This year I’ve read twenty-one books or 5903 pages. That’s fewer books than last year (28 / 8064), the year before (25 / 8394), and the one before that (30 / 8447). Heck, I must look back at 2014 to score a win in my very own yearly reading challenge. What surprises me is not much the number of books but the pages I read, which constitutes a more relevant metric. Over the previous three years, that number stayed firmly over 8k while dropping to 6k this year.
Should I be concerned? I don’t know. No doubt I’ve been super busy at work, often feeling exhausted in the evening when I tend to read more. I suspect I’ve also been watching more TV than usual, probably due to the evening fatigue and because I want to spend more time with Serena. The fact that I read more non-fiction might play a role too. Fiction tends to be more addictive and more inviting to the weary mind. We’ll see what happens next year.
These are three books I especially enjoyed reading in 2021:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle. This little Shirley Jackson masterpiece stands out from my (admittedly small) 2021 fiction selection. Quoting my own words from the review: “This book is brilliant because it takes the canonical witch/haunted house theme and flips it over, instantly reversing the perspective. The story is told from within the house. Village folks are the bad guys. Those who seem to be motivated by good intentions only fulfill their ego or strive to behave with good manners, as society expects them to do. We cannot help but feel at least a drop of compassion and sympathy for the devil.”
Endurance. Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. I’ve read three maritime adventure books this year, all excellent works. Alfred Lansing’s report on Shackleton’s expedition is my pick because the story is outstanding and powerfully told. “Alfred Lansing has reconstructed all these events with great care, drawing mainly on the many diaries kept by the crew and interviewing the few survivors still alive. […] the result is always smooth and dry, never yielding to hyperbole or exaltation, always close to the facts, which on the other hand, certainly do not need enrichment.”
Consider the Lobster. David Foster Wallace is one of my favorite authors and this book does not delude. “You may not have a strong interest in lobsters or pornography, but the essays in this book are terrific.”