More time seems to have past than it has since I read my first book of 2021—Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide. A non-fiction book, it contains all the information one would ever want to know about all kinds of squirrels, including ground squirrels, tree squirrels, and flying squirrels. I had no idea how many species of squirrel are on the planet, but I now have a greater appreciation of the furry gray and black critters that roam my property.
In 2021, I decided to tackle several non-fiction titles, which is one of the reasons why I read 41 books this past year instead of the 60 I read the previous year. Titles such as, Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, which is a true story about a family with twelve children, half of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia. And Harpsichord in America: A Twentieth Century Revival, which is a fascinating history about an instrument that I didn’t know much about. But it was very dry and academic, so it took me awhile.
I also got quite interested in biography, so you’ll see several biographies on my list, such as Alive Still: Nell Blaine American Painter, by Cathy Curtis. Cathy mentored me on a project with which I was involved. I read the book to see what kind of a writer Cathy is and I knew nothing about Nell Blaine. It turned out to be a great read, very fascinating. Cathy is a wonderful writer. Check out her website.
Laurie R. King lured me in with her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Fun stories, well researched, and by a local author. Laurie was born in Oakland, CA and graduated from UC Santa Cruz. I have to thank my dear friend Thea for getting me to read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which is what got me hooked on the Mary Russell series.
Two Richard Powers’ tomes kept me busy for awhile—The Overstory and Bewilderment. He is truly a gifted writer who weaves fascinating facts in with his fiction stories. Thanks to my niece Koren for suggesting Bewilderment, a truly amazing and deep story that I recommend highly.
In December I tackled Barack Obama’s 700-page political memoir, The Promised Land, but as an audio book with him reading. I typically use my eyes, not ears to read, but I had a medical procedure that required me to avoid light for two days, and especially looking at screens. That’s why I decided to listen, and I’m glad I did. Obama puts life into his stories. I was on the edge of my seat for a lot of the dramas he described, including the events leading up to the capture of Osama bin Laden. Every American would learn something about the complexities of domestic and international politics from reading his book.
I decided to end the year by knocking off Issac Asimov's classic Foundation Trilogy. This is my third time reading the books. I read them perhaps 20 years ago and they are still wonderful. They were written before the Internet was invented and the rise of digital media. As forward-looking as they are for their time, I was amused when a character heard the whir of printing presses and picked up a newspaper. Who would do that so far in the future?
Here are the books, in the order in which I read them:
Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide, Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell
Deacon King Kong, James McBride
So What Does a Conductor Do?, Nicholas Braithwaite
The Museum of Desire, Jonathan Kellerman
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, Robert Kolker
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
Foregone, Russell Banks
House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus III
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
Harpsichord in America: A Twentieth Century Revival, Larry Palmer
The Overstory, Richard Powers
The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
Rose Room, Jim Spas
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
Perestroika in Paris, Jane Smiley
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie R. King
The Yogi Book, Yogi Berra
A Letter of Mary, Laurie R. King
A Monstrous Regiment, Laurie R. King
Alive Still: Nell Blaine American Painter, Cathy Curtis
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen, Jeff Burger, Editor
Biography, A Very Short Introduction, Hermione Lee
The Moor, Laurie R. King
Justice Hall, Laurie R. King
O Jerusalem, Laurie R. King
The Game, Laurie R. King
Locked Rooms, Laurie R King
Great River of the West: Essays on the Columbia River, Will L. Lang and Robert C Carriker, Editors
The Language of Bees, Laurie R. King
The God of the Hive, Laurie R. King
The Coldest Case, Martin Walker
Pirate King, Laurie R. King
Mrs. Caliban, Rachel Ingalls
The Singer’s Gun, Emily St. John Mandel
Bewilderment, Richard Powers
The Promised Land, Barack Obama
Foundation, Issac Asimov
Foundation and Empire, Issac Asimov
Second Foundation, Issac Asimov