It’s that time of year again.
And by that, I mean, it’s nearing the end of the year and as such, we’ll begin to see a plethora of “Best-of” lists arriving shortly.
As with last year, this year I’ll have three “Best-of” lists.
Two will feature here on my own site. These will be the best books I read in 2021 NOT from 2021 and the top collections/anthologies I read in 2021 regardless of year. My top books of 2021 FROM 2021 will feature over on Kendall Reviews.
So, up first – my top collections/anthologies of 2021. And why am I releasing/posting this at the end of November, you may be asking? A couple reasons. First up – as I said, a bunch of these lists will be arriving soon, so I figured I’d get the jump on them and secondly – the end of the year is looking incredibly busy on my end. I have the time now, I might as well use that time effectively!
Alright, so, in no particular order, here we go!
Keening Country by Sean O’Connor (Release date August 13th, 2021)
Featuring four fantastically dark stories, Keening Country was a blast to read. I’ve long been a fan of O’Connor’s and it was great to see him capture the energy of his novel ‘The Weeping Season’ in each and every story here.
Tortured Willows: Bent. Bowed. Unbroken. Featuring Poetry by Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn (Release date October 7th, 2021)
Look, the reality is, when you put these four monsters of dark fiction/poetry into one anthology, you’re going to be in for a treat and this delivered over and over again. Heartbreaking and visceral, I loved this anthology so much.
Peel Back and See by Mike Thorn (Release date October 29th, 2021)
No surprise here, but when Mike Thorn decides to go dark, it goes dark. It was great to see these stories snap and crack with the energy Mike is known for and we got to revisit a couple oldies, but goodies.
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Lex H. Jones (Release date January 29th, 2021)
Lex H. Jones has an ability to subtly get under your skin before you’ve even realized it has happened and that is the theme that occurs over and over and over again in the excellent ‘Whistling Past the Graveyard.’ You should read this one just to experience ‘Lodge 328.’
Rooted (Volume 2): A Poetry Collection by Cassandra Chaput (Release date June 19th, 2021)
After loving Cassandra’s first collection, the second one doesn’t hold back. This is dark and despondent while also being joyful and uplifting. Chaput will put you through the gauntlet of emotions and the reader is all the better for it.
Someone to Share my Nightmares by Sonora Taylor (Release date October 19th, 2021)
I’ve often raved about Taylor’s ability to craft amazingly brilliant short stories and her newest collection shows just why that’s true. Over and over again, she pummels the reader and doesn’t take a single story off. Outstanding work.
Let Me Out I’ve Had Enough by Mark Matthews (Release date September 22, 2021)
Matthews has shown time and time again that he’s a dark fiction writer who infects his stories with raw emotion. He’s never afraid to make the reader uncomfortable and he’s at his absolute best when he’s knee deep in that sentiment. This was a tough collection to read, but a brilliant one.
God Forbid by A.A. Medina (Release date October 3rd, 2021)
You may think this one’s a conflict of interest, as I wrote the foreword, but honestly, when I read these stories, I was humbled to think I’d be introducing it. Medina writes with a punk rock aesthetic, where he grinds the reader with sharp blasts all the while soothing them with moments of beauty. This one is fantastic.
Dreams for the Dying by Adam Light (Release date June 14th, 2021)
Adam Light deftly weaves his way through some of the bleakest stories I’ve read in sometime. Over and over again he had me engaged within a paragraph and the world’s he created here were fantastic. Corpus Press always releases top notch work, and I’d suggest ‘Dreams for the Dying’ might be one of their best yet.
Violation Hive: and Other Stories by Brian Fatah Steele (Release date October 11th, 2021)
I’ve often marveled at Fatah Steele’s imagination and to see it showcased in another collection was pure joy to this reader. We get to see him let him mind go where it wanted and we get some of the best short stories you’ll ever read. Loved this.
The Nameless Dark: A Collection by T.E. Grau (Release date January 15th, 2015)
I was completely late to the game with this one, but man alive am I so happy to have now read it. Saying that, there isn’t a single ounce of happiness within these pages. This book is dark, brutal, bleak and unflinching. Making it one of the best collections I’ve ever read.
Infectious Hope: Poems of Hope Resilience from the Pandemic edited by Silvia Cantón Rondoni (Release date November 1st, 2021)
At first, I wasn’t sure what I’d be getting into with this one. I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to read an anthology of poems based around the Covid-19 Pandemic, but boy oh boy was this good. We get poems of happiness, togetherness and seeking joy, as well as heartbreaking, poignant and tender pieces. Outstanding stuff.
Well, there we have it! My favorite collections I read this last year. Have you read any of these? Which collections/anthologies have you read that you loved that aren’t on this list? I’d love to know!