Despite the general state of the world, 2021 was actually a good year in reading for me. By the end of the year, I’d read 105 books, which is close to my previous all-time record from 2017 when I read 111. My secret? I read a lot of manga because my brain was mush.
Honestly, though, I think it would take a lot for me to have a genuine reading slump. I had a much harder time focusing for the first half of 2020 and still read a hugely respectable 75 books that year. That’s an unqualified success by just about any standard.
Tamara Shopsin’s debut novel, LaserWriter II, is slim and largely plotless, and yet somehow manages to be charming and totally compelling.
It’s a very quick read, but it has stuck in my mind in the weeks since I finished it.
LaserWriter II is a coming-of-age story about Claire, a young woman who gets a job at Tekserve, a famous (now long-closed) Apple repair shop in New York City in the 90s. She starts in intake and then moves up the ranks into repair technician. Along the way, she discovers that she is really good at repairing obscure and discontinued printers.
Magic for Liars has a very cool cover, but I think it led me astray. I was expecting something a bit more dynamic based on that design and the book’s excellent title, but the resulting story was only competent and a bit unexciting. I did like the book well enough, and would definitely be game for reading work by Sarah Gailey – I’ve seen raves for just about everything they’ve ever written – but maybe I’d prefer the ones about carnivorous hippos?
Mawrth Valliis by EPHK has a gimmick: all of the dialog is in the “original Martian”, so you have to infer the story from the illustrations. However, nothing in the book itself actually explains the conceit; instead, all context is left to whatever marketing materials you’ve read before cracking the cover.
Sticking with a recent theme, Black Star is minimalist sci-fi, focusing on characters caught in a deadly conflict. In this case, my favorite part of the book was the art. The story was straightforward enough, but the main character spends all her time doing terrible things for the sake of no one but herself.
I think I experienced a bit of synesthesia while reading In by Will McPhail.
The book is largely done in sketch-like black and white, the characters little more than outlines on a white background, except for moments when Nick, the main character, experiences real human connection. As soon as he makes that connection, the pages burst into fully painted, dynamic scenes, and I oftentimes felt like I could hear the sounds of crashing waves or the swell of some imaginary film score in my head. It made the whole thing quite extraordinary.
Sarah Anderson is best known for her Sarah’s Scribbles web comics, where a big-eyed, spiky-haired version of herself deals with introversion, anxiety, and the vagaries of modern life in a humorous, relatable way. Those strips are the exact sort of thing that people love to share on social media.
When I heard about her new book, Fangs, I was intrigued because it sounded so different from her oftentimes silly work in Sarah’s Scribbles.
I did most of my reading via audiobooks in June, but I did also finish a recent hardcover book, so I still felt like I was starting to get back into the swing of things. The number of books I finished this month was comparatively low, and two of them were short stories in audio form, but Shorefall was a bit of an epic listen, so that balances things out.
When I read about Delas Heras’ debut, The Intergalactic Interloper, it sounded like a perfect change of pace from the world outside.
It’s a short book, humorous if not laugh-out-loud funny, and charming in a gentle, nostalgic way.
The action begins in the distant past of New York City 1995, a place and time that feels comforting purely because it is a quarter of a century and thousands of miles away from where I am right now.