2021, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year

I read 86 books in 2021, which is about where my reading was last year. I my review of 2020's reading, I talked about feeling as if the books I'd read hadn't leave much of an impact. I'm not sure that things have been much better this year, and I suspect that the ongoing, seemingly interminable global crisis has a lot to do with that. It's easy to anesthetize yourself with entertainment (see also my list of favorite TV shows over at Lawyers, Guns & Money), but a lot harder to give books that attention and though they deserve. So this list feels less substantial than it has in previous years. Still, there are some excellent books here that I feel privileged to have read, and here's hoping that in the coming year I find myself more able to give my full attention to all of my reading. Best Books of the Year: Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica I read this book early in the year (it was a contender in the Tournament of Books, though like most genre entr

Recent Movie Roundup 36

An exciting new phase in our ongoing pandemic reality involves the reopening of movie theaters, with the floodgates opening to release last year's delayed blockbusters, awards contenders, and the few hopefuls trying to claim a bit of territory between them. These films represent most of the last two months' moviegoing, and though none of them were exactly to my taste (and one or two are extremely disappointing), it's nice just to be able to go into a theater again. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - The first MCU superhero extravaganza of the fall had a lot riding on it. It's the first MCU film with an Asian lead (and really, an almost entirely Asian cast). The first post- Endgame MCU movie starring a new character, who will presumably be folded into whatever overarching narrative the new generation of the MCU is gearing up towards. And in a lot of ways, it's the first MCU movie that is trying to give us a sense of what phase four is going to be like, as


For as long as we've been waiting for Denis Villeneuve's Dune , a period made even longer by the vicissitudes of the pandemic, one question, it seems, has occupied fandom: will they get it right? After two failed adaptations (two and a half if you include Alejandro Jodorowsky's never-realized, and thus never disappointing, vision for the film), would Dune , a novel decreed "unadaptable" by some, finally get the cinematic treatment it deserved? David Lynch's 1984 debacle was star-studded (Kyle MacLachlan! Patrick Stewart! Dean Stockwell! Brad Dourif! Virginia Madsen! Sting!) and visually lush, but also a cursed production that yielded an incomprehensible mess, so much so that the film has two versions, one bearing the infamous Alan Smithee credit because it was recut by the studio without Lynch's input. (For the record, the Lynch version is better, though neither is what you might call "good".) And then there’s the 2000 SyFy/Hallmark miniseries, m

Recent Reading Roundup 55

As I promised in my last roundup , this bunch of books contains reviews of several that I read while on vacation with a large bunch of fellow voracious readers. Having access to other people's TBR stacks exposed me to a few titles that I would probably have never picked up myself, which just happen to have become some of my favorite books of the year. (Over at LGM, I wrote up another of my vacation reads, Tower by Bae Myung-hoon, a fascinating exploration of extreme urbanism that joins recent Korean blockbusters, like Parasite and Squid Game , in discussing inequality and the disordered relationship between capital and citizens.) Cwen by Alice Albinia - On a stormy night on a little-known archipelago off the coast of England, local landowner and philanthropist Eva Harcourt-Vane sets off in her boat towards the uninhabited island of Cwen, and is never seen again. The reading of Eva's will causes an uproar that cascades into a national scandal, bringing scrutiny onto Eva'


Apologies for the recent radio silence. I have a few things in the work that will hopefully go up later this month, but in the meantime, here are a few shorter pieces that went up at Lawyers, Guns & Money , after a week that, rather incongruously, suddenly delivered a deluge of interesting (or at least interesting to talk about) film and TV. First up, Mike Flanagan takes a break from the Haunting series for Midnight Mass , his first Netflix miniseries not based on an existing properties (though the influence of Stephen King can, as ever, be strongly felt, and I found myself thinking, in particular, of books like Needful Things and Under the Dome ). That shift is all to the good, as Midnight Mass , despite some typical Flanagan-ish flaws, is his most complete work yet, one that actually seems to have something to say. I was particularly struck by the show's nuanced, thoughtful handling of religion . Almost from the start, Midnight Mass goes very deep into the specifics of Cath