In 2021 I Listened To 53 Audiobooks. Here Are The 10 Best.

Another year over that seemed like it just started, while also over-staying it’s welcome. Before we get to the list, here’s some very honorable mentions…

My reading list this year started out with somewhat of an ending with the last 4 books (for now) in Jim Butchers’ ‘Dresden Files’ series, the newest of which, BattleGround, ending in an Avengers: Endgame style all out brawl. This one’s for fans of the Buffy/Supernatural urban fantasy setting, but are ready for something with a bit more of an edge to it.

Another fantastic book series gobbled up by me this year was James S.A. Corey’s 9-part hard Sci-Fi saga The Expanse. If you like your protagonists idealistic, your physics mathematically authentic, and your villain's, well, fucking evil, download Leviathan Wakes.

If you're anything like me, you’re a massive process nerd for how movies are made; from the financing, to the casting, writing, and directing, definitely pick up Best.Movie.Year.Ever: How 1999 Blew Up The Big Screen By Brian Raftery. Look up all the movies that came out and try and tell me it wasn’t the best movie year ever. I’ll wait.

With those out of the way, let’s get to the list…

10. In The Weeds By Tom Vitale

When Anthony Bourdain passed away in 2018, it was one of those wake up calls where you go, “Damn, I always meant to keep up with that guy.” It wasn’t until this year that the wake-up call actually manifested into catching up with the guy. Reading Anthony’s longtime producer and friend’s book was kickstarted by Tom’s interview on WTF and The Big Picture, two fantastic episodes of each’s podcast.

In the book, Tom recalls incident after incident in which the veneer many fans of Tony may have built up over the years, where he’s a saint among men, a calm, collected vagabond simply traveling the world, breaking bread with and trying to understand his fellow man, is slowly chipped away at.

On almost every trip, Tom Vitale recounts at least one incident where, best case scenario, Anthony would chew Tom out over seemingly minor infractions. The worst case was a scenario in which all parties involved, Tom included, were incredibly inebriated. Tom was insistent on getting a shot in the street, and after prodding Tony and the crew once too many times to get set up for the shot, Tony exploded at Tom. Tony grabbed Tom and threw him against a wall and told him, in no uncertain words, to get the hell out of there. According to Tom, Tony half-heartily apologized the next day.

If you want a full, unvarnished picture of what Anthony Bourdain was like when the cameras were off, give this a listen.

9. Leviathan Falls By S.A. Corey

Sticking the landing. It’s a phrase that’s been bandied around a lot in the last 10–15 years as we get more and more series and sagas and Cinematic Universes. Star Wars, Game Of Thrones, Dexter just to name a few series that crashed and burned upon reentry. It seems over and over it’s the exception rather than the rule that fans will be left wanting when it comes to a satisfying conclusion to their favorite tv show, movie or book series. Leviathan Falls, the 9th and final book in the expanse series, does in fact, stick the landing.

8. Stories Of Your Life And Other By Ted Chiang

In 2016 the movie Arrival, well, arrived. In my mind it was a seismic shift in the way in which ‘big-budget sci-fi’ movies could be made. Gone are the days of Will Smith punching an alien in the face and say ‘welcome to earf!’, movie audiences have craving something more substantial when it comes to first-contact stories. That’s exactly what Arrival delivered.

The short story it was based on, Stories Of Your Life, was followed fairly closely by the writer, Eric Heisserer, and director Denis Villeneuve while fleshing out Louise’s relationship with her daughter, Hannah. Without giving too much away about the plot of the short story, Hannah loses her life in a way that is dramatically different than the movie. Was the change for the better? Pick up this collections of short stories and find out for yourself.

7. Mike Nichols: A Life By Mark Harris

Another book for my fellow process but also comedy nerds, specifically comedy nerds who have a blind spot when it comes to the history and inception of modern comedy. Early in life, Mike Nichols was part of one of, if not the most, successful comedy duos of all time. While in college Mike met Elaine May, a fellow burgeoning comedic genius. For four years, from 1958 to 1962, Nichols and May, as they would come to be known, toured the major comedy circuits in the northeast and Midwest. They both had grander dreams however and they both went solo to pursue separate careers in entertainment.

Mike would go on to become on of the most celebrated writers, directors and producers in Hollywood history, directing such classic movies as The Graduate, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia, Silkwood, and Working Girl. In addition he also produced plays such as The Odd Couple, Barefoot In The Park and others, contributing almost single handily to what we consider to be the blueprint for the modern day rom-com.

6. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

This. Book. This fucking book. Will. Blow. Your. Mind.

5. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig narrated by Carey Mulligan

Out of all the books I listened to this year, The Midnight Library is the one that has stuck with me the most. I think a lot of people have moments where they wonder if they made the decision to pursue a certain career, relationship or job over others and how their life might have gone differently. Nora Seed has the chance to do just that. After a suicide attempt, Nora finds herself in a library which includes possible outcomes for all the roads she started going down earlier in life. But, much like the movie Soul from last year, Nora finds that the ‘secret’ to life, and happiness in it, may be found in the simple, quiet moments between the big stuff.

4. The Invisible Life Of Addie La Rue by VE Schwab

I was introduced to V.E. Schwab through her A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy (which you should absolutely get into if you like the urban fantasy setting) of books and moved quickly onto her newest one, about the titular Addie La Rue. She begins the book as a girl in the 1700’s who’s facing a forced marriage, but makes a deal with a dark forest spirit for eternal life. The catch is that anytime she leaves the room whoever she was talking to will forget they ever saw here.

That is until 2014 when she meets Henry Strauss, a man who can somehow remember her beyond their first encounter. Romance, drama and twists ensue. Highly recommend picking this up if you just want a quick, but impactful self contained story.

3. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Even knowing what I know now about how Bourdain treated some of his staff, Kitchen Confidential is still a book I would highly recommend to anyone who wants a first hand account of what NYC was like in the 80’s and 90’s, from someone who smoked, drank and ate through it. Some life lessons gleaned form this book; don’t order fish, or any seafood for that matter, on Mondays, never go to brunch on a Sunday, and always tip well. RIP Tony Bourdain.

2. Tender Is The Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

A good prose will draw you into a world. A great prose will transfix you, numb you to the content that you're actually consuming. The latter is the case with both of my last two picks, abundantly necessary here in the world of Tender Is The Flesh, taking place years into a pandemic that saw the slaughter of all meat based animals. The worlds human population then had to choose to either go vegan or consume human flesh, which has been legalized, industrialized and normalized.

The main character, Marcos, works as a liaison between the meat sellers and the processing plants, also training new hires. In one of the most disturbing sections of the book, Marcos describes the process of hiring someone, if they enjoy the process of killing the ‘heads’ it can become a problem. Being a sociopath may seem like an ideal character trait in someone who has to kill others humans for a living, but it’s actually not sustainable as the person could easily turn on their fellow ‘meat’ packer.

If your stomach can handle it, I highly recommend Tender Is The Flesh.

1. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

No Country For Old Men is my favorite movie of all time. So it should come as no surprise that a Cormac McCarthy novel is my favorite book of the year. Just like with my #2, McCarthy’s prose is staggeringly beautiful, his ability to describe desolate landscapes with poetic brushstrokes, paired with barbaric characters that are both familiar and other worldly. Blood Meridian has been entrenched in the national discourse for decades as being the Great American Novel, and for good reason. With this book, McCarthy distills everything that is great and abhorrent about the American west; unending landscapes allow for unending possibilities, leading to men with insatiable appetites' for death and destruction. But also it is not with out it’s inherent goodness, and allows for a incredibly diverse cast of characters to live side by side.

Get this novel into your brain by any means necessary.

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I watch too many things. And I write about them. Inquires here bisickle@gmail.com | My podcast Can I Say Something on Spotify https://spoti.fi/3vo0C7t

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Damian Sherman

I watch too many things. And I write about them. Inquires here bisickle@gmail.com | My podcast Can I Say Something on Spotify https://spoti.fi/3vo0C7t