Books Read in 2021

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As always, I aspired to read more than I did, but War and Peace took a bit of time (though not as long as you’d think). It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down but also wanted to take my time reading because I soaked in every single word. But more on that below. 

In addition to the list below, Marcus Aurelius’ MeditationsThe Daily Stoic, and the Tao Te Ching — are all part of my daily practice. If you’re interested in tracking my reading list and reviews throughout the year, you can follow me on Goodreads

BOOKS SHAPED MY THINKING IN 2021

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar — Historical fiction at its finest. Was hard to find a good translation in print, but it’s worth the search.

SPQR by Mary Beard — No one brings ancient history close to home like Professor Beard. I could read, watch, listen to her all day long.

Semicolon by Cecelia Watson — I love me my word books, so I was compelled to read this. Obviously, it’s punctuation — not etymology or grammar — but still a fascinating history about such a seemingly innocent mark.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (trans. Anthony Briggs) — The most defining book of the year for me was War and Peace. David read it 10 years ago and has never stopped talking about it, and so finally after seeing him watch the BBC miniseries starring Anthony Hopkins, I decided it was time, and now I haven’t stopped talking about it. And like him, I started a journey of learning everything I never knew about The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Age. I don’t just feel smarter for having read War and Peace; I feel like I’m a better person for having read it. The characters were the most human characters I’ve ever spent literary time with, and Pierre has a permanent place in my heart and soul. 

Face by Justine Bateman — Just thank you for writing this, Justine Bateman, and for inspiring me to reframe my thoughts (and judgements) about my aging face.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr — I loved his novel All the Light We Cannot See so much and was so excited when I heard about his new novel, especially the fact that it centered around people’s relationship to a single text across the ages. I preferred some of the narratives more than others, but it was a really unique narrative structure that I appreciated even if I didn’t fall in love with it.

The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy — Nothing worse than hating a character from start to finish. Still, I couldn’t put it down, because I didn’t want Sebastian Dangerfield to have victory over me, too. The most narcissistic, selfish, despicable character in fiction. Worth a read. ? 🙂

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte — I can’t believe it took me this long to read Anne, even after studying the Victorians in grad school (20 years ago). Anne was left out of my Bronte class, and what a shame. Perhaps it’s because I’m an adult and less inclined toward the soul-crushing sordid passion of Wuthering Heights, but Anne’s story is just more relatable and contemporary than that of her sisters’ most famous novels. I’m on a personal mission now to make sure to read everything I can of hers — and to make sure others do the same. 🙂 

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard — Thoroughly researched, inspiring, and overwhelming. Depressing at times, Leonard constantly pivots the reader back to what’s possible rather than what’s hopeless.

The Life of Johnson by James Boswell — still reading and plan to finish by the end of 2021. 🙂

What’s coming in 2021? High on the list: 

  • Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  • First Principles: What America’s Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country by Thomas Ricks
  • The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
  • Plutarch’s Lives
  • The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius 
  • The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America by Janet M. Davis
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
  • Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
  • On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

That’s the start of my plan. We’ll see what happens! What were your favorite books in 2021? What books are you reading in 2022?

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