ve come to love and adore. There have been some substantial politic shifts and changes since I have been here with the CCP gaining more and more control of Hong Kong since its handover from the British in 1997. This book talks about why you should care about what happens to Hong Kong and the changes that are happening here from a young man who has been actively advocating for his home country’s democracy since he was 14 years old.


4. Why We Swim – Bonnie Tsui

Another fun fact about me, I used to be a competitive swimmer and I love water. When I saw this book about about swimming that merged history, science, and passion I knew I had to read it. The author is a passionate swimmer who travels around the world to look at the science of swimming as well as our history with it and how our love for swimming brings us together even in the worst circumstances.


3. A Life on Our Planet – Sir David Attenborough

I adore this man and I’m absolutely obsessed with the documentaries that he narrates and participates in and will cry many rivers when he inevitably passes away. Attenborough is a remarkable human who has lived a remarkable life. With the time he has spent globetrotting and talk about nature and our planet he has seen some frightening changes. This book is a testament and statement of his experiences what we must do to prevent climate change from destroying our home.


3. The Road Out of Hell – Anthony Flacco

I love true crime, especially documentaries but I actually don’t read that many true crime books surprisingly. I’m trying to change that. This book is one of the most unnerving stories I’ve read to date. It’s about the Wineville Murders and the young boy, Sanford, that endured and survived unimaginable torment at the hands of one of the most sadistic individuals in existence. What makes this a phenomenal story is the that ending has a positive outcome despite the horrors that occured.


2. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? – Caitlin Doughty

While an odd selection for someone in grieving, it was a nice humorous and informative look at death that allowed me to at least think about it in a somewhat healthy manner. Doughty is a mortician and she answers all the gory and interesting questions on death and dying.


1. Solutions and Other Problems – Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh is one of my favourite people off the internet. I read her first book, Hyperbole and Half years ago and it’s a book that stuck with me for its humour and immense relatability. Allie disappeared off the internet for about sevens years due to some serious difficulties she faced in life. This book goes over some of her turmoils and how she coped, with her trademark drawings and humour, as well as revisiting hilarious scenes from her childhood. It was my number one pick for non-fiction this year as it summarised how so many of us felt this last year.


Fiction

6. Fangs – Sarah Andersen

Another artist I discovered from the internet, Sarah Andersen is known for her humorous and relatable comic strips. I often read Andersen’s work online which is how I came across Fangs. Andersen shared a few strips from this book and I was hooked. The story features a relationship between a werewolf and vampire, it begins with their meeting and how their relationship progresses. Fangs has Andersen’s trademark dark humour with a relatable relationship story that transforms the old paranormal romantic tropes.


5. I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid

I only picked up this book after a recommendation and I’m glad I did. This story was not at all what I was expecting. Like, at all. I don’t want to give too much away as the surprise story and twists are what really made this book.


4. Circe – Madeline Miller

This book was worth the hype. It’s a beautifully written feminist rendition on the story the Greek goddess Circe. The writing is exceptional and the story is engaging while offering and interesting perspective on how women and femininity are often viewed in literature.


3. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Want to read a really good book about a pandemic that wipes out the world while you’re living in the middle of a real pandemic? Look no further. This gripping story takes a unique look at a post apocalyptic world where humans. You follow a troupe of traveling actors who perform Shakespeare while travelling from camp to camp after a virus wiped out 99% of the world’s population. You get to intimately know the characters and how their differing stories connect.


2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V.E. Schwab

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It’s a sort of romance that is also a historical fiction with added flares of fantasy thrown in. I was won over by Addie’s character and the dynamics she had with the main antagonist and love interest. The author absolutely nailed the concept she was going for and created a story that I didn’t want to walk away from.


1. Obit – Victoria Chang

I read this book of poems twice this year. It’s rather reflective of the person situation that I managed this last year. The first time I read it I wasn’t very open to its messages but bits and pieces managed to find their way through. The second time I read it was a powerful awakening of buried grief that was both painful and relieving. It’s a phenomenal tribute of love, grief, and regret.



Canada Reads 2020 will resume in July

Need to get reacquainted? I’ve read all five books and have selected my favourites and predictions for this year’s winner.

Hooray! Canada Reads 2020 debates are back on with firm dates set in July. The debates were originally postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’ve read all five of the books in contending and I’m excited to finally have these books discussed. Need to get reacquainted? Here are the five contenders with links to my reviews.

Want to know who I think it’s going to take the cake? Check out my predictions and personal favourites post.

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Ways to Tune In:

ONLINE: CBC Books will livestream the debates at 11 a.m. ET on CBCBooks.caYouTubeFacebook and Gem. The debates will be available to replay online each day. The livestreams on YouTube and Facebook will be available to watch outside Canada.

ON RADIO: Canada Reads will air on CBC Radio at 11:05 a.m. ET, CT, MT, PT; at 1:05 p.m. in Atlantic Canada; and at 1:35 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador. A repeat of the show will air at 10:05 p.m. local time, 10:35 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador.

ON TV: CBC TV will broadcast Canada Reads at 4 p.m. local time.

PODCAST: New episodes of Canada Reads will be posted daily on CBC and on iTunes.

 

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