New Year, New Reading List: Books for Your 2021 TBR

Happy 2021! The year took off with a bang suitable for the heels of 2020, but I remain hopeful about the months ahead. Not everything will be roses and sunshine immediately. We need to work for better times. I do believe, however, that despite notable chaos, we can turn things around. And I’m starting with my reading list. I want to focus on reading more broadly and discovering a few new authors that I love.

Child lying on a bed reading a book, surrounded by more open books.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I read quite a bit in 2020, but I still have a tall pile of books I meant to get to. It’s always the case. But I refuse to deny myself the pleasure of upcoming releases just because I’m behind. I will dive into this new year of books with gusto. How about you? If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to new titles by favorite authors and new discoveries as well. So this week I’m offering up links to some lists of books on the horizon, as well as a wrap up of things read in 2020, both recent and old. Whatever your take on reading in the new year, I hope you find some new favorites and a lot of inspiration. Happy reading!

This week’s links:

A Year in Reading: 2020. – One of my favorite features at The Millions is their annual year in reading series. Dozens of writers weigh in with brief reflections on their readings for the past year, sometimes a whole list and others one or two notable choices. The master list links to all of this past year’s contributors.

43 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2021. – A wonderful list of upcoming releases.

7 Historical Romances to Read After Binge-Watching Bridgerton. – For those of you with a holiday hangover from the Netflix series, here are some great romances to keep you in that romantic mood.

The Astrology Book Club: What to Read This Month Based on Your Sign. – Fun and a little fluffy, but the book choices are great and varied. Fast readers might want to pick up a bunch.

The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2021. – A year’s worth of crime novels on the horizon, with enough coming out each month to keep you pretty busy.

I Will Never Watch “Children of Men” the Same Way Again. – A writer looks back on the dystopian film in the wake of recent events. Please note that the novel, by P.D. James, came first, and is well worth a read if you haven’t checked it out previously.

24-in-48 Readathon. – My favorite readathon is back this February in a slightly pared down version. I love this event, which challenges you to read for up to 24 hours out of a 48-hour period. No pressure, though. You can drop in for an hour or two and enjoy the social media bookishness, or hang in until the bitter end. Chat is about books read and loved, what snacks are best for a reading weekend, and other bookish joy. Go sign up.

Friday Links: How Is It December? Edition

Where did December come from? We’re four days into my December Writing Challenge, yet still, the month surprises me. So much of this year snailed along, but we hit Labor Day and zip, zip! Not that I will miss 2020, but it’s still a shock to realize how quickly this last part of the year has gone.

Photo by Guneet Jassal on Unsplash

Today I bring links, but first, a bit of chatty business. As mentioned above, I’m holding my annual writing challenge this month. You can find all the rules and the kick-off post earlier this week. Please join in, even if you missed the start. I try to keep the challenge encouraging and low key, particularly this year with the pressures of the pandemic. Come for a bit of inspiration, some pep talks, the occasional prompt or writing sprint. Posts will appear hear, and I’m tweeting daily as well. So, come write. The more the merrier.

We’ve entered end-of-year booklist territory. Yes, some of them are ridiculous. There are far too many. And yet, I love them. I’ve included some below, to help with holiday shopping or holiday reading of your own. There also might be some soon-to-come booklists, just to mix it up. But there’s no real theme to this week’s links. We’re very casual around here in December. Kick off your shoes, grab a mug of something hot, and stay a while. Wishing you a great weekend, and happy writing!

This week’s links:

NPR’s Book Concierge 2020. – A wonderful roundup of recommended books that came out this year, with the added ability to search by genre, audience, and more. Previous years’ lists are also available. By far my favorite year-end booklist, just due to sheer volume.

19 Books by Northeast Indian Authors. – As the article says, so good you’ll be adding them to your reading list ASAP. I know I’ve added a few to mine.

BookExpo and BookCon Are No More. – The announcement that these events, cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, will not be returning in their previous form.

Jason Reynolds bought up all his own books from local DC bookstores and gave them to readers. – The generous act of an author on Giving Tuesday.

8 Books about Feminist Folklore. – An intriguing set of titles both for pleasure reading and for research.

32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021. – A list of upcoming books to keep on your radar.

This Holiday Season, Support These 8 Charities that Hand Out Books. – A great list of organizations that donate books to those that need them. Consider one (or more) for your year-end charitable contribution.

The Hidden Literary Heritage of Harriet the Spy. – An intriguing look into the history of this beloved literary character.

Friday Links: Tricks and Treats Edition

Happy Halloween Eve! The week got away from me, as I’ve been catching up after last week’s virtual Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I started out Monday with a pile of backlog and a brain buzzing about writing structure, saggy middles, handling timelines, and more. Even agents pick up great tips at writing conferences.

Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

So here we are, on the cusp of Halloween, plus a new month and the start of NaNoWriMo. I thought I’d offer a mix of writerly and seasonal links to kick things off. Whether you plan to watch horror movies, dress up, or just settle down with a good book and bowl of candy, I wish you a fun, safe Halloween, and a stellar start to NaNo. Don’t forget to set your clocks back Saturday night. You get an extra hour of writing time on Sunday. Sounds like a treat to me!

This week’s links:

‘I spooked myself right before bedtime:’ Authors on Their Scariest Creations. – A little Halloween inspiration to put you in the mood.

The Ghost Stories of Muriel Spark. – A peek at some lesser known works of the author that fit right into the season.

Tana French: Hope in Hard Times. – The thriller writer discusses her latest manuscript, which she has the great fortune to hand in shortly before COVID-19 shut downs ramped up, as well as other aspects of her writing on the latest episode of The Secret Library Podcast.

Where to Start with Shirley Jackson. – The author’s work seems to be undergoing a resurgence on screen, but what about actually reading her stories? Here’s a guide to how  you might approach them.

When Is It Okay to Write About Someone Else’s Culture or Experience? – Part of Charlie Jane Anders’ ongoing project to write a book about story craft, which Tor.com has been publishing in installments. Great information here about what we mean when we refer to #OwnVoices writing.

How Not to Be All About What It’s Not All About: Further Thoughts on Writing About Someone Else’s Culture and Experience. – A terrific follow up to the above from Nisi Shawl.

Dissecting Suspense in Rebecca. – In light of the new adapation on Netflix (which I advise you to skip; stick to the Hitchcock version), I urge you to read or reread Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel and see for yourself all the ways suspense can build. Terrific lesson, no matter what sort of fiction you write.

Friday Links: A NaNoWriMo Inspiration Edition

Happy Friday, and welcome to the middle of October. For the many writers, October serves as the countdown to NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. In today’s selection of links, I offer up a bit of inspiration to help you get into the writing groove. Check out how other writers tackle their projects, or learn about new twists on older ideas. Be sure to visit the official NaNo site for additional tips on getting ready.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Before I delve into this week’s links, I want to remind you that I reopen to queries on Monday the 19th. I updated my wishlist here on the blog, but for anyone looking for a quick genre overview:

At this time, I’ll be looking to take on women’s contemporary or historical fiction; contemporary or historical single-title romance; magical realism; young adult contemporary, mystery, or historical fiction.

I will continue to adjust what genres I’m accepting every few months, based on current market needs, my reading interests, and what I’ve recently signed on. Please do not attempt to query outside of the requested genres, as I will auto-reject without reading.

Without further ado, I give you a mishmash of links to explore this weekend. I hope they inspire you to try new things in your own writing, or push yourself in whatever ways you need. Happy writing!

This week’s links:

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: Stories & Ideas. – Initially, The LA Times postponed this year’s festival due to COVID-19. Eventually, they decided to go virtual. Register now for free panels starting this weekend and running into mid-November.

15 of the best first lines in fiction. – Having trouble kicking off your book? Check out these stand-out first lines for some creative sparks.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia on Writing a More Authentic Mexico. – The author chats with Maris Kreizman on her podcast on how she approached depicting a more realistic version of Mexico for readers more familiar with clichés.

On Learning of My Autism While Trying to Finish a Novel. – Madeleine Ryan discusses neurodiversity and how she now thinks of her own characters.

A New Edition of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Crosses Its T’s and Dots Its I’s. – Ever wonder about those partial letters between characters? This edition includes physical copies, fleshed out based on clues from the text.

NaNoWriMo Prep: The Ultimate Plot Development Guide. – This blog post provides a great breakdown of tips for getting reading for NaNo.

Friday Links: Falling into Autumn Edition

Somehow, despite the global pandemic and the west coast burning and what has often felt like the slowest year on record, we’ve reached October. Autumn in SoCal is nebulous at the best of times. Predictably, I’m writing this in the midst of a heatwave. No hot tea or cozy sweaters for me. More like ice cream and air conditioning. But fall still brings to mind school supplies and productivity, and I am way past due for an update.

Things on the horizon:

Utmost in most of your minds, no doubt, is when I plan to open again to submissions. The answer is, in a couple of weeks. I haven’t set a firm date yet as I’m tinkering with a few things. I’m also making decisions on some lingering projects in my inbox. Right now I plan to make a more formal announcement late next week.

That said, there will be some changes in what I’m looking for in terms of new material. I’m not making any huge shifts in what I represent, but I will no longer be accepting queries for all of those genres at the same time. I can’t keep up with the influx. I will update my wish list both here and on the agency site, and my QueryManager page will offer a much more limited list of genres I am accepting.

Please note that I will be changing which genres I’m accepting queries for from time to time, based on the balance of my client list, the market, and what I am most interested in reading. So if I’m not accepting projects in the genre you write, that does not mean I won’t be taking them again in a few months. But please, do not try to sneak your query to me by labeling it under some inappropriate genre or emailing it directly. It will be rejected unread in the first instance, and deleted in the second.

I realize some of you will be frustrated by this, and I am sorry. All I can say is, like many people, I have found my state of mind profoundly affected by world events, particularly the pandemic, and the result is my reading interests and ability to focus have shifted. I bounce off books I should adore. I sink into things that previously would not have interested me. Fighting it doesn’t do anyone any good.

So that’s where things stand on the business front. Now on to the fun stuff. I’ve a mishmash of links for you this week, and I hope you find them interesting and inspiring. Wishing you all a lovely weekend and happy writing!

This week’s links:

So What’s the Difference Between a Myth, a Fairytale, and a Legend? – An interesting look at three similar types of story and their definitions.

Word Matters. – The new-ish podcast brought to you by Merriam-Webster focusing on grammar, word origins, and other word-related things.

With His New Mystery Novel, John Banville Kills Off a Pen Name. – An entertaining history of the Irish writer’s relationship to his alter ego, and why he needs to live on in Spain.

Why Goodreads Is Bad for Books. – A review of the site’s history and stagnant existence, plus an intriguing peek at a new potential alternative.

Susanna Clarke’s Fantasy World of Interiors. – A lovely interview with the author, discussing the long break between her books and the mysterious ailment affecting her ability to work.

Are We Running Out of Monster Metaphors for the Disasters of the Real World? – Looking at the ways in which we cope with our real-world fears through fictional threats.

Up Close: A 1574 Map of London. – Take a look at the city’s layout during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

Friday Links: A Celebration of Books and Booksellers

Today I wish to celebrate both books and the people who sell them. Independent Bookstore Day is tomorrow, and fall titles start hitting shelves in a few days. Reading good books takes some sting out of this ongoing pandemic, so what better time to praise all things bookish?

Independent Bookstore Day logo of a hand holding an open book.

 

What have you all been reading during this period of safer-at-home? I know not everyone can focus on books right now, but sometimes that means returning to old favorites or finding joy in poems or shorter books. I’m doing some rereading, myself. Old romantic mysteries by Mary Stewart. Humorous poetry I discovered as a child. But also new romances and women’s fiction. Fantasy as long as it stays well away from dystopian situtations. All mixed in with “homework” reading: how to be a better, more active ally to BIPOC people, and political titles about the state of our democracy. If that sounds like a lot, it hasn’t been. It’s been slow going, spread over months, with more books piling up on my TBR behind them at a rapid rate.

Fall always brings a wealth of new titles. I’m trying to keep my pre-orders at a minimum, simply because there are soooo many new books I want to read. But pre-orders are the way to go in this new pandemic economy. Let publishers know they should print copies of the books you’re looking forward to reading. Supply chains are still moving slowly, so reader interest helps publishers know where to make their best efforts.

Meanwhile, here are a bunch of links to give you ideas of what to read, and where to get your copies. Plus the usual writing/industry chatter. I hope you find something interesting and inspiring. Have a great weekend, filled with wonderful books and maybe a little quality writing time!

This Week’s Links:

Independent Bookstore Day. – A resource of online and in-store events taking place to celebrate independent bookstores across the country.

117 Black-Owned Bookstores. – A great resource if you’re looking to support Black-owned businesses. You can even check for stores in your own state.

The Importance of Bookstores During the Pandemic. – A lovely homage to bookstores and all they do for us, especially in difficult times.

Eight Trends in Book Cover Art, From Busy Botanicals to Women Walking Away. – As it says. Some beautiful examples, attached to some great reads. (I’m personally partial to the botanicals.)

Paris Stories: The Writing of Mavis Gallant. – A short film about the Canadian author and her approach to writing, with interview footage as well as the author reading samples of her work. Inspiring, plus a lovely bit of armchair travel.

Why It’s Not Empowering to Abandon the Male Pseudonyms Used by Female Authors. – A thoughtful look at the recent decision to release a number of books written by women including their birthnames over the pseudonyms they chose, and why this is not a simple situation.

9 Books about Disreputable Women by Women Writers. – Great books featuring the inside stories of women society labels disreputable.

The New California Curriculum. – An interesting look at what it means to be a California writer, and where these writers fit into the literary landscape as we reconsider what types of books should be considered “canon.”

Plotting Your Fantasy with a Bullet Journal. – One writer’s system for organizing their writing, plot, and world building.

We Need People Within Our Publishing Houses Who Reflect What Our Country Looks Like. – A great interview with Lisa Lucas, who will be leaving her post as head of the National Book Foundation at the end of the year to take on the role of publisher at PRH’s Pantheon and Schocken Books.

Friday Links: The “I Need to Close Tabs” Edition

I accumulate goodies for Friday Links all week long. The tabs stay open in my browser until I post them here on the site. This becomes problematic, however, when I don’t do a Friday Links post for a few weeks. Hence this random, fly-by collection of links to occupy your weekend. Everything is bookish, related to reading or writing or publishing, but that’s about all I can say for a theme this week. Blame the heat or quarantine or pandemic brain, or possibly all three.

An open book with a 3D, black-and-white sketch of a pirate, treasure beneath a palm tree, and a pirate ship.

Wishing you all a good weekend. Please take care, whatever that means in your neck of the woods. Social distance, wear a mask, stay home if at all possible. Read something lovely or take a long nap. Be kind to others, and to yourself. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Cree LeFavour on the Pleasures of the Limitless Reread. – I am a fan of rereading, though I rarely have as much time to do so as I’d wish. This reflection on the joys of rereading really clicked for me.

The Battle Between W.E.B. DuBois and His White Editor Was an Early Reckoning Over Objectivity. – We think of great writers as respected for their skills and accomplishments, but they fought for whatever ground they gained.

Writers Who Cook: Serious Biscuits with Steven Reigns. – Because I know I’m not the only bookish person who has foodie leanings.

Joan Didion & John Dunne: A Literary Arts Podcast. – An interview from the archives, where the authors discuss their careers and writing processes.

Toni Morrison Let Us Know We Are More Than the Work We Do. – A lovely look back at the author and her wisdom on the anniversary of her death.

Penguin Quiz: Which Famous Literary Group Would You Have Been In? – Fun little quiz. (I’d have been part of the Algonquin Round Table, if you wanted to know.)

It’s Time to Radically Rethink Online Book Events. – The perfect essay for the age of COVID-19.

100 Must-Read Historical Romances. – A great list of fun titles to distract you from whichever of the latest dumpster fires occupies your brain.

Friday Links: Reading Your Way to Summer’s End

This Friday I propose we all forget about the pandemic (metaphorically) and focus on our TBR piles. Stay home this weekend, fix yourself a pitcher of tasty cocktails (or mocktails–your choice), grab a lawn chair or hammock and get reading. I will admit I’m spurred on by my own weekend reading list. Mine is all client-and-submission related, but the rest of the proposal stands. And you should feel free to tackle all those great vacation reads you’d normally enjoy on a plane or by a pool. (If you have a pool in your yard, even better.)

Not sure where to start? You are in luck. This week’s links feature lots of book lists. So if you are wondering what to read, or just what to pick up first, check below for inspiration. Ignore the insanity of the outside world and sink into a romance or a fantasy or thriller for distraction. Cheers!

This Week’s Links:

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview. – Frequent flyers here know I love this feature over at The Millions. Twice a year they present an enormous list of books coming out in the half-year or so ahead.

What 100 Writers Have Been Reading During Quarantine. – Tons of great ideas here. Some are recs, some just straight lists of what these writers have been reading recently.

The 50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Last 50 Years. – As the title says. Fantastic assortment.

John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal in Conversation. – A great chat between these two authors where they discuss process, science fiction, and more. For those of you looking for writing inspiration instead of reading inspiration (or both).

Independent Bookstore Day swag. – Independent Bookstore Day is creeping up, and you can now buy swag in the form of face masks or coffee mugs to honor/support the event.

2020 First Novel Prize: The Long List. – The long list for this year’s First Novel Prize by the Center for Fiction. I’m not sure every single one of these titles are out yet–I’ve heard buzz about ARCs for a couple–but many are, and you can always make a mental note for later if something appeals.

Friday Links: Honoring Juneteenth Edition

Today we honor Juneteenth, not yet a national holiday, but hopefully on the way. I put this blog mostly on the back burner the last few months, for so many reasons. But today requires acknowledgement, and it feels like a perfect opportunity to discuss racism and humanity. Throughout these weeks of protest and activism following the killing of George Floyd, I’ve been active on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, trying to support and elevate Black voices. But it’s important for me to talk more broadly about my support of the Black community and that needs a little more space.

Racism comes in all shapes and sizes, but it surrounds us. As a white woman, I understand that I have grown up in this system. It’s in my DNA through decades of exposure. I have to do the work to resist that exposure because even if I am not actively, purposefully racist, I can still say or do things carelessly without understanding their effect. Doing that work means listening. It includes reading, viewing, paying attention. Supporting financially, emotionally, professionally. On Juneteenth, and every day after.

Publishing remains a painfully white industry, for all the active discussion about diversity the last few years. I am closed to queries at the moment, but when I reopen I will be rewriting my information about what I’m seeking. Currently I encourage diverse submissions, but I plan to be more specific about addressing BIPOC authors individually. As a reader and consumer, I work to diversify my reading choices, but I know I can always do better. I try to give money to a rotating list of charities and organizations that focus on providing opportunities to those who need them. In recent weeks, I’ve donated to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for African American Students and We Need Diverse Books.

Boosting Black Voices

I’m just one person, with limited resources, but I have something of a platform. A decent Twitter following. Some terrific friends and colleagues who are on the same page about the need to boost Black voices. The older I get, the more I understand that networking can take you far, and a diverse network surpasses one with a narrow focus. More ideas, more connections, more chances of clicking with the right partner or finding that perfect opportunity. It’s not about scrambling to the top of the mountain by yourself; it’s about helping others and watching everyone rise together, then toasting your achievements with an amazing view.

Juneteenth week_Black_Publishing_Power_challenge

Amistad Books proposed the simple idea of purchasing two books by Black authors this week. Any two you wish. The concept? Flood the bestseller lists with Black voices, fiction and nonfiction. Boost the writers, give them sales, but also introduce readers to new names they might not have encountered. Have you picked up your books yet? There’s still time for this challenge, but any week counts. Go discover a new-to-you voice.

Books: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin and Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
My #BlackoutBestsellerList purchases: One known-to-me author–N.K. Jemisin–and one new to me–Evan Winter.

24 Black Bookstagrammers Who Should Be on Your Radar. – Looking to read more Black authors but overwhelmed by the choices? Follow a couple of these folks for great recommendations.

A frank conversation about YA literature, police brutality, and the nuances of Black storytelling. – A very timely interview with authors Nic Stone and Kim Johnson about their writing and how their books fit into the current landscape.

Resources for Writers in Support of Justice and Action. – A varied list of links including places to donate, a reading list on racism, and some really creative ways to support the Black community, especially writers.

I Am Not Your Negro: the Film. – Many streaming services are showing an array of important Black films for free right now. Of the ones I’ve watched the past couple of weeks, this one struck me as a beautiful balance between the big-picture narrative of racism in the United States and a very personal story of James Baldwin’s experience watching his friends getting gunned downed for standing up for Black rights. Available on Amazon Prime among other places. Highly recommended.

Patronizing Black Businesses/Products

Bookstores in the United States that Specialize in Black Literature. – Plug in your state to see what’s near you, or check them all out to find out who ships.

An Anti-racist Nonfiction Reading List. – A great assortment of titles, including the broad scope ones we’re seeing everywhere but also some less frequent recs that get more topical.

49 Black-Owned Bookstores You Can Shop Online. – For those of you still shopping from your armchairs (as you should be–stay safe!).

21 Black-Authored Cookbooks to Add to Your Shelf. – For the foodies, so many wonderful-sounding cuisines to choose from. Check a few of these out.

Black-Owned Etsy Shops. – Check these out for your next round of gift giving or to splurge on yourself.

16 Black-Owned Organic Loose Leaf Tea Brands. – I love how very specific this list is. And I love tea.

I could keep going on and on, obviously. But this smattering of thoughts and links serves as a beginning, only. We need to keep having the conversation, to keep doing the work, if we’re ever going to approach a world that looks somewhat equitable. And even then, as with everything, we’ll need to keep doing the work. Change isn’t permanent; it’s a process.

Friday Links: ‘It’s Finally April!’ Edition

April arrived, finally. March was possibly the longest month I have ever lived through. My mother likes to say March is her least favorite month. I think it’s mostly a weather thing, but this year, I have to agree. So welcome to April, and this week’s link roundup. I hope you’re all well and staying home, safe, and sane.

I add that last one because I know a lot of people are really starting to feel the magnitude of the situation. Millions of Americans filed for unemployment last week. People are worried. I wish I could help with that, but I hope I can at least provide a small distraction. Don’t be hard on yourself. Do what you need to in order to manage. If being creative helps, go for it. If you can’t focus on writing, go ahead and binge Netflix or bake or nap. If you’re still out there working in the trenches, thank you for taking that risk for all the rest of us, and stay as safe as you can.

I offer up another mixed list of links this week. Enjoy, and have a good weekend.

This Week’s Links:

We Need Art Right Now. Here’s How to Get into Poetry. – For the skeptics who looked at my post earlier this week and shook their heads.

Writer’s Digest 89th Annual Writing Competition. – In case you are feeling productive. Or maybe you have something in the drawer you can dust off and tweak a bit.

Ted Chiang Explains the Disaster Novel We All Suddenly Live In. – An interesting look at the world through the eyes of an excellent science fiction author.

The Debate: How Many Books Should You Have on the Go at Once? – The reader’s dilemma. Are you a one-at-a-time reader or are you surrounded be reads-in-progress?

Ann Patchett On Why We Need Life-Changing Books Right Now. – A lovely article on Patchett’s first encounter with the works of Kate DiCamillo.

Returning to Analog: Typewriters, Notebooks, and the Art of Letter Writing. – A slightly older read, but as so many of us rely on tech to communicate and work from home, it’s nice to remember the slower side, too.