And so we come to the end, and back to the start.
The year 2021 was a banner year for myself as a reader, finishing 123 books over the course of twelve months. If you’ve been following along all year, you’ve been privy to the best of each month, and may have noticed some trends across the books I’ve been reading.
December serves as a nice microcosm of my year in books. This year, I got more into fantasy than I ever have, and four of the books I read this month fall into that genre. Check out my favorite reads of December, and stay tuned later this week for my favorite books of the year!
Best of the month
“Don’t ever make the mistake that I did. Don’t show mercy.”From Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
Jade Legacy / Fonda Lee
I am notoriously awful at finishing a series. In my reading history, there are many abandoned series, with just one or two books read, waiting for me to return to them. It’s remarkable that in 2021 I was able to start AND finish a fantasy trilogy, but that’s the magic of what Fonda Lee accomplished with her Green Bone Saga. After reading and enjoying Jade City back in March, loving Jade War in September, I closed out the year with the final book in the trilogy, Jade Legacy.
Picking up after the events of Jade War, we follow the next 20 years of the Kaul family and the No Peak Clan and their struggle to maintain power on the island of Kekan.
It’s difficult to tell you more about the plot of the concluding book in a trilogy, but the scope and the scale of this work is absolutely breathtaking. This trilogy is, without exaggeration, my favorite fantasy series of all time. The characters, the pacing, the worldbuilding, everything is executed flawlessly. While this series might be a hard sell for non-fantasy readers, I promise you will not regret picking it up.
When We Cease to Understand the World / Benjamin Labatut
This short, genre-defying work of science writing first came onto my radar when it was named one of the New York Times’ Top Ten Books of 2021. Each section of this book delves into the lives and discoveries of our most famous scientists, exploring the ethics of scientific progress and where the line between genius and madness lies. The book itself falls somewhere between the worlds of fiction and nonfiction, imagining the inner lives of these men and probing what made them tick. Labatut and his translator Adrian Nathan West turn the complexities of mathematics into poetry, and I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book as much as I did, and by the end it made me look at the world a little differently.
A Master of Djinn / P. Djèlí Clark
This was the year I discovered P. Djèlí Clark, reading his four published novellas before finally picking up his debut novel at the end of the year. This book serves as an expansion of his Dead Djinn Universe, and I’m so happy I got to read a novel-length work set in Clark’s Cairo. One of my only critiques of the novellas I read was that I wanted them to be longer, and A Master of Djinn delivers on that and more. Following Agent Fatma as she investigates the (possible) return of al-Jahiz, one of the most famous men in this alternate history and the person responsible for the introduction of magic into the world. Murders, conspiracies, cults, and more make this book a fun ride from start to finish, and I can’t wait to read what Clark has in store next!
The Golem and the Jinni / Helene Wecker
Last month, I read Station Eleven, which had been sitting on my shelf for a number of years, and this month I knocked another mainstay on my TBR pile out by finally reading Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni. Wecker’s magical-realist saga follows the titular magical beings as they both try to make their way in turn-of-the-century New York City as immigrants in an unfamiliar land. The magic leaps off the page, yet the story feels grounded in its time period, an impressive feat for a debut novel. Despite its length, coming in at nearly 500 pages long, the story flows in the way childhood fairy tales do. It was worth the wait. (Bonus: for some reason I read three novels centered on Djinn/Jinn/Jinni this month.)
Complete list of december reads
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
- Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
- Lore Olympus: Volume One by Rachel Smythe
- When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut
- A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
- Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
- City of Brass by S. A. Chakrobarty
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