I’m ending this year with another roundup of some books I read this year. I like to give out awards to my favorites, sometimes in made-up categories (see my distinction between “hard” and “tender” sci fi below). So without further ado:
Best Cosmology Memoir
- The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Part primer on recent advances in astronomy and theoretical physics, part memoir of her life as a Black Jewish woman in STEM, part interaction between the two.
Best Mind-expanding Mathematics
- Supermath: The Power of Math for Good and Evil by Anna Weltman
- Math Without Numbers by Milo Beckman
- The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics by Tim Harford
All three of these books simultaneously cover interesting mathematics while expanding the idea of what mathematics is.
Best Psychology + Self-Help
- Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
- The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul
Both of these books are about how our thinking is shaped by our surroundings, from society to our buildings to our bodies.
Best Religion + Spirituality
- Faith after Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do about It by Brian D. McLaren
A very compelling vision of what the Christian church could be like.
Best Hard Sci-Fi series
- The Interdependency by John Scalzi
Features: an adorable mathematician dating the most powerful woman in the known universe, as they try to steer humanity through the end of civilization as they know it.
Best Tender Sci-Fi series
- The Wayfarers by Becky Chambers
Each novel follows an interspecies group of people as they navigate a very tolerant galactic society with lots of issues. Read ’em and weep.
Best Enigmatic Fantasy
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
My favorite part of “Wandavision” was the mysterious first few episodes where you really didn’t know what was going on, and Piranesi has very similar vibes.
Best Beloved Children’s Series
- The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
I reread these this year and the last two books (“Taran Wanderer”) and (“The High King”) remain my favorites. Punches not pulled.
Best New Children’s Series
- Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Set in 90’s California, this series explores a wide variety of immigrant and racialized experiences through the perspective of middle-schooler Mia Tang, who runs a motel with her parents. Partly based on the author’s own childhood experiences, these books don’t let their characters off the hook when their choices affect other people. I’m reading the third book now, which just came out recently.
Thanks for reading! If you’ve read any of these and have thoughts, or if you want to share some of your own favorite reads from this year, I’d love to hear in the comments!