2021 Books in Review
Last year I read 172 books in an attempt to read through the 300-odd physical books I owned. I got sick of going through my own books and took a large break from them this year and started poking through my kindle collection and a few selections I had in mind that were available at my local library.
I won’t say much about any particular book, since there are 120 to go over this year, but I will try to make some brief comments on the books I felt were good enough to be recommended.
- Rabbit Redux by John Updike — I read the first book in the Rabbit series last year and every single entry is worth the read. Updike’s characters and their predicaments are enlightening for anyone who wants to understand the Silent generation better.
2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho — perhaps this novel would have meant more to me had I read it in my young 20s or late teens. It felt too self-important or self-wise for me to take it as seriously as others who recommend it do.
3. The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis
4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson — his best and most readable work, but I have to recommend the movie over the book since the movie adheres so strongly to the book and it’s well done.
5. Rabbit is Rich by John Updike
6. Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman — I recommend anything by Bart Ehrman. His analysis is nothing to be trifled with.
7. Way to Will-Power by Henry Hazlitt
8. Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
9. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis — very difficult to read but much more entertaining (and disturbing!) than The Informers.
10. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — a disappointment. Lost interest quickly and failed to regain it.
11. Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray — Once again you may as well watch the movie by Stanley Kubrick.
12. Hoaxed by Mike Cernovich
13. The Rational Male by Rollo Tommasi
14. The Game by Neil Strauss
15. Bob Bly’s Little Book of Business Wisdom
16. Couples by John Updike
17. The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant — A terrible yawn.
18. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens — Another disappointment from Dickens, felt nowhere near his level when I’ve read Bleak House, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations.
19. Literary Converts by Joseph Pearce — excellent scholarly book but it lacked a clear definitive reason why the authors converted (to Catholicism, which is a completely different animal than any other religious conversion).
20. Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker — Interesting insights into some of the limitations of discovering the causes of disease, in this case, schizophrenia.
21. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman — Very well done book, fascinating and intriguing to read what an actual genius did to occupy his mind over the years.
22. In Defense of Sanity by G.K. Chesterton
23. The Well and the Shallows by G.K. Chesterton
24. The Virus by Stanley Johnson
25. The Book of This and That by Robert Lynd
26. The Pleasure of Ignorance by Robert Lynd
27. Kingdom of Fear by Hunter S. Thompson
28. Candy by Terry Southern
29. Generation of Swine by Hunter S. Thompson
30. Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs — The only Tarzan book worth reading.
31. Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson — Not as good as I was expecting, it can probably retire in peace.
32. The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs — Very disappointed in the Barsoom series. A Princess of Mars is good, the rest is trash.
33. IT by Stephen King — Long and stupid. Excessive racism sandwiched in the middle.
34. A History of Orgies by Burgo Partridge — Got this title through Hunter, his summation of the book was better than the book itself.
35. The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente — Delightful.
36. The Stand by Stephen King — Really liked the beginning. Could have done without the brief story of the child falling down a well and dying.
37. The Empty Land by Louis L’Amour
38. Tarzan Returns by Edgar Rice Burroughs
39. The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
40. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo — Again I say the movie is better. This read more like a bizarre history than a novel, was very disappointed since I liked Les Miserables so much.
41. The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
42. Tarzan and the Jewels of Opal by Edgar Rice Burroughs
43. The Haunted Mesa by Louis L’Amour — My least favorite L’Amour book. Failed to get interesting.
44. Jungle Tales of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
45. Tarzan the Untamed by Edgar Rice Burroughs
46. Tarzan the Terrible by Edgar Rice Burroughs
47. Single. On Purpose. By John Kim — Nothing like the title. Excellent title and a subject worth exploring in our day and age, but this book doesn’t hit the mark.
48. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs — Very disturbing.
49. Carrie by Stephen King
50. The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
51. Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
52. The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
53. 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke — The series is not worth reading.
54. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
55. Memoirs of a Space Traveler by Stanislaw Lem — One of the best books I read in the year. Grade A mind at work, I will always be on the lookout for Stanislaw books.
56. Nemesis by Philip Roth
57. God Knows by Joseph Heller — This could have gotten very boring and very old quick but Joseph Heller proves his literary talent by keeping you going.
58. Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man by Joseph Heller — Very good book.
59. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace — Reads like an alien tried to write a novel about people.
60. Good as Gold by Joseph Heller — Not as good as his others, but still worth it.
61. Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope
62. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass — A lot less meat to this than I expected.
63. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline — Like Ender’s Game, this short book took me a long time to read. There was something tedious about it I couldn’t quite get. Sick of the 80s by the time I was done.
64. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
65. The World According to Garp by John Irving — Another perverted intellectual.
66. Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington — A couple of very interesting points, but you have to read it to understand.
67. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan — Unreadable.
68. Fall by Neal Stephenson — This book made me decide to write off Neal’s works forever. Lucky to have already read his best work.
69. Salambo by Gustave Flaubert — Superb and underrated.
70. The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
71. Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
72. A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain
73. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain — I can’t see a modern audience reading this today, far too much casual usage of racist words.
74. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
75. Tom Sawyer Abroad by Mark Twain
76. Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven by Mark Twain
77. Tom Sawyer, Detective by Mark Twain — The whole Tom Sawyer series was trash after his excellent first novel. Not even sure what he was trying to do, but I was surprised I disliked so much of Mark Twain.
78. The Great Pain Deception by Steven Ozanich — The most revolutionary book I’ve ever read.
79. Healing Back Pain by John Sarno
80. Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey
81. 2061: Odyssey Three by Arthur C. Clarke
82. 3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
83. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy — A lot less than what I was expecting given how much this book is referenced across literature. It was well written, but I don’t know what the lasting charm is.
84. All the Myriad Ways by Larry Niven — An excellent collection of short stories.
85. The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven
86. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
87. Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington by Ted Widmer — Boring and nothing was gained by reading it.
88. The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
89. The Wine of Youth by John Fante — I really struggle reading about kids’ experiences.
90. The Kentons by William Dean Howells
91. The Divided Mind by John Sarno
92. Germinal by Emile Zola — Exceptional quality and highly recommended. Will be reading his other works this year.
93. Apropos of Nothing by Woody Allen — Disappointing.
94. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling — Decided to finally read through the Harry Potter series. I didn’t care for it and I don’t think I would have cared for it as a kid either.
95. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
96. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
97. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
98. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
99. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
100. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky — Now my favorite book by Dostoevsky.
101. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
102. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene — Very good, better than anything Evelyn Waugh ever did.
103. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
104. Loser Takes All by Graham Greene
105. The Comedians by Graham Greene
106. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
107. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
108. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe — Very interesting food for thought. A modern classic.
109. Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack by Haruki Murakami
110. I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe — Wish I had read this when it came out. Extremely good. Chuckled at his description of “fuck patois” regarding college-aged boys. A very excellent paragraph in the book that made a point about liberal education being education for free men, meaning, it was not the practical hands-on stuff slaves were more than free to learn, but free men were to learn persuasion.
111. A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe — Also very good.
112. Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoevsky
113. The Gadfly by Ethel Voynich
114. Submission by Michel Houellebecq — One of the best speculative novels I’ve ever read. Truly intellectual.
115. Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe
116. The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq
117. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer — Much better than I expected. Very insightful into the human condition. Very honest.
118. Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis — One of the best novels I’ve read and a must-read for anyone entering the ministry.
119. Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley
120. The Hamlet by William Faulkner
And so there we have it. 120 books, mostly novels, in one year. Less than 10 were excellent, but sometimes you have to read 10 books to get to even one good one. When I think back on these books they don’t feel like as many as 120 should feel like. It can be frustrating how long some books take to get through and you feel like you are trying to catch up to some invisible standard set by a college professor.
If there is only one book out of these I would recommend it would have to be The Great Pain Deception, a book that I am still working on reviewing and writing about. I recorded many notes and the book changed my life, something that no other book did this year, no matter how entertaining at times.
In the end I cannot say, beyond the one book I recommend, that these books improved me in any way. They were mostly a pastime. Reading won’t get you much of anywhere, study will. But there has to be a reason behind the study, you cannot pick up a book at random, study it, and then hope to gain something. I believe that I keep falling back to this idea that reading is not important, what is important is thinking and having our own thoughts worked out, sometimes with the aid of reading. If a book does not make you stop and think, it is worthless. However, even when you stop to think it isn’t enough, because thoughts are fleeting and difficult to remember. This is why they need to be transferred down into writing if they are worth remembering.