Favorite Books of 2021

Jan 17, 2021

My reading habits fell off the wagon a bit in 2021, but I still found time to discover some wonderful books. Let’s dive in!

Making of Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner

This book is a beautiful collection of journals (printed by the wonderful Stripe Press) chronicling Mechner’s journey making one of the greatest games ever: Prince of Persia. There is so much to love about this book—the behind-the-scenes stories of craft, the vulnerability shown by Mechner in the difficult moments, and the thrills of overcoming the odds and finding fame. Even if you aren’t a fan of video games, there’s much to be taken from this book, especially for creatives and entrepreneurs. What an absolute treat!

Making of Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner

I cherished this book, reading it slowly over the span of more than a year, savoring every page. I just didn’t want it to end! It felt like a companion to my own creativity, and made me feel seen (especially his darker, more difficult moments in the creative process.) The book’s vulnerable, informal format inspired me to rethink how I write my own newsletter. In Quick Brown Fox #55, I shared a refreshed approach to writing my newsletter, treating it as a creative journal where I can log more of my behind-the-scenes learnings. The change liberated me to be less focused on making “content” and more focused sharing thoughts about creativity.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman

A captivating collection of short, visionary & philosophical fantasies of what the afterlife might look like. I found myself smiling and pondering as I read them, each one just plausible enough to make you wonder.

Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Candace Pert

I really enjoyed this short, enjoyable and enlightening audiobook exploring the connection between the mind and the body. The ideas explored range from the links between quantum mechanics and biology to the true causes of disease. There is much to be gained from immersing oneself in Dr. Pert’s ideas, particularly thanks to her excellent teaching and speaking style. She makes even the most complex ideas seem straightforward.

In the few hours it took to listen to this audiobook, I went from never having heard of Dr. Pert, to falling in love with her grace, curiosity and skill as a scientist and teacher, and finally being overwhelmed with sorrow as I discovered she passed away in 2013. How strange it is, the world we live in, where we can meet and miss someone who lived entirely in our past.

To get a better sense of the ideas shared in this book, be sure to read my takeaways note, which includes some quick bullets I captured as I listened to it.

Things That Are by Amy Leach

I really enjoyed this book! It’s a rare and special treat. In this collection of essays, Leach explores animals, nature and even space with prose that really pops. It is one of those books that is unlike any other book—it has a unique fabric that sticks with you long after you read it. Some of the passages can be tricky to navigate, but I believe you’ll enjoy the journey nonetheless.

One of my favorite passages from the book: Goats are generalists.

Swimming in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

This book is a collection of short stories, carefully chosen and brilliantly analyzed by Saunders. Saunders delivers powerful lessons with every passage he shares. I learned a ton about the craft of short stories with this book. (You might also enjoy Saunders’ recently launched newsletter, Story Club, in which he analyzes stories and facilitates open discussion in the comments.)

More Short Stories

2021 was the year in which I dove into short story collections, fables and fairy tales. This was partly driven by my own creative endeavors in writing a book of fables and publishing flash fiction stories (Point Price, The Boat of Stillness.)

If you’re looking for more short stories, here are some more collections and classics I enjoyed this past year:

I hope you find a book you love from this list! If you have some recommendations for me, do send them my way! I’d love to hear from you.

For even more recommendations, check out my bookshelf, which houses all my past book posts — 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.