2021: My Year of Reading
Happy New Year's Eve! Sci-fi, nature, literature, biographies, tough truths and looking inward for strength. These are the stories that were in my head over the past year.
Hi! Happy New Year’s Eve!
This is the first time I’ve taken the time to list and document my reading list for a year. I read a lot of books that my kids also read. I continued to participate in my San Francisco book club via zoom with a bunch of women that I adore. I talked with an old friend about starting a book club closer to home and we wound up subscribing to a curated book delivery service from our local bookstore. I also branched out into reading books by more female authors of color. Feel free to suggest more books for 2022!
The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley
My neighbor is into birding and dropped this book off at my doorstep at the beginning of 2021. It’s wonderfully illustrated and detailed, a great all-around birding guide to birders of any level.
Tales from the City by Armistead Maupin
I saw some clips of the PBS version of Tales from the City as a kid, but after living in San Francisco I wanted to read the original. So much Creme de Menthe and picking up dates at the laundromat! A fun read with a twisted twist ending.
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
This was a book from my SF book club; it’s a wonderfully written story, colorful in word choice and there’s lots of food descriptions.
Whistleblower by Susan Rigetti (née Fowler)
I am still blown away by Susan’s motivation and self-reliance. This biography details her resolve to take herself from rural homeschooling all the way to the ivy league and into the tech world while encountering many, many obstacles.
Essay on Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was inspired to read this after I read Susan Rigetti’s Whistleblower. I have to admit I didn’t read ALLLLLL of it…. but good reflection piece.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Not light reading; something to pick up and read for 5-10 minutes at a time to appreciate the Stoic mindset and how to be inwardly strong and have your own strong convictions.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
So powerful, so sad, so strong. I couldn’t read this book in one sitting, as I had to digest many of the plot points individually over the course of a month. Deeply affecting.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda is gifted with the ability to make the world in her head feel very, very real while you’re reading. This book opened up modern Nigeria to me.
The Hidden Geometry of Flowers by Keith Critchlow
A stunning mathematical and cultural journey of the amazing symmetry of flowers. I’ve read it three times in the past 3 years, I find it stunningly informative and interesting.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
One of the books I read with my 9-year-old son; an amazing adventure and my son was fascinated with the idea of being alone in the wilderness.
The Scentual Garden by Kenneth Druse
A garden isn’t just for sight and sound, but smell as well! Stunning photos and descriptions about the flowers that make a garden feel alive.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
A look into the life of a Columbian immigrant and her family, alternately warm and sad but always real and beautifully written.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
This is a detailed autobiography about a young woman’s relationship with her mother from her teen years through her mid-twenties. It is a book about life and death; as someone that has lost a parent I was touched by the compassion Michelle showed her mother at the end and the honest and nuanced details about their relationship.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
A deep look into the relationship between people and nature written by Robin, botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. For me, the most touching aspects of the book were the moments where Robin described the words her tribe uses to describe the landscape and environment; it is a living place full of wonders, not a bunch of things.
Scythe by Neil Shusterman
My daughter picked this out at the bookstore and immediately started ignoring all of us until she finished reading it. She briefly described the premise when she was done, and I thought it sounded horrifying. I read the book over the course of a long night. It’s a dark read, morally complex, and not always easy to digest. However, it opens up pre-teens and teens to conversations about a lot of things regarding death. I would highly suggest most parents read it at the same time to discuss it, especially if your child is on the younger side.
Artemis by Andy Weir
Rebel girl lives on Mars and does illegal stuff to get by. My daughter pulled it from the high school library section of her school but aside from some swearing it’s a fine outer-space adventure with some interesting facts sprinkled in along the way.
10,000 Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Mysterious and fascinating fantasy novel that meanders and twists around in the most interesting ways.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
My son and I started reading this together because we’ve seen the movie many, many times. I wanted to see how the book was different; just one of many possible notes: Buttercup is way more flaky and self-centered in the book than in the movie.
El Deafo by Cece Bell
A graphic novel my son read and I picked up to read. It’s a very good look at dealing with a disability, well drawn, cute and touching.
The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende
Epic tale of a family in Chile that bounces between various powerful characters but ultimately defines for me the genre of “magical realism”.
Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
A school pick for my 12-year-old daughter, this is a mystery set along a centuries-old coastal town in Massachusetts. A leper colony and a hidden treasure are part of a girl’s mission to find out more about her family’s past. The cover art is gorgeous and uplifting, but the book is more sad and realistic than that image lets on.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Another page-turner for the young adult set; my daughter read it and began to voice some very deep statements that I originally had pegged to talk about with her at a later time in her teen years. Like Shusterman’s other book Scythe on this list, I again read this over the course of a day. Another morally complex and dark read that at least resolves at the end with the feeling of: things were not done well and should be done better going forward.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
A beautiful, layered, well-researched and complex book that I enjoyed reading. I loved this book enough to say it’s my favorite of 2021.
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
Very entertaining stories about relationships, running a bookstore, dealing with “things” and experiences of learning to write over a lifetime
My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme
Explore the behind the scenes - Julia Child’s account of living in Paris and Southern France and cooking her way to fame. Getting her book published was a lot harder than I thought!
The Greatest Short Stories of Leo Tolstoy by Leo Tolstoy
I still have a world literature book from college that I love, but it isn’t in print anymore. I picked it up and re-read the short story “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” and is the specific reason I have this book of short stories listed.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
One of the other books that I read because my daughter read it first. We selected it based on a short review at the local bookshop; I liked it a lot, but my daughter wasn’t a fan. I liked the realistic dialogue and battling between the sisters, my daughter didn’t like the abrupt/twist ending. Definitely a good conversation.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Dystopian future set in Los Angeles. No water, little hope, “God is change”. Not a light read but beautifully written.
by Alia Volz
A woman recounts her mother’s creative ways of selling pot brownies in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Who would suspect the woman pushing a baby in the stroller was selling all over town? The book delved deep into the culture and politics of those decades in San Francisco, and is well written, at times entertaining and gut-wrenching once the AIDS epidemic hit.
by Hunter Shobe and David Banis
If you’re into maps and nice data viz graphics, you’ll enjoy this comparison of everything from water supplies to geology to culture between these three cities on the West Coast.
Pawcasso by Remi Lai
What a great graphic novel! A dog is allowed to shop and the main controversy is who the dog belongs to and whether or not dogs should be allowed to be unleashed and unattended in a town. Love!
Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
My daughter read this series when she was in 4th grade, and she decided to get the whole series for her brother’s birthday (she paid for half!) A wonderful, fun, thrilling and engrossing story that is an absolute pleasure to read. I loved reading this series along with the kids and talking to them about all the characters.