80 Favourite Books & Manga of Summer 2021

Manga madness continued quite vehemently for me in July, August, and September especially. Between being mentally exhausted from big life changes, and dealing with a couple of physical health set-backs, I haven’t been able to read novels or literature as much as I’d like, or as frequently as I would enjoy. But the positive side of this is that it allowed me to dive into some manga serials that have been on my list for ages and ages. Putting up some manga on the Kindle or Shōnen Jump app on my iPad and then swiping through the pages pretty much conveys all of the energy that I have going for me nowadays. Since manga is a rather effortless medium to engage with, I was able to finish an entire series or two or three, and then read decently-sized chunks of a few others.

Aside from manga, I also managed to squeeze in a few nonfiction titles, two of which were personal growth and self-care advice. I loved that they were mostly Buddhist-centric in their ideas and affirmations. Because of that they resonated on an intimate level and felt a lot more beneficial for me personally than some other self-care things I’ve read over the last couple of months.

Anyhoo, you can check out the gigantic wrap-up of recommended things down below. I’ve included links live reviews and other musings where available, and major content warnings for books that don’t have reviews up (ones with reviews will have all the content and trigger details in their respective review pages). If you have any questions, comments, or etc., please drop them for me in the comments and I’ll respond as promptly as I’m able to. Thanks, chums!

Sleight of Paw by Sofie Kelly: The second novel in a cosy mystery series about magical cats and their human who have a knack for solving murders. In this volume, a local old lady dies in a car accident, which triggers questions surrounding the circumstances of her demise. I absolutely adore this cosy mystery series. It’s probably in my top three favourites, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it fans of the genre as well as feline lovers. A full review and more information (including CW) can be found here.

A Fatal Footnote by Margaret Loudon: A second novel in a recently released cosy mystery series about a writer-in-residence in a small village in England, with some neat connections to a group of royals. When there’s a murder committed at the reception for the writer’s close friend and colleague, who also happens to be a duchess now, the writer decided to helps solve the crime to clear her friend’s (and her hubby’s) name. This is another super charming cosy mystery. The best parts are the quaint small-town setting in the British countryside, a plethora of sassy ladies that love to gossip and sip tea, and the writing struggles that our MC faces from time to time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. A full review can be found here.

False Witness by Karin Slaughter: A stand-alone psychological thriller about estranged sisters who parted upon a terrible experience, but are suddenly pulled back together when that shared history comes back to bitch-slap them in the face. There are tons of things about this novel that I enjoyed, particularly the social commentary via a devastating series of crimes that critique the ways that society is corrupted and desperately needs to re-evaluate its values. I go into much more detail in my review, but as it stands, I would RECOMMEND this to fans of the thriller genre who don’t shy away from really strong and disturbing content, as well as regular readers of Ms Slaughter.

A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark: A steampunk mystery short story set in Egypt in 1912, it follows a young woman named Fatma, who is a member of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigation department. She gets called into investigate an apparent suicide of a djinn, which shall lead her to unravelling a fantastically dark and otherworldly enigma about free will and clean slates. I loved this! It was so magnificently imaginative and well-written. It used the phenomenal world-building and characters to tell a tale of an important period in Egypt’s history. Plus, that mystery kept me guessing until the end. I can’t wait to pick-up the rest of the series (this is a prequel novella). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. CW: Ritualistic suicide. Detailed descriptions of dead and decaying bodies. Mild violence, blood, and murder. Mild sexual innuendo and misogyny. Mild cursing (British).

Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher: The fourth volume in the author’s urban fantasy series, it follows Harry Dresden as he gets dragged into dangerous faerie business while trying to manoeuvre through the consequences from book three, Grave Peril. I’ve got a full review for this up, but overall it was a vast improvement over its predecessor. I like where the magical politics are headed and I greatly appreciated that there wasn’t as much disrespectful objectification of women in this one. I’d RECOMMEND it if readers are interested in continuing The Dresden Files and want a big improvement over the third instalment.

Blood Lite: An Anthology of Humorous Horror edited by Kevin J. Anderson: An adult fantasy and horror anthology of short tales that was edited by Kevin J. Anderson. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this but it was so entertaining. I think it’s a fantastic way to sample some of these authors, particularly if you’ve never read their works, and it also fits the spoopy season but without über intense frights. I’ve a mini review for this up, for curious folx. Overall, I definitely RECOMMEND it.

Sons of Cain by Peter Vronsky: A nonfiction, true crime book that essentially discusses serial killings and killers throughout human history over time. Most of the work is centred on the evolution of the notion of “serial kills” and the development of the brain, using famous criminals from history as examples. I really liked it because even though it sounds so clinical, it’s written in a rather accessible means and can be read by anyone with mild to moderate curiosity on the subject matter. RECOMMENDED. CW: Strong descriptions and in-depth discussions of heinous crimes, including but not limited to: rape/sadistic sexual violence, murder, mutilation, ritualistic cults, child abandonment, necrophilia, and paedophilia.

How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh: A super short nonfiction book authored by a Buddhist Zen Master that talks about how to be more mindful in one’s surroundings in order to help them relax and let go of stress. Being mindful and staying in touch with my surroundings is something I practise daily as a Buddhist, but learning how to apply that to myself so that I could learn to manage my stress better has always been tough. I loved how non-patronising and straightforward the book was, as well as how short it is, making it a great quick-reference. RECOMMENDED to anyone looking for a short and simple booklet to give them a platform to start their journey with relaxation.

Love for Imperfect Things by Haemin Sunim: A Korean nonfiction book about how to love and accept yourself in a world that is constantly striving for perfection when all they need to do is be more open-minded to imperfections. This was such a feel-good and uplifting read. It reads fast and it feels like a personal and candid conversation with the author, which is what helped me to be more engaged with it while I read. As someone who has OCD and is also a bit of a perfectionist, I’ve had a terrible relationship with myself because of it. This made me realise that I’m really too hard on myself and there is something to appreciate if I’m willing to listen and look for it. So, I RECOMMEND this to people in the same position, or even if you just need a tiny kick in the arse because you’ve been feeling blue lately.

Naruto Volume 49 by Masashi Kishimoto: This volume of the shōnen, martial arts manga series follows a meeting of all the big brasses of the various ninja villages as they try to figure out what they should do about Akatsuki as well as Sasuke. This volume kind of slows down a bit to show us the more politically fucked-up aspects of leaderships in various clans that are trying to make a front for peace, but are really gauging holes for opportunities to obtain power. It’s not something that’s been shown too much of, but it gives a lot of food for thought on why the overall Big Baddie (handsome, yummy baddie) has the motives he does. RECOMMENDED. CW: Action-adventure violence. Blood. Mild language. Some sexual innuendo. Deaths.

Shigurui Volumes 1 to 15 by Takayuki Yamaguchi: A seinen, jidaigeki series about a tournament held during the Edo era where warriors fight with their katana rather than bokkun (bamboo swords). The story revolves around two specific warriors who battle—a one-armed swordsman and a blind samurai—and the circumstances that led to them entering the tournament. I fucking loved this series. It’s so brilliant and phenomenally intricate in its exposition of the political turmoil, the hierarchy of authority and the feud for power, the suffering of the people, and so much more. Also, that art is absolutely amazing. But it does have graphically violent content, so I’d proceed cautiously if you’re not a fan of gore and body mutilation to their extremes. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. CW: Explicit violence, blood, and gore including torture, body mutilation, and body horrors. Explicit nudity and sexual content, including sexual assault and rape. Strong language. Strong sequences of infidelity. Disturbing oppressive situations for women. Strong themes of classism and sexism.

Biohazard: Heavenly Island Volumes 1 to 5 by Capcom & Naoki Serizawa: A seinen, zombie horror series that takes place after Resident Evil 6, following a bunch of idol-type ladies that are participating in some reality show type gig on a tiny ass island. This is a complete and total romp. Pure entertainment in the most B-movie-esque way possible. I found it hilarious to see how the various people died and the creativity that went into some of them surviving. I would only RECOMMEND this to die-hard fans of the franchise (like me) or folx that liked The Marhawa Desire for what it was. CW: Graphic violence, blood, gore, and deaths. Strong language. Strong sexuality.

City Hunter Volumes 1 to 27 by Tsukasa Hōjō: A shōnen, action, detective comedy series that follows a dude named Ryō Saeba who works as a “sweeper.” He’s a cleaner-for-hire that helps desperate people when they’re in a jam. He’s also a colossal goofball and a total dumbass with a weakness for pretty ladies. I love the cheesiness of the humour that can only be found in 70s and 80s eclectic anime/manga titles, as well as the over-the-top action bits. I also love how much Saeba reminds me of a less aloof Roger Smith (The Big O). Plus, it’s rather curious to see how some of his cases connect to others. I RECOMMEND this to manga readers that like 80s private-eye type stories with a comedic twist. CW: Strong language, sexual innuendo, violence, and action.

Golden Kamuy Volumes 22 & 23 by Satoru Noda: A seinen, Japanese-style Western series that follows a guy named Sugimoto who hunts down a famous hoard of gold with the assistance of an Ainu girl, Asirpa, so that he can he keep his promise to his late friend by taking care of the late friend’s wife. In the process, he gets swept up in one hell of a conspiracy where he’ll meet a bunch of crazy old soldiers looking for purpose. HOLY PLOT TWISTS, BATMAN. We are getting closer and closer to the ultimate climax and there is so much shite going on, I’m mind-blown. Each new volume keeps cementing this as my new favourite manga series (equal level with Initial D, never surpassing it). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. CW: Graphic sequences of violence, torture, bloodshed, body mutilation, deaths, nudity, and sexual content/innuendo. Death of animals. Humans having sex with animals (don’t ask). Attempted assault. Graphic and strong language. Alcohol consumption. Preparation and consumption of food. Homoeroticism. Imprisonment. Depiction of wartime violence. Disturbing clothing made from human skin and body parts.

Bartender Volumes 1 to 21 by A. Jō & K. Nagatomo: A seinen manga series about a renowned bartender who comes back to Japan to hone his skills based on the different kinds of people that he meets. I really enjoyed this manga. It’s mostly episodic in nature and it’s the various characters that the bartender meets that make it such a comfort and pleasant feel-good bout of reading. Plus, there are interesting drink recipes at the end of each volume which are fun to try out, if one is into drinking booze that is. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. CW: Preparation and consumption of food and alcohol. Smoking. Mild language. Some flashbacks to abuse, abandonment, war, and other slightly disturbing events.

Mao Volume 1 by Rumiko Takahashi: A shōnen, supernatural action series follows a young girl named Nanako Kiba. She survived a terrible event as a child and ever since then she lives with her grandfather. She also has a rather weak constitution. One day on her way home from school, she walks by the location of this past tragedy and eventually finds herself transported to the Taishō Era. There are a lot of things about this first volume that exceeded my expectations, which you can check out in this first impressions. Overall, if you’re a fan of Takahashi’s works or just enjoy fun action supernatural serials, then this is a must-read for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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The manga and comic reading mischief shall continue to ensue, although I would really like to read more novels in October and November because I just damn well miss them. I’ve realised that if I can get ahead and stay ahead in my studies, then I’ve much more free time for bookish indulgences!

Anyhoo, thank you for reading this big ass wrap-up. I shall see y’all again very soon. Until then, keep reading and keep otakuing, my chums.

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4 thoughts on “80 Favourite Books & Manga of Summer 2021

  1. This was the Edgar Cayce quote I got today in my email: “Keep your mind occupied with as many pleasant things as possible; never overwork the strength of your body in any way, but it’s best to stay busy.”

    You have succeeded! Thanks for the list! I’m delving back into Redwall series by Brian Jacques for some mental comfort food, and to finally get to read it completely through and in order. And last night I had a wee little true crime book spree that should keep me set for a while. Meanwhile, I’m reading Dean Koontz Nameless series for October 😀

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