52+ Books and Works in a Year: 2021

So here comes my yearly wrap-up on books and works I’ve read over the course of the last year. It is a little late because of circumstances that made me incapacitated for a few months. However, I am back! I went all over the world and all over the genres with my book reviews. As I have stated before, I have very strong opinions on books and I refuse to apologize for not liking shitty books *cough* The Alchemist *cough*.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987) literature; 324 pages- Okay, so Toni is a great author and the story is well told too. Her writing requires a lot of focus, which reminds me a lot of slogging through Great Expectations in the 7th grade. The story makes my stomach turn. Toni is a visual and visceral reaction-inducing writer.

Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine by…well, them (1990) poetry; 360 pages- I’ll be honest, I only read this because I went on a date once and the man scoffed that I hadn’t read Baudelaire. I’ll show that pretentious asshole by reading an entire book! Ugh, English majors are the worst. Anyway, French poetry is like French cuisine: beautiful and a bit rich for every day consumption. Nothing stuck out to me as groundbreaking.

Can Love Last: The Fate of Romance Over Time by Stephen A. Mitchell (2003) non-fiction, 224 pages- This was suggested to me by my therapist to address, duh, the fate of romance over time. I struggled with the idea of boredom and stability versus passion and intensity prior to reading this book. Mitchell discusses vulnerability and risk and trust as catalysts to passion, and I wrote an email to my boyfriend about how I would continue to be vulnerable and trust him based on Mitchell’s observations. My boyfriend dumped me two days later so…ya know, books can’t fix everything.

The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier (1946) gothic literature, 298 pages- So Ms. Daphne wrote Rebecca, which I loved (Netflix botched the movie, of course) and I wanted to give her a whirl again. Not an overly interesting story but the love affair is…heartbreaking. Of course there is a woman who loves a total asshole and waits on him for years. No one is surprised.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman (2006) non-fiction, 384 pages- It seems like basic stuff but everyone should read when they are 15.

On Love by Charles Bukowski (2006) poetry 224 pages- This is one of Bukowski’s less abrasive books about love. This book was given to me by an ex, who knew I would enjoy Bukowski’s no-nonsense approach to life. I would suggest this book to people who don’t want to be *too* appalled by Bukowski. He weaves together eating ass with swiss cheese and that is probably the most pearl-clutching worthy moment in the entire book.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (2014) epic fantasy, 1328 pages- There is a reason Brandon Sanderson was asked to complete Wheel of Time for Robert Jordan. Mr. Sanderson is a builder of worlds and does not disappoint in this second novel in the Stormlight Archives series. His ideas are unique, and the length of the novels he writes is necessary (and oh so good). If you like the characters from Way of Kings, hold onto your hats, and don’t fall in love with them too much.

The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum (1900) children’s fantasy, 105 pages- I read this one with my kiddo and it was a great revisit to a classic. The coolest part of this book is the illustrations by W. W. Denslow. They are nostalgic. The meme below is not by him.

Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program by the United States Senate (2014) non-fiction, 699 pages- Okay, I have read three total Senate Committee Reports (9/11, Benghazi, this torture report) and this one did not disappoint on salacious content! So the report goes into how the CIA used torture that didn’t work simply because they are sadists. It is INSANE this was allowed to happen and for so long. Unchecked groups do shady shit, y’all. This report is not for the weak of stomach either. It wasn’t as redacted as the other reports I’ve read so that helped with clarity of topic.

Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin (2008) science fiction 302 pages- This book made me more interested in physics than I have been in years. So this book was huge in China, and for a good reason. TBP is the first in a trilogy and it was a solid first book for science fiction. Props for orbital mechanics and physics breakdowns. Props for also allowing me to observe the three-body problem in my personal life too. Cixin puts the science back in science fiction.

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen, (2020) non-fiction, 321 pages: Yeah, we are all burned out. Not worth a read. Glad this was free.

The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin (2015) science fiction 400 pages- The second book in the Three-Body Problem trilogy, this was somehow BETTER than the first book. The ideas expanded well. I would like a more thorough breakdown of the Wallfacers’ mental states though because that seems fascinating. Also, I will admit that the Chinese translation can get a bit…intense. Every word in every sentence matters and if you zone out for even a second, you’ll be lost. I’ve not known many English books that this occurs in because we seem to like frivolous verbiage. Buckle in!

The End of White World Supremacy by Malcolm X (1971) speeches, 184 pages- I cringed the entire time. His disdain for white people was intense. His beliefs in general are curious and I had to research a lot of what he preached in these essays because he…was strange.

Up from Slavery by Booker T Washington (1901) autobiography, 212 pages- Fascinating man with a fascinating life. His experiences from slavery to one of the most well-spoken Black men in America were based on hard work on his part and he made no excuses for people who followed in his footsteps. He paved the way for any Black man who wanted more to get more through their own dedication. I really enjoyed this book and I learned a lot.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (2020) psychological fiction, 399 pages- This is probably the best book I’ve read on Stockholm Syndrome from the victim’s POV. Trigger warning, it has to do with pedophilia of a teenager. Very dark, very disturbing, and a quick read.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (2018) biographical fiction, 252 pages- Based on the true story of the (you guessed it) tattooist of Auschwitz, this story was a quick read and well-worth your time. It is a good reminder that sometimes we make hard decisions to save ourselves…

Emma by Jane Austen (1815) literature, 1036 pages- Emma is the “will they, won’t they” of the 19th century. I prefer Pride and Prejudice but the social dynamics in this drawn out relationship book reaffirm the silliness of love. It is worth a read as a classic but it isn’t insanely good.

Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817) literature, 272 pages- A novel of second chances. It is another classic and begs us to remember that second chances were considered romantic back before the Internet.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (2005), non-fiction, 325 pages- Gladwell is always an interesting read. This book goes into how quickly we make decisions and what goes into the instantaneous decisions. He brings into the spotlight police brutality cases and Amanda Knox and weaves an informative story telling experience. Additionally, I didn’t realize that he is Black until this book…and he takes into account his own experience. All around good book.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (1996) fantasy, 370 pages- I still stand by the opinion that American Gods is Gaiman’s best novel. Neverwhere touches on the topic of the “underbelly of society” and gives a different look on the homeless. So I appreciate his perspective (because anything that causes me to go “Oh” is appreciated). Easy read but also easy to put down.

So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo (2018) non-fiction, 214 pages- Gah, I wish I had written my review of this book sooner because I can’t remember much. She talks about how to discuss race. I probably need to reread it. BUT I do remember her personal experience with racism and those stories invite me to understand microaggressions, which I didn’t realize were a thing until 2020!

Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in Their Struggle for Self by Elan Golomb, Ph.D (1992), psychology, 274 pages- This was suggested to me by a friend after I had the realization that both of my parents are probably narcissists. It was an okay book, but boy did it give me a wake up call about my own coping mechanisms because surprise, narcissists raise narcissists. The cost of self-awareness is shame…and it is a hefty cost. Keep in mind the writing is dated as far as psychology books are concerned.

Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War by Fred Kaplan (2016) non-fiction, 352 pages- I read this book as part of my professional development for work. I have worked in the cyber field for almost 14 years now so this book wasn’t mind-blowing but it did help fill out some of the earlier organizational structures of the world cyber wars. It was kinda dry unless you are a nerd.

Beyond Order by Jordan Peterson (2021) non-fiction, 251 pages- Alright so Peterson is hailed as a god among neckbeards because they believe he gives them an excuse for why they act the way they act. I read his book 12 Rules for Life in 2018, I believe, and thought it had interesting points from a purely scientific standpoint. However, he suffered from drug addiction and wrote THIS book after recovery. He seems to have expanded his views, and I love a good character arc. This book, and Peterson’s ability to grow, is commendable. His interviews always piss people off because he says some flawed things, but the book’s contents weren’t awful. I wish his fans and haters read.

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents:: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, Or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson (2015), non-fiction, 264 pages- This was recommended on every forum for estranged children. You know what is stupid? I can’t even express my opinions about this book because my mom will read this and invalidate my feelings and experience further and I am so fucking done with that carousel in every part of my life. Anyway, read this book if you don’t understand why your parents haven’t been able to show up and support you in the ways you need.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (1938) science fiction, 264 pages- I figured it was time to read something by Lewis that wasn’t the Chronicles of Narnia. This book felt very Jules Verne-ish in the story-telling. Kinda cool for older science fiction but nothing to write home about…

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover (2021) non-fiction, 284 pages- Nedra is one of my favorite Instagram therapists and her book was my first real exposure into properly setting boundaries in our relationships. She goes over what they are, how to use them to continue relationships, what to say (with good examples) and where they can be applied (aka everywhere!) She also wrote a workbook that I started in December that goes along with this book very well. I also bought three versions of this book and sent them to my friends because the problems they have in their lives might be easily addressed by having better boundaries (as were mine).

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) gothic fiction/horror, 418 pages- Oh look another Gothic novel that is a story within a story. Why did everyone back then decide to write books via letters? Anyway, nothing new to see here. This story has been rehashed for centuries.

The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance by George Mumford (2015) self-help, 238 pages- Why do I keep reading self-help books? I am not an athlete. Was this #wastemytime2021? It was also free.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (1923) fables, 53 pages- Easy to read, beautiful and quick story, parts of it really resonated.

Edgedancer: From the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson (2016) fantasy, 187 pages- This was a short story to help fill in some of the gaps before Sanderson’s third novel Oathbringer. It was short, but I don’t think Oathbringer would be ruined it you didn’t read it after Words of Radiance.

The Giver by Lois Lowery (1993) dystopian/graphic novel- I found this super cool version of the Giver as a graphic novel! The Giver is a personal favorite (because how cool would it be to be told our career when we are young and have it work out…for the most part) and on the surface it seems like everything will work by taking out pain and war…but that means we miss the highs of love and desire and laughter. Monotony isn’t cool. Side note, the movie sucked.

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe (1958) fiction, 439 pages- This novel follows the lives of young women who work in offices in NYC. It was in Mad Men so reading it brought me one step closer to reading every book mentioned in that series. It made waves for the topics it covered, like unintended pregnancies. Very easy to read.

2001: Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (1968), science fiction, 192 pages- What a weirdo ending.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (2016) memoir, 198 pages- Carrie is so authentic and the world was robbed when she died the same year this was published. In this book, she reveals how she and Harrison Ford had an affair and how he treated her, which was shameful. She also goes into her marriage with Paul Simon a bit and just life in general. This book made me way more interested in her as a person.

Inward by Yung Pueblo (2016) poetry, 225 pages- Yung is all over Instagram as one of the new age four line poets that fit perfectly on a little white square. Yes, some of them are good but I wish we would expand past quick feel-good “fixes”. This book expands more than 180 characters but not by much.

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez (2019) non-fiction, 259 pages- 100000 stars! Seriously such a fascinating book that taught me so much about how women are not represented in data which impacts our lives and the products we use daily. From medicine to seatbelts to city planning, women are left out of the data. Gah, everyone should read this book.

Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them By Karl Pillemer Ph.D. (2020) psychology, 288 pages- If you want to feel guilty for your estrangement from your family, read this book. Honestly, Dr. Pillemar focuses a lot on moving past transgressions because fAmIlY…which is an awful suggestion for abusive cases. He takes examples of family estrangement and discusses how to move on…and a lot of it is accepting certain people will never take accountability for their actions. No thanks.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (2021) fiction, 399 pages- If you hated The Grapes of Wrath but are interested in the Dust Bowl, this is your book. I have yet to read a Kristin Hannah book that I didn’t appreciate and sure enough, she eloquently describes the struggles and successes of the most obscure families. Good book.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini (2002) fantasy, 544 pages- I reread this book with my kiddo. It is easy reading (written by a 13 year old!) but decent fantasy for young adults. It is a saga so strap in!

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (2008), fiction, 479 pages- Another Hannah book…this one turned into a TV show and honestly the show suuuucked. The book was good. I cried a lot.

Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh (1990) spirituality, 160 pages- Thich’s writing is spiritual and easy to digest. Unfortunately he just passed so we will not be receiving any more of his wisdom.

What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey (2021) non-fiction, 279 pages- This book would make a good intro to someone needing to understand their own trauma a bit. There are good tidbits of info and diagrams and pictures to help but if you have read books like The Body Keeps the Score (highly recommend) then this book will seem a little reductive. I would suggest reading this book before any deep diving into trauma work. The conversations with Oprah and this doctor were still very interesting.

Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim, George Spafford, and Kevin Behr (2013) IT novel, 607 pages- This story gave me anxiety the whole time I read it. I was told to read this book like five years ago by my boss in IT. I finally got around to reading it this year and it felt like I was reading about my daily life at work, where everything was on fire and everything sucked constantly. The book would’ve been helpful earlier in my career as I moved our team to Agile last year. However, this was still very much worth the read. The writing follows the lead of an IT team who has to unfuck everything. #canrelate. The main character is also a former Marine so also #canrelate.

The Most Beautiful Woman in Town by Charles Bukowski (1983) fiction- This is a collection of short stories and Bukowski never fails to shock his readers. Unfortunately, he crossed a line of mine in a story near the end and I refused to finish it. Writing about fantasizing about a baby in a diaper is fucking disgusting and I will personally find it hard to continue reading his stuff because what the actual fuck.

The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell (2021) non-fiction, 256 pages- Malcolm Gladwell stepped a little bit outside of his usual human psychology writing and steps into the history of the Bomber Mafia. Honestly I learned quite a bit about the bombardiers (which I knew just a skosh based on the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (a must read!)). This is a bit drier than his other books but still good to know.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (2021) science fiction, 456 pages- Weir is a nerd and I love it. This novel had way less potatoes than The Martian, which I appreciate, but the amount of math is still very impressive. You can tell he researches the shit out of his books, so props to him. The story was good too!

Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018) fiction, 246 pages- I read this book because I saw the series and loved how painful and awkward it was. My god, the book was just the same. It was such a good read! Highly advise for angsty reading and regretting or missing your first love.

Death’s End by Liu Cixin (2016) science fiction, 772 pages- The final novel in the Three Body Problem Trilogy. Honestly I was so done with this trilogy by the middle of the second book that I only finished because I was already so invested. It is such a good idea but also so god damn depressing. The title should have given me a clue but honestly I wasn’t in a good mental place to process more existentialism.

In the Shadow of Freedom: A Heroic Journey to Liberation, Manhood, and America by by Tchicaya Missamou and Travis Sentell (2010) memoir, 404 pages- Okay, super cool story about how this came into my field of view. Matrix actually works with Tchicaya supporting AFRICOM operations in Germany. So I was given this book to read about how a child soldier in the Congo became a United States Marine. Like holy shit, if you think your life is tough, please read this book. I hope to meet him one day to get my book signed.

Testaments by Margaret Atwood (2019) dystopian, 270 pages- Another book from Gilead (remember Handmaid’s Tale?), this book goes into the lives and experiences of the aunts, including Aunt Lydia. We all like character development, right? Easy read and wasn’t a cop out ending like the Handmaid’s Tale.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011) fiction, 416 pages- I didn’t realize this was a gay novel until I was balls deep. heh. Anyway, what a great view into Achilles’ life from the eyes of Patroclus, who was new for me in the world of heroes. Great writing and great exploration into the sexual and romantic life of a great hero.

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism (2013) memoir, 117 pages- My autistic ex and I watched this movie so I ordered the book to get a better insight. It was written by a non-verbal autistic child to give insight to his world. Very simple writing. Heartbreaking realizations about autism.

How People Change by Allen Wheelis (1973) psychology- My therapist suggested this as a way for me to understand change within myself and others. Wheelis is such a homophobe though so you have to really ignore the blatant hate for gayness to get the message. The writing reflects the times, I guess. Anyway, the message of change was enlightening.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1942) science fiction, 255 pages- I was tired of not having read one of the cornerstones of science fiction. It was okay…I think I am not a fan because the character development is non-existent. Every chapter moves onto the next person in the universe. It seems like lazy writing, which I can get on board with, but this reads like a bunch of interconnected Twilight Zone episodes. Maybe the other books in the series will be better.

There you have it! Lots of stuff all over the place. My recommendations? My Dark Vanessa, Three-Body Problem, Invisible Women, and Set Boundaries and Find Peace.

Stop recommending bad books to me. &heart

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