2021, Personal, reading, Uncategorized

Top 10 Books of 2021

Thanks for the ego boost, Goodreads 😉

In 2021, I turned over a new leaf. I think some of it is finally being free from that initial pandemic anxiety and also settling into post-grad school routines. I still only read one fiction book at a time, but I’m learning how to mix and match non-fiction (usually the popular kind, not the academic variety) in a way that works for me.

Goals in 2022 are to continue to expand my horizons in terms of reading. It will still be a heavy diet of romance; that’s never going to change. I particularly want to reincorporate direct academic reading into my routine. It’s a different kind of reading for me, one that is infinitely more active, but I miss it. I miss the active output of reading too (writing), and part of my goal in this blog space is for this to be a remedy to that.

1. These Truths, Jill Lepore

This book was a magisterial feat. Essentially a history of political thought and ideals, Jill Lepore traces the central tenets of American government from European colonization to the Trump presidency. Equally engrossing and enraging, this book highlights the manner in which discrimination based on race, gender, sex, and religion has always played a role in American public life and discourse; the role of Christianity in American government; and how absolutely nothing ever really changes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I found the earlier portions of the book to be more interesting and enlightening than the later bits. The later part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century just made me too angry and discouraged. It also was interesting to read this volume during the pandemic—thinking about how a theoretical next version of this history would have to include the pandemic.

To borrow John Green’s style of rating, I give These Truths 4.5 stars.

2. The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet, John Green

If I had to pick a favorite book I read this year, it might be John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed. In this series of essays, Green rates and reviews things that belong to the Anthropocene, from Diet Dr. Pepper, velociraptors, to Halley’s Comet. At once memoir, history, and contemporary cultural commentary, John Green ties together his life experience with that of great thinkers, writers, artists, and events. Truly his masterwork.

I give the Anthropocene Reviewed 5 stars.

3. The Trials of Apollo, series, Rick Riordan

This summer, I did a massive reread of Rick Riordan. I reread the Percy Jackson series, as well as the Heroes of Olympus, each containing 5 books. I was a little unsure about The Trials of Apollo, because it didn’t seem like quite the same thing from the outset, but I really ended up loving it. It was classic Rick Riordan, an engaging and fun epic that emphasizes being who you are, even when you’re different or it’s hard, and working together with people who might not look like they bring a lot to the table. In this book, Apollo loses his immortality after messing up one too many times for Zeus. Apollo, not unlike a certain demigod of yore, has to complete some tasks before regaining his immortality. Trapped in the body of an acne-ridden 16-year old, it’s hard to imagine a being more helpless. Apollo struggles with this past and the repercussions of his actions while learning how to grow up.

I give The Trials of Apollo 4.5 stars.

4. A League of Extraordinary Women, Evie Dunmore

I am a sucker for a good historical romance and tend to prefer those that take place in 19th-century England. This series, currently comprising 3 books, is about a group of like-minded women that find love against the backdrop of the fight for women’s suffrage and rights. In keeping with this theme, Dunmore manages to take classic romance tropes and turn them on their head, providing a more satisfying AND romantic feminist ending. There are three books in the series so far and a 4th on the way.

I give A League of Extraordinary Women four stars.

5. Written in the Stars, Alexandria Bellefleur

I picked up this book at my favorite local bookstore on their romance shelf. I picked it up not realizing it was an LGBTQ+/sapphic romance. When I started reading (and took at look at the front cover, you’d think my visual analysis skills were more on point as an art historian…) I realized that the two romantic leads were both female. I was frankly thrilled. How cool was it that I, a straight woman in 2020, unknowingly picked up a romance between a lesbian and a bi character? I kept reading and it was a delightful romance. Gave me all the right heart feels that I look for when reading a romance. Even better, this is the first in a series—the second book was just as good (the second couple was a straight/cis couple). The third books comes out in early 2022.

I give Written in the Stars four stars.

6. Kiss Quotient series, Helen Hoang

Continuing the section of romances with an inclusive twist is Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient Series. The other two books in the series are The Bride Test and The Heart Principle. Diagnosed with high-functioning autism (what once would have been called Asperger’s) in her 30s, Hoang writes romances with characters that have autism. The tie that binds the series together are male members of a Vietnamese American family in the Bay Area: Michael (Stella), Khai (Esme), and Quan (Anna). The best part: autism isn’t presented as a barrier to romance, but just simply a part of who they are. Fair warning, book 3, the Heart Principle, what Hoang called the most autobiographic of the series packs a real bunch. I cried for almost the whole second half of the book.

I give The Kiss Quotient series four stars.

7. Get a Life, Chloe Brown, series, Talia Hibbert

The Brown sisters series is a total treat. Again continuing the inclusive romance, Talia Hibbert writes characters with disabilities and who have multiracial relationships. These books generally makes visible things that have been ignored in traditional romance (though sometimes left to the imagination). I loved each book, though I want to say that Take a Hint, Dani Brown was probably my favorite.

The new romances I read this year really demonstrated why I love this genre and its ability to adapt and be inclusive and amazing. I only hope this trend continues. (I’m sure it will—its my opinion its inherent to the best of the genre.)

I give the Brown Sisters series four stars.

8. Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language, Amanda Montell

This book was quite a read. Amanda Montell, who has a degree in linguistics, examines how the English language reflects our cultural attitudes, for better or worse, about women. Exploring how we talk about women, sex, and everything in between, Montell shows how we can work to make our language more inclusive and less inherently patriarchal. I can’t wait until I get Montell’s second book, Cultish!

I give Wordslut 4.5 stars.

9. The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn (reread)

I read this book every year. It probably will appear on this list every year. Starting last Christmas with the release of season 1 of Bridgerton on Netflix, my favorite romance series became part of everyone’s cultural knowledge. I loved the season when I first watched it. Though I still have generally positive feelings about it, there is one big quibble I have with the tv show, but that’s a post for another day.

Season 2 will be the dramatization of my favorite in the series, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Kate and Anthony are my favorite. I like inherently understand their personalities (both the eldest with the weight of responsibility upon them) and Anthony’s fears (his big bugaboo to overcome) is one that I oddly share. (Though I have loved this book longer than I’ve shared his fear. No spoilers!) I read it when I need to be grounded or a fast pick me up, so some years, like in 2020, I read it more than once. This was a one read kind of year.

I give The Viscount Who Loved Me five stars.

10. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (reread)

I have been wanting to do a big Anne of Green Gables reread for a few years now. I decided to begin it this year. I love this story—with small exceptions, this story holds up over 100 years after it was first published. I love the story to love what has been unloveable and to see beauty in simplicity. This book definitely settles in my top 10 favorite book of all time, so it definitely has to fall in my top 10 for 2021. I will be doing a bigger reread of the rest of the series probably starting in 2022.

I give Anne of Green Gables five stars.

Non-Travel Charlotte Thoughts, Personal, Top 10

2017 Top Ten

2017 was a mixed bag. It didn’t suck as much (at least for me personally, world events is another story) as 2016, but it came with ups and downs. There were some pretty obvious highs, and some pretty obvious lows, namely, still grieving the loss of my mom played a very large roll that filtered into everything. You don’t realize how fundamental someone is to your life until they’re no longer there. BUT I like to take the time to reflect on what made 2017 bearable and okay. Here it goes, in no particular order.

  1. Eurotrip 2017! Eurotrip 2017 was amazing–I’m still working on finishing up the blogs, but other writing endeavors got in the way. Returning to France after the aborted trip in 2016 after my mom’s death was a little hard, and solo travel for so long sometime wore on me, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will never forget. In France, Croatia, and Italy, I visited sites, monuments, and museums of importance to my dissertation and enjoying every (almost) every second.                                                                                                                                                                         Me in Ancona Italy checking out the Arch of Trajan. DSC03132.JPG
  2. Fitzwilliam Arthur I don’t think it’s terribly surprising that I got another cat this year, especially after the loss of my mom. This (not-so-little now) kitten is such a goof and I can’t imagine life without him. IMG_3603.JPG
  3. Quilting I finished two quilts this year, one for a friend’s new baby (who is literally the cutest!) and one for my brother. I’m so happy to have found my craft, it gives me such satisfaction and enjoyment. My brother’s quilt was particularly special. When my mom died I was working on my sister’s quilt; she had asked me to make sure that I actually made a quilt for my brother too (a craft I had made a few years ago, I never finished my brother’s, largely because my idea far outstripped my abilities at the time.) I promised I would. So this quilt was super double special, it was for my brother, and for my mom.
  4. YMCA I was kind of bummed to need to find work over the summer, but I *really* enjoyed working at the local Y’s summer camp. I got to hang out with some cool counselors, awesome teens, and delightful kiddos all day long. It was nice to be reminded that I’m good at at other things and be given some perspective on what the world is all about. It made for an exhausting summer of crafts, sunburns, splashes, and giggles.
  5. Miss O I started nannying this year for a six-year-old girl and man. One of the best things I ever did. This kid is smart, funny, and just a lot of fun. Hanging out with her is another great dose of perspective. Oh and she loves Harry Potter so we’re basically soulmates. IMG_4101.JPG
  6. Friendsgiving in Nashville I had *such* a good non-traditional Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving with some of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places. I even brought my cats!
  7. Hard work!  It’s been a productive year! I’ve worked hard, and made some progress that I’m proud of, and I’m hoping that it will only get better in 2018.
  8. Self Care (and)
  9. Networks of Support These two kind of go together, and I think it’s why I feel like I’ve made more progress in 2017 than any before. From professional and personal friends and colleagues, and knowing when take a break, I’m a lucky to have access to a variety of support networks that I have availed myself of this year.
  10. Christmas 2017 This holiday season, to me surprisingly, was harder than last year. I think everything was too new last year for me to really process what the holidays are now that my mom has died. It starts with the anniversary of her death, immediately followed by my, my dad’s, and my sister’s birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Christmas…then my mom’s birthday is New Year’s Day. The holiday season will forever be bookended by these bittersweet dates now. However, we did Christmas a little differently this year, didn’t try too hard and didn’t push it. Us siblings got small meaningful gifts for one another and “Santa” didn’t bring us presents this year, but that was all okay. I had a great Christmas, in spite of the sads, and it reminded me how thankful and lucky I am for the family I have, both related and chosen.