2021 Reading List

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Man, this year’s reading list is sad.

The best laid plans of mice and men and parents of toddlers oft go awry, yeah? This year’s reading round-up is short and shallow–and the list of books I started and could not finish seems almost as long!

Here we go, for better or worse:

January

>>The Words Between Us – Erin Bartels

>>The Practice – Seth Godin

>>Conscience – Andy Naselli and J.D. Crowley

February

>>A Hard Thing on A Beautiful Day – Ted Kluck

>>The Burning: The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 – Tim Madigan

March

>>One by One – Ruth Ware

>>Pastors and Their Critics – Joel Beeke and Nick Thompson

>>Comfort The Grieving – Paul Tautges

>>Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

May

>>Fault Lines – Voddie Baucham

July

>>Corporate Worship – Matt Merker

>>How to Eat Your Bible – Nate Pickowicz *skimmed the last few chapters*

>>A World without Email – Cal Newport

August

>>She Did What She Could – Don Karns

>>Wolverine: Old Man Logan (trade paperback) – Millar / Bendis / Lemire / Brisson

September

>>Confessing the Faith – Chad Van Dixhoorn

November

>>The Invisible Man – HG Wells

>>Hawkeye Vol 4: Rio Bravo – Matt Fraction / David Aja

December

>>Invincible (TPB Vols. 1-3) – Kirkman / Walker

>>A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

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A few comments on the preceding:

This is by far the closest fiction/non-fiction ratio I’ve had in 10-15 years (8 fiction to 12 non-fiction). I wonder if that’s a statement on where my mind’s been at this year. Also interesting to note that most of the fiction was read in the last few months–possibly as a means of escape?

More than half of these books are fewer than 300 pages. Some of ones that were longer took multiple tries to get through. This is also the lowest book total I’ve had, possibly since I started counting and posting to a blog. Again, none of this is surprising considering what all I have had going on, but it’s interesting how I’ve struggled with focus/time when it comes to reading this year.

I’m currently “in-progress” with about 6 books, but most actively with another volume of Invincible and a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro called Klara and the Sun. I just downloaded a library e-copy of Erik Larson’s Devil in a White City, so clearly I want to go light to start 2022.

My mostly-fiction DNF list (books I got at least a chapter or two into before stopping early) included, but was not limited to, the following:

  • Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep – just a bit too seamy/grimy to be enjoyable – I won’t be coming back to it.
  • Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – definitely will return to it, but never got locked in enough to persevere when other shiny distractions arose
  • Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers – another one I may get back to at some point.
  • Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X – I definitely will come back to this; it looks like a fun series.
  • Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life – okay, controversial take: it’s just not that good. It’s full of obvious observations but it doesn’t really say anything new or meaningful. Admittedly, after the first chapter, I skimmed a bit, but I just don’t see the appeal. Apologies to those who think he’s the second coming of Socrates.
  • Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca – I didn’t get very far into it, but I definitely want to come back to it when I’m in the right frame of mind.
  • Franz Kafka’s The Trial – Meh. I gave it a shot, but it was a bit too pretentious to be enjoyable or even interesting. I’ll go along with some avant-garde writing, but at some point you have to ask, “Am I actually enjoying this?” If not, boot it. There’s no point in reading Important Novels that don’t actually bring joy or greater human understanding.
  • Ernest Cline’s Ready Player Two – What a disappointment. I adored RP1, and I feel like he spoiled it a bit with this second volume. I got so fed up with the protagonist that I bailed after just a few chapters. From what I gather from others, that may have been a smart move.

My top-five reads from 2021 (in no particular order):

  • The Burning, by Tim Madigan – This is a riveting account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. It seemed only appropriate to read it on the year of its centennial. It was a heart-breaking glimpse into a moment of American history that is still so often passed over without comment.
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury – I read this in high school, but it was almost a different book to me as a middle-aged man. I would recommend revisiting some of the classic works you read in your youth; it’s quite eye-opening. Anyway, Bradbury has long been one of my favorite storytellers, and this one is a wild ride.
  • Confessing the Faith, by Chad Van Dixhoorn – This was given to me as a birthday present in late 2019 and it just took me a while to get through because it needs to be read slowly. Dr. Van Dixhoorn exposits every point of the Westminster Confession of Faith and provides theological arguments for why each element was written the way it was, and what implications these doctrines have on daily life. This is helpful both as a volume on Christian history and as a book for devotional reading and meditation. Excellent on all counts.
  • A World Without Email, by Cal Newport – This one took me a few tries, because it is dense and heavily-researched, but it argues a somewhat controversial or counter-cultural premise: What if businesses and organizations found other ways to accomplish what we claim to accomplish using email? Further, does the universal, constant reliance on email improve or actually hamper true productivity? This is Newport’s most “out-there” thesis, but I think he makes some really strong points.
  • A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens – Seriously, every time I read this short book, I’m blown away by the depth of emotion and understanding. More than that, I’m again surprised by all of the references to Christian faith and thinking throughout the volume. While Dickens wasn’t observably a professing believer, his cultural context was so immersed in Christian thinking and worldview that it is inescapable in his writing. As a Christian, I am delighted and encouraged by every glancing reference and thoughtful aside.

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Your Turn: What was the best book you read in 2021? What should I add to my TBR list in 2022? Comment below!

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