2021 in books

This was a strange year in books for me, I guess. I was off to the races for the first six months of the year, and then the habit petered out amidst certain obligations and work/school stuff. Note the ecocriticism-dense final third: grad school, natch.

And yet, reading, as ever, brought me great solace this year. I like having a book-in-progress near me. I like setting it on the kitchen counter or a side table in the living room and feeling its presence, even when we’re watching Silicon Valley or something. Then, indeed, I like to read it, to sit in the basement or on the back patio and drift. This year, I read some fantastic novels (The Secret History, Mao II, Masters of Atlantis (finishing Charles Portis’s five-book run and loving every second of it), Democracy, Cuyahoga, Angle of Repose) and plenty of great nonfiction (Killers of the Flower Moon, Finite and Infinite Games, The Yellow House, The Inner Game of Golf). My favorite, I think, was Democracy. Joan Didion is simply a master. Her ability to capture the great sweep of history in a more focused narrative is amazing to read on the page. The Year of Magical Thinking, while coming from a totally different angle, achieves a similar trajectory.

Also, now that I’m thinking about it: I really let this place go in the past few months! No doubt, it was a busy fall. I’m running headlong into a few more deadlines between now and March, but my plan is certainly to liven up the ol’ blog in 2022. There are all sorts of cretinous cultural trends to spend time on: Just look outside your window! Everyone’s going fucking nuts! To a degree, I might add, that feels sometimes pointless to address. Maybe that’s the problem (or the inverse of a problem): I’ve turned inward in 2021, repelled at times by this century. I’ve tried to cultivate a home. Writing, meanwhile, is a fucking grind. But I chose this, I suppose!

Books are a great antidote to the madness, however. Books work every time.

I’ve got a few books as-yet-unfinished, positioned strategically around the house. Some more Karl Ove (I’m hooked, I’ll admit), some Michael Pollan (hey, join me!) and Out of Office from Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel, thinking that somehow our society is missing the real opportunity at hand: to rethink our labor norms and place leisure at the center of our lives once again.

Books work every time.

Here’s the list.

The Practice by Seth Goden

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse

Rust by Eliese Goldbach

You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier

Intonations by Zadie Smith

Hiroshima by John Hersey

Cuyahoga by Pete Beatty

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

This Isn’t Happening by Steven Hyden

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Yellow House by Sarah Broom

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

To Show and to Tell by Phillip Lopate

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

Fulfillment by Alex MacGillis

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Mao II by Don DeLillo

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

Losing Earth by Nathaniel Rich

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

American Rule by Jared Yates Sexton

Salvador by Joan Didion

Democracy by Joan Didion

Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book by Harvey Penick

The Inner Game of Golf by Timothy Gallwey

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Legs by William Kennedy

Lights Out by Ted Koppel

Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game by William Kennedy

The Great Acceleration by J.R. McNeill and Peter Engelke

Being Ecological by Timothy Morton

Break Up the Anthropocene by Steve Mentz

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

Beyond Civilization by Daniel Quinn

As We Have Always Done by Leanne Simpson

Wind from an Enemy Sky by D’Arcy McNickle

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

Thinking Animals by Kari Weil

Flush by Virginia Woolf

Against Football by Steve Almond

Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard

My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

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