Ryan’s Favorite Reads of 2021

2021 has been an interesting year for reading. I have been extremely busy which cut into my reading time, but you always have to make time for the things you enjoy and which help you recharge your batteries. I can still proudly say I met and passed my goal of 50 books per year. Here are my reading highlights for this past year.

Library at Mount Char book coverThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

This one may be my favorite of the year and I definitely consider it a hidden gem. I’m just glad I jot the name down when I first heard of it. It is a difficult story to explain simply but it is a mystery riddled with science fiction and fantasy elements that leave you wondering at the true nature of the universe. I absolutely loved it.

Tokyo Ghoul Monster Edition Volume 1 CoverTokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida

I was a fan of the show and I must admit the manga series is better (as is typically the case). I say this primarily because the show deviates from or does not include some critical information that would have made it that much better. Overall, this story is one that captures my interest so much I was tempted to write a few essays about the juxtaposition of ghouls and humans living in the same world. To put this one in an easier frame of reference, I would almost name it as a modern day classic of horror in the same vein as Dracula. I’m not even a horror fan but I love this series.

The Queen's Gambit Netflix BannerThe Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

I read this one earlier this year after watching the Netflix adaptation. The show does a really great job of following the story in the book, and I greatly enjoyed the show. You can likely skip the book (sounds blasphemous, I know) if you have seen the show because it follows the story that well.

The Parable of the Sower book coverThe Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

I read this one way back at the beginning of the year. I wanted to read something by Octavia Butler and this did not disappoint. I still want to read more of her work but it will be after I get through a few other books. This one takes place during the decline of civilization, which basically on the brink of entering a post-apocalyptic territory, so it does enter some darker territory. The writing and overall story is incredible though.

MythosMythos by Stephen Fry

Greek mythology is one of–if not–the most popular of world mythologies, and Stephen Fry does an excellent job with his retelling of these myths. He takes things from the very beginning and through to the more well-known stories. He reads the audiobook version which made it even more enjoyable.

Castle in the Air Book CoverCastle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

You an never go wrong with Diana Wynne Jones. This was the companion novel to her other book Howl’s Moving Castle which is a favorite of mine, and this one (though not a sequel and barely tied to the first book) was a magical journey well worth the read.

On Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne JonesI first discovered Diana Wynne Jones through the adaptation of her book Howl’s Moving Castle by the well-known film company Studio Ghibli. I love the film and the book, and the two other books she wrote that tie into that world. Since finding her work, I’ve become more interested in her as an artist. Perhaps this may be partly influenced by stories told about her by other authors I like, such as Neil Gaiman who wrote about her and how he first met her. I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget that little story (if you want to know about it, you can read it in his book A View From the Cheap Seats).

I read her book Reflections: On the Magic of Writing which is almost more a memoir than a book about the craft, which suited me just fine. I learned more about her, which made me want to learn even more about her. One thing that really stuck out to me was that she had both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as professors when she attended Oxford. Her thoughts on both of them were amusing to be honest. She had an interesting childhood though tough at times. Her wonder for the world never diminished despite living through darker moments of human history (primarily referencing World War II here). Her stories are skillfully written but are often marketed to children. I think she wrote them for children, but I think they have something for everyone, especially for adults who have forgotten the wonder they once held for the world.

I hope to introduce or read her stories to my children. They are magical and wholesome. I’m curious how my reading habits would have been different had I discovered her books earlier. I was probably mid-twenties when I first found them. Now that I have, I can return to them when needed so as to (hopefully) never lose my own sense of wonder in the whirlwind of adult responsibilities. I am grateful to have the opportunity. I am grateful she wrote her stories and let them out into the world. I’m sure she has impacted more lives than she could have dreamed possible. Diana Wynne Jones passed away in 2011 at the age of 77. Her works will likely live on for a long time. Much longer than my own lifetime at least, because once you discover a book that nestles its way into your heart, it will remain there forever to bring you comfort and joy. My hope is that you give her work a chance if you have not done so already. Of course, I suggest starting with Howl’s Moving Castle. 

Upcoming Adaptations

There are several books with upcoming film or television adaptations that I am extremely excited about, so I figured I’d share my enthusiasm here and spread the word. You won’t have to wait long as these are all coming out in the next few months.

The first to release is actually a book series I have yet to read; Foundation by Isaac Asimov. It is being adapted into a series for Apple TV. I don’t have Apple TV so I’m not sure how/if/when I will watch this series, but my lack of access just gives me ample time to read the books first.

It is set to premiere on September 24th, which is a week from today. I’ve posted the trailer below. I must admit I do really want to watch it. I’m a fan of Jared Harris and Lee Pace but the overall  premise is enticing. I will be reading this series very soon so I can jump the chance to watch it whenever I can easily do so.

The next to release is the long awaited film adaptation of Dune which was meant to release last year but was delayed (almost a full year) due to Covid. This movie releases on October 22nd. The trailer looks phenomenal, early reviews are saying it is great, the soundtrack seems amazing and probably is since Hans Zimmer, one of my favorite composers, worked on it. Also, look at this cast.

Dune
And of course, here is the trailer to peak your interest or hype it up for you. If you have not read the book, it is definitely worth checking out. You may have time to read it before this comes out next month.

Next, which I am extremely hopeful about and have already shared, is the The Wheel of Time set to release as a television series on Amazon starting November 19th. The first three episodes will release on the 19th and then there will be new episodes released weekly. The first season will cover most of book one, some of book two, and parts of book three. From what I have gathered via interviews/questions answered by the showrunner and a few actors, this 15 book series isn’t going to strictly follow the books as far as sequence of events, which may work well considering many events happen simultaneously and different characters are followed in different books. The trailer was released earlier this month and it looks like it will live up to many expectations. 

Shadows of the New Sun

Shadows of the New Sun book coverShadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe is a collection of short stories by various authors who have been influenced, professionally or personally, by the literary master that is Gene Wolfe. The collection also includes two short stories not previously published by Gene Wolfe himself. This collection was released in 2013 and several of those who contributed are authors I really enjoy, and there were many I had never read before but will likely look into their work after reading their stories in this collection.

What I really enjoyed about this collection, ironically enough, were the unintended stories. Each author who contributed a short story also provided a short commentary about Gene himself, which really gave this collection its intended purpose. Yes, each story was inspired by or related to Gene’s work with several even taking place within a world Gene created or included characters he imagined, but it was amazing to see how Gene influenced each storyteller. Many knew Gene personally and had fun stories to tell about him or something he did whereas a few had never met him in person but had an anecdote to share nonetheless.

To my knowledge, there currently are no biographies about Gene Wolfe, though I hope one does come out as I would love to know more about him. Gene passed away in 2019 at the age of 87. I wish I had discovered his work before his passing, but that is the great thing about books. You can discover and be greatly influenced by works written years, decades, or even centuries before. Some say history has a way of filtering the mass amounts of art and only allow the best to persist through the ages. I would not be surprised if Gene Wolfe is read for centuries to come. His work has found me and will persist at least throughout my lifetime as I will continue to read everything of his I can find. I chanced upon this collection at my local library’s annual book sale. Some of the best books are those you find by chance. In fact, many authors in this collection found Gene’s work by chance, and they recognized it as uniquely masterful upon discovery. I had the same experience and his books quickly became treasured tomes on my shelf.

If you have yet to find Gene’s work, perhaps this can be your reason to give it a chance. I hope you like it if you do.

Happy Reading.

The Wheel of Time – Television Series Trailer

Okay, so the teaser/trailer for the upcoming television adaptation of The Wheel of Time released today and it gives us a great first look at what we can expect when the series premieres on Amazon Prime in November. I first read this series in 2019 (crazy to think that was 2 years ago now but 2020 is somewhat of a “missing” year). It is the only series where I documented my read-through here on the blog. I just wanted to share the trailer and briefly talk about my excitement for the upcoming show.

I have to admit that this trailer gives me high hopes for the show. I will try to keep my expectations in check to make sure I don’t ruin anything for myself before I even get to watch it. I am certain the show will be quite different from the books as most adaptations are, especially large books with many characters and subplots like this series has, but I think the core story will remain untouched which is the most important part.

If you haven’t read this series and are interested, there is still plenty of time to start. The first season of the show I believe will cover book one and possibly book two, so you only need to read that far prior to the shows release if you prefer to read the source material first. Then you will likely have another year before the next season gets here. Plenty of time to read the whole series if you feel so inclined or get sucked into the story like I did.