Books of the Year 2021

This year I read a wide variety of books. I found a used bookstore near my house that I loved and bought copious (and often unrelated) books from it.

The lists below are in roughly chronological order within each genre/category. The big accomplishments this year were going through the first book of Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson and reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. My favorite pieces of fiction that I read were The Giver, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, City, and Einstein’s Dreams. (Please feel free to bring these up in conversation if you would like to stop talking for a while and hear me gush.) As for nonfiction, I’ll be thinking and writing about The Twenty-Six Words that Created the Internet and The Computerization of Society for a long time.

Next year the big-ticket items are The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman and Flannery O’Connor’s short stories. I also have 35 (!!!) other books waiting to be read because I bought too many books in 2021. Onwards!

1. Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne. (Sci-fi, 2.5/5)

2. Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland. (Sci-fi, 3/5)

3. Sleepers, Wake by Paul Samuel Jacobs. (Sci-fi/horror, 2/5.)

4. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. (Sci-fi/fantasy. 5/5, really this is how you do it)

5. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit. (Magical realism, 4.5/5)

6. Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. (Realism, 4.5/5)

7. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Realism, 3/5)

8. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. (Realism, 3/5)

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry. (Sci-fi/magical realism, 5/5)

10. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. (SF, 4/5)

11. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Behind Enemy Lines, The Dominion War, Book 1 by John Vornholt. (SF, 3/5)

12. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. (Sf, 2/5.)

13. Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card. (SF, 4.25/5; I really like Orson Scott Card’s work while fully acknowledging his controversies, problems, and strange literary tendencies.)

14. Star Wars: The High Republic, Book One: The Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule. (Sf, 3/5)

15. Uranus by Ben Bova. (Sci-fi, 3/5)

16. City by Clifford Simak (1952). (Sci-fi, 5/5 if only because I’ve never read anything even remotely like it)

17. Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (Sci-fi, 4.5/5)

18. Matrix by Douglas R. Mason. (Sci-fi, 3/5)

19. The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. (Sci-fi, 3.5/5)

20. The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner (Sci-fi, 4/5)

21. Guerrilla by Mel Odom. (Military sci-fi, 4/5)

22. Sundiver by David Brin. (Sci-fi, 4/5)

23. Startide Rising by David Brin. (Sci-fi, 3.75/5)

24. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. (Experimental fiction, 4.5/5, which really means 6/5, because experimental fiction is next-to-impossible for me to enjoy, based on prior experience)

25. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. (Realism, 4.5/5)

26. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges. (Magical realism, 4.5/5)

27. The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges. (Magical realism, 4/5)

28. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. (Realism, 2/5. Somewhat of an unfair ranking, because I knew going in I dislike literary fiction. I read this to talk about it with friends.)

29. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel GarciĆ” Marquez. (Magical realism, 4/5)

30. Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney. (Mythology, rating not applicable)

31. Out of Time: Designs for the Twentieth-Century Future by Norman Brosterman. (History of technology, 3.5/5)

32. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy. (History, 3.75/5. Shoutout to my wife, who read this with me.)

33. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power by Robert A. Caro. (History, 4.5/5; shout-out to my brother John who read this with me.)

34. Longitude by Dava Sobel. (History of Technology, 4/5)

35. Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier by Katie Hafner and John Markoff (1991, epilogue 1995). (Technology/history, 4.5/5)

36. General Will 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, Google by Hiroki Azuma. (Technology/Philosophy, 3.75/5, wish I could give it 4 but it does a specific thing I hate: the last chapter extrapolates too much and goes zooming off way beyond the book’s modest remit.)

37. Pink Moon by Amanda Petrusich. (Music, part of the 33 1/3 series. 4/5)

38. The Twenty-Six Words That Created The Internet by Jeff Kosseff. (Technology/history, 4/5)

39. Social Media Law and Ethics by Jeremy Harris Lipschultz. (Textbook)

40. The Panic Broadcast: The Whole Story of Orson Welles’ Legendary Radio Show Invasion from Mars by Howard Koch (Sci-fi/History, 4/5)

41. Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack by Andrew Schartmann. (Music, part of the 33 1/3 series, 3.5/5)

42. That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means: The 150 Most Commonly Misused Words and Their Tangled Histories by Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras. (Philology, 3.5/5)

43. The Computerization of Society by Simon Nora and Alain Minc. (Technology, 4.5/5)

44. College Football Traditions and Rivalries: Chants, Pranks, and Pageantry by Jonathan Herzog. (Sports, 4/5)

45. God & Time: Four Views by Paul Helm, Alan G. Padgett, William Lane Craig, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, ed. by Gregory E. Ganssle. (Academic Philosophy; I did not finish because I am not an academic philosopher. The intro was enough for me. Shoutout to Herb and Dave, who tried to read this with me.)

46. Humility by Andrew Murray. (Devotional, 3.5/5; shout-out to my community group who read this with me.)

47. On the Incarnation by Athanasius. (Theology, rating not applicable)

48. Save Point Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2020) by Carly Kocurek. (Academic zine about video games, 4.5/5)

49. More Information Than You Require by John Hodgman. (Comedy, 3/5. Had uproariously funny sections and not funny sections.)

50. Heavy Rotation, edited by Shelly Bond, Barbra Baker, and Heather Goldberg. (Comics collection about college radio in the ’80s, 4/5)

51. We Promised Utopia, vol. 1 by Adrian Morales, Robert Holman, and Charles J. Martin; illustrated by John Eric Osborn, Chloe Elimam, and Jonathan Koelsch. (Sf Comic book, 3/5)

52. The Touring Test: Delusionally Optimistic by Elizabeth Jancewicz. (Comics, 4.5/5)