2021 was a big year for my reading life. Sure, I’ve long been a devotee to stories with fantasy fiction leading the way in my reading lists, but adulthood has a way of inhibiting even the most pleasurable habits. When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, I knew it was a good opportunity to spend more time with my head buried in books. Beginning with Brandon Sanderson’s cosmere, I slowly reacclimatized myself to viewing reading as a more entertaining hobby than doomscrolling Instagram and Twitter. By the time 2021 rolled around, life was largely back to normal (as in, I was back at work and mildly more involved with family and friends again), but I was determined to not let go of this reading hobby. I set a goal of reading 30 books throughout 2021. I ended with 59 books completed and 3 still in progress. Of those 59 books, there are 4 I knew I would reread.
I learned a few things about my reading habits during the journey. I am still a fantasy fiction girl at heart, but I’ve also discovered that I’m madly in love with mystery stories, especially of the Agatha Christie and cozy murder mystery type. And as much as I adore browsing bookstores and the feel and smell of a good paperback, my Kindle has been my best friend in building a new habit. Mostly, however, I discovered the variety of books that have the potential to make it into my reread pile. From my 2021 reads here are 4 that I’ll be reading again.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi is the first book I finished in 2021 and it’s the one I’ve thought about on repeat since.
“The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its kindness infinite.”
I haven’t quite known how to describe it without delving into metaphor and potentially ruining the story, but I’ve recommended it to everyone I know who reads. Clarke’s story is beautiful, haunting, perplexing, and thought-provoking. A single read-through can only begin to scratch the surface.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Ocean is one of two books by Gaiman I read this year (the other being American Gods) and while both have stuck with me, Ocean is the one I would reread in a heartbeat. Both worlds are full of wonder and magic and heartbreak and growth, but Ocean pulled me in immediately and didn’t let go until well after I was finished reading. Where Gods left me, honestly, somewhat depressed, Ocean left me wistful and as though I’d woken from a dream.
Lettie shrugged. “Nobody actually looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
I’ve known for years that George MacDonald was a massive influence on CS Lewis, who is undeniably one of my favorite authors, both in his fiction and non-fiction. Reading The Princess and the Goblin left me understanding why. It took a chapter or two to get settled in, but once I was, I lapped the story up and flew straight into its sequel, The Princess and Curdie. Having now read and enjoyed the story for its own sake, I’m eager to dive back in see what is there to find beyond the narrative alone. For a man who inspired CSL, there must be something.
“People must believe what they can, and those who believe more must not be hard upon those who believe less. I doubt if you would have believed it all yourself if you hadn’t seen some of it.”
David’s Crown by Malcolm Guite
I should probably shout my love for Malcolm Guite from the rooftops. His poetry, his prose, his ramblings on art and faith and literature… I can’t help but be delighted when he is involved. David’s Crown, a book of poetry that accompanies the Psalms, is no exception. In truth, I’ll probably read it again and again and again because I’ll probably always follow a Psalm with his corresponding poem. Aside from the beauty of the language, Guite’s poems really helped my frame of mind when reading each Psalm. I felt like my understanding only increased as I combined ancient poetry with modern.
Come to the place, where every breath is praise,
And God is breathing through each passing breeze.
Slowly discern a life, a truth, a way,
Where simple being flowers in delight.
Then let the chaff of life just blow away.