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Rowden's Fave Books and Films of 2021

Robyn Carr
Robyn Carr 15 Dec 2021
People and Culture
So hot right now

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

A time for us to share a shortlist of some of our favourite books and films consumed in 2021. And wow, talk about your mix of high and low culture.

From civilisations of space spiders and the Fermi Paradox, to Ryan Reynolds and 'a crap load of explosions' - we've got your recommendations for the holiday period right here folks.

So hot right now


Permutation City by Greg Egan. “Loved how it explores artificial life in software and philosophical questions around people living in software forever”.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. “This is a collection of thought-provoking short stories, some with sci-fi or surreal elements and all a little melancholy. I read them because a friend said the title story was the saddest thing she'd ever read, and now it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever read too.”

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. “Really cool to see how different human cultures were when they evolved independently and how they subsequently combined”.

Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered - The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. “Kilgariff and Hardstark are the hosts of the true crime/comedy podcast 'My Favourite Murder'; I am a BIG fan of the podcast and this book did not disappoint! The whole book is packed with stories of their childhood and adulthood and some true crime too. Its relatable, funny, poignant, and sassy af! Perfect for any true Murderino (look it up!)”.

The Three Body Problem Trilogy by Liu Cixin. “My first ever venture into the genre of Chinese Sci-fi. A terrifying solution to the Fermi Paradox that you can never unlearn.”

White Feminism by Koa Beck. “You can’t forget this book. Beck is so incredible at articulating how racial prejudice and elitism has shaped women’s movements and she details the commodification of feminism in such a way that you want to scream into a pillow.”

Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons: “A sci-fi re-imagining of the Canterbury Tales. Probably going to be turned into a very bad TV series in the coming years.”

Children of Time Novels by Adrian Tchaikovsky. “A coming-of-age story about a civilisation of space spiders. Sounds as awesome as it is.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. “My first Angelou, this is a beautifully written memoir by an incredibly strong woman. Genuinely one of the most thought-provoking and inspiring books I have read.”

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. “Dramatically changed my relationship with social media. This is a great follow on read from 'Deep Work'! Goes through how social media is affecting us and guess what - it’s changing us a lot, and not for the better!”

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. "Space opera done right. Maybe a little heavy on exposition in places but the epic worldbuilding and attention to detail more than makes up for it."


Dune (2021). “Awesome cinematography and great vision from the Director that did justice to an impenetrable story.” "Denis Villeneuve continues to spice up cult sci-fi in style with this epic undertaking. Fear is the mindkiller!"

Free Guy (2021). “Ryan Reynolds... Video games… AI and a crap load of explosions. What isn't there to love?”

Howls Moving Castle (2004). “I’ve watched this film too many times… five times alone in 2021! It's a visually stunning film with incredible voice acting and even though I still have no idea what is actually going on (pretty sure it's a confusing film not just me) it still is very enjoyable to watch.”

Malignant (2021). "James Wan pays homage to the 80's slasher/giallo in this fun throwback, with some very modern cinematography that would make even David Fincher envious."

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (1942-2023). “This year my partner and I decided to watch all of the Marvel movies in chronological order. If you have not done this – DO IT NOW. We have recently just finished and wow, I surprised myself by how much I loved (most of) them. Some of my favourites include Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, and Shang Chi.”

Shiva Baby (2020). “I’ve been telling everyone to watch this film. A young bisexual Jewish woman runs into her sugar daddy at a Shiva (Jewish memorial service) and the tension grows throughout.”

Shock Treatment (1981). “The lesser-known sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show – it’s an 80s Musical that is unique, funny, and very weird! Some great 80's songs, and full of camp silliness and questionable acting. As a satire on reality TV it was quite ahead of its time. Very underrated IMO.”

The Social Dilemma (2020). “Worrying to see to see how effectively we've taken optimisation algorithms and pointed them at the human brain”.

Sorry to Bother You (2018). “If WTF was a film...this would be that film. Amazing cast and production, lots of twists and turns that leave you feeling confused and afraid. This is why I love this film.”

Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021). This documentary is amazing! During the same summer as Woodstock in 1969, the Harlem Cultural Festival brought the most incredible Black musicians together to perform for thousands of people over six weeks in New York. The footage of the festival was never seen, until now.

Thelma and Louise (1991). “Wayne’s World spoiled the ending of this film for me when I was seven years old, so until this year I had never bothered to watch it. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it wasn’t the audacious women, exploding fuel tankers, and general descent into chaos that I got.”

Merry christmas