Here we are, in the final hours of 2021.
It’s been snowing for the last three days straight in my small pocket of the world (in typical December fashion). We’ve a good blanket of white on the ground, and the trees look splendid with powdered sugar on their branches.
As the final hours of the year come upon us, I’ve been dwelling on some of the year’s greatest stories, notably those I read and watched. For books, 2021 was a fantastic year. I read a lot of books, and I watched a myriad of fantastic productions as well.
2021 was a tumultuous year (following quick on the heels of the equally tumultuous 2020), and stories were a constant solace throughout the year. Whether I was speed reading a novel for my grad school classes or just reading for leisure, I threw myself into endless worlds, realities, and philosophies. It was a grand old time.
Without further ado, I’ve created this story tag for the end of the year! I’ll post rules and a header image at the bottom for future use. If you’d like to participate (even if you post it in a few days or even weeks into the new year), consider yourself tagged!
How many books did you read this year?
I set a goal of reading fifty books in 2021, and I read fifty-six! I honestly should have read more than that, but alas! 2022 shall contain even more books.
What were your top five books of the year?
It’s hard to pick only five, but I’d have to pick these:
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
- Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
- Silence by Shūsaku Endō
An honorable mention is certainly Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and its sequel, with its dastardly band of rogue teenagers following paths of crooked justice and high-stakes heists.
AND another is P.G. Wodehouse’s hilarious classic, The Code of the Woosters, in which Jeeves helps Bertie out of yet another predicament involving a cow creamer, a sinister Aunt Agatha, and an Amateur Dictator™.
Was there a story that came to you during a darker period of the year?
Frank Herbert’s Dune (both the book and the film) came to me right smack in the middle of my first semester of grad school, and both were outlets of relief. I was feeling pressure from classmates and professors on how to conduct research, what to write, when to turn it in, how to think, and how to do grad school. Reading about the young Paul Atreides (in both Dune and Dune Messiah) and his reluctance to accept his burden and live up to outside expectations was relatable, and seeing him forge his own path into the desert (he he he) gave me the courage to make my own path in school and create my own scholarship rather than that which is expected of me.
Plus, school was exhausting, so getting into Dune let me immerse myself in an alternate reality for a while and Forget Everything™.
And I speak of both the book and the film. Denny’s film was such an immersive, grand masterpiece to watch in theaters. Zimmer’s score gives me shivers, and Chalamet’s performance as Paul was so true to character. Still in awe of the film, which I admit to seeing four times in the theater. Beyond excited for part two.
A blog post on the awesomeness of the Dune saga is definitely coming soon. I’m finishing up book three this week, and I’m still truly in awe of Herbert’s masterpiece. Easily the best book and film I’ve been able to experience all year.
Was there a book that left you speechless?
This honor has to go to William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that ended the way Absalom did, and the conclusion settles on the reader in a horrific manner. I read the entirety of Absalom, Absalom! in a little under two weeks for an American literature grad class, but despite the speed read, it still managed to pack a walloping punch. It’s an ante and postbellum American tale of slavery, miscegenation, murder, and family secrets, and it surprised me in so many ways. And the ending made it everything. Honestly, Faulkner is an American author whose work and life I highly respect.
After writing a twenty page seminar paper on this novel, it feels like it’s become a dear friend. And every time I think about it, that ending still haunts me.
What were your top five films of the year?
There were some really good films that came out this year, and I also revisited some older classics. My top five watches this year were:
- Dune (2021)
- Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
- A Quiet Place Part II (2021)
I have so many things to say about all of these films, especially
Was there a film that spoke to you deeply this year?
Apart from what I’ve already said of Dune, I can honestly say that Pan’s Labyrinth moved me on a deep level when I first watched it this year.
I have a review of this masterpiece in the works, and I’m so excited to finish it and share it. I only watched this film the week before Christmas on my bed right when break started. All that to say, I was ugly crying so hard when it ended.
Pan’s Labyrinth is the story of Ofelia, a young girl living in 1944 Spain. Her new stepfather is a sadistic military captain trying to put out a rebellion in the mountains. Unable to come to love her new home or her evil stepfather, Ofelia is visited by a mysterious magic faun who tells her that she is the long lost princess from an underground realm of beauty. To prove her identity as the princess, she must pass three perilous, fantastical tests. It’s a tale that reminds its audience that “In darkness there can be light. In misery there can be beauty. In death there can be life.”
It’s haunting, slightly terrifying, but beautiful to the core. 1000% recommend.
Which fictional characters ruined your ability to think straight this year?
I will immediately admit feverishly adoring my beloved Lady Jessica from Dune (both Book-Jessica and Rebecca Ferguson Jessica were prime woman crush material) and I’m still not over her Will Cut You for my Child™ energy. She is queen, and I bow before her.
If you don’t hear from me in a few months, I’ll be following her example on Wallach IX, studying the prana bindu trance and training in the Bene Gesserit Way.
Rodion Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment is another character who made me lose my mind (someone get this man an inhaler), as well as the main character of Silence, Father Sebastien, for whom I cried many times.
And Kaz Brekker.
Absolutely Kaz Brekker.
What was your top genre (or genres) of the year?
Luckily, thanks to StoryGraph (which you should totally get if you’re a serious reader), my top genre this year was Classics, which really doesn’t surprise me too much. I’m all about those classics. My second top genre was Historical, followed closely by Religion. Also not really surprising, hehe.
I have a ton of other stats at StoryGraph for those of you interested in my reading habits. 😉
Were there any tv shows that stood out to you this year?
The new adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small is so soft, pretty, and wholesome. I’m in agreement with basically everyone that James and Tristan deserve all the baby cows and puppies. And the horsies. And the hugs.
The cast, the music, the fluffy animals, and the three softest puppy doctors in the world. Siegfried has such Big Soft Dad Energy, and whenever James touches an animal I get slightly teary. All Creatures Great and Small was the most perfect, soulful show I watched this year, and I’m so excited for season two to release here in the states on PBS in January.
It couldn’t come sooner!
Did you attend any live theater productions this year?
And yes, I got to see Hamilton when they came on tour through my city only two weeks ago (the “and Peggy” cast came through). And it was—by far—one of the best musicals I’ve ever watched live. And I’ve seen a lot of live musicals. The music, the dancing, and the non-stop energy of the show flows through the audience. I was captivated. “In the Room Where it Happens” was my favorite number, and I think “Satisfied” was a close second. The story was so beautiful, too. Hamilton has definitely been immortalized as a classic of modern theater.
Additionally, the ballet company here put on their annual The Nutcracker, which was fantastic! My favorite has always been Waltz of the Flowers and the Russian dance, the latter of which was heart-stopping and such fun to watch. The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition in my family, and my little brothers love the story of snowflakes, sugarplums, and sweets that accompanies the ballet.
Did you play any beautiful story-driven games this year?
The best story-driven games of the year for me were the Nintendo Switch remake of the classic Zelda game Skyward Sword. It was my first play through of Skyward, and I loved it.
I cried all the tears and sang all the songs.
I also loved the Breath of the Wild prequel, Legend of Zelda: Age of Calamity, which was…again…another Zelda game. I was also glad that it wasn’t canon. I didn’t think I would appreciate the canon divergence, but I did, and I loved it.
And, to finish it off I also adored my first play through of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The hype is real, and the story is gorgeous. Midna forever. *crying*
So basically all the Zelda games I played through this year. 😉
And there you have it, loves. My favorite stories of 2021, wrapped up and ready to usher me into the new year. Did you read/watch/play through any of these same stories this year? What were your favorite books, films, or other stories of the year? Let’s chat in the comments!
As promised, here are the rules and the header photo for those of you interested in participating on your own:
- Please make sure you link back to this post.
- Use this image in your post’s header.
- Use a plentiful amount of gifs and/or other audio-visual media. 😉
And, here are the questions:
- How many books did you read this year?
- What were your top five books of the year?
- Was there a story that came to you during a darker period of the year?
- Was there a book that left you speechless?
- What were your top five films of the year?
- Was there a film that spoke to you deeply this year?
- Which fictional characters ruined your ability to think straight this year?
- What was your top genre (or genres) of the year?
- Were there any tv shows that stood out to you this year?
- Did you attend any live theater productions this year?
- Did you play any beautiful story-driven games this year?
As this year ends, and the new one begins, may the stories and songs that blessed us this year carry us with great enthusiasm into this next one.
My new year greetings go to all of you! Happy New Year!