According to Goodreads, I have read 223 books in 2021, a whopping 40,198 pages. The shortest was 96 pages and the fattest was 706 pages with them averaging a 3.7 (out of 5) rating. That’s quite a bit read on paper, eBook, and audiobook.
Taking out the graphic novels, I managed 51 traditional books, ranging across the years and genres. And of course, none of that includes the individual comic books, magazines, and newspapers consumed throughout the year.
As is my wont, I continue to sample new authors and visit classics I somehow missed. In the former category, I tried more than a few that were new to me. Highlights here were Outlawed by Anna North, a feminist western; Suburban Dicks, a mystery written by my comics pal Fabian Nicieza, making his prose debut; and Secret Identity, another mystery, set in the comics business, from my pal Alex Segura (which I read in galley, you can read it in March). Another new-to-me author was Taylor Jenkins Reid, whose engaging Daisy Jones and the Six had me devour it in two days. It was one of two summer works for the Faculty Book Club, and I enjoyed it far more than Lucy Foley’s too-coincidental The Guest List.
For the latter category, thanks to the wonderful CraftLit podcast, I got through Northanger Abbey¸ my second Jane Austen work, which didn’t do much for me, so I was thankful for host Heather Ordover’s analysis. A more contemporary classic, which I enjoyed far more, was Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I vaguely recalled the excellent film adaptation, so the novel felt new to me. And going further back, I finally sat with Fritz Leiber’s Swords & Deviltry, the first collection of his entertaining Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.
I had been aware of the mania surrounding Pierce Brown’s Red Rising universe but didn’t indulge until Kate raved and raved about them. I tried the first book and by year’s end, I had consumed all five and eagerly await book six. It’s brutal and bloody but ambitious in its worldbuilding and its scope.
Speaking of worldbuilding, Deb and I adored Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun which was a Hugo nominee this year. When we attended her kaffeeklatsch at WorldCon, she gifted us with an ARC for the sequel, Fevered Sun, which we hope to read before its official release in April.
Worlds also ended. Star Trek: Coda from Dayton Ward, James Swallow, and David Mack, rang down the curtain on Pocket Books’ 20-year old novel continuity. Once Picard became a reality on Paramount+, something had to be done and they concluded the hundreds of books connected to one another in spectacular fashion. Having written several as a part of that continuity, I enjoyed seeing old friends and was thrilled to how deftly they handled it. This trilogy concluded my reading year.
I unintentionally managed four different biographies/autobiographies this year, starting with Walter Isaacson’s superb Leonardo da Vinci and I also enjoyed Abraham Reisman’s True Believer, perhaps the most honest and even-handed look at Stan Lee’s life. I also enjoyed the lives of Eric Idle and Linda Ronstadt.
Speaking of rock, one of the best books of the year for me was Ronald Brownstein’s Rock me on the Water, an examination of 1974 California’s influence on pop culture through movies, television, and music. Ron was my editor-in-chief back at college and I’ve admired his strong career in covering politics.
The strongest work of nonfiction I read was Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste, which reminds me how we white folk suck. Read it before you argue with me.
Most of the graphic novels were perfectly fine pieces of entertainment with many rising above that to be moving or thought-provoking. A stand-out, which is more of an illustrated book was Mark Chiarello and Nel Yomtov’s Baseball 100 which celebrates the best baseball players of all time. Nel’s spare prose and Mark’s iconic imagery is a fine way to honor their memories.
Overall, a good, solid year of reading with groaning TBR shelves singing a siren chorus to entice me to pick one of them next.
#Tags: Abraham Reisman, Alex Segura, Anna North, Atonement, Baseball 100, Black Sun, Caste, CraftLit, Daisy Jones and the Six, David Mack, Dayton Ward, Eric Idle, Fabian Nicieza, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Fevered Sun, Fritz Leiber, Goodreads, Heather Ordover, Ian McEwan, Isabel Wilkerson, James Swallow, Jane Austen, Leonardo da Vinci, Linda Rondstadt, Mark Chiarello, Nel Yomtov, Northanger Abbey, Outlawed, Paramount+, Picard, Pierce Brown, Rebecca Roanhorse, Red Rising, Rock me on the Water, Ronald Brownstein, Secret Identity, Stan Lee, Star Trek: Coda, Suburban Dicks, Swords & Deviltry, Taylor Jenkins Reid, True Believer, Walter Isaacson