What Short, Year-End Read Do You Need Based on Your Favorite 2021 Show?
Multiverses and murders.
The year is coming to a close, meaning it’s time to reflect on this year’s reads. For some, the alarm bells are going off because you may not have reached your reading goal for the year. Ideally, this is the time to reread your favorite fantasy trilogy (knocking out three) or sci-fi opera (knocking out a lot more than three).
However, let’s be realistic here. All the sugar intake over the last week+ has most of us feeling kinda sluggish, so short and sweet may do the trick because if you blink three times, it will be 2022.
Like we did for Halloween, we’ve put together some (but definitely not all) of our favorite new shows of 2021, with the novella and short story recommendations devourable in a sitting or two. All are under 300 pages (and many are under 150), plus most of the books released in 2020 and 2021, with one exception. The books are similar enough to the shows that provided some glitter in an absolutely dreadful year, and yet are different enough to be new adventures.
If you loved WandaVision or Loki (Disney+):
Try Finna by Nino Cipri.
While Invincible was a heart-wrenching ride, Y: The Last Man was peak how-to-adapt-and-improve-the-source-material 101, and Hawkeye was a jolly-good time, WandaVision and Loki are our only comics (first) entry on this list because then the whole thing would be “well go read the comics that influence the story.” Instead, check out the Hugo-nominated work Finna (pronounced fee-nah, not fin-uh) by Nino Cipri.
The story begins with the aftermath of a painful breakup made worse because both parties working at a soul-sucking corporation (that feels like IKEA but isn’t …), and an elderly customer disappears in the store. Upon discovering that she definitely isn’t in this dimension anymore, management forces our two minimum wage workers to find the missing granny by traveling to the different big box stores in the LitenVerse.
If you loved Squid Game (Netflix):
Try Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi.
While set across the world, there is a reason, beyond the violence, that so many people have gravitated towards Squid Game—class disparities, dystopias that hit a little too close to home, etc. Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby captures the spirit of that plight while centering the story on the Black experience in America. Riot Baby follows an incarcerated young man named Kev, his sister (Ella) with terrifying powers, and a semi-futuristic L.A. neighborhood.
In a spoilerly interview with NPR, Onyebuchi described real and cultural influences on the story and its construction. He references new and old sci-fi classics (in anime, TV, and books) and asks what the future will be like for Black Americans, considering not only our past but also how algorithmic biases will affect it.
If you loved Only Murders in the Building (Hulu):
Try An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten, translated by Marlaine Delargy.
The 88-year-old woman with no family and no friends looks harmless, but (nosy) opinions about her change as a dead body appears in her apartment. Now Maud is under investigation, and she needs to clear her name. If done right, Maud may be able to get rid of a local celebrity who has eyes on Maud’s rent-free (due to a loophole in a contact) downtown apartment. Tursten’s story is also good if you like dark comedy, period, so it’s perfect for Only Murders in the Building and What We Do in the Shadow‘s fans, too.
If you loved High on the Hog (Netflix),
try On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
The mouthwatering Netflix mini docu-series High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America takes place in four primary areas of interest (Benin, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Texas). On Juneteenth focuses on the southeast bit of Texas. Like the show, the short non-fiction book looks at the personal stories on the background of these regions’ more significant socio-economic and political issues, centered on a theme.
This book is both a love letter to, and an expression of frustration with, our home state of Texas. The novella both examines mythological elements of Texas culture and history primarily ignored (specifically critically) by the general public (like the Yellow Rose of Texas song), reflecting on Gordon-Reed’s own family’s navigation of the civil rights history.
You don’t have to unironically say “y’all” or measure distance by travel time to enjoy this quiet but powerful story.
Is there any show and novella or short story pairing you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments.
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