This is not a best of 2021 list. This is simply a random list of some of the people and things I was glad to discover in 2021.
Books I Loved
Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales, Edited by Marx Pysle, Victoria L Scott, Anne C Lynch, J.C. Mastro
I got to contribute to this anthology with a story about a dragon racing subculture in the Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn. While obviously I have a biased opinion, this really is an amazing collection of stories and I have truly enjoyed every one I’ve read. I want to give a shout out to “The George” by Timons Esaias and “Catalyst” by Kevin Plybon.
Squeeze Me, Carl Hiaasen
I compare all of his books to my gateway Hiaasen book–Bad Monkey. This one did not replace Bad Monkey in my affections, but it is still a fun read. Hiaasen somehow managed to make fun of the former guy and his admirers without stressing me out–which, frankly, is something of a comedy miracle.
Gorgeous. This is a wildly creative, often gorgeous, short story anthology. Very satisfying read.
The House of Hunger, by Dambudzo Marecheram
This one blew me away. Even though I had read about how incredible his writing was, I was still unprepared for its power once I got my hands on a copy of this collection of short stories. “The Sound of Snapping Wires” is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. I wish he was still with us.
Favorite Movies/TV Shows in 2021
Promising Young Woman: Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, this was one the the most original and brutal revenge films I’ve seen in…that I’ve seen ever, period. I want to watch it again, once I get up the nerve, because now that I know how it all plays out I feel like I’ll notice so much more. Incredible storytelling. Profound, disturbing, and thought provoking.
Gringo: I didn’t know anything about this film going in. So shockingly good. Powerful themes woven into a seriously twisted comedy/thriller. This film is a ray of hope in a world where it seems like the bad guys always win.
What We Do in the Shadows (TV): The season ended on (for me–fragile flower that I am) a somewhat distressing note. Hopefully not a sign that they’re running out of ideas. Even so, it was an awesome season, as always.
Wellington Paranormal (TV): Totally ridiculous. Possibly more so with each new episode. This is, of course, what makes it so great.
Reservation Dogs (TV): More emotionally intense than I expected. One of the most interesting shows this year.
Resident Alien (TV): So very twisted and hilarious. Probably my favorite show of the year.
Twitter Favorite Follows
Rachel Handler is the author of some of the most entertaining investigative journalism of the past year, from her initial inquiry into what was going on with the bizarre bucatini shortage of 2020 to her discovery of a few answers to the crisis in early 2021. Her review of Jungle Cruise made me want to review movies as a career–but only if I did it exactly like her. Life isn’t easy at the moment for most people. Rachel, thank you for writing things that made me happy.
Honorable mention goes to (and yes–clearly I was on twitter too much in 2021):
New York Times Pitchbot: @DougJBalloon
Gabino Iglesias: @Gabino_Iglesias
Depression Era Photos: @blestcrone
Laura Bogart: @LDBogart
Cheryl Lynn Eaton: @cheryllynneaton
Chuck Wendig: @ChuckWendig
Paul W. Gillespie: @pwgphoto
Irritated Furiosa: @kellybarnhill
S.A. Cosby: @blacklionking73
University of Hall Duncan: @Hal_Duncan
AC Shilton: @ACShilton
Mississippi Free Press: @MSFreePress
Summer Brennan: @summerbrennan
Local Bitings I Enjoyed in 2021
This is only useful if you live in Brooklyn or accidentally visit the neighborhood of Bay Ridge.
Asal Coffee in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: Asal Coffee is a coffee (and honey) cafe in the epicenter of Arabic speaking 5th Avenue. Their cardamom latte is delicious and decadent. So far, the best cup of coffee I’ve had in the neighborhood.
Lock Yard in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: Best burger in the neighborhood.
Lombardi’s in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: Best meatballs in the neighborhood. Not even a competition. One of my favorite culinary experiences in 2021.