Books I Read This Year

I believe books say so much about a person. From these you can glean: curious, irreverent, nerdy

Books I read in 2011
Books I read in 2012
Books I read in 2013
Books I read in 2014
Books I read in 2015
Books I read in 2016
Books I read in 2017
Books I read in 2018
Books I read in 2019
Books I read in 2020

When I initially began this project, my intent was to try to fit more books into my busy life and to gain a little encouragement by seeing my lists grow. It was more successful than I expected it would be, and I have been reading many more books than I expected to be able to. My second goal was to help gain a better breadth of genres, so I will continue to try to improve that aspect. Please drop a recommendation into the comments if you know of a book that should be read!

Full disclosure:

Most of the time I read audio books on my iPhone. I love you, audible.com! Though I value holding a book above all other forms of reading, it isn’t practical in my life.  Always the multitasker, I read stories (and listen to NPR, BBC, and Link TV) while washing dishes, working in the garden, jammed in standing-room-only on the bus, mowing the lawn, going for a run, folding clothes. An unexpected bonus is that I now look forward to folding the laundry and washing dishes! Another bonus is that I am able to enjoy the impressive voice talents of many narrators. It adds an important dimension to books that I haven’t experienced before.

My reading dropped off drastically in 2021 – not sure why. But for what’s it’s worth, I’m still reading! The following are books I read so far this year. If you want to see what I read in other years, hit the links above.

  1. How to Survive a Robot Uprising by Daniel H. Wilson. Mr. Wilson is a member of my local Cherokee group and I was delighted to read one of his books for the first time (The Andromeda Evolution) and discover that he is a fabulous writer! For a period of time, Wilson was a top robotics expert in the world. I thought I would check out this one, since by the title I assumed it was comedy, and because it’s what he knows. It is comedy! It’s written as a reference book for when robots inevitably try to take over the world – because they will – and all the tricks humans will need to know to easily defeat them. It’s explained by someone who knows their weaknesses intimately, and once you know what kind of robot you’re dealing with, all it takes to render them ineffectual is to throw them a curve ball. Robots are not creative thinkers.
  2. You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar. This book is very funny, just often it’s along the lines of have-to-laugh-to-keep-from-crying. I know Amber Ruffin from watching her on Seth Meyers. Lacey is her sister. Amber guesses that it’s because Lacey is petite and adorable, that people feel comfortable being racist right to her face, like strangers abruptly putting their whole hand into her hair. Lacey has been telling all her ridiculous stories to Amber, who for years had been writing them down. This book is that collection – plus new stories they got when Lacey started telling people she was writing a book.
  3. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. This one I chose because of its length. I like to listen to audio books when I’m in a race, because it makes the distance fly by. This clever comedy is full of witty one-liners and zingers and characters that are fun to laugh at. And of course you knew that, because it’s a classic play from 1895. The audible.com version has excellent voice actors, which makes it that much more enjoyable as a “read.”
  4. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson. After the non-fiction above, it was time to move on to Robopocalypse, since it was lauded by critics. It’s also been on my bookshelves since Tara’s class was encouraged to read it in high school prior to a visit by the author. I think Tara didn’t go to the event, but did read the book. I didn’t know Wilson was Cherokee at that time, or I would have made sure Tara could make it to the program. Anyway. This scifi thriller is about robots taking over the world, led by a sentient robot who is fascinated with humanity and in its quest for perfecting life, keeps destroying humans while simultaneously studying them. It’s believable enough to be chilling, but with enough action and humor to keep it from being a horror story. Archon is the lead AI who manages to control every other bit of electronics on the planet, and when our machines turn against us, humans are nearly defeated. But only nearly. Robots, like I said above, are not creative thinkers.
  5. Enemy of All Mankind by Steven Johnson. I heard that this book existed because I listed to a podcast hosted by the author who rightly promoted his book. It is a massively researched biography of the pirate Henry Every, declared an “enemy of all mankind” for his dreadful deeds. Every used pseudonyms throughout his criminal career, but Johnson does seem to have pulled together history that truly is attributable to Every, and knits a believable chronology. This may be the first (in)famous pirate, who maintained his notoriety for years after his life, which was at the end of the 17th century. Johnson plots a course that begins with legitimate employment and via events out of his control, Every revolts against the system and eventually he and his crew embrace blatant criminality and violence. His actions are placed in context, which was not surprisingly quite political. Information about the time and the life is generously shared by the author. I was interested in how uncompromising the contracts were among pirate crews. Johnson points out that these were the first and to this day some of the only totally non-discriminating terms of employment. Famously, Every captured a fast ship that he re-named The Fancy, and with that fast ship, he and his crew got out of some sticky situations. He was universally hated and there was a global attempt to hunt him down. In the end, Every was never caught and presumably was free to spend his vast treasure. He managed to disappear and to this day no one knows what happened to him.
  6. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Another book I chose for its length, to match the time I expected to be in my race. The first time I read it, of course, was as a child. This book, with others like Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois, were stories that sparked my imagination and for which I am truly grateful. In this rollicking tale, Fogg, the wealthy protagonist, makes a bold claim that, due to technological accomplishments in world transportation, it is possible for a man to travel around the globe in only 80 days. His friends at the club call BS, and to prove it, he begins immediately. There are racist bits, due to being written when that was ok, but it’s still a good story.
  7. The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. Probably my fourth or fifth time reading this book, but it’s been about 8 years so I was due. I’ve searched for an actual unabridged reading of the full collection on audible.com, and until this year could only find radio plays. Which….fine…but I wanted the book. When I finally found it, I bought it and read it immediately. I own the extended editions of the movie on DVD with the exhaustive appendices, and watch them approximately once a year. But there is nothing like the fabulous book with all its detail. I am grateful to Peter Jackson for reflecting the timeline more clearly (since there are three overlapping journeys), and helping to flesh out the love stories that I never grasped in all the times I read the book before seeing the movie. The love story between Arwen and Aragorn went right over my head, and likewise the more obvious love story of Eowyn who falls for Aragorn while he tries to gently dissuade her. Even Faramir falling for Eowyn at the end I had not picked up on before the movies. I thought the book was about war and I’m not good at noticing subtlety in words or pictures. It was fun to be reminded of how truly remarkable Hobbits are. I think the best human beings would be those who emulate Hobbits: take satisfaction in simple pleasures, hard work, storytelling and good food and drink, but not hesitate to be brave and to battle and to give your life to the cause if the cause is right, such as supporting your friend who has to make a dangerous journey. And then, as soon as possible, get right back to the simple life without wealth or power or even a concept of why those would be desired by some.

11 thoughts on “Books I Read This Year

  1. Gee, someone who reads much the same things I do. Would like to recommend a couple of Japanese novels that I absolutely love: “Deep River” by Shusaku Endo and my all-time favorite read, “The Old Capital” by Yasunari Kawabata. I read Kawabata’s novel once a year and always find the writing wonderful. If I ever could write something like that, I would be so happy I would just die. That’s the way my mama would put it.

    1. Thanks for the recommended titles! I find it amusing that you say we read much the same thing, because my tastes are all over the place. but yes, you read Joyce and Kawabata annually, so you are making your case. 😉 I am curious to see what else Shusaku Endo would write, since Silence was so overwhelmingly pious. Are you a writer? Oh, of course you are; you have a blog. I guess I’ll get myself over there and read it!

  2. one of the reads in my life that truly hit home
    I didn’t read it until age 50
    If you haven’t crossed paths with it
    my vote would be don’t wait as long as I did .

    * The Road Less Traveled – M Scott Peck *

    Michael

  3. I was at “Laurelhurst Buds” when I saw the books I read at the top. How have I missed this all this time?? Well, you got me. If it’s funny, I’m all in. I’ll have to get to those last 2. I have the headboard stacked with to be read books and rarely do audio, which I should because I can’t see. 🙂 So now I’ll go back where I started and come back here for more later. Darn, more books. There will be some tech issues to be worked out living down in the hole here but I’ll make it work. Thanks for the reviews. BTW, fingers still crossed. 🙂

    1. Ooh, my 2015 list is so short, too, so I’m glad you found two that you like. Yes, they are both very funny. I have purchased multiple books that claim to be funny, and they usually only rise to the level of “amusing.” These two are FUNNY! I can loan you Hyperbole and a Half after we unpack.

      1. 🙂 Tech support had to rebuild my closet yesterday. The shelf started coming down. Something about too much weight. .;( Tuesday he hooked up his sisters stereo with surround sound and my rails are up the terraces. I’m a very good worker! ( pointer actually) 🙂

  4. Hi CMLove,

    Great set of books. Recently, due to the problems in the US and given my background, I read three books about refugees in Europe from about 1935 -1942. Ground level of a refugee experience. Martha Gellhorn’s A Stricken Field, Anna Seghers’ Transit, and finally Antal Szerb’s Journey by Moonlight. I worked with refugees and IDs for 25 years and what I see now is the same thing that has been going on for hundreds of years. I agree with you the root cause is racism with a touch of xenophobia to spice it up a bit. Also, I am reblogging your recent post. Nice writing. Good luck. Duke

    1. Hi Duke. I just now spotted your comment because I am belatedly updating my 2021 book list. I am sad but not surprised to hear that you have decided that refugees today are created the same way as refugees from any time in history. What’s your opinion of those three books? Would you recommend one over the others? I read a surprisingly chilling YA novel in 2019 called Internment, by Samira Ahmed. Chilling mostly because of how easy it was to believe that the apocalyptical United States portrayed could actually happen in a few years. This chilling reality is why The Hunger Games (also with refugees) freaked me out too. What is it with scaring the bejeebers out of our teens? haha.

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