Recently, Goodreads told me that I’d read 31 books in the last year. So I decided to check that for double counting as if anyone had asked me I suppose I would have said, “I don’t know, 12-15?”. I read most books these days on my Kindle and sometimes I purchase multiple editions by one author, e.g. Steve Parker’s ‘The Complete Paterson & Clocks Box Set (1-5)’. Goodreads registers all five books when completed, but sometimes I purchase another single edition or two before finding the cheaper box set. My audit confirmed that I had completed the reading for 32 books. I reckon I have Kindle to thank for all that reading because pre-Kindle me used to buy heaps of paper books and start many of them, but rarely finish any in recent years.
What follows is my quick review of what I read in 2021. That Goodreads link above gives you a quick summary if you don’t want to TL;DR edition …
I’ll use two codes: eB for ebook and pB for paper book.
First, a confession of sorts: two books were not actual ‘reads’ Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways (pB, 4/5) and Bruce Weber’s Bear Pond (pB, 5/5). Both are beautiful books, but I would not classify them as reads. I recorded them as ‘read’ this year as I’ve looked through TAoLS many times over the last decade trying to find various quotes or inspiration and I just felt that I should record it as complete on Goodreads. Similarly, I’ve looked at all the beautiful photos in Bear Pond quite a lot. It is a First Edition, published in 1990 to benefit the AIDS Resource Centre in NYC. I literally lusted after this book for many years before purchasing a pre-loved edition online. It is one of my most cherished possessions.
The other 30 books were actual reads and all but one were read on my Kindle. I guess I should start with the the only other book that I rated 5/5: Holden Sheppard’s Invisible Boys (eB). I actually wrote a review for this book on Goodreads, so I won’t repeat all that here. I guess it was the one book I could really identify with and it made me feel something.
Only three of the remaining books were non-fiction. Of these, I think Mark Johnston’s An Australian Band of Brothers: Don Company, Second 43rd Battalion, 9th Division (eB) was my favourite. I would’ve given it 4.5/5 if possible. I loved Stephen E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers and the mini-series from about 20 years ago. Mark Johnston’s Australian history compares very well and is just as horrific. It is very well researched and even after working at the Australian War Memorial for many years, I was amazed at what these men and their families endured during and after the Second World War. Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: love and terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin (eB, 4/5) is a frightening story of the coming war in the years immediately before 1939 in Berlin itself. I’m obsessed with Berlin and have read a few historical and many spy novels as well as histories of this fantastic city, so I really enjoyed this book and at times you almost cannot believe what you are reading. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Secret Organisation that Changed the Course of the Second World War by Giles Milton (eB, 4/5) is another wonderful history, but I think it tries to put too many extraordinary stories into one volume and some deserved more details.
We are now down to 26 books, but for these there are only six authors. We should probably start with one of my favourite authors of all time, John le Carré. His second last book was Agent Running in the Field (eB, 4/5). I think I’ve read all the books he published before this one, but I’m yet to buy his last book Silverview. ARitF isn’t his best book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as he was a truly gifted story-teller. le Carré also points you to the genre(s?) of fiction stories that I enjoy most: espionage/mystery/thrillers.
Like le Carré, I’ve read multiple books by each of the remaining five authors. In 2021 I only read the one novel by Karin Slaughter: The Silent Wife (eB, 4/5), but this is #10 in the ‘Will Trent’ series and I’ve read all of the others. Similarly, this year I read #5 & #6 in Gregg Hurwitz‘s ‘Orphan X’ series: Into the Fire and Prodigal Son (both eB and 4/5). I do love getting to know characters like le Carré’s George Smiley, Slaughter’s Will Trent and Hurwitz’s Orphan X. I was also a huge fan of Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson back in the day. See also Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole and Camilla Läckberg’s Patrik Hedström, but now we are way off the 2021 track.
A new author for me in 2021 was Steve Parker of ‘Paterson & Clocks‘ fame. I read #1-5 in the box set and then #6: Child Behind the Wall as soon as I saw it because I really like his use of the English language, particularly the many laugh-out-loud sayings of Detective Clocks. All were eB and 4/5.
Mark Dawson is another author who has given me some new favourite heroes: John Milton and Beatrix Rose. I was surprised to learn that this year I read #16-20 in the ‘John Milton’ series (yes, I’m addicted) and #1-3 in the Beatrix Rose series. Once again, all were eB and 4/5. I’ll eagerly read more when they’re available. I also read and enjoyed Mark Dawson’s The Vault, a stand alone espionage novel, early in 2021 (eB, 4/5).
I read seven books by the final author, Peter May. The first six were the ‘China Thrillers’ #1-6 featuring Beijing Detective Li Yan and his partner and lover, the US forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell (all eB, 4/5). These were good, but I think I enjoyed his ‘The Lewis Trilogy’ more some years ago. In early December I finished reading Peter May’s Extraordinary People (pB, 4/5), a book that I purchased some years ago. It is the first of his ‘Enzo [Macleod] Files’ and I’m already committed to continuing with that series.
That’s all for 2021. I hope I can live up to this standard in 2022!
Here is a link to a recent radio interview that I did with 2ser 107.3 on a range of topics concerning libraries. At nine minutes it is not that long and the wonderful producer Jake Morcom has edited out all of my incoherent mumblings and ramblings.
And here is a totally irrelevant image that I took on the weekend, just because I can: