Remember when we thought 2020 would be the worst of it? And now we’re approaching year three of “the end of days?” If you’re like us, you’ve mentally blocked it. No, we were too busy with our heads buried in our books, noise-canceling headphones superglued to our ears, and Netflix asking “are you still watching?”
Whereas last year’s trend was lofty plans that didn’t quite pan out, this year we dedicated our time to things we really wanted and needed.
For some, that meant an escape from our reality. For others, it meant self-reflection or intellectual expansion. And some of us just needed a break from looking at words all day!
Whatever you’re looking to make of 2022, our recommendations will hopefully help you achieve it.
Elisa Doucette is the Owner and Managing Editor of Craft Your Content. She also works on all client strategy, writing coaching, and program creation.
For another year, I fell horribly off the reading bandwagon. Which is frustrating, as I’ve been a band leader of that bandwagon for decades. I’m not sure that’s really how bandwagons work, but I’m gonna wagon-wheel roll with it!
I spent a lot of time in other forms of media this year, tumbling down the same TikTok rabbithole that has consumed much of humanity (more on that in 2022 …) and watching approximately a quadzillion TED and TEDx talks for the TEDxAberdeen event in July 2021 that I was Programme Curator for.
The book starts off with the main character Andy Bellows having a horrific experience destroying a prospective client’s bathroom during a sales pitch, due to anxiety and sickness. A trip to the doctor diagnoses him with a strange new disease that is afflicting more and more people—a self-destructive addiction to technology.
The only cure is a complete technology sabbatical. No texting, no social media, no online dating, no body monitoring apps, no food delivery, no GPS or online maps. And you can see how this is gonna get dicey in today’s time and age.
Fortunately, the situations Andy finds himself in are almost laugh-out-loud, from a date climbing out a loo window to a near encounter with a darkened swamp, the horrors of going analogue are real.
But there’s also the calm and happiness Andy eventually falls into, not finding himself beholden to the online world’s beckon call.
Is this any way to live though? Technology does serve a purpose, and can make our lives easier in many situations. So would we ever want to completely throw it out the metaphorical (and loo toilet) window?
There is a piece of me that wishes I could take the leap that Andy Bellows takes in Logging Off. In all honesty, I could probably vanish off the face of social media tomorrow and few people would take note. Hmmm … maybe that’s something to consider to get more reading done in 2022?
This isn’t a book recommendation, so much as allllll the book recommendations.
StoryGraph is a fascinating new app that goes up against Goodreads for community tracking and book love—but with data and insightful statistics and people. And without the allegiance to Amazon.
The app collects all your book reading history (yes, you can start with a massive one-time import from Goodreads) and starts putting together a little algorithmic masterpiece for you.
Based on your past reads, and new books you add, it continuously adjusts your StoryGraph to find recommendations that are right for you. Or, take the “What’s Next” recommendation for a spin by filtering for things like Mood, Pace, Page Number, Genres, etc.
With additional features like DNF (Did Not Finish), Half & Quarter Star Ratings, an Up Next Queue, Reading Journal, and upcoming Buddy Reads and Book Clubs, you can see why I’m so excited about this new way of tracking my reading adventures. If you want to check it out, come on over and make sure to add me as a friend!
Erika Rasso is the Director of Production at Craft Your Content. She also works on various design and marketing projects.
I forget when the spiral began. Likely word of mouth by one of my friends who raved about a new Netflix series that had just dropped, or maybe it was a Netflix recommendation after I finished binge watching Warrior Nun. “If you were a fan of this young adult fantasy, boy do we have something for you …” Approximately eight obsessive hours later, I had finished season 1 of the adaptation and ordered the first book of the Grishaverse Trilogy of the same name: Shadow and Bone.
Shadow and Bone takes place in a world where individuals called Grisha specialize in magic related to certain elements. There are Tidemakers, who can manipulate water; Squallers, who manipulate air; Inferni, who manipulate fire; Corpralki; who can manipulate the human body; and Materialki, who can manipulate raw materials. This series in particular focuses on the legend of one unique Grisha named Alina Starkov, who discovers that she is the long-awaited sun summoner: an individual who can manipulate light and who is expected to save her country from a wall of darkness created by a shadow summoner.
The series follows Alina through the discovery of her powers, her training, and her quest to destroy the shadows and save her country from civil war. Just like Leigh Bardugo’s other series Six of Crows (which takes place in the same universe and which we’ve recommended before), the world and characters are endlessly compelling and provide the escape you might be needing right about now.
Popstars can be very polarizing, and Halsey is no exception. She’s constantly changing up her sound and style with each new album, and her newest entry is no different. If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (IICHLIWP) is a collaboration between Halsey and Nine Inch Nails visionaries (and two time Oscar winners) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on an album and film that explores themes of motherhood and childbirth that is as horrific as it is joyful.
The finished product is truly an artistic triumph. The album has moments of euphoria, rage, playfulness, and quiet contemplation. It mixes modern beats with old tales of queens and sirens. There are as many bangers as there are songs that could make you cry. It’s also an album meant to be listened to in order, as one song transitions into another seamlessly. The accompanying film is abstract and symbolic, guaranteeing you watch it a second time to dig through each image’s hidden meaning.
Even if you have opinions about Halsey that aren’t always favorable, I’d recommend giving this album a listen. Just like Shadow and Bone, the listening experience of IICHLIWP provided an escape and catharsis I so desperately needed to survive the year.
Sarah Ramsey is a Content Editor at Craft Your Content. She also works on various sales materials and internal documentation for clients.
I had to remind myself what I read, watched, and listened to this year and what was last year and really? Time has no meaning any more. Some of my favorite 2021 reads were published in 2020, including Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade.
If you’ve read anything I’ve written here at CYC, you know that I’m all about romance and fanfiction. Spoiler Alert is a romance with a plot that involves fanfiction—it’s a love letter to fan culture and finding your community and accepting yourself and setting boundaries. If you’ve ever deeply loved a show or movie and then hated what they did with the final season or a sequel, you’ll find vindication in this story. You’ll also find a deeply satisfying story of two people who find love and joy, and we could all use that these days.
The last thing I need is to add more books to my To Be Read pile (I lie; give me all the books), but listening to Fated Mates has not only expanded my TBR list, it’s expanded my knowledge of the romance genre and introduced me to a broad range of authors and writing styles. As a writer, it’s been invaluable to really dig into the genre and better understand where it’s been and where it’s going.
Chris Angelis is a Senior Content Editor at Craft Your Content. He also writes regularly for the CYC site.
The word “crisis” has its etymological origins in ancient Greek, and it means “decision,” as in, a period when one is called to understand and act. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the last couple of years have accelerated our understanding of society, revealing a lot of things—not all pleasant—about ourselves and others.
It’s precisely the importance of (critical) thinking that has informed much of my reading in 2021, and so it has also influenced my picks. In a meta-, self-referential manner, the two books I’ve picked are not just about thinking but especially about reading and storytelling as processes. Humans are social beings, telling stories all the time, and the more we understand the dynamics and power of storytelling, the more we can understand ourselves and one another.
I’m a great fan of Japanese literature, as it focuses more on the “how it feels” part, rather than the “what it is” of a story; on affective power and aesthetics, rather than plot. Ogawa’s story combines both, offering a deeply thought-provoking narrative with plenty of action.
The story takes place on a nameless Japanese island, presumably in the present day—that is never specified either. The reader soon discovers the dystopian nature of the narrative, as random things “disappear” and people must forget about them. For those who can’t forget them, the Memory Police is more than willing to help, forcing people to destroy these things.
And so, from hats to perfume and from roses to—surprise-surprise—novels, things disappear from the island, and people must adapt to the new reality. Those who can’t are persecuted, perhaps even “disappearing” themselves, in a truly Orwellian fashion.
The Memory Police is part dystopian science fiction, part soft literary fiction, also containing elements of magical realism. The narrative also includes a delightfully ambiguous story-within-a-story, with direct references to expression and the act of writing.
The mix isn’t always clear or even functional, but the sheer audacity of the author is highly intriguing and well worth the reader’s time.
One of the best books I read in 2021. No, let’s amend that: One of the best books I’ve ever read. To be fair, Invisible Cities isn’t a book for everyone, and perhaps not even a book for all times. If I’d read that book three years ago (or two years in the future), perhaps I wouldn’t have liked it. Truly, it’s one of those “you’ll either love it or hate it” books. But if you’ll love it, you’ll really love it, so it’s definitely worth a try.
So, what is Invisible Cities? Well, suffice to say I only need one sentence to tell you what the book is about: Marco Polo and Kublai Khan discuss the various cities the former has visited. That’s it; that’s the plot. And yet, it is so much more than what this description can reveal.
In narrative terms, the novel is about imagination and creativity, reality and identity—in a somewhat subtle, abstract way—and also about all the assumptions we create. Deep down, the book is precisely about deconstructing assumptions: about thinking and reading, about writing, about our whole understanding of society and ourselves.
As part of that, the book is full of splendid anachronisms—just picture Marco Polo talking to Kublai Khan about airports and traffic—that underline the way we think, talk, and propagate information semi-mechanically, without stopping to think about the affective repercussions or factual accuracy of our narratives. Sounds familiar?
In a sense, the real characters of Invisible Cities are neither Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, nor the cities themselves, and their intricate, highly allegorical descriptions. The actual characters of the book are its readers, who must actively participate in the formation of meaning. Ultimately, Invisible Cities is what its reader wants it to be.
Joaquin Roman is a Senior Copy Editor at Craft Your Content.
Imagine spending a whole year (or two) reading stuff like A Love Story or How To Get Over … . I’d rather spend time on material that’s educational or informative. This year I landed on a couple of topics that for some reason are always on my mind, and maybe yours: China and unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
First, my pet peeve of late, China: Every time I go to a retail outlet, I look at the labels of all sorts of products like clothing, toys, mugs, dishes, you name it. What do I see? “Made in China.” I see others as well, but I see “Made in China” about 80% of the time, and I wonder why that is, so I decided to look into how we can be getting so much stuff from China and so cheap, and why.
Another topic that seems to pop in my head is UFOs, and I’m probably not the only one. Even the U.S. Government has finally admitted that of 144 unexplained aerial phenomena observed in the past seven decades involving physical objects, only one was explainable—it was a balloon. I wanted to find out more.
Made in China by Amelia Pang explores the world of producing cheap goods in forced labor camps for export to the rest of the world. It’s an eye-opener for most of us who just want to buy cheap stuff.
The author details how big corporations knowingly, as well as the public unknowingly, are fueling the use of these forced labor camps simply to make stuff for the rest of the world. She does this by chronicling events in the life of Sun Yi, a Chinese man, who was imprisoned in a labor camp and forced to work 15 hours a day.
The Chinese government claims these camps are for the re-education of certain people: dissidents, delinquents, criminals, believers in certain religions. In fact, the camps have a second purpose. They are used as a source of cheap, forced labor to produce goods for large corporations.
The author explains that by demanding that corporations stop outsourcing from places like Xinjiang (home of Turkic minorities, including Uyghurs), by boycotting their products, and by using social media to broadcast what’s happening in the labor camps, we can all help to expose and eliminate what’s happening in China.
In Plain Sight by Ross Coulthart lays out the facts to support the theory that UFOs are here and that they have been reported for a long time, even going back to the 19th century in Australia, where Aboriginal art describes alien faces and strange lights, known as Min Min lights.
Coulthart details a number of reports and incidents to support the notion that UFOs may exist: sightings of luminous discs by Axis and Allied pilots during and after World War II, discs known as Foo Fighters; reports of debris found near Roswell, Mexico, in 1947; viewing of alien creatures and an alien craft in a hangar in 2002; the sighting of an object described as a tic tac by a pilot from the Nimitz strike group in 2004; and many more sightings.
The book reports that even President Carter claimed to have seen a UFO in Leary, Georgia, in 1969.
In the ’50s, Project Blue Book became the U.S. Air Force’s official effort to investigate UAPs. Through the years since the ’50s, there have been many reports and government investigations into unidentified aerial phenomena, yet the majority of incidents have been dismissed as unverifiable. Coulthart theorizes that the U.S. government and governments all over the world have been behind efforts to debunk sightings and reports while privately taking them seriously.
The book provides plenty of reports of sightings, and the author personally interviewed a number of government experts and eyewitnesses to events. Given the number of galaxies in the universe—it’s in the billions— one has to admit it certainly feels like there should be more intelligent species out there, at least that there might be.
Jemimah Jones is a Copy Editor at Craft Your Content. She also collaborates weekly on The Writing Rundown newsletter for CYC readers.
I truly hope I’m not the only writer who finds it impossible to read sometimes, because 2021 has been that year for me.
Some months, all I could do was read.
I couldn’t do anything else.
Then there were the long stretches where, somehow, I never could get around to finishing that book — whether I was too busy, too sleepy, or just not interested enough.
It’s been all ups and downs with my reading habit this year, but (again, hopefully) you can relate, so I won’t judge myself too badly for not hitting my 25-book milestone.
Every book is it’s own world. Fortunately for me, between reading alongside friends, borrowing a favorite title from a friends’ private library, or stumbling on something really good in my TBR pile, I’ve visited a couple galaxies this year and can give a few good recommendations for fellow globe-hoppers.
Here’s some really amazing reads I came across this year. Truly unputdownable.
Set in Lagos, this book gave me a peek into the lives of everyday Lagosians and their relationships. It was a sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-infuriating tour, featuring a refreshingly unrefined look into the language, lives, and culture of fellow Nigerians.
This book felt familiar, relatable and so real it felt like I could easily be one of the characters.
Odudu’s gambit takes you on a trip into the south of Nigeria to tackle an alien invasion. Written in first person, the main character is witty yet vulnerable. Another great thing about this science fiction short story is the easy way it drops you into the different scenes. I’ve read the story several times and each time I find something new about it to love.
Leon Bridges is one of those contemporary artists that have been able to carve the perfect balance between old rnb sounds and the new. This feature piece takes an emotional deep dive into his music, life, love, struggles and wins. Not only is it beautifully written, it offers several lessons into what lies on the other side of pulling yourself out of despair and learning how to love life again.
Allie Crawford is a Content Editor at Craft Your Content.
As I am sure most of us can attest to, I set my goal this year to read much more than I actually have. And as a doctoral student with a concentration in literacy, I read copious amounts daily … just of academic literature. My personal reading time is left sitting on the backburner. When “breaks” come around, my mind is usually a pile of Jell-O, and my eyes need to just stare off into the distance and not focus on text.
With needing time away from texts, I am going to share a non-text media content I consumed this past year, and to stay true to what I mostly read throughout the year, I will be sharing a book I read in relation to a diversity class that isn’t a textbook of sorts.
Both a personal tale and a book filled with empirical knowledge on how Black, Indigenous, Students of Color, and other students marginalized by traditional systems want to do more than just make it to their next birthday. Dr. Love weaves her own life experiences in with what is shared by mainstream media and academic studies.
This book gives insight into the experiences of marginalized students, highlights the importance of community and representation, and offers advice for how educators can do more for their students in both small and big ways.
I recommend this book to anyone looking to gain a better understanding and insight into the American school system and how community can change a student’s life.
The House That Jack Built is a film about a failed architect who happens to be both a perfectionist and a sociopath. The film leaves the viewer feeling a bit uncomfortable at the graphic scenes that are filled with humor.
The film merges together what Jack imagines and what is actually happening, leaving the reader questioning throughout. The ending leaves the audience a bit lost between reality and a good literary illusion.
This film kept me engaged, guessing, laughing, and disturbed.
Lawina Radoli is the Executive Assistant at Craft Your Content. She also works on various editing assignments and special projects.
I was once a passionate reader, reading and writing was my life. I would curl up on the couch during my free time and get lost into a different world for hours. However, since last year, I have been lacking the motivation to read. I would definitely love to rekindle that passion next year.
Despite my lack of motivation in reading this year, I got more interested in podcasts. I could listen to podcasts anytime while doing other things.
One of the podcasts that I enjoyed listening to this year was The Travel Diaries podcast by Holly Rubenstein. I love traveling and I enjoy consuming travel-related content. In one of her episodes titled “Magical Kenya,” Holly hosts different guests who share their amazing travel experiences around Kenya.
The guests take you on a tour of the country from the capital city, Nairobi, to the lovely beaches at the Coast and then to the wild safaris where you get to learn more about the famous Big 5 and the lovely landscapes. My favorite part was when one of the guests was narrating about her experience growing up with elephants. If you are a travel junkie, this episode will make you feel like literally packing your bags and making that trip to Kenya just to experience some of these beautiful places.
I would highly recommend that you listen to this episode if your dream is to visit the magical Kenya someday; you won’t be disappointed.
Apart from podcasts, I also binge watched a couple of series and movies. I totally enjoyed the last season of Money Heist. For those who haven’t heard about this series yet, Money Heist is a Spanish heist crime drama series that was officially released on Netflix in 2019. “The Professor” who is the mastermind of these heists recruits a group of thieves who help him plan the biggest heists ever recorded. The latest episodes will keep you glued to your screen for hours.There are a lot of plot twists and shockers.
I would definitely recommend this film if you enjoy watching thriller drama series.
Have you read/listened to/watched any of our recommendations already? If so, may we say that you have impeccable taste?
If we haven’t mentioned one of your favorites, check out our previous lists from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016 to see if we mentioned it there! Or, head on over to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to share your recommendations with future readers.
Until next time, hope your holiday season is full of rest, relaxation, and a good recharge.
Erika Rasso graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in English and marketing and the University of California, Los Angeles with an MFA in Screenwriting. She has worked as a writing consultant, an editor for literary and academic journals, and as an assistant to film and TV producers. In her free time, Erika enjoys playing games and writing screenplays (though mostly she just watches WAY too many shows on Netflix). She is the Director of Production for Craft Your Content.