Every December, The Millions (which PW acquired in 2019) asks some of its favorite authors to write about the best books they read over the past year. And in this, its 17th “Year in Reading” (the second during the pandemic), The Millions is, more than ever, grateful to its contributors for looking back on their years—some of them very difficult ones—and to its readers for returning every December to celebrate the role of books and reading in our lives. What follows are excerpts.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Author of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

“To me, known and unknown Black historical figures aren’t dead and gone, but alive. These figures speak, they sing, and they give me wisdom. They give me sustenance, and I’m telling you, these days I really need sustenance and wisdom.”

Gina Apostol

Author of Insurrecto

“When the pandemic began, I worked fiercely on finishing a novel I had started but dropped a few years ago—because that’s what I do under stress: I buckle down and write. It’s how I cope. Work is my pleasure and my lifeline.”

Mai Al-Nakib

Author of The Hidden Light of Objects

“What are the parameters of a dignified life? In this year of reading, it is that question, I think, that my trail of books—haphazard and circuitous—has been leading me through, opening up all kinds of unexplored possibilities, for which I am grateful.”

Anuk Arudpragasam

Author of A Passage North

“Deciding, at the beginning of this year, that my aversion to modern poetry had its source mostly in insecurity and lack of training in literature—that I could learn to appreciate it the way I’d learned, just a few years before, to appreciate Homer, Dante, and Milton—I resolved this year to learn how to read modern English poetry.”

Robert Jones Jr.

Author of The Prophets

“2021 was the first year in which I read books as a published author, and I realized there is a distinct difference between reading books as an average reader and as someone whose book is out in the world.”

Anjali Enjeti

Author of Southbound and The Parted Earth

“If the pandemic had a theme, it would be that time is slippery, that our memories serve as life jackets in an uncertain world, and that our letters to others are really letters to our lonely, broken selves.”

Chris Stuck

Author of Give My Love to the Savages

“I’ve been in story collection mode for the last year and a half anyway, editing my collection, studying other collections, trying to live up to my favorites.”

Eric Nguyen

Author of Things We Lost to the Water

“Reviewing what I’ve read this year, what emerges is my own obsession with memory. What is worth remembering? Who will remember? Will I remember? What about the memories that are not mine?”

Naima Coster

Author of What’s Mine and Yours

“Patricia Engel’s and Kaitlyn Greenidge’s books reminded me of why I read and write fiction: it transports us, yes, sure, but it also takes us deeper into ourselves, the richness and limits of our own imagination and experiences. I was grateful for the reminders, which I needed.”

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

Author of My Monticello

“What I love about A Natural History of Transition, and reading in general, is how precision and specificity can expose connection for me.”

Ed Simon

Staff writer for The Millions and author of An Alternative History of Pittsburgh and Pandemonium: A Visual History of Demonology

“Ayad Akhtar’s Homeland Elegies and Danielle Evans’s The Office of Historical Corrections taxonomize the passing of anything that even remotely looked like it could be described naively as the American Dream.”

Edan Lepucki

Staff writer for The Millions and author of California and Woman No. 17

“Life in 2020 felt scary and small; this year it feels liminal, perhaps irrelevant. As in 2020, I’m still scared—less by Covid and more by... everything else.”

To read all of “A Year in Reading,” visit themillions.com/yir2021.