Friday, December 31, 2021

Books I Read in 2021


In 2021 I read 58 books, a personal all-time low. As you'll see from the list below, I didn't attempt to tackle anything particularly challenging. The stress of 21st-century existence leaves me with diminished capacity; escaping into film taxes me far less than slipping into a book these days, a truth that profoundly saddens me, but one I can no longer deny. Silver lining: for the first time, I read as many books by women as by men. 

In 2021 I sought out escapist fare, often re-reading old favourites that took me back to comfortable alternate realities and in some sense to a more vital past self. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of the books I read are non-fiction, mainly covering topics in popular culture. 

A couple of novels stand out. Severance, by Ling Ma, uncannily anticipates the COVID-19 catastrophe and, like the real disaster, reveals the silliness and futility of the ways we live and work in the modern world, how the systems we've built serve only a select few. Come Closer, by Sara Gran, is one of the scariest novels I've ever read, and one of the most heartbreaking. It's the internal monologue of a woman who is either going insane or is genuinely being slowly and methodically possessed by a demon, and Gran's touch is so deft and sure that the moments of terror come out of nowhere, seeming to slip between the sentences so that by the time you realize what's happening to you and the protagonist, it's too late to brace yourself for the abyss. 

Martha Wells continues to impress with her Murderbot diaries, and I'm still enjoying my journeys through the works of Jo Walton. I indulged in a couple of near-legendary works of dreadful fan fiction: Jim Theis' The Eye of Argon and Tara Gilesbie's My Immortal. Anyone who enjoys art gone wrong will love these. 

Thanks to Leslie, I learned that I'd fallen behind on Lois McMaster Bujold's Penric series. Catching up was like going on a short trip with an old friend, carefree and pleasant. Bujold remains a favourite, and I hope she keeps writing for a long time. 

Finally, I was delighted to discover that Ulrich Haarburste released his cycle of Roy Orbison in clingfilm stories, expanded to novel length. If you don't feel like buying the book, sample some of the stories

Here's the list of what I read this year: 

January: 10
Or What You Will
(Jo Walton, 2020) 
Star Trek Adventures Quickstart Guide (Modiphius, 2017) 
Axiom’s End (Lindsay Ellis, 2020) 
The Vanished Seas (Catherine Asaro, 2020)
Lightning Strike, Book One (Catherine Asaro, 2014) 
Lightning Strike, Book Two (Catherine Asaro, 2020) 
Carrie (Stephen King, 1974) 
Way Station (Clifford D. Simak, 1963) 
The Wounded Sky (Diane Duane, 1983) 
My Enemy, My Ally (Diane Duane, 1984) 

February: 7
The Lightest Object in the Universe
(Kimi Eisele, 2019) 
DC Comics Covers (Nick Jones, 2020) 
DC Comics Supervillains: The Complete Visual History (Daniel Wallace, 2014) 
Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Phil Szostak, 2020) 
The Big Lie (Julie Mayhew, 2015) 
Passage (Connie Willis, 2001) 
The Romulan Way (Diane Duane and Peter Morwood, 1987) 

March: 6
The Eye of Argon
(Jim Theis, 1970) 
My Immortal (Tara Gilesbie, 2006) 
Later (Stephen King, 2021) 
Star Wars Complete Vehicles New Edition (Kerrie Dougherty, 2020) 
To Lose the Earth (Kristen Beyer, 2020) 
Severance (Ling Ma, 2018) 

April: 3
The World of Cyberpunk 2077 (Marcin Batylda, 2020) 
Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, with Illustrations (William B. Jones Jr., 2001) 
Seduction of the Innocent: The Influence of Comic Books on Today’s Youth (Fredric Wertham, 1954)
 
May: 3
The Ten Thousand Doors of January (Alix E. Harrow, 2019)
Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory (Martha Wells, 2020) 
Fugitive Telemetry (Martha Wells, 2021) 

June: 2
Ulrich Haarburste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm: Plus additional stories (Ulrich Haarburste, 2019) 
Forbidden Knowledge: 101 Things No One Should Know How to Do (Owen Brooks, 2019) 

July: 3
Critical Failures (Robert Bevan, 2012) 
Living Memory (Christopher L. Bennett, 2021) 
Come Closer (Sara Gran, 2003) 

August: 5
The Physicians of Vilnoc (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2020) 
Masquerade in Lodi (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2020)
The Assassins of Thasalon (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2021)
Billy Summers (Stephen King, 2021) 
The Princess Saves Herself in This One (Amanda Lovelace, 2016)

September: 2
Then Everything Changed (Jeff Greenfield, 2011) 
The Stand (Stephen King, 1980) 

October: 2
Available Light (Dayton Ward, 2019) 
Knot of Shadows (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2021) 

November: 7
The Apollo Murders (Chris Hadfield, 2021)
Visiting Friends: Or, What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Jo Walton, 2021) 
Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir, 2021)
2034 (Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, 2021) 
Untold Horror (Dave Alexander, 2021) 
The History of Science Fiction: A Graphic Novel Adventure (Xavier Dollo, 2021) 
Forever and a Day (Anthony Horowitz, 2018) 

December: 7
The Steranko History of Comics, Volume One (Jim Steranko, 1970) 
The Steranko History of Comics, Volume Two (Jim Steranko, 1972)
All in Color for a Dime (Richard A. Lupoff and Don Thompson, 1970) 
Comix: A History of Comic Books in America ( Les Daniels, 1971) 
The Psychology of Time Travel (Kate Mascarenhas, 2018) 
The Grownup (Gillian Flynn, 2014) 
Hench (Natalie Zina Walschots, 2020) 

Fiction: 42
Nonfiction: 15
Poetry: 1

Genre
Fantasy: 8
Horror: 3
Mainstream: 11
Science Fiction: 14
Star Trek: 6

Top Authors
Lois McMaster Bujold: 4
Stephen King: 4
Catherine Asaro: 3
Diane Duane: 3
Jim Steranko: 2
Jo Walton: 2
Martha Wells: 2


Books by Women: 29
Books by Men: 29

Books by Decade
1950s: 1
1960s: 1
1970s: 6
1980s: 4
2000s: 4
2010s: 16
2020s: 25 

3 comments:

Never for Ever said...

Jeeze Earl, that book count reads like a sad mental health record: 12 book hopeful --> 3 book pits --> clawed back up to a 7 book hangingin-there...

Hang in there!

I on the other hand, watched maybe 2 movies last year. Between the 90/10 split of violence/cgi to plot trend in most of the action movies and the proliferation of escapist short comedy and British quiz shows on streaming I just couldn't engage with anything longer and more thoughtful.

Did you enjoy Hadfield's book? I am avoiding it to not be disappointed. He being who he is even an "OK" book would just make me sad. And Jo Walton... right?... it doesn't hurt that I keep confusing her with Jo Clayton, both of whom I admire a lot and strangely don't read enough of.

Buck up and buckle down... a person's gotta read :-)

Earl J. Woods said...

I meant to say that Hadfield's book was a pleasant surprise! His prose is better than serviceable, and he creates a believable alternate history that makes an excellent setting for a suspenseful murder mystery. And as far as I can tell, he respects the science of lunar missions, as you might expect.

I also liked Horowitz' James Bond novel, written in Fleming's style as a period piece and a great companion to Fleming's canonical Bond stories. In fact, there's extra interest in that this is a "first mission" story.

Looking forward to seeing your list!

Totty said...

I don't see "Silver Screen Fiend" on that list anywhere. I'm sure you'll get to it eventually.