January 2021 reading wrap-up

I kicked 2021 off with a new set of goals and aiming to knock a few books off of my overly long TBR list. Check out my recommendations from my January 2021 reading.

Best of the month

“It’s impossible to let go of the people we love. Pieces of them remain embedded inside of us like shrapnel. Every breath causes those fragments to burrow through our muscles, nearer to our hearts. And we think the pain will kill us, but it won’t. Eventually, scar tissue forms around those twisted splinters like cocoons. They remain part of us, but slowly hurt less.”

From At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

At the Edge of the Universe / Shaun David Hutchinson

In the past few years, queer themes have become more prevalent in young adult fiction, and while increased representation is certainly a good thing, I’ve found many of these new books miss the mark for me in some way. Most seem to lack a lived-in feel that made the queer stories of the early to mid 2010’s so great, like Ari and Dante, Cameron Post, and others.

Written in 2017, At the Edge of the Universe came at the tail end of that period, and it deserves its place among the best.

The book opens by laying out three distinct circumstances for the reader: our main character, Ozzie, was pulled off a plane that would blow up on take off. He was on that plane to search for his boyfriend Tommy, who disappeared one day and was erased from the memories of everyone except Ozzie. Also, the universe is shrinking.

Even with those fantastical elements, the book remains grounded in the teenage experience, as Ozzie deals with the pain of losing his boyfriend, and the uncertainty of his future. Hutchinson lets each of these threads breathe throughout the book’s 500 pages, before pulling them in tightly during its fantastic closing.

This, as well as Hutchinson’s other book We Are the Ants, are exactly what I want from queer young adult books, and representative of the best that subgenre has to offer.

Other highlights

Circe / Madeline Miller

I was a huge fan of Miller’s The Song of Achilles, yet had put off reading her follow up, Circe, for years. It was worth the wait. This time, Miller reconsiders Circe, a witch who plays a small but important role in the Odyssey. No longer a side character in someone else’s story, Circe is fully realized in a way many women are not in ancient myth. An enjoyable ride from start to finish, made all the better by Miller’s exquisite prose.

The Tradition / Jericho Brown

Like many people, I am not well-versed in poetry, and this year I decided to tackle a few collections that were recommended to me. Brown’s The Tradition is a soaring collection that unpacks his experience of being gay and Black in America, and it’s just so good. Even if a specific poem didn’t fully connect, there were still lines that would take my breath away. Please read this collection.

Hola Papi / John Paul Brammer

I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this essay collection, and I’m so excited to recommend this book to everyone when it comes out this summer. Brammer is consistently a light in the darkness on the internet, and in his first collection he adapts the format of his popular advice column of the same name, letting his warmth shine through in each essay. Funny and profound, this was an absolute joy.

Complete list of january reads

  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
  • The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • The Tradition by Jericho Brown
  • At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • Hola Papi by John Paul Brammer
  • The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson