Alright lads?! Another year down the shitter, eh? Thankfully, we’ve got books to keep us from going completely mad. And hopefully you’ve read some incredible stories this year. In no particular order, here are my favorites from 2021, with links to my original reviews (if I wrote one).

Chouette, by Claire Oshetsky (Virago/Ecco)

Every so often, admittedly quite rarely, I find a book that I consider to be a litmus test. If someone loves a certain book as much as I do, I know I’ve found “my people”. Chouette has become one of those rare finds. Claire Oshetsky’s debut novel is hilarious, breathtaking, incredibly disturbing, moving, and poetic. 

As a side note, I had the huge privilege of connecting with Oshetsky on Goodreads, and it has made my reading life so much richer. Her insightful reviews, not to mention her impeccable taste in literature, have made a sometimes-toxic social media space into an absolute joy. 

Near The Bone, by Christina Henry (Berkley Books)

The scares come thick and fast in this book, but leave huge consequences for our characters. The horror in this book is visceral, bloody, and brutal, containing both natural and supernatural elements. I was delighted at how much I loved this book. 

All the Murmuring Bones, by A.G. Slatter (Titan)

Miren sets off on a quest where she encounters murderous merfolk, disgruntled ghosts, young werewolves, all while constantly trying to evade her cousin’s relentless pursuit. And that’s just a quick summary! This epic adventure unfolds in such an exciting way. Every chapter contains at least “OMG!” moment. 

The Lamplighters, by Emma Stonex (Picador)

This is probably the most “mainstream” book on the list. Three men go missing from a lighthouse, with little evidence to show their method of departure. This is a story about grief, and how necessary some form of closure can be. It is beautifully written, and deeply engaging. If all my other favorites sound a bit too offbeat for you, I’d highly recommend you check this one out.

On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu (Erewhon)

As soon as I finished reading this book, I wanted to start it all over again. I was not ready to leave Firuzeh’s world. I just wanted her to be okay. I have not been moved by a book like this in a long time. On Fragile Waves is an incredible achievement, and an astounding debut novel.

Burntcoat, by Sarah Hall (Custom House)

I was utterly consumed by Burntcoat, just as I expected I would be. This brief, exquisite book is about so many things. Art, love, sex, family, death. You can’t help but get utterly entranced by the beauty of Sarah Hall’s prose. I would gladly read it multiple times over.

Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, by Rivka Galchen (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

I discovered Scribd this year! It’s brilliant! It’s like Audible but less expensive, and I don’t have to feel guilty about not finishing an audiobook. But it is on this platform I listened to Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, and I’m so glad I did. Set in 1618s Germany, Katharina is accused of witchcraft, and the narrative of that story is interwoven with testimonials from Katharina’s trial. Natasha Soudek gives a great performance, effortlessly bringing the many characters to life. 

When Things Get Dark: Stories inspired by Shirley Jackson, edited by Ellen Datlow (Titan)

I could write a lengthy love letter to almost every story in this anthology. It really is that impressive. If you are looking for an overview of what the current literary horror world looks like, this is a fantastic example. 

The Letters of Shirley Jackson, edited by Laurence Jackson Hyman (Random House)

This book is pure gold for any Jackson obsessive. It is the closest thing to an autobiography, albeit an unconventional one. The thing that came across most is just how funny Jackson was. She is often remembered for her knack for the uncanny, but she is genuinely playful in some of these letters.

My Phantoms, by Gwendoline Riley (Granta)

A frank, honest novel about adult mother/daughter relationships. Bridget’s mother is dying, and the pair grapple with their impending separation, reflecting on their lives together. In a world of books containing unrealistic expectations of maternal relationships, I found this incredibly refreshing.

The Watcher in the Woods, by Charlotte Bond (Black Shuck)

A tiny, tiny collection of wonderful, terrifying stories, with folklore shadows. The rightful winner of the Best Collection award at the British Fantasy Awards. Black Shuck are publishing some amazing work; please check out this indie British publisher. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s