Books I read in 2021

“…as a wonderful singer once remarked: ‘An image is a stop the mind makes between uncertainties.’”

Nathaniel Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook

As in 2020, in the last year I read a lot of science fiction. It's really interesting to see how the scope of story, material, and culture has grown since I first read the genre. I yet again wish I had read more deeply in Le Guin's works earlier.

There's also a notable amount of fantasy, young adult, and graphic novels. Those reflect the tastes and interests of the household, and are an avenue to stories that I would probably not have otherwise read.

Raskin's The Westing Game makes its yearly appearance, but read aloud this time around. Her language and narrative techniques are so striking, so sophisticated. I don't know that I ever appreciated them as much as I did when giving them voice.

I had not thought about the Chronicles of Prydain in decades, until one day not long after finishing The Lord of the Rings, we needed something for an long journey. Listening to it, I had the most delightful experience of unlocked memories. It was also pleasing to see that even with a male protagonist for the series, Alexander had in fact found many ways to keep Eilonwy from lapsing into sterotype or narrative convenience.

Black American and African Diasporic writers make up another significant cohort.

Nathaniel Mackey's prose (like his poetry) enacts a different way of apprehending the world. The characters of these works have an extraordinary stance toward time, spirit, and language. It's as if the characters of Jin Yong's wuxia novels turned themselves to the discipline of music instead of martial arts.

When I heard that Gayl Jones would publish new work in 2021, I was thrilled. Palmares feels like Jones at her most original: the recursive way that the characters talk, the layered sense the language provides of the spiritual and physical environments, and the accompanying sense that there are things at work that will always resist the reader.

I first read Jones in graduate school, in a class with Nellie Y. McKay, who would later become my dissertation advisor. I share that intellectual lineage with Shanna Greene Benjamin, whose Half in Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Nellie Y. McKay was a joy to read and reflect on.

Much of my nonfiction reading was on professional topics. Goldhill's book, although almost 10 years old, gave me a lot to consider. When taken together, Cagan, Leto, Perri, and Sandy suggest that part of what product management has to do now is define itself a business discipline, not just as a collection of tactics and frameworks.

Fiction

  • Elliot Ackerman, James Stavridis
    • 2034: A Novel of the Next World War (2021)
  • Loyd Alexander
    • The Book of Three (1964)
    • The Black Cauldron (1965)
    • The Castle of Lyr (1966)
    • Taran Wanderer (1967)
    • The High King (1968)
    • The Foundling and Other Stories of Prydain (1973; 1982)
  • Kathleen Applegate
    • Endling: The Last (2019)
    • Endling: The First (2020)
    • The One and Only Bob (2020)
  • Afia Atakora
    • Conjure Women (2020)
  • Kelly Barnhill
    • The Witch's Boy (2015)
  • Rena Barron
    • Maya and the Rising Dark (2020)
  • Molly Brooks
    • Sanity & Tallulah (2020)
  • Becky Chambers
    • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (2016)
  • James S. A. Corey
    • Leviathan Falls (2021)
  • N.K. Jemisin
    • The Fifth Season (2015)
    • The Obelisk Gate (2016)
    • The Stone Sky (2017)
  • Gayl Jones
    • Palmares (2021)
  • Laura Knetzger
    • Bug Boys: Outside and Beyond (2021)
  • Hari Kunzru
    • Red Pill (2019)
  • Hope Larson
    • Compass South (2016)
    • Knife's Edge (2017)
  • Kiese Laymon
    • Long Division (2013)
  • Ann Leckie
    • Ancillary Justice (2013)
    • Ancillary Sword (2014)
    • Ancillary Mercy (2015)
  • Yoon Ha Lee
    • Dragon Pearl (2019)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin, from The Hainish Novels & Stories (Library of America)
    • Rocannon's World (1966)
    • Planet of Exile (1966)
    • The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
    • The Dispossessed (1974)
  • Nathaniel Mackey
    • Bedouin Hornbook (1986)
    • Djbot Baghostus's Run (1992)
    • Atet A.D. (2001)
  • Anne McCaffrey
    • Dragonflight (1968)
    • Dragonquest (1971)
    • The White Dragon (1978)
  • Megan E. O’Keefe
    • Velocity Weapon (2019)
    • Chaos Vector (2020)
  • Ellen Raskin
    • The Westing Game (1978)
  • John Scalzi
    • Redshirts (2012)
  • Zoje Stage
    • Wonderland (2020)
  • S.M. Stirling
    • Lord of Mountains (2012)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
    • The Return of the King (1955)
  • Jeff VanderMeer
    • Authority (2014)
    • Acceptance (2014)
  • Alfredo Véa
    • Gods Go Begging (1999)
  • Andy Weir
    • Project Hail Mary (2021)
  • Jin Yong
    • A Snake Lies Waiting (2020; Anna Holmwood and Gigi Chang, translators)

Nonficton

  • Shanna Greene Benjamin
    • Half in Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Nellie Y. McKay (2021)
  • Marty Cagan
    • Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products (2020)
  • Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
    • Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own (2020)
  • David Goldhill
    • Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think We Know about Health Care Is Wrong (2013)
  • Kate Leto
    • Hiring Product Managers: Using Product EQ to Go Beyond Culture and Skills (2021)
  • L. David Marquet
    • Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders (2012)
  • Danielle L. McGuire
    • At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance — A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (2011)
  • Melissa Perri
    • Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value (2018)
  • Ken Sandy
    • The Influential Product Manager: How to Lead and Launch Successful Technology Products (2019)