2021 Reading

My reading life changed quite a lot this year, round about March. Newborns will get in the way of your reading and no mistake. Given that I do not have as much time to read these days, I finally made a change I’ve been meaning to make for some time — now, if I’m not feeling a book, I abandon it. I’ve always been a completer, but life’s too short and I’m too busy to be compulsive about reading for no reason. If I’m not enjoying a book, I don’t have to choke it down like vegetables.

Also, once I had Edith, all my reading switched to ebooks, on my phone, so I could read them in the dark while she’s sleeping (which is where I do most of my reading now). I don’t know that this made much difference to the way I read or the type of things I read, but it’s a big enough change to seem significant. I think it’s harder to focus when reading on a device; it’s too easy to flip back over to email or Twitter or Slack. It’s not an immersive experience. So I maybe read less also for that reason.

I read at least part of 72 books this year. Of those, I abandoned 4, so I read 68 books in full.

The books I loved included:

  • White Noise by Don DeLillo
  • Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez, trans. Gregory Rabassa
  • Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
  • Calypso by David Sedaris
  • Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (yes, I’m aware she was canceled)
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet
  • Ace by Angela Chen
  • No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (my favorite of the year)
  • Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner
  • The Hunger by Alma Katsu
  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (second favorite of the year)
  • Luster by Raven Leilani
  • There’s No Such Thing As an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, trans. Polly Barton
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  • Plain Honest Men by Richard Beeman
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • Several of the Miss Marple novels by Agatha Christie, specifically:
    • Murder at the Vicarage
    • The Body In the Library
    • The Moving Finger
    • They Do It With Mirrors
    • A Pocketful of Rye
    • 4:50 From Paddington

The following books were fairly enjoyable or interesting, or else just ok:

  • Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
  • Mirror Lake by Thomas Christopher Greene
  • Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, trans. Andrew R. McAndrew
  • Spooner by Pete Dexter
  • Holy Skirts by René Steinke
  • Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  • Nice Try by Josh Gondelman
  • I’ll Be Gone In the Dark by Michelle McNamara
  • Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous
  • Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
  • So Sad Today by Melissa Broder
  • Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Lavery
  • Singled Out by Bella DePaulo
  • Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
  • Some Trick by Helen DeWitt
  • White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  • How Should a Person Be? by Shelia Heti
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, trans. Ann Goldstein
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith
  • Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Night’s Master by Tanith Lee
  • Sync by Steven Strogatz
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  • Louisa the Poisoner by Tanith Lee
  • The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie (not as enjoyable as most Marples)
  • Several of the Jeeves novels by P.G. Wodehouse, specifically:
    • Thank You, Jeeves
    • The Code of the Woosters
    • The Inimitable Jeeves

Then there were those I did not enjoy:

  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
  • Fury by Salman Rushdie
  • Queen Takes King by Gigi Levangie Grazer
  • Doubles by Nic Brown
  • G by John Berger
  • Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

And then the four I didn’t bother to finish:

  • Wrack & Ruin by Don Lee
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  • Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn
  • Cast a Bright Shadow by Tanith Lee

So overall, having a baby hasn’t completely put a damper on my reading, but it has obliterated my ability to think about, digest, and certainly to write about what I have read. For example, I would like to share some additional context for some of the books above — what I especially liked about a number of them, for example — but I’m fucking exhausted and I have to go to bed instead.

Maybe next year!

1 Comment

  1. Zandy says:

    I loved _Thousand Autumns_, _White Noise_ is fine, though I haven’t read it in … 15 or so years. I’ve read a bunch of Garcia Marquez, but not _Autumn of the Patriarch_. I couldn’t finish _My Brilliant Friend_. You did really well this year!

    Liked by 1 person

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