2021: Things What I Liked (That I Can Remember)

This is going to be hasty — I have an utterly broken memory of what actually existed in 2021. It’s curiously difficult to pinpoint this year as a year, to find its walls, to see its ceiling and its floor, to know what exists in this temporal room, this time-based structure. Because I barely acknowledge it as a structure at all. It is, in fact, more like a free-floating miasma.

Still, something happened in this sinister vapor. Let me try to suss out the stuff I liked this year.

Pop culture stuff, I mean. Media. CONTENT. Mmm. Chewy, granular content.

Again, this is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive. It’s just some stuff I really liked this year. If it’s not on this list, I may still have liked it — even loved it! — and forgot it existed in 2021, or forgot it existed at all, because that’s just how my brain is faring these days.


Indigo de Souza, Any Shape You Take

illuminati hotties, Let Me Do One More

Hus KingPin, Portishus

Halsey, If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power

TMBG, Book

CHVRCHES, Screen Violence

Deap Vally, Marriage

Bo Burnham, Inside

Olivia Rodrigo, Sour

Or, for some good songs: Jenny Lewis, “Puppy and a Truck;” Margo Price, “Red Temple Prayer;” Japanese Breakfast, “Be Sweet;” Jack White, “Taking Me Back;” Moon Taxi, “The Beginning;” K. Flay, “Four Letter Words”


Only Murders In The Building, Ted Lasso, Hacks, Sex Lives of College Girls, CentaurWorld, White Lotus, did I mention Only Murders In The Building??, I Think You Should Leave, What We Do In The Shadows, Mare of Easttown, Midnight Mass, Reservation Dogs, Arcane, Owl House, Kid Cosmic, Maya and the Three


Watched… surprisingly few actual movies this year, so let’s see how this goes?

Matrix: Resurrections (my initial review was me scratching my head, but I’ve revisited it and it has stuck with me more than I expected), The Mitchells Vs The Machines, Dune, Lost Daughter, The Green Knight, The Night House, Summer of Soul, Suicide Squad, is Bo Burnham’s Inside a movie or a show or what I dunno whatever just put it on all the lists, The Harder They Fall


It’s basic, but Halo: Infinite is deeply satisfying; Deathloop; Psychonauts 2; the new Outer Wilds expansion; Townscaper; Mass Effect: Legendary Edition which I know isn’t really a 2021 game but shut up; I really want to play Inscryption and Wildermyth but I don’t have a PC

Special shout-out to Root, by Leder Games, which is a truly delightful boardgame


God, this one is really hard, because a lot of stuff I read is from years outside 2021 — including coming out in 2022?

Catriona Ward’s Last House on Needless Street; Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife; Razorblade Tears, SA Cosby; Cassandra Khaw’s The All-Consuming World and Nothing but Blackened Teeth; Premee Mohamed’s Annual Migration of Clouds; Hummingbird Salamander, Jeff VanderMeer; Apples of North America, Tom Burford; Annalee Newitz’s Four Lost Cities; Amanda Montell’s Cultish; Samira Ahmed’s Amira & Hamza; Cina Pelayo’s Children of Chicago; Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca, Chistopher Mims’ Arriving Today

Right now I’m reading and loving David Perry and Matthew Gabriele’s The Bright Ages.

Plus I’ve read some really great stuff coming out in 2022: Alex Segura’s Secret Identity; Delilah S. Dawson’s The Violence; Kiersten White’s Hide; Alma Katsu’s The Fervor; Rob Hart’s Paradox Hotel

I know I’m missing things! I’m sure of it. Brain like a sieve in a year of fog.

BUT, hey, this gives you some stuff.

Also I wrote books this year, which may or may not have been any good at all:

You Can Do Anything, Magic Skeleton (with Natalie Metzger!)

The Book of Accidents

Dust & Grim

If you liked any of those, a review somewhere would be gosh darn delightful.


(You should of course feel free to share your own Favorite Things in the comments.)

7 responses to “2021: Things What I Liked (That I Can Remember)”

  1. That made me laugh (inside, not out loud). I never heard of any of those groups or those songs (I’ve only just discovered Pink Floyd) or those TV shows (apart from Mare of Easttown) and I saw none of the movies you mentioned. I also never heard of any of the books you read. I must be living on a different planet! LOL. Have a great 2022.

  2. 2021, the year we discovered what writers of horror movies have always known – just getting rid of the monster isn’t the end of the tale. We have to kill him two more times (2022, 2024) before we’re rid of him.

    2021, the year I discovered Substack, which this month paid my January rent (no small achievement here in the City of Lost Angles) and will do so in February. And all for writing stuff not that different from what I used to write once a week in the old college newspaper back in the day. Who knew people would pay $7/month for my opinions? I highly highly recommend to any writer that you check out Substack because just about anything (well written) can work there.

    2021, the year I discovered Heather Cox Richardson on Substack – you should too, her historical perspective on our voyage into the darkest underworld will keep you sane. Plus she’s a really good writer.

    2021, the year the pandemic lasted long enough for people to get around to reading my (non-fic) Pacific War Quadrilogy, and for a Serious Reviewer on the net to write a long review explaining *in detail* how i can be compared to J.R.R. Tolkien for holding the reader’s interest across multiple volumes, which resulted in my gob being officially smacked. Hard! And then the review went viral and now my publisher is talking about releasing a boxed set next fall for Christmas. (if you write non-fic that isn’t true crime or self-help, that is a *huge* event)

    Other things are not so nice at all. Leading and dominating that list, my wife continues her voyage through Parkinson’s – a trip on dark waters that ends badly. Thank goodness writing is a job best done at home, where I can “be there” for her.

    And then there’s the little problem of our constitutional democratic republic making like a raft floating rudderless on the Niagara River, heading toward Niagara Falls.

    A Truly Great Writer once started his tale, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Pretty much describes 2021.

  3. What did you think of The Green Knight? I haven’t seen it yet, but looking forward to it. You need to add ‘Don’t Look Up’ to your watched movies list.

  4. TV: Dopesick was far and away the best thing I watched on TV.

    Movies: Dune was awesome in the cinema, not sure how it holds up on a smaller screen though.

    Books: Caitlín Kiernan’s The Tindalos Assett was fucking fantastic Cthulhu/X-Files strange horror. Not to blow smoke, but I really dug Book of Accidents. I read my way through Ted Chiang’s stories to prepare for a talk with him and really had a great time with them.

  5. That made me giggle. I never known about any of those gatherings or those tunes or those TV shows and I saw none of the motion pictures you referenced. I likewise never known about any of the books you read. I should be living on an alternate planet! Haha. Have an extraordinary 2022.

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