If you are at all like me, time means nothing anymore. The pandemic has broken any and all sense of temporal flow I once had. My wife likens it to defragging a hard drive — the pandemic was such an erratic time that our brains defragged, moving all the relevant chunks together and largely ignoring the chunks where either nothing happened or where it contains stuff we wanna forget, which frees up a lot of space. Great, except? That space is a void of slippery timelessness.
So, trying to remember THINGS THAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR IN PARTICULAR is tough. Especially when it comes to remembering what I liked, read, listened to, and the like. Triply so when it comes to thinking about books that I read, because I also read a lot of books that aren’t out yet, or read 2022 releases in 2021, and as such, wires get crossed.
Meaning, I’m going to miss some stuff here. And I apologize for that.
I saw stuff, I read stuff, I heard stuff, and a lot of stuff was good, so I figure I’ll make the valiant-if-completely-destined-to-fail effort to put some of that stuff in front of you.
Here, then, is a short, non-comprehensive, non-exhaustive list of COOL STUFF.
aka, THE MOST IMPORTANT SECTION BECAUSE BOOKS ARE GOOD
I don’t read as much as I used to, in part because I don’t have the time, and my eyes get tired, and I also read a lot slower than I used to. Which lets me savor work more but also, just not read as much, which sucks a bit.
Here are some of the very cool books I read and liked this year.
HIDE, Kiersten White (tense thriller, twisted American fable, true fave here)
MAYBE WE’LL MAKE IT, Margo Price (music memoir, anybody creative should read this, all about the love of the things you make and do)
THE VIOLENCE, Delilah S. Dawson (holy shit what the fuck, this book is a whole damn journey, don’t be turned away by the pandemic side of it)
THE PALLBEARER’S CLUB, Paul Tremblay (softer touch Tremblay, sweeter and funnier but he’s still gonna stick that knife in because Paul is a monster)
THE DEVIL TAKES YOU HOME, Gabino Iglesias (let’s just call this what it is: a real bolt-cutter of a book, it’ll gut you, IYKYK)
AN IMMENSE WORLD, Ed Yong (one of our greatest science writers, will make you really appreciate the animal world and why we need to protect it)
GHOST EATERS, Clay McLeod Chapman (my highest compliment is that it reminds me of playing World of Darkness games, and this vibes like a truly legendary Wraith: the Oblivion or Geist game)
THE FERVOR, Alma Katsu (haunting historical horror, written with elegant prose and heartbreaking vibes)
NO GODS FOR DROWNING, Hailey Piper (horror noir fantasy all rolled up in one, vibed kinda like ARCANE on Netflix a little but definitely bloodier, good stuff)
THE TREES GREW BECAUSE I BLED THERE, Eric LaRocca (I wrote the intro to this, suffice to say this is body horror that slides between your ribs)
THE HOLLOW KIND, Andy Davidson (creeping crawling roots-and-shoots mom-and-son-move-into-old-family-house story, goes places you don’t expect)
MARY, Nat Cassidy (spooky serial killery middle-age ladyey stuff, prose pops and the hook sinks in right from the first page)
THE CLACKITY, Lora Senf (middle grade, more serial killery fun, but also monstrous and creepy and really shows how far you can push MG horror)
BURNING QUESTIONS, Margaret Atwood (I mean, c’mon)
THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF APPLES IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, Daniel Bussey (yes I bought a seven-volume apple encyclopedia, you shut your goddamn mouth and don’t judge me)
Also a lot of books that came out in 2021 or before like Mallory O’Meara’s fantastic GIRL DRINKS or Christopher Mims’ ARRIVING TODAY or Matt Siegel’s SECRET HISTORY OF FOOD. Plus I blurbed stuff that isn’t coming out until 2023 like Grady Hendrix’s horror-humor-heart trifecta of HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE or the classic-feeling horror of Chris Goldens ALL HALLOW’S EVE or Eric LaRocca’s debut novel or Jaime Green’s non-fict THE POSSIBILITY OF LIFE. And again I’m sure there’s shit-tons of stuff I’m missing.
Finally, I just started WHITE HORSE by Erika Wurth, and so far it’s a thumb’s UP.
[EDITED TO ADD: Not sure how I forgot Catriona Ward’s SUNDIAL — I think I read it in 2021, which may explain it. But also, time is meaningless. It’s exceptional — twisted, with an emphasis on the twist. I loved NEEDLESS STREET but thought SUNDIAL was even better, and it really blew me away.]
Everything Everywhere All At Once, Nope, X, The Adam Project, Confess Fletch, Top Gun Maverick, Barbarian, Emily the Criminal, Prey, Black Phone, Hellraiser
White Lotus, Severance, Andor, What We Do In The Shadows, Yellowjackets, Peacemaker, Bad Sisters, Reboot, Stranger Things
(I’m behind on some great shows, too, like Better Call Saul, Abbot Elementary, Russian Doll, Reservation Dogs)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cool It Down
K. Flay, Inside Voices / Outside Voices
The Linda Lindas, Growing Up
Oceanator, Nothing’s Ever Fine
Mitski, Laurel Hell
Alice Merton, S I D E S
Winnetka Bowling League, Pulp EP
Jack White, Entering Heaven Alive
Inscryption (PS5), Stray, Cult of the Lamb, Vampire Survivors, Elden Ring, Beacon Pines, Goat Simulator 3, and also I got a Steam Deck and damn if that isn’t a pretty nifty device.
What did you like this year? Drop in the comments, recommend something. Anything! Across these categories or… like, literally anything, I don’t care, go hog-wild, get crazy, YOU ARE BOUND BY NO MORTAL LAW