Book List 2021 (part 1 of 2)

I finally finished reading Moby-Dick!

After only reading thirty books in 2020, I was determined to make more of an effort in 2021. Here are the books I read in the first half of the year.

  1. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. 3 stars. Goodreads tells me I started reading this book in May 2019. Parts of it were really beautiful but parts of it were really dull.
  2. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. 4 stars. An NPC in an RPG I was playing in a few years ago told my PC to read this book. So I did. Actually enjoyed it quite a bit.
  3. Frederick Douglass: The Story of an American Slave, by Frederick Douglass. 5 stars. I am still trying to read more biographies and autobiographies, and this is a good one.
  4. Animal Farm, by George Orwell. 4 stars. I read a couple of books about the Russian revolution this year and this was a good addition. If you do read the edition that I did, with a forward that goes on about why the original subtitle was “A Fairy Story,” please do not read that forward because it’s maddening.
  5. Into the Magic Shop: ! Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart, by James R Doty. 4 stars. I non-so-secretly love books on neurology. Both the parts about neurology and meditation were very engaging.
  6. Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account, by Miklos Nyiszli. 4 stars. Another non-fiction book. I’m not sure why I wanted to upset myself with this, but I did.
  7. Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin. 5 stars. This was written by a white journalist in the 1950s who medically darkened his skin to pass as black. This was a really stressful book to read, but worth it.
  8. The Queen’s Gambit, by Walter Tevis. 5 stars. As fun as the show.
  9. The Worst Is Yet to Come, by SP Miskowski. 4 stars. A continuation of the Skillute cycle, which I read last year.
  10. The Man in the Brown Suit, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. The only Christie book I read so far this year, but it was a good one.
  11. If You Find Me, by Emily Murdoch. 3.5 stars. I got this as a free audiobook. It’s about abused children living in the woods, and I usually only like books with the second part of that equation. The story was okay but the narrator deserved 4 stars, so I bumped up my rating.
  12. The Doors of Perception, by Aldous Huxley. 4 stars. Honestly, it’s absurd that I hadn’t read this yet.
  13. The Worm and His Kings, by Hailey Piper. 4 stars. If you like urban fantasy set place in NYC, read this. After you read the books I wrote, of course! 😉
  14. The Temple of My Familiar, by Alice Walker. 5 stars. I had no idea there was a sequel to The Color Purple. This novel was so good, so broad in scope, so many great characters.
  15. The Forgetting Machine: Memory, Perception, and the “Jennifer Aniston Neuron,” by Rodrio Quian Quiroga. 4 stars. I love books about neurology. This one focused on memory, obviously. If you like that sort of thing, you will like this book.
  16. The Book of X, by Sarah Rose Etter. 5 stars. This entire book is both a metaphor and a mood and covers a lot of women’s issues and I very much enjoyed it.
  17. Buddism for Beginners, by Thubten Chodron. 3 stars. It is what it says, but I thought it could have been better organized.
  18. A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, by Hope Larson (Adapter, Illustrator). 4 stars. This was one of my favorite books as a child, adapted into a graphic novel. I bought it for my son, but he had a hard time telling what was flashbacks (slightly muted illustrations).
  19. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte. 4 stars. I haven’t read hardly anything by the Bronte’s, and I choose this book because of its feminist themes. Enjoyed it!
  20. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. 5 stars. I so much enjoyed this while reading it! My only criticism is that there should have been more women characters.
  21. In the Vanisher’s Place, by Aliette de Bodard. 4 stars. This was a really fun, quick fairy-tale read.
  22. Adi Parva – Churning of the Ocean, by Amruta Patil. 4 stars. This was a very beautifully illustrated collection of mythology.
  23. Habibi, by Craig Thompson. 4 stars. Another graphic novel, but this one for adults.
  24. Good Neighbors, by Sarah Langan. 4 stars. Horror is not usually my thing, but this was well done, with just a hint of supernatural horror as well.
  25. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. 5 stars. I very much recommend this novel about two rival mages, set in a magical circus.
  26. To You We Shall Return: Lessons About Our Planet from the Lakota, by Joseph M. Marshall III. 4 stars. Of course it’s somewhat depressing, but all of us who live in the United States should read this.
  27. Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk. 4 stars. I can’t believe I haven’t read anything by this author before! Reminds me very much of Kurt Vonnegut.
  28. The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern. 5 stars. Never have I ever read a more that is more me than this book! It has everything I love–an enormous magic library, secret doors, secret societies. I cannot recommend this enough!
  29. Buddism for Beginners, by Tai Morello. 4 stars. This is a better book than the other one I read with the same name.
  30. Nightlights, by Lorena Alvarez Gomez. 4 stars. I bought this graphic novel for my older son at the book fair, but the artwork is so beautiful!
  31. Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood. 5 stars. I’ve been wanting to read something else by this author for a long time and finally did! I was not bullied as a child, but this is very visceral and I think everyone should read it.
  32. Why Buddhism Is True, by Robert Wright. 5 stars. I took a Coursera course with this author on evolutionary psychology and loved it. This book is the product of those lectures!
  33. Moby-Dick or, the Whale, by Herman Melville. 2 stars. I believe this is the longest I’ve ever taken to read a bookI think I started in 2018? I didn’t like it and when my dog started chewing the pages, I did not rush to stop her.
  34. The House by the Sea, by Louise Douglas. I didn’t rate this book because I really didn’t like it but feel bad about it for an unknown reason. My husband bought this on kindle by mistake.
  35. The Order of Time, by Carlo Rovelli. 5 stars. I loved this non-fiction book on the nature of time! I read it on audible, and part of the rating is probably due to the narration by Benedict Cumberbatch.
  36. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson. 5 stars. This was very poetic, a good follow-up to the book I read before it, and easily understandable.
  37. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. 5 stars. I specifically wanted to read this for Pride month. It was so good! I don’t usually read love stories, but this retelling of the Achilles/Patroclus myth is a definite must-read.
  38. Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters. 5 stars. This was another I wanted to read for Pride (also by a lesbian author). I wish I hadn’t watched the Korean film, The Handmaiden, before reading this. That film was so good and totally recommended, but it was based on this book. Oh well. The book is still better than the film, and very beautifully written.
  39. Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder. 4 stars. This is a completely nonfiction book that the semi-nonfiction movie was based on. Actually, it’s a bit more hopeful than the movie. I have a secret desire to travel the country by van and/or build and Earthship, and both those things are in this book.

Book List for 2020

In 2019, I read 70 books. In 2020, I read just 30 books. I had a really hard time concentrating on reading, and the time that I had previously reserved for reading (during my commute) was no longer a time that ever happened. Regardless, these are the few books I read this year. While I hope to continue to never commute in 2021, I do intend to find other moments to read.

If the libraries ever reopen, maybe I’ll send them my fancy poster.
  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. 4 Stars. First book of 2020! I picked up this book in the hopes that it would confirm or refute my theory that I’m an introvert. I think I’m an introvert?
  2. The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell. 3 stars. It was a fun afternoon read but nothing terrific.
  3. A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea, by Masaji Ishikawa. 4 stars. One true and very depressing but well-told story.
  4. Sunny Rolls the Dice, by Jennifer L Holm. 4 stars. This is a graphic novel I bought for Samir. As he gets older, his reading materials get more interesting. This was about a girl in the 1980s playing D&D with a bunch of guys. Some of us have already been there in real life!
  5. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner. 4 stars. There is something overly dramatic about reading this while in bed with the flu that I appreciate (note that this was read in January).
  6. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez. 4 stars. I was over being sick, so this wasn’t as dramatic, but I enjoyed the reverse murder mystery of it all.
  7. The Witches: Salem 1692, by Stacy Schiff. 4 stars. This is a dense tome about the Salem Witch Trials, a period of history that has always held my interest.
  8. Journey into the Whirlwind, by Evgenia Ginzburg. 4 stars. This is a nonfiction book about a woman’s life in Stalin’s Russian prisons and labor camps. Compelling and depressing.
  9. Hex Wives, by Ben Blacker. 3 stars. A graphic novel about witches that is nowhere near as good as the new Sabrina.
  10. Gardening Basics, Time-Life Books. 4 stars. Yes, I did read this from cover-to-cover and it was very helpful.
  11. Fake Blood, by Whitney Gardner. 3 stars. My son got this graphic novel from the library. It looked interesting, but I can’t remember much, so I guess it was not all that interesting?
  12. A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution, by Orlando Figes. 3 stars. Honestly, I cannot really remember what prompted me to borrow this from the library last February.
  13. The Mechanical, by Ian Tregillis. 4 stars. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but this was really great, and I’m reminded I want to read the next book in the series whenever the libraries in NYC reopen.
  14. Graveyard Shakes, by Laura Terry. 3 stars. Another book my son got out from the library.
  15. Compost, by Clare Foster. 3 stars. Can you tell I tried composting last year?
  16. The Garden Organic Book of Compost, by Pauline Pears. 4 stars. I guess I liked this one a bit more.
  17. The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understand the Cosmos, by Leonard Mlodinow. 5 stars. Super interesting book about human evolution. The last book I read on the subway.
  18. Cat Among the Pigeons, by Agatha Christie. 3 stars. It had been awhile since I read a Christie. Always entertaining.
  19. An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten. 2 stars. I read this for a book club, but I didn’t like it.
  20. The Plague, by Albert Camus. 4 stars. Because sometimes it’s best to lean into things? The plague in this book lasted only three months.
  21. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker. 5 stars. My husband bought this book for my son, but a lot of very disturbing things happen right at the beginning and he refused to read further. I loved it, though.
  22. Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell. 3 stars. I read this for a book club and enjoyed it.
  23. Piranesi, by Susanna Clark. 5 stars. I really enjoyed this book and was sad it was so short and thus over so soon.
  24. Stealing Home, by Sherryl Woods. 1 star. I read this for a book club but it is absolutely not to my taste. Every character was awful.
  25. Crooked House, by Agatha Christie. 3 stars. A fun afternoon read.
  26. Tomboyland: Essays, by Melissa Faliveno. 4 stars. I usually don’t read books of essays but this was free for Pride Month and I really enjoyed it.
  27. Out of the Silence: After the Crash, by Edwardo Strauch Urioste. 4 stars. For some reason, I’ve always had a mild obsession with the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed into the Andes in 1972. This book was actually really beautiful, especially when the author spoke of having a spiritual connection to the Andes.
  28. Sapiens: A Graphic History: The Birth of Humankind, by David Vandermeulen. 5 stars. I got this for my son, but I think it’s above his head for a few more years. I want to buy the actual book as well.
  29. I Want To Be Where the Normal People Are, by Rachel Bloom. 4 stars. An autobiography. I think I’ve read very few of those.
  30. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. 3 stars. I think I missed reading this in high school, so I thought I would give it a shot. That said, I didn’t love it.

Book List for 2019 (Part 2 of 2)

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 9.17.09 AM
Since I didn’t enjoy any other book this year as much as Lolly Willowes, here is another great version of the cover!

I started my book list for 2019 here, but it was too long to write out all at once, so this is the remainder.

31. The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. 5 stars. This is one I thought about a lot afterward and once I started looking at Gregor’s sister as the protagonist, I liked it a lot more.

32. The Murder on the Links, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. The second Poirot novel. At this point, they started bleeding into each other a bit, but still fun.

33. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. 4 stars. I wanted to read this especially after reading Kindred, but also because I think everyone should read it. While Kindred was more viscerally upsetting, this book is definitely more emotionally upsetting.

34. Murder in Mesopotamia, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. Another Poirot novel that my library had. By this point, I fully grasped the point and use of the illustrations.

35. In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware. 3 stars. I enjoyed this and read it in a day but it was predictable. Still a fun way to spend a day.

36. Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. Yet another Poirot novel.

37. The Woman in Cabin 1o, by Ruth Ware. 4 stars. I read this right after Death on the Nile, so I was confused because this book is actually the exact same. There is no way Ware didn’t just read the Christie book and say, “Hmmmm, I can also write that book.”

38. $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer. I liked the topic of this book and it has valuable information, but the way it was presented didn’t grab me.

39. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. 4 stars. I admit that I wanted to watch the show, but I don’t like watching a movie or show before reading a book. I really liked both and I am having trouble telling them apart because I started watching the show the same day I finished the book.

40. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote. 5 stars. I can’t believe I never read this before! The version I had from the library also had a short story called, “A Christmas Memory.” I read this story while on a bus and was sobbing hysterically over how good it was.

41. The Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie. 3 stars. The first Miss Marple book.

42. The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware. 3 stars. Probably my least favorite Ruth Ware book but still fun.

43. Rawblood, by Catriona Ward. 5 stars. I don’t read that much horror, much less gothic horror. The end of this was just perfect. I read it very quickly, waited about an hour, and then re-read the last few chapters, just to experience it again.

44. An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore. 4 stars. This is one I read because I can’t believe I’ve not read it before. Probably should read something more current about this topic, however.

45. Ark, by Veronica Roth. 5 stars. This was in a set of novellas I got free from Amazon. Recommended!

46. The Last Conversation, by Paul Tremblay. 5 stars. Same as above but I think this was my favorite in the set.

47. Summer Frost, by Blake Crouch. 4 stars. Same collection as above.

48. Emergency Skin, by N.K. Jemisin. 5 stars. Another good one from the same collection.

49. You Have Arrived at Your Destination, by Amor Towles. 3 stars. The only one from the collection I didn’t care for.

50. The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware. 4 stars. The newest Ware novel is a retelling of the classic Henry James novel. I liked it!

51. In the Woods, by Tana French. 4 stars. This was recommended to me by a ton of people. It was fun!

52. Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo. 1 star. This was a book I read for a book club. I hated it. I can’t even how much I hated it. I am glad most of the reviews I’m seen around are also very negative.

52. Raising Boys, by Steve Biddulph. 1 star. Sexist and gendered. I read this because I have two boy children. The advice given in the first chapter was basically to stand back and let the male parent do it. Nothing about gender being a spectrum, or what if the parents are the same sex? bleh.

53. Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeir. 5 stars. This is a young adult graphic novel that my older son read, but it’s so good!

54. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. 4 stars. I was embarrassed that I never read any Bradbury, so I read the most well-known Bradbury novel. The latent sexism bothered me, so I couldn’t give it the full 5 stars.

55. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf. 5 stars. Another book every woman should read!

56. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides. 3 stars. This is another book from a book club. It was fun but predictable.

57. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. 5 stars. Really great book that also was made into a great movie!

58. Lilith’s Brood, by Octavia Butler. 4 stars. This is three books in one. If alien-human threesomes are your thing, then you should absolutely read this book.

59. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. 5 stars. Such a great book! I want to watch the movie, but I can’t find it for free anywhere.

60. Unspeakable Things, by Jess Lourey. 2 stars. I got this book for a free promotion and read it quickly, but there are a ton of plot holes.

61. What Should I Do with My Life?, by Po Bronson. 2 stars. This book did not help me answer the titular question at all.

62. The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future, by Ryder Carroll. 4 stars. For a book that suggests brevity, the title is pretty long. Anyway, I decided to start a bullet journal in 2020, and this book was helpful.

63. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl. 4 stars. Part 1 of this book was about the author’s experience in Nazi concentration camps, and was horrifying. Part 2 was about the therapeutic technique of logotherapy, which I’m not sure I fully understand, but I believe is mostly concerned with ascribing meaning to meaningless events to help depressed persons function in the meaningless world. But I could be wrong about this.

64. El Deafo, by Cece Bell. 4 stars. This is a graphic novel that my older son was reading, but was really enjoyable. It’s about a deaf elementary-to-middle school deaf kid.

65. Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, by Richard H. Thaler. 4 stars. Yes, I really enjoy reading books about behavioral economics, even though I’m not that familiar with the topic yet.

66. The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. 4 stars. As a default, I love any books about Satan, and bonus if another character is a large, talking cat.