The Books I Read in 2021 (With Recommendations)

That phot of me is at least nine years old, ha.

In 2021, I read the most books I have in a calendar year since 2015, clocking in at 21 total. The story of my last seven or so years of reading, or basically charted alongside the advent of my time on Twitter, college life and (at the time) a girlfriend, my reading time has taken a drastic hit. Thanks to a re-read of the Harry Potter series in 2015, plus some comic books, I hit 25 books read in 2015, but after that, it’s a disgusting drop off to eight, (the next two years show zero, but I’m assuming I forgot to record them), seven, and last year I hit 12.

My reading challenge through Goodreads was to read 20 books, so I beat my “challenge.” I just have dry spells throughout the year where my brain is focused on watching a lot of movies, binging a TV show or just escapist television, like Everybody Loves Raymond.

That said, it shouldn’t be thought of like a competition, even internally, as much as I wish I read more books throughout the year. I read for fun and/or for enrichment. That’s all.

Overall in 2021, I read 7,687 pages across those 21 books. The longest book was definitely Neal Stephenson’s Fall, or Dodge in Hell at 883 pages and the shortest was Dan Crawley’s Straight Down the Road at 68 pages. The average book length was 366 pages, which is a nice-sized book, I’d say!

I also think the story of my reading in 2021 is my embrace of audiobooks. Prior to 2021, I’ve only dabbled here and there with audiobooks, obviously having a stronger preference to physically reading the books myself. But in 2021, I listened to eight audiobooks. In particular, I had a kick where I was enjoying presidential history. Audiobooks presented an opportunity primarily to learn and a way to break it up from always listening to podcasts.

The eight audiobooks I listened to were:

  • Accidental Presidents by Jared Cohen.
  • Washington’s Farewell by John Avlon.
  • The American Spirit by David McCullough.
  • 1776 by David McCullough.
  • Lincoln’s Battle with God by Stephen Mansfield.
  • Evil by Julia Shaw.
  • Countdown to Pearl Harbor by Steve Twomey.
  • American Fire by Monica Hesse.

I would recommend any of those audiobooks. All of those stories were fantastic and well-worth my attention. If I had to pick one to recommend you the most, I’d tell you to start with Countdown to Pearl Harbor. There’s a lot I learned through that one; it was compelling and compellingly read, too.

I shockingly only dabbled in one Stephen King book this year, Firestarter, but I liked it! And I did try out his son, Joe Hill, with the latter’s Heart-Shaped Box, which was the first book I read in 2021.

Building on that, a theme of my books in 2021 was reading new authors. Aside from Joe Hill, I also read for the first time:

  • Elizabeth Haynes and her two books, Into the Darkest Corner and Human Remains.
  • Neal Stephenson and Fall.
  • Kristin Hannah and her book, The Great Alone.
  • Victor Lodato and his book Edgar & Lucy.
  • Amber Garza and her book, Where I Left Her.

I also took a chance on a small press book, Dan Crawley’s Straight Down the Road, which I enjoyed immensely. I’d like to do more small press books in 2022.

I’m a bit across the spectrum when it comes to my book tastes, which is why I enjoyed Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s latest, The Hollow Ones, but also enjoyed Jon Meacham’s The Hope of Glory or Tina Cassidy’s Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait? I also detoured to an old school book, Ernest Gaines’ unforgettable A Lesson Before Dying.

The best of the nonfiction books, if I had to recommend one in particular to you, I would recommend the strongest, Cassidy’s Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait? The story Cassidy tells about women gaining the right to vote in America is full of information and unsung heroes I knew nothing about and it still feels like there are lessons from 100 years ago to impart upon us today.

As for fiction, I would recommend Edgar & Lucy the most. It was gorgeous prose wrapped around an unfurling story of grief and tragedy and it did so in unexpected ways. I’m going to seek out more of his work for sure.

Looking ahead to 2022, my reading challenge on Goodreads is to go up a modest five books total to 25. I hope I can easily exceed that challenge. I’ve started reading Alison Stine’s Trashlands. So, I’m off to a good start!

What books did you read in 2021? What were your favorites?

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