All 65 Books I Read in 2021

In 2020 I set a goal of reading 50 books but only managed to read 29. So for 2021 I set a more reasonable goal of 30 and somehow blew way past it. I guess it was a quieter year than usual, at least until I started taking web design and development projects. But also I just made more time for reading, and I read pretty fast.

Still, I don’t think I’ve read this much since I was in junior high when I would surreptitiously read books hidden in my lap instead of paying attention in class.

Highlights from this year include realizing that just because a book is advertised as a “gay/lesbian/queer book” like Gideon the Ninth (“lesbian necromancers … in space” according to the jacket), The House in the Cerulean Sea (“like being wrapped up in a big gay blanket”), and The Space Between Worlds (“queer SFF”), that doesn’t mean straight readers won’t enjoy it, too (duh). In fact I loved all of those books, which do feature gay characters, which I guess is still remarkable in 2021.

I also read more non-eurocentric fantasy, like Black Sun (based on pre-Columbian Americas), Who Fears Death (set in a post-apocalypse Sudan), Iron Widow (based on feudal China), and Uprooted (based on Russian folktales). And The Poppy War (based on feudal Japan), which I read last year.

Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radtch trilogy challenged me by almost completely removing any evidence of the characters’ genders. They may be male or female, cis or trans, gay or straight, but there’s no indication of which. And Leckie uses feminine pronouns as gender neutral, which is a bit disorienting until you get used to it. With few exceptions there are no clues as to characters’ gender or sexual orientation—and it works just fine. Before long you stop worrying about it because you’re caught up in the plot (which does include romance, just without reference to the gender of those involved). I loved the series.

Apart from science fiction and fantasy, I loved The Nickel Boys, which I was reluctant to start because it sounded like it would be an overwhelming emotional gut punch. It was an emotional gut punch, but somehow not overwhelming. I was also delighted when I happened to pick up A Short History of a Small Place, by T. R. Pearson, kind of like Catch 22 meets The Heart is a Lonely Hunter—which is to say beautiful, absurd, laugh-out-loud funny, and very Southern.

One major disappointment was Peter F. Hamilton’s The Reality Dysfunction. I couldn’t tell if the protagonist was a racist, sexist pedophile, or if that was the author’s voice coming through. After 100 pages or so I gave up trying to make a distinction and quit reading. And although I got caught up with Harry Dresden and Sandman Slim, I found I just don’t enjoy tough-guy-protagonist fantasy the way I used to. It’s kinda gross.

Here are all the books I finished in 2021. (Books with an asterisk are books I’ve read before.)

  1. The Human, by Neal Asher, on January 1st
  2. The Annotated US Constitution and Declaration of Independence, by Jack Rakove, on January 5th
  3. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead, on January 13th
  4. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, on January 24th
  5. A People’s History of the Supreme Court, by Peter Irons, on February 26th
  6. Ready Player Two, by Ernest Cline, on February 27th
  7. The Stone Sky, by N. K. Jemison, on March 15th
  8. AI for Lawyers, by Noah Waisberg & Alexander Hudek, on March 21st
  9. How Music Works, by David Byrne, on March 28th
  10. Breakfast at Tiffanys, by Truman Capote, on March 29th
  11. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt, on March 31st
  12. The Rise of Kyoshi, by F. C. Yee, on April 4th
  13. The Shadow of Kyoshi, by F. C. Yee, on April 4th
  14. Redwall, by Brian Jacques, on April 6th
  15. Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve, on April 8th
  16. Cibola Burn, by James S. A. Corey, on April 15th
  17. A Short History of a Small Place, by T. R. Pearson, on May 8th
  18. Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse, on May 11th
  19. Heat and Dust, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, on May 15th
  20. Persuasive Technology, by B. J. Fogg, on May 17th
  21. The River Between, by Ngugi, on May 22nd*
  22. Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir, on May 25th
  23. My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk, on June 14th
  24. The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune
  25. The Red, by Linda Negata, on June 21st
  26. Dawn, by Octavia Butler, on June 26th
  27. Adulthood Rites, by Octavia Butler, on June 27th
  28. Imago, by Octavia Butler, on June 30th
  29. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, on July 4th*
  30. Outlines of Scepticism, by Sextus Empiricus, on July 14th*
  31. Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse, on July 17th
  32. Race Matters, by Cornel West, on July 30th
  33. The Space Between Worlds, by Miranda Johnson, on July 31st
  34. Dune, by Frank Herbert, on August 6th*
  35. Kill City Blues, by Richard Kadrey, on August 15th
  36. The Getaway God, by Richard Kadrey, on August 16th
  37. Killing Pretty, by Richard Kadrey, on August 17th
  38. Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher, on August 19th
  39. Cold Days, by Jim Butcher, on August 21st
  40. Skin Game, by Jim Butcher, on August 22nd
  41. Peace Talks, by Jim Butcher, on August 23rd
  42. Battle Ground, by Jim Butcher, on August 25th
  43. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison, on August 27th
  44. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, on August 29th*
  45. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders, on August 31st
  46. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James, on September 21st
  47. People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, on September 26th
  48. Lone Survivors, by Chris Stringer, on September 27th
  49. Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir, on October 1st
  50. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson, on October 10th*
  51. Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson, on October 17th*
  52. Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson, on October 20th
  53. Rhythm of War, by Brandon Sanderson, on October 23rd
  54. The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu, on November 1st
  55. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, on November 8th
  56. Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor, on November 10th
  57. Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie, on November 11th
  58. Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie, on November 12th
  59. Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie, on November 12th
  60. Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao, on November 14th
  61. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik, on November 17th
  62. A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine, on November 20th
  63. Gridlinked, by Neal Asher, on December 13th*
  64. The Line of Polity, by Neal Asher, on December 16th*
  65. Brass Man, by Neal Asher, on December 19th*

Currently I am reading Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It’s very good, but it’s also very long and I don’t think I will finish it in time to to get to 66 books in 2022.

It turns out I just read a ton if I have the time so I don’t think there is any point setting a reading goal for next year. I may still keep a list, though. It’s kind of fun to look back over the books I read.