In 2019, I read 30 books.

In 2020, I read 31 books.

In 2021, I read 32 books.

I didn’t plan this of course. But, I must say, it is reassuring to know that I am reading more each year organically, even if the growth is marginal. Though, the economist in me must state a growth rate of about 3% is great just about anywhere.

Now, as far as planned reading goals went this year, I only had two.

The first was to read five Shakespeare plays. I’ve enjoyed every Shakespeare play I’ve read thus far in my life, and he is one of the author’s that I don’t want to die without have read his great works.

I read exactly zero Shakespeare plays this year. But, I did buy copies of like ten of his plays while thrifting, so I’m moving this goal forward to 2022.

My second reading goal this year was to make sure that half of all the books I read were written by women. I did accomplish this goal, as sixteen of the thirty-two books I read were written or co-written by women.

Overall, I feel the books I read in 2021 were more diverse in scope, topic, characters, and themes than in any year prior. Highlights included Rachel Slade’s recounting of the sinking of the El-Faro, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s melding of indigenous culture and botany in Braiding Sweetgrass, and the biography of a man who made a name for himself jumping off of Niagara Falls in the 1820s that is so much more than an biography.

So, without further ado, here is every book I read in 2021, with whatever I felt writing about each book also included.

The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World (Started 2020) by Andrea Wulf: The more I learn to observe nature like Humboldt, the more in awe I am of it’s complexity and genius.

The Family Camping Handbook by Jerome and Alyson Knap: This was a fun Christmas gift from my grandfather. It was really cool looking back on how camping was in the 1970’s and comparing it to now.

Star Wars The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule: I would still read more Star Wars books and comics but they’re so expensive!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed: This book was apart of what I consider to be my greatest ever thrift store haul. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed only paying fifty cents for it.

Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders by Angelou Ezeilo with Nick Chiles: An essential read for anyone in the natural resources or environmental field. Best summed up by the publisher’s description, which follows:

“Part eye-opening critique of the cultural divide in environmentalism, part biography of a leading social entrepreneur, and part practical toolkit for engaging diverse youth, Engage, Connect, Protect covers:

  • Why communities of color are largely unrecognized in the environmental movement.
  • Bridging the cultural divide and activating a new generation of environmental stewards.
  • A curriculum for engaging diverse youth and young adults through culturally appropriate methods and activities.
  • A resource guide for connecting mainstream America to organizations working with diverse youth within environmental projects, training, and employment.
  • Why communities of color are largely unrecognized in the environmental movement.Bridging the cultural divide and activating a new generation of environmental stewards.
  • A curriculum for engaging diverse youth and young adults through culturally appropriate methods and activities.
  • A resource guide for connecting mainstream America to organizations working with diverse youth within environmental projects, training, and employment.”

The Pyramid by Henning Mankell: This was a book I allowed myself to read just for the sake of enjoyment. I need to read for enjoyment more in 2022

Old Man on a Bicycle by Don Petterson: My biggest regret of 2021 was not riding my bike enough.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakuer: Somewhat bland when compared to Krakuer’s other works, as usually he’s an author I can’t put down.

West With the Night (Started 2020) by Beryl Markham: Despite the high adventure of Beryl Markham’s life as a female pilot in Africa during the early 20th century, I just couldn’t get into this memoir. Perhaps this is due to her Hemingway-esque way of writing.

The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More by Barry Schwartz: Having just moved, I am being reminded yet again of the need to “simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro by Rachel Slade: This was the biggest surprise and the most riveting read of my 2021. I had never heard about the sinking of the El Faro during Hurricane Joaquin in 2015 before picking up this book in the bargain section of Books-A-Million.

This also may be the first history book that I can place myself in its world as a conscious adult, as I remember precisely what I was doing when Hurricane Joaquin hit. I was a freshman in college, and while the effects of Hurrican Joaquin were minor in Virginia, I remember stocking up on food and water in my dorm to prepare for it. I was also very concerned that Hurricane Joaquin would interfere with my plans to see Sicario, as it opened that weekend. So that Friday, I skipped my afternoon Intro to Macroeconomics class and took my first Uber to the movie theater to see Sicario before the storm hit.

Transformations: Stories of Service by Various: Pretty good for a student-run college publication.

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek: I will probably reread this in 2022, as it had a lot of useful approaches to leading in it.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: I need to read more Zora Neale Hurston in the future.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy: I’m a sucker for “writers whose lives falls apart memoirs.”

The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution by Barbara W. Tuchman: An interesting look on the Revolutionary War, as it explores the global maritime and trading conflicts that were also apart of the war for independence.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris: Typical Sedaris.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: A truly beautiful book.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom: Reread in its entirity on a Tuesday. My biggest takeaway is that I want to have a living funeral.

Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863 – 1877 (Started 2020) by Eric Foner: This book is the place to start when it comes to learning about Reconstruction.

Alone: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude by Stephanie Rosenbloom: While I agree with Rosembloom’s sentiment of finding joy in traveling alone, this memoir was a bit of mess. It simply didn’t know if it wanted to be an exploration of traveling alone and society’s view on doing things by yourself or a traditional travel log.

North: Finding My Way While Running the Applachian Trail by Scott Jurek with Jenny Jurek: After rereading “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson last year I told myself that in 2021, I would finally hike on the Appalachian Trail. I got not one but two AT camping trips in this years, and I can’t wait for more in 2022.

Repairing Jefferson’s America: A Guide to Civility and Enlightened Citizenship by Clay S. Jenkinson: “Those whose believe the world is growing better are they that are trying to make it grow better.” – Dr. Frank Crane

Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean: While I’m glad my home state of Virginia abolished the death penalty in 2021, there is much work still to be done in reforming the criminal justice system.

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips: The most disturbing but necessary book I read this year. Details several lynching in 1912, which lead to the forced explusion of the African Amercian population out of Forsyth County, Georgia for the rest of the 20th century.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: It’s always interesting reading a classic which you’ve heard about all your life. Particularly how one scene or part of the book is what everyone remembers while other parts seem to be forgotten.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh: Full of hardscrabble love.

Lost in Mongolia: Rafting the World’s Last Unchallenged River by Colin Angus: Pure, old-fashioned adventure.

Enchantment of the World: Poland by Carol Greene: I should probably stop buying coffee table books as I do not have a coffee table currently.

Sam Patch: The Famous Jumper by Paul E. Johnson: Johnson masterfully paints a picture of the early days of industrialization and Andrew Jackson’s America into this biography of a man who jumped of off waterfalls in the 1820s.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith: While I liked “White Teeth” and will probably be reading “NW” in 2022, I did not like this Zadie Smith novel, mainly because it falls into some tired cliches.

Wandering Home by Bill McKibben: Here’s to more wandering in 2022.

Edit: 1/11/2022. Upon closer examination of my Read in 2021 pile, I realized I forgot to include two books in this list.

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller: I’m a sucker for Waller, even though his stories aren’t too original.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie: I really need to watch Smoke Signals.

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