Top Six in Fiction (in no particular order):
1. Middlemarch by George Eliot
I’d put off reading this one for years, and not just because of its length. It seemed like a book you’d only tackle if it was assigned. Not so. The character growth is splendid -- worth every page – and by the end I couldn’t put it down.
2. Aunt Sass: Christmas Stories by P. L. Travers
This short read introduces some of the real-life people that may have inspired characters in the Mary Poppins books, but I loved it most for Travers’ empathetic descriptions of people in all their complexity.
3. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Months after reading this one, it still often comes to mind. A thought experiment that doesn’t leave story behind.
4. A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny
My favorite of the Louise Penny books I read this year. It’s not the first, though, so if you haven’t read any Penny don’t start here – start with Still Life. Also, unlike most of my other picks, there’s some language in these books, so be forewarned!
5. Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie
Family drama, questions of justice, the bewildered onlooker - an Agatha Christie classic.
6. Mortal Sight by Sandra Fernandez Rhoads
The first of two books in the Colliding Line series. Cera Marlowe must follow clues found in Milton’s Paradise Lost to discover her true identity and keep a monstrous evil from destroying those she loves.
Top Ten in Nonfiction (again, in no particular order)
1. Range by David Epstein
Takes on the common idea that success depends on specialization. Made me look at the world and my own experiences in a new way.
2. The Year of Our Lord 1943 by Alan Jacobs
As World War II drew to a close, several prominent thinkers (C.S. Lewis, Simone Weil, and W.H. Auden among others) worried what the post-war world would bring in terms of education and worldview. Alan Jacobs shows how the ideas percolating then are still relevant today. Not an easy read, but thought-provoking and insightful.
3. A Dish of Orts by George MacDonald
Another read that’s not for the faint-hearted! This collection of essays took me some time to wade through because MacDonald is so brilliant and because I wanted to reflect on his ideas as I went rather than just rushing through. His essay on imagination may be the single best thing I read all year.
4. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
Written in Gladwell’s signature engaging style. What really sold me on this book, though, was the emotional rigor of the stories he related . . . and the way he wove those stories/themes together at the end. Truly inspirational - a description I don’t use lightly.
5. Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren
Walks through each line of an evening prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. Points to the source of hope in times of darkness without glossing over suffering.
6. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
A book on the craft of writing, though everyone should read it because it is delightful, like having an extended chat with a kind, understanding, and genius friend.
7. Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori
A series of short essays that delve into the historical and cultural significance of trees from around the world - and spark wonder.
8. Snowflakes in Photographs by W. A. Bentley
Speaking of sparking wonder, this collection of Robert Bentley’s photographs does just that. (This book also pairs well with the picture book Snowflake Bentley).
9. The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson
A heist story like you’ve never read. Takes the reader on a journey into off-the-beaten path obsessions, natural history, fashion, and fly-fishing.
10. Fast Girls by Elise Hooper
The story of the women's running team in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Technically this is historical fiction, but I've put it in this category because many of the events and characters are based in fact. Pairs well with The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.
3 thoughts on “My Favorite Reads of 2021”
gosh, I don’t read even one of them. you are such an avid reader
What are some books that you’ve enjoyed lately, marvin?
In 2021, I read history fictions like The War that saved my life and its sequel The war I finally won, Kite Runner, a thousand splend suns, And the moutanins echoed. I am going to read another one Educated by Tara Westover. They are all, more or less, based on the authors’ own life experiences or related to world history.