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Retrospective 2021: Books

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:

  1. Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide, Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell

  2. Deacon King Kong, James McBride

  3. So What Does a Conductor Do?, Nicholas Braithwaite

  4. The Museum of Desire, Jonathan Kellerman

  5. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg

  6. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, Robert Kolker

  7. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

  8. Foregone, Russell Banks

  9. House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus III

  10. Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro

  11. Harpsichord in America: A Twentieth Century Revival, Larry Palmer

  12. The Overstory, Richard Powers

  13. The Midnight Library, Matt Haig

  14. Rose Room, Jim Spas

  15. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss

  16. Perestroika in Paris, Jane Smiley

  17. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie R. King

  18. The Yogi Book, Yogi Berra

  19. A Letter of Mary, Laurie R. King

  20. A Monstrous Regiment, Laurie R. King

  21. Alive Still: Nell Blaine American Painter, Cathy Curtis

  22. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

  23. Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen, Jeff Burger, Editor

  24. Biography, A Very Short Introduction, Hermione Lee

  25. The Moor, Laurie R. King

  26. Justice Hall, Laurie R. King

  27. O Jerusalem, Laurie R. King

  28. The Game, Laurie R. King

  29. Locked Rooms, Laurie R King

  30. Great River of the West: Essays on the Columbia River, Will L. Lang and Robert C Carriker, Editors

  31. The Language of Bees, Laurie R. King

  32. The God of the Hive, Laurie R. King

  33. The Coldest Case, Martin Walker

  34. Pirate King, Laurie R. King

  35. Mrs. Caliban, Rachel Ingalls

  36. The Singer’s Gun, Emily St. John Mandel

  37. Bewilderment, Richard Powers

  38. The Promised Land, Barack Obama

  39. Foundation, Issac Asimov

  40. Foundation and Empire, Issac Asimov

  41. Second Foundation, Issac Asimov

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