So, I messed around and kept a list of the books I read in 2021. Here they are:
1. Ready Player 2 by Ernest Cline. This was a cash grab from the success of Ready Player 1, and it was not very good.
2. The Fold by Peter Clines. Kind of a multi-verse thriller. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
3. Colonel Roosevelt by by Edmund Morris. I’m a sucker for T.R. biographies. If you want to feel lazy, read a book about Theodore Roosevelt. This one focuses on the post-Presidency period of his life.
4. Providence by Max Barry. A crew of four humans fight aliens in far off space with a super high-tech ship. Good page turner. It’s been compared to “Starship Troopers.” I was put in mind of “the Forever War.”
5. Bluescreen by Dan Wells. Kind of a cyber noir novel. Everyone is jacked into the future Internet pretty much constantly. A drug is introduced that hijacks the interface.
6. The Outsider by Stephen King. All-American suburban dad is implicated in a horrific murder. Turns out there is a creepy supernatural monster involved.
7. The Body by Bill Bryson. Bryson, in his inimitable style, takes you on a tour of the human body and its systems.
8. Sandman v. 1 by Neil Gaiman. A graphic novel where the Dream Lord is imprisoned, escapes, seeks vengeance and tries to make amends.
9. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. Robot sculptures suddenly appear all over the world. People suddenly start experiencing a collective dream where they can solve puzzles. There is conflict between battling collectives that organize through social media.
10. Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong. This is a history of religion and its connection to violence. Armstrong makes the argument that the violence isn’t really a function of religion so much as a function of the agricultural and subsequently industrial revolutions and the governments that make them possible. When religion becomes attached to those who govern, the violence inherent in governance becomes part of the religion.
11. Dark Age by Pierce Brown. This is part of the Red Rising series (book 2 in the second trilogy.) Kind of a space opera involving humans that have been genetically engineered over the centuries into types of people designated by colors. The Golds are the rulers. The Reds traditionally work the mines. One of the Reds transforms into a Gold and rises up. Fighting ensues. I really like this series.
12. Recursion by Blake Crouch. Centered on technology that enables people to go back to a previous point on their personal timeline, cognizant of the old timeline. Hijinx ensues.
13. Waterknife by Paolo Bacigalupi. Set in the near future where climate change has put water at an extreme premium in the southwestern United States. The borders between states have been closed, and fighting to obtain water rights is vicious. This one was extremely good. Highly recommend.
14. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Focused primarily on Joe Rantz, it tells the story of Rantz in the 1920s and 30s and his making it onto the University of Washington rowing team. Then it tells the story of the team that eventually made it to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Another highly recommended book.
15. In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce. A fictionalized version of the story Belle Gunness, the serial killer who eventually settled in LaPorte, Indiana. She had bad luck with husbands and suitors but very good luck with insurance. (One of her husbands happened to die on the very day he had two insurance policies in place.)
16. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. A breezy biography of the Marquis de Lafayette and the Revolutionary War.
17. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. An ordinary Londoner finds himself in London Below where things are a lot different. Love this story.
18. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Another book by Bacigalupi with environmental catastrophe as its background. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did the Waterknife.
19. On the Trail of Genghis Khan by Tim Kope. Kope decides to ride horses from eastern Mongolia across the Asian steppe to the Danube River. I really enjoyed this one as well. There’s a fish-out-of-water aspect as he learns to handle the horses and camping, and then the people he meets on the trail are fascinating. But the best character is Tigon, a puppy he acquires early in the journey that grows up on the way.
20. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner. I hated this one. There was a stream of consciousness approach that I suppose was intended as artistic but to me comes off as disorganized and in need of editing. It’s kind of an autobiographical work of fiction that wanders around the author’s teen years as a debater and disaffected youth in the suburbs.
21. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Another re-read of a Gaiman story I love. Gods are brought to the New World by the people who believe in them. As that belief wanes, so does the gods’ quality of life and power. Odin is a grifter running a con.
22. A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols. An account of the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race where nine sailors sought to be the first person to complete a solo, non-stop yacht circumnavigation of the globe. Very good book. Highly recommend.
23. Sapiens by Yuval Harari. Basically a survey of the history of human kind from the Stone Age through the present. Entertaining but probably a little superficial.
24. Endurance – Shackleford’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. This is an account of the harrowing voyage led by Sir Ernest Shackleford in 1914 with the intent to cross Antarctica. The ship became encased in ice before it could even get to the continent. They had to survive in the ship, then on the ice pack when it was crushed, and eventually, Shackleton would have to make an open sea voyage in a lifeboat across hundreds of miles in the Southern Ocean. Another great book.
25. Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots. Fun story about a world where heroes and supervillains get support staff through temp agencies. Our heroine is really good with spreadsheets.
26. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. A boring but reasonably happy physics professor is thrown from his normal life by an alternate reality version of himself who had sacrificed family life to pursue scientific greatness by inventing a means of traversing the multiverse.
27. Rooster Bar by John Grisham. Frustrated lawyers steal money from bad guys and wind up on a beach somewhere. But I guess that’s most John Grisham stories. This wasn’t one of his better efforts.
28. Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. Near future, global warming has made living unpleasant. A Texas billionaire pulls together influential people from places where sea levels rising will cause immediate problems – the Netherlands, Venice, Singapore, Houston, etc. He creates a cannon to shoot sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere which will be a temporary reprieve from the warming until we can figure out more comprehensive methods. I pretty much love all Neal Stephenson books, so I can’t offer any kind of reliable guidance on how good or bad this one was. I enjoyed it.
29. Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston. An account of the archeological find in the jungles of Honduras. Lidar technology made it possible to detect lost cities in impenetrable parts of Honduras. These sites line up a bit with legends of a “Lost City of the Monkey God” and point to a previously unknown or at least little known civilization in Central America.
30. Tippecanoe County and the Flood of 1913 by Arnold Sweet and Pete Bill. An account of the impact of the flood of 1913 on Tippecanoe County. The flood in the spring of 1913 cut off Lafayette and West Lafayette with water rising to something like 32 feet. For several days after reading that, when driving in downtown Lafayette or across the river in West Lafayette, I couldn’t help but imagine the water that had been in those places. It destroyed the Brown Street bridge and the Main Street bridge. And the railroad bridge was significantly damaged.
31. The Institute by Stephen King. Kids with telekinetic powers are harvested and placed in the Institute to be weaponized against foreign leaders.