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Books I Read In 2021 That I Loved


I read. A lot. I just love devouring all sorts of books - fiction, non-fiction - just about anything I can get my hands on. There are going to be a bunch of "Best of 2021" book lists out there, but these are some books I read in 2021 that I loved, most of them were not written in 2021.


Most of the books I read in a year, well, they suck. Most books suck. These are the cream of the crop I would highly recommend giving a shot. These are in no particular order.


If you are so inclined to pick some of these up for yourself, all of the provided links are affiliate links, just to be on the up and up.


FICTION


Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir


I am a big fan of Andy Weir's work. The way he takes real science and integrates them into possible futures is brilliant. The science dork and the storytelling nerd in me really digs his stuff. The sun is dying and the fate of the world is in the hands of an unlikely hero. There is a partnership in this book which would be ham-fisted in a weaker writer's hands, but Weir pulls it off magnificently. If you have not read Andy Weir before, I would highly recommend reading The Martian as well.




Exhalation by Ted Chiang


Another book in what might be my favorite genre - More Science Than Fiction. Exhalation is a book of short stories, each of them with an inspiration from a different problem or perspective in the realm of science. Chiang and Weir are in that pantheon of authors who can take complex concepts which might seem inaccessible and give them a humanity and emotional lens to make them palatable. Those of you who do not know Ted Chiang, he also wrote the story that the movie Arrival is based on. That is a great book as well, Stories of Your Life and Others.




Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


Yes, everyone you know and Reese Witherspoon (who you might now, I don't know your contacts list) have recommended this book. Why? Because it's a great book, dummy. Fantastic storytelling, wonderful characters, magnificent description of setting. I feel bad for all of those people out there who might skip over this one who think it is a "chick lit" book - I hate that term, btw - and even if it is, so what? It's a great read about a woman growing up in some pretty terrible circumstances and finding the beauty in the world around you - all with a compelling mystery at its core. Fantastic debut novel and can't wait to read more fiction from her.



Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead


Good golly, the hits just keep on coming. I will read anything and everything that Colson Whitehead puts out into the world. This is a blast of a book - hustles, heists, and Harlem - it is a portrait of a place and time. In a world where we have become accustomed to the anti-hero, Ray Carney truly embodies the author's description of being "slightly bent when it came to being crooked." Also highly recommend The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys is on my TBR list for 2022.



Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back

From a Certain Point of View

Full disclosure - I am a Star Wars fan. I am not a HUUUUUGE Star Wars fan. And if you are a HUUUUUGE Star Wars fan, then you definitely know the difference between the two. I have read several Star Wars novels and they never held the same interest for me as the movies do. These are different. Both are collections of short stories, they tell parts of each movie from a different perspective. Either from a character who appears briefly, a character we never see, or a familiar character with some more insight into their inner mind during the events of each film. My personal favorite is the explanation of how that creature got into the Death Star trash compactor. I love a familiar story told from a different perspective and these two volumes have dozens of those. I can't wait for the Return of the Jedi version in a few years.


NON-FICTION



Pappyland by Wright Thompson


I like bourbon. I had always gravitated toward whiskey as my drink of choice, but after an adventure to Louisville for my 40th birthday, I found that the nuances of bourbon flavor profiles were the ones that drew me in the most. Those in the bourbon world have their opinions about Pappy Van Winkle, from "I must have it!" to "Overrated!", but no matter your thoughts on the definitive unicorn of bourbon, this tale about Pappy is not just about that bourbon, but the history of Kentucky Bourbon with a parallel personal story from the author of how family and heritage are important. I had never heard of Wright Thompson and was surprised to find he was a sports writer for ESPN magazine. Great book for bourbon and non-bourbon lovers alike.



The Cost of These Dreams by Wright Thompson


After loving Pappyland, I wanted to read more by Wright Thompson and found his only other book. This is more of a compendium of Thompson's sports writing from various publications, but like Chuck Klosterman, Thompson is great at taking you into the minutiae of moments and digging into how something makes us feel. A must-read for sports fans, but also just great writing for non-sports fans alike.



Let the People Pick the President by Jesse Wegman


This is not a book for Democrats or Republicans, this is a book for all parties. Our election system is broken, no matter what side of the aisle you live on. This is a great examination of the history of the electoral college for those of you looking to understand why we are in the place we are and offers some possible solutions to gerrymandering, voter apathy, and people feeling like their voices aren't heard in Washington. The title is misleading in that there is no "one way" to solve the issue, but it offers some insight and perspective into what can be done and what next steps can be taken. Highly highly highly recommend.



Mystery: A Seduction, A Strategy, A Solution by Jonah Lehrer


Why do we love mystery? Not just reading mysteries, but also crime dramas and little mysteries of day to day life. Lehrer delves into several different aspects of mystery and why we are drawn to it. This is a great exploration for both writers and non-writers about looking at how mystery enhances our lives and why we love taking risks for a glimpse of the unknown.




Blockchain for Everyone by Sir John Hargrave


With all of the buzz in the ether lately about cryptocurrency, nfts, and the metaverse, I decided to find out what the hell any of that stuff means. This book is a great entryway into the world of blockchain - how it works, what it is, and how it can be used. After finishing it, I can say that I have a bit more knowledge of the world of Web 3.0, but am still not ready to join the Bored Ape Yacht Club - if you don't know what that is, this book is for you. Easy and quick read.



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