Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

Tag: 2021

Patrick Barron and The Camera’s Eye

Michigan Stadium at night

Maize Out at the Big House Photo: Patrick Barron

I am hoping to write soon about the Michigan Football season this year and my complicated relationship to the program but wanted to give you some emotional background, and excellent photographs, by pointing to this fantastic post from Patrick Barron.  It is a great mix of life and sports in this weird world of the pandemic.

Five Favorite Fiction I Read in 2021


Looking back on the fiction I read in 2021, nothing jumps out at me as exceptional.  Let me rephrase that, nothing struck me as “Wow, you have to read this book!” Instead, there were lots of “Hmm, that was interesting.”  These were books that held my interest but didn’t wow me; books that make you want to drop what you are doing so you can block out a chunk of time to read. Or maybe the pandemic has just taken the luster off of everything…

As an aside, as I mentioned in my 2021 Reading By the Numbers post, with Goodreads, I have a tendency to overrate books; giving 4 stars when looking back I don’t feel like I “really” enjoyed it.  There is such a fine line between enjoying a book and really liking it. Which is why I have been wishing for half stars for many years.

Nevertheless, I did read some entertaining and interesting novels in 2021.  Here are five that stood out:

The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures  by Jennifer Hofmann

A sort of dark and gritty espionage novel but with a supernatural element haunting it and a Kafkaesque style. At first it reads like a typical missing person/spy story but then the combination of the paranoia that comes from living in an authoritarian state where the government is spying on everyone, and everyone is spying on each other, plus a mysterious illness (and perhaps a mental breakdown) leads to things begining to spin.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Grabbed this on Kindle for $2 so that is a plus. I enjoyed reading this and found it fascinating but it also felt like there was deeper meanings that I was missing or some key to the whole thing that I just couldn’t quite grasp. I am not really very good at unpacking symbolism and layers in fiction.

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Quick but enjoyable read. I really enjoyed the mix of Ghana, futuristic and fantastical elements. Has a sense of the mythological even as it is science fiction.

How to Betray Your Country by James Wolff

More espionage and more dark humor. A sort of noir espionage thriller that is dark and yet with a kind of wit and humor. A psychological exploration of grief and depression through the eyes of a spy. I really like Beside the Syrian Sea so not surprised I liked this as well.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

This was one I struggled with rating. I enjoyed it and found it creative and in some ways insightful. But it was also rather depressing and hard to read at times. My natural prudishness didn’t help given the plethora of F-bombs, etc.  But it kept me reading and a unique and imaginative debut.

I am hoping to offer more detailed posts on each of these books as I go through the books I read in 2021 but given my track record I wanted to highlight them as among my favorites.

My 2021 Reading By The Numbers

Some stats about my reading in 2021 (that may be of interest only to me):

  • Total Books Read: 84
  • Hardcover: 42
  • Kindle: 32
  • Paperback: 6
  • Audio: 3
  • Nonfiction: 45
  • Fiction: 38
  • Longest book: 751 pages
  • Shortest book: 12 pages

In later posts I will outline my favorite book in fiction and non, but what jumped out at me is that I haven’t really landed on a a genre or style that I really enjoy. Despite reading close to 40 works of fiction, I didn’t read a lot of books that I would heartily recommend, books that I loved. Feels like I am in a bit of a funk; not finding a lot of “You have to read this!” Type books.

The other thing that I find interesting with using Goodreads, is that I have a tendency to overrate books; giving 4 stars when looking back I don’t feel like I “really” enjoyed it.  There is such a fine line between enjoying a book and really liking it.  At least it seems that way to me. My campaign to bring half stars to Goodreads continues.

Bibliotheca: Achievement Unlocked

 

If my greatest reading accomplishment in 2020 was reading 100 books in a year, my reading accomplishment for 2021 was finally reading my entire Bibliotheca set in a little over nine months.

For those unfamiliar with Bibliotheca:

Bibliotheca is an elegant, meticulously crafted edition of the Bible designed to invite the reader to a pure, literary experience of its vast and varied contents.

The text is treated in classic typographic style, free of all added conventions such as chapter and verse numbers, section headers, cross-references, and marginalia.

I received the set way back in December of 2016 and despite picking it up on occasion never really read it in any serious way.

I don’t really have any deep spiritual/theological nuggets of wisdom to offer as my approach was really about getting lost in reading scripture as literature. So instead, allow me to offer my thoughts as tracked via Goodreads:

Volume I: The Five Books of Moses & The Former Prophets

I would give the design and materials of Bibliotheca 5 stars but I am not going to lie, by the end of this volume I was slogging through the kings and their continued insistence on doing evil in the sight of God. Seems almost sacrilegious to give the Bible 3 stars but hard to say “I really liked it” given the content… ;-)

A few things struck me while reading in this format: it really reads like the ancient text that it is, there is a lot of violence, and there is very little obvious doctrine or theology. My perspective leans heavily in this direction, but I was struck by the narrative drive of scripture. It is about the relationship of the people of Israel with their God. It is not abstract theology but often blunt and ugly history but with a God who is faithful.

100 books in 2020, Big Books in 2021

My big picture reading goal in 2020 was to finally crack the 100 books in a year mark which I have been approaching for a few years. I was able to accomplish that and so look for a different approach in The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty-One.

Side note: I always feel a little guilty about counting graphic novels, novellas and other forms of very short books in my books I have read count. But this is in tension with my desire to read 100 books and to track every book I have read. And to be fair, I listened to a number of audio courses which are equal to quite large books given the number of hours involved. So I will call it even.

I will admit to sometimes being put off by very large books for two reasons. 1) hard to get to 100 if you are reading large tomes 2) I struggle to stay engaged and get a lot out of large books because I don’t always have the large blocks of time required to read such books well. I started thinking about this even as I was on track to read 100 books in 2020.

But as a way to challenge myself and read some books that I have had on my TBR pile for some time and have had recommended to me multiple times, I decided to declare 2021 the year of big books.

I also want to attempt to focus on some key interest areas in my reading: classics, books on conservatism, books on writing and books on faith and/or theology.

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