Books I Read in 2021

I’ve never before kept a list of books I read. I read a lot, but I don’t generally want to keep score. I know a lot of people do this on sites like Goodreads, but I’ve never felt it was useful. However, at the beginning of the year, seeing some articles about what people read last year, I decided that, out of curiosity, I would keep a list.

As I said, I read a lot. I’m not a big television or movie watcher; many people have a reflex to watch TV every evening, but in my household, that’s not the case. My partner is also an avid reader, though we read different types of books. We follow a few TV series, watch the occasional movie, but I let my Netflix subscription lapse often because there’s nothing that interests us.

So I guess it’s not surprising that I read more than 130 books last year. I read fairly quickly, and some of them – mostly mysteries and thrillers – were books I read in a single evening, or two at most. Some of the books were fairly short, but others were quite long. And I left a few books in the list that I abandoned after about one quarter of their length, just as notes to remind me that I didn’t finish them; these are indicated by asterisks after titles. Books with asterisks before the titles are books that I started in 2020, and only finished in 2021. I often read multiple books concurrently, so there are a few in the 2021 list that I haven’t finished, but, if I keep a list in 2022, I’ll indicate that. I only started the last book on the list on December 31, so I haven’t gotten for, but I’ll include it anyway.

You’ll notice 16 books in French; I lived in France for nearly three decades, so read in French regularly, but mostly classical literature. Many of these French books are long, and I read a bit less quickly in French than in English. One of my goals for 2022 is to read more in French, notable more Balzac, Dumas, and other 19th century authors that I particularly like.

About half my reads were non-fiction, though I haven’t included cookbooks or some books I’ve read for my work. And this also doesn’t count a few dozen photobooks that “read” or “re-read,” since I don’t really count them as reading. Though perhaps if I keep a list next year, I will include them…

If I’d had more time, I’d include Amazon affiliate links for anyone who wants to contribute to my ongoing book habit. Since I’m not including individual links, if you go to your local Amazon with these links (if you shop from one of these three countries), I’ll get a small percentage: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon FR.

So, here’s the list:

  1. *Balzac, Graham Robb
  2. The Pedant in the Kitchen, Julian Barnes
  3. Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse chinoise, Dai Sijie
  4. The Silence, Don Delillo (audio)
  5. Trio, William Boyd
  6. Foundation*, Isaac Asimov
  7. Post Office, Charles Bukowski
  8. How to Live, Sarah Bakewell
  9. The Zen Teachings of Homeless Kodo
  10. The Mountains and Waters Sutra, Shohaku Okumura
  11. The Single Tone: A Personal Journey Into Shakuhachi Music, Christopher Yohmei Blasdel
  12. The Director, David Ignatius,
  13. The Quantum Spy, David Ignatius
  14. Two Tribes, Chris Beckett
  15. The Paladin, David Ignatius
  16. Searching for Cioran, Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston
  17. Maximes Et Reflexions Diverses, François de La Rochefoucauld
  18. Siro, David Ignatius
  19. The Big Short*, Michael Lewis
  20. The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley
  21. The Fast 800, Michael Mosley
  22. The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson
  23. Not Dark Yet, Peter Robinson
  24. *Evil Geniuses, Kurt Andersen
  25. Le Père Goriot, Balzac
  26. The Case for Keto, Gary Taubes
  27. *The Quiet Man, John Foxx
  28. Bank of Fear*, David Ignatius
  29. China: A History, John Keay
  30. Zen’s Chinese Heritage, Andy Ferguson
  31. *The Book of Equanimity, Gerry Sesshin Wick
  32. Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
  33. Later, Stephen King
  34. The Science of Cooking, Stuart Farrimond
  35. The Old Ways*, Robert Macfarlane
  36. *Divagations, Cioran
  37. Ecodharma*, David Loy
  38. Come Join our Disease*, Sam Byers
  39. Propos 1, Alain
  40. Zen and the Art of Consciousness, Susan Blackmore
  41. Introduction to Zen Koans, James Ishmael Ford
  42. *Life, Keith Richards
  43. The Memory Police*, Ogawa Yoko
  44. Faith in Mind, Sheng Yen
  45. Cultivating the Empty Field, Taigen Dan Leighton
  46. Firing Offense, David Ignatius
  47. A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh
  48. The Company, Robert Littell
  49. Zola tome 1, Henri Mitterand
  50. Nothing to Be Frightened Of, Julian Barnes
  51. Why Dylan Matters*, Richard F. Thomas
  52. Realizing Genjōkoan, Shohaku Okumura
  53. Bloodmoney, David Ignatius
  54. Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
  55. Trust Your Eyes*, Linwood Barclay
  56. Les Soixante-quinze feuillets, Marcel Proust
  57. Remembrance of Things Past, Harold Pinter
  58. Spring Cannot Be Cancelled, David Hockney & Martin Gayford
  59. The Last Trial, Scott Turow
  60. Introduction à la recherche du temps perdu, Bernard de Fallois
  61. Why We Eat (Too Much), Andrew Jenkinson
  62. Proust, prix Goncourt, Thierry Laget
  63. The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020, David Hockney
  64. Sept conférences sur Marcel Proust, Bernard de Fallois
  65. Here We Are*, Graham Swift
  66. Marcel Proust, Croquis d’une épopée, Jean-Yves Tadié
  67. Ensō, Audrey Yoshiko Seo
  68. The Record of Empty Hall, Dosho Port
  69. Beckett and Zen, Paul Foster
  70. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and Other Travel Sketches, Bashō
  71. Amazon Unbound, Brad Stone
  72. Value(s), Mark Carney
  73. The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
  74. The Grass Flute Zen Master, Arthur Braverman
  75. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, Paul Reps
  76. Four Men Shaking, Lawrence Shainberg
  77. Foregone, Russel Banks
  78. 12 Birds to Save Your Life, Charlie Corbett
  79. Dreyfus, Ruth Harris
  80. Gate of Liliacs, Clive James
  81. Proust, Samuel Beckett
  82. Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust
  83. One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryōkan
  84. The Complete Haiku, Bashō
  85. Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf – Zen Poems of Ryōkan
  86. The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse, Red Pine
  87. The Flight, Julie Clark
  88. Sky Above, Great Wind, The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
  89. The Heart Sutra, Kazuaki Tanahashi
  90. Many Different Kinds of Love, Michael Rosen
  91. Mr. Wilder and Me, Jonathan Coe
  92. Daisy Jones and the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid
  93. Eihei Dōgen, Mystical Realist, Hee-Jin Kim
  94. Billy Summers, Stephen King
  95. The Comfort Book, Matt Haig
  96. Le roman d’aventures, Jean-Yves Tadié
  97. Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant, Jules Verne
  98. Eyes Wide Open! 100 Years of Leica Photography, Hans-Michael Koetzle
  99. Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot
  100. Scorpion, Christian Cantrell
  101. Spoon Fed, Tim Spector
  102. Great Fool: Zen Master Ryokan, Ryuichi Abe and Peter Haskel
  103. Chuang Tzu, The Inner Chapters, David Hinton
  104. Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead
  105. Crossroads, Jonathan Franzen
  106. The Arrest, Jonathan Lethem
  107. A Life Worth Living, Robert Zaretsky
  108. The Whistler, John Grisham
  109. The Bach Cello Suites: A Companion, Stephen Isserlis
  110. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
  111. What the Heart Beats, Kay Larson
  112. No One Is Talking About This*, Patricia Lockwood
  113. The Zen Master’s Dance, Jundo Cohen
  114. The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles
  115. The Right to Sex, Amia Srinivasan
  116. Each Moment is the Universe, Dainin Katagiri
  117. Bewilderment, Richard Powers
  118. NeuroTribes, Steve Silberman
  119. The House, Tom Watson
  120. CageTalk, Peter Dickinson
  121. Paris, Edward Rutherfurd
  122. The Every, Dave Eggars
  123. Proust et la société, Jean-Yves Tadié
  124. Termination Shock*, Neal Stephenson
  125. Citizens, Simon Schama
  126. Master Cheng’s New Method of Tai Chi Self-cultivation, Cheng Man-Ching
  127. Baudelaire, Jean-Baptiste Baronian
  128. Les trois mousquetaires, Alexandre Dumas
  129. Imperium, Robert Harris
  130. The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance, Anthony Gottlieb
  131. George Sand, Martine Reid
  132. Never, Ken Follet
  133. The Book of Form and Emptiness, Ruth Ozeki

6 thoughts on “Books I Read in 2021

  1. Huh… I think the only things on your list that I’ve read is Azimov’s “Foundation” (A LONG time ago) and Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth.” I’m not sure I finished “Pillars”, I thought it was awfully derivative of Edward Rutherford’s “Sarum” (which I thought also had more interesting characters.)

    I did read the 10 book set of mysteries by Maj Sjwall and Per Wahl set in Sweden in the ’60s and ’70s. These are (justly) famous for their characters and their capture of a time and place, along with social commentary. On the history side, I’m about 1/3 through the 6 volumes of Peter Ackroyd’s history of England. And I read the full “The Expanse” series (wasn’t as fond of the last volume as I was of the rest of the series.)

    Thanks for posting this, I’m always interested to see what other people who read a lot actually consume 🙂

    • I really like Pillars of the Earth; I’ve read it a few times. It’s not at all like Sarum, which takes place over centuries, but a much more compact story.

      I read the Sjowall/Wahloo mysteries back in the 90s, in French translations, when I lived in France. They were very enjoyable. I wonder if they feel “old” today. I have a couple of Ackroyd’s books that I bought as Kindle deals, and will get to them one day; he’s very prolific!

  2. That’s genuinely impressive, even if some of those were quite short. Not much overlap with things I’ve read – that shortlist would include Bukowski’s Post Office, Asimov’s Foundation (though I’m taking the scenic route and reading the books that predate Foundation), possibly Case for Keto by Taubes (I think I read it a few years ago) and Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant (which I’ve read as a kid 10+ years ago, not in French though). It is actually my dream to be able to read fluently books in French and I hope to be getting there in the next year or two.
    How do you track the books you’ve read? Do you keep a note or do you use a more elaborate solution? I have found Goodreads to be a rather useful app for this purpose. It has a huge database of books and the reviews are quite useful too. Also the reading challenge can be quite useful if one wants to stay on track and have an excuse to read more. I’m also one of those animals which actually does most of the reading on an iPad, iPhone or MacBook (whichever is convenient).
    I used to watch more TV shows and movies but I guess I’m past that. I find them way too abundant and I’ve become really picky in that regard.

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