50 Books in 2021!

A few years ago, I sort of stopped reading. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was news. Or podcasts, or nighttime doomscrolling, but for whatever reason, I was struggling to finish a few books a year. And I missed what I learned from books.

So, I set some goals — last year, 30 books (I finally read Middlemarch which was a highlight) and this year, 50 titles! I mean, I’ve heard about those people who read 50 books a year, but this year, I am one!

I will credit audio books. I just find it easy to multitask and read — driving, cleaning my house, or walking. It makes a difference. I also credit the Libby app from the Indianapolis Public Library. It makes it easy to search and check out audio books and let’s you play them from anywhere.

But, everyone asks, what were your favorites? Well, I haven’t done a traditional star ranking system because, honestly, it wasn’t all high brow stuff. (Yes, I read the entire Bridgerton series, shut up!) But I narrowed down a few highlights:

Best Fiction: The Winemaker’s Wife, Kristin Harmel — historical fiction about WWII, a winemaker in Champagne, and choices in 1940 that reverberate to the present day.

Fiction Honorable Mentions: The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman — a charming debut novel is taking the mystery genre in a new direction with a group of elderly crime-solvers; The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix — a surprisingly intense book with insightful and smart writing about women friends and their complicated relationships with each other.

Best Non-Fiction: Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, Rachel Maddow — a comprehensive look at the oil and gas industry and Russia explaining how their economy and national philosophy works; Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking, Bill Buford — a great ride with Buford and his family as they move to Lyon to pursue his dream of working in a French restaurant kitchen. Along the way, he explores the origins of French cooking and the true passions the French have for food.

Honorable Mentions: I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker — From two top reporters at the Washington Post, this book is the best of the batch of books detailing Trump’s pandemic response, campaign, and ensuing failed election; Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damien Paletta — These health reporters from the Washington Post give us a comprehensive look at the beginning of the pandemic, the choices various administration officials made, and dedicated public health officials who dealt with the response; Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter, Then, Now and Forever, John McWhorter — everyone’s favorite modern linguist gives us a comprehensive history of some of our favorite (and not so favorite) dirty words making historical language both fun and relevant.

Best Classic: The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington — Finally read this one thanks to Indiana Humanities Bookmark Indy program! Truly a classic coming of age journey showing the stark change of society in the industrial age.

Honorable Mentions: Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos — who doesn’t love a chance to examine every line and explore it with like minded scholars; Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys — this classic explores the Creole experience as a prequel to Jane Eyre. I loved it so much, I wrote about it.

General Notes: I read and explored a lot of the fiction of Cory Doctorow (for a project) and truly enjoyed the survey of his work. Great thought provoking science fiction; also loved Karen White’s Tradd Street series about Charleston. Knocked quite a few books off my classics list this year and have a great 2022 queued up. (Can you say “Clarissa”? I think you can!)

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