My 2021 Reading

Photograph taken by on Friday, December 31, 2021
My 2021 Reading

My 2021 Reading

As the year started I had four fairly substantial books that I wanted to read this year. They were The Faerie Queene (1,043 pages), Don Quixote (957 pages), The City of God (1,142 pages), and The Bible. I’ve read the Bible straight through in its entirety a few times before but wanted to read in a different version, the relatively new English Standard Version (ESV), published in 2001 by Crossway. The copy I have, a study Bible, runs 2,091 pages of actual Biblical text, although to be fair, the pages probably average somewhere in the range of 40% to 50% notes. Nevertheless, even without notes it’s a fairly long book and I got through it in 25 days. Are these all ‘Lifetime Achievement Books’? I don’t know, but they are significant, anyway.

I had a few other books in my ‘to-read’ pile and of course we went to our two favorite used book stores a few times throughout the course of the year. As you can see from the photo and the list below, I got through quite a varied collection. I’m presenting the list differently this year. I’ve put the information in a table that can be sorted by the order I read them (the default order), or by title, author, or date published. If you are interested in comparing this to last year, I’ve updated last year’s post, putting the list of books into a table similar to this one.

My 2021 Reading

My 2021 Reading

Note about dates: If the work was written over a period of years, sorting by date will use the latest date. The most notable example is the Bible, written over a period of about 1,500 years. It is listed as though it were published in A.D. 96 (the latest accepted date for the writing of the Book of Revelation). Also, I only label dates with B.C. or A.D. if they are earlier than A.D. 1000. All unlabeled dates are A.D.

I have a stack of 27 books waiting to be read starting in the new year (a.k.a. tomorrow). That includes a few larger works, such as General Sherman’s Memoirs, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, and a book of poetry and prose by John Milton (including Paradise Lost), and the other two volumes of Livy (The War with Hannibal and Rome and the Mediterranean. I also want to read six or so more plays by Shakespeare in my hopes to read all 39 of them (I’ve read 14 so far).

Order   
Read   
Title Author Date    Notes
1 The Faerie Queene Spenser, Edmund (circa 1552 – January 13, 1599) written in 1590 and 1596 This is a longish book and the spellings are archaic, which made it fairly slow going. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
2 Mr. Midshipman Hornblower Forester, C. S. (August 27, 1899 – April 2, 1966) 1950 Chronologicaly, this is the first Hornblower novel. Start here.
3 How to Make Your Money Last Quinn, Jane Bryant (born February 5, 1939) 2016 As I near retirement, the questions answered by this book become more and more important. But I don’t think it’s ever too early to begin asking them.
4 Life’s Little Ironies Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) 1927 This collection of short stories was originally published in 1894, and republished in 1927 with a slightly different collection of stories. I have and read the 1927 version.
5 Don Quixote Cervantes, Miguel de (September 29, 1547 – April 22, 1616) 1605 and 1615 Parts of this were absolutely beautiful. Other parts dragged and I couldn’t wait to get through them. Overall, a difficult book for me to finish but one I’m glad to have read.
6 The Island of the Day Before Eco, Umberto (January 5, 1932 – February 19, 2016) 1994 Translated into English in 1995. This is a somewhat bizarre story by someone described on Wikipedia as an Italian medievalist, philosopher, semiotician, novelist, cultural critic and political and social commentator.
7 The Abolition of Man Lewis, C. S. (November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963) 1947 If it’s by Lewis, I’m going to recommend it.
8 An Act of Courage Mallinson, Allan (born February 6, 1949) 2005 This is the seventh Matthew Hervey story, set mostly in the Iberian penensula.
9 The Mayor of Casterbridge Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) 1886 Subtitled The Life and Death of a Man of Character. As much a comedy of errors as anything. Very entertaining.
10 Escape from Camp 14 Dong-hyuk, Shin (born November 19, 1982 or 1980) and Journalist Blaine Harden (born 1952) 2012 Subtitled One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West. From a literary standpoint, this is a weak book. However, from a cultural and historical perspective, it’s terrific. Read it and be amazed.
11 The Island of Doctor Moreau Wells, H. G. (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946) 1896 I picked up a bunch of Wells’ book at the used book store and this is the first of them I’ve read. It’s not fabulous, to be honest. Clever, but not great.
12 Middlemarch Eliot, George (a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans, November 22, 1819 – December 22, 1880) 1871 and 1872 I liked this novel quite a bit. Eliot (Evans) is one of my top ten novelists.
13 The Time Machine Wells, H. G. (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946) 1895 Like Dr. Moreau, I found this weak and not very believable. But it was a time.
14 The Bible English Standard Version (ESV) sometime before 1400 B.C. through somewhere around A.D. 96 Published in 2001 by Crossway.
15 Around The World In 80 Days Verne, Jules (February 8, 1828 – March 24, 1905) English translation published in 1873 The movies made based on this depart from it a bit, but you know what’s going to happen. I’m still not sure why he didn’t notice his mistake when leaving New York, but that’s alright, I suppose.
16 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Twain, Mark (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens, November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) 1876 I know I should have read this at some point but I also know I never did. Twain is somewhat out of favor these days, among the politically correct. But he was a man of his time and this was a book of its time.
17 The Invisible Man Wells, H. G. (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946) 1897 This is the third of my Wells books for the year. It was okay.
18 As I Lay Dying Faulkner, William (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) 1930 The first book by Faulkner I’ve ready. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. Not a light read.
19 Richard II Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) probably 1595 Following up from King John, we skip forward to Shakespeare’s second history, about Richard II, King of England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399.
20 Gorgias Plato (circa 425 – circa 347 B.C. ) circa 380 B.C. Another of Plato’s dialogues.
21 Jude the Obscure Hardy, Thomas (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928) 1896 A somewhat sad tale—although for Thomas Hardy, perhaps it’s only midling sad—about a young man with dreams.
22 The Tolkien Reader Tolkien, J. R. R. (January 3, 1892 – September 2, 1973) 1966 This contains four works, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, a short play first printed in an academic journal in 1953; Tree and Leaf, 1964, which contains an essay called On Fairy Stories and the short tale Leaf by Niggle; Farmer Giles of Ham, 1949, which I read last year; and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, 1962, a collection of 16 poems.
23 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Twain, Mark (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens, November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) 1884 Like Tom Sawyer, this is a book I was supposed to have read. I liked it even more than I liked Sawyer.
24 A Farewell To Arms Hemingway, Ernest (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) 1929 This is a more complicated and detailed story than The Old Man And The Sea, which I read last year. I liked it well enough that I’ll be reading more Hemingway, if I get the chance.
25 How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor Smith, James K. A. (born October 9, 1970) 2014 This is a review and summarization of A Secular Age, 2007, by Charles Taylor (born November 5, 1931). Thought provoking and interesting, although I can’t say I always agree with either Smith or Taylor.
26 The Tempest Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1611 Another of Shakespeare’s plays. I saw this one at Cambridge University in 1972 (or possibly 71).
27 Master and Man and Other Stories Tolstoy, Leo (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) 1912 This book includes three stories: Father Sergius, written between 1890 and 1898 and published (posthumously) in 1911; Master and Man, 1895; and the novella Hadji Murat, written from 1896 to 1904 and published posthumously in 1912. These were really nice.
28 Troilus and Cressida Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1602 A somewhat lesser known play by Shakespeare.
29 Njal’s Saga Unknown circa 1280 This Icelandic saga relates events purported to have taken place between A.D. 960 and 1020. Very interesting.
30 The Sound and the Fury Faulkner, William (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) 1929 My second Faulkner and the one I liked better of the two.
31 City of God Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430) A.D. 413–427 This has been on my reading list for years and I finally got around to it. Not an easy read, but worth the effort.
32 Lieutenant Hornblower Forester, C. S. (August 27, 1899 – April 2, 1966) 1952 The fourth volume in the Hornblower saga.
33 Cossacks, The / Happy Ever After / The Death of Ivan Ilyich Tolstoy, Leo (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) 1863, 1859, and 1886 Three novellas. Note that Happy Ever After was originally published as Family Happiness. Tolstoy has definitely moved into my top ten authors.
34 War In Heaven Williams, Charles (September 20, 1886 – May 15, 1945) 1930 Williams is “the other Inkling” and is hardly known today. Unlike the fiction of Tolkien or Lewis, Williams’ stories are set in the 20th century England. But he writes wonderfully and his stories are full of the supernatural.
35 The Prince Machiavelli, Niccolò (May 3, 1469 – June 21, 1527) 1513 It’s worth reading authors with whom you disagree. So, I read this. I still disagree, I guess.
36 Best Plays by Chekhov Chekhov, Anton (January 29, 1860 – July 15, 1904) 1903 The four plays in this book are: The Sea Gull (1895), Uncle Vanya (1898), The Three Sisters (1900), and The Cherry Orchard (1903). I’m not sure what point is being made by these plays, other than a glimpse into life at the time.
37 Romola Eliot, George (a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans, November 22, 1819 – December 22, 1880) 1863 This is a very different novel to the others by Eliot (Evans) that I’ve read. Set in Florence, Italy in the 1490s.
38 Two Gentlemen of Verona Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) 1593
39 Are Women Human Sayers, Dorothy L. (June 13, 1893 – December 17, 1957) 1947 This book contains a address—Are Women Human?—given to a Women’s Society in 1938; and an essay—The Human-Not-Quite-Human—from 1947. Do I need to tell you her conclusion? This is a short book that makes an important point (or two).
40 The Nibelungenlied Unknown poet circa 1200 This epic is known today mostly through Richard Wagner’s operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, although his version differs in some ways from the original story. The setting is Germanic-speaking Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries.
41 A Handful of Dust Waugh, Evelyn (October 28, 1903 – April 10, 1966) 1934 I enjoyed this novel.
42 Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book Percy, Walker (May 28, 1916 – May 10, 1990) 1983 The early parts of this book ask some very interesting questions and I was expecting to recommend it fairly highly. As you go through it, though, the author seems to become more sure of himself and less sure of anyone else. So, meh.
43 Idylls of the King Tennyson, Alfred, Lord (August 6, 1809 – October 6, 1892) published between 1859 and 1885 I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did. It tells the story of King Arthur, his knights, Guinevere, etc.
44 Between Heaven and Hell Kreeft, Peter John (born March 16, 1937) 1982 The book is subtitled A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, & Aldous Huxley. All three died on the same day, November 22, 1963, and this is a Socratic dialog on faith between the three of them when they meet in Purgatory. I have the expanded edition published in 2008. Highly recommended.
45 Henry IV, Part 1 Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1597 Following Richard II, we get the first of two plays about Henry IV, King of England from 1399 to 1413.
46 Civilization And Its Discontents Freud, Sigmund (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) 1930 Following my policy of reading people with whom I disagree, this confirmed my disagreement with Freud.
47 On The Road Kerouac, Jack (March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) 1957 This was a very interesting read of a culture and time I’m fairly unfamiliar with. I can’t say I envy Kerouac, particularly, but I found him and his friends fascinating.
48 Seven Gothic Tales Dinesen, Isak (a.k.a. Karen Blixen, 17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962) 1934 The seven stories are: The Deluge at Norderney, The Old Chevalier, The Monkey, The Roads Round Pisa, The Supper at Elsinore, The Dreamers, and The Poet
49 Henry IV, Part 2 Shakespeare, William (circa April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) circa 1599 And the second of Shakespeare’s plays about Henry IV.
50 A Grief Observed Lewis, C. S. (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963, as N. W. Clerk) 1961 This book really, really resonated with me. If you’ve lost someone close to you, read this book.
51 Metamorphoses Ovid (Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō, March 20, 43 B.C. – A.D. 17 or 18) A.D. 8 So many myth stories. Great stuff.
52 The Basic Works of Cicero Cicero, Marcus Tullius (January 3, 106 – December 7, 43 B.C.) between 63 and 43 B.C. The works included in this Modern Library edition are: On Moral Duty, book 1, circa 43 B.C.; Tusculan Disputations, book 1, circa 43 B.C.; On Old Age, 44 B.C.; Scipio’s Dream, from On The Republic, 51 B.C.; On The Character Of The Orator, book 1, 55, B.C.; First Oration Against Catiline, November 7, 63 B.C.; Second Oration Against Catiline, December 5, 63 B.C.; For Caelius, April 4, 56 B.C.; The Second Philippic, 44 B.C.; and selected Letters.
53 Dubliners Joyce, James (February 2, 1882 – January 13, 1941) written 1905 but not published until 1914 I frankly don’t know what the fuss is all about. This was a good story and not, as far as I could tell, anything to get worked up about.
54 Natural History Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23/24 – August 24, 79) circa A.D. 79 Interesting stuff.
55 Rome and Italy Livy (Titus Livius, 59 B.C. – A.D. 17) circa 27 B.C. Livy’s History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita Libri) contained 142 books, of which 35 are extant. This volume contains books six through ten, picking up where the first volume (The Early History of Rome, which I read last year) left off after the Gallic occupation in 386 B.C. and runs up to about 293 B.C., part way through the Third Samnite War (298–290 B.C.).
56 A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man Joyce, James (February 2, 1882 – January 13, 1941) originally published in serial form from February, 1914 through September, 1915 in The Egoist This was another good story. The two Joyce books I read this year were my introduction to his work. Probably won’t be the last.
57 The Jewish War Josephus, Titus Flavius (born Yosef ben Matityahu, A.D. 37 – circa 100) circa A.D. 75 Anyone who knows the Christmas story knows about King Herod. But reading this really put a lot into perspective. It may not be as historically accurate as we might want, but it’s worth reading.
58 Horologicon Mark Forsyth (born 2 April 1977) 2012 Subtitled “A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language”. Interesting book on some interesting words.
59 Brave New World Huxley, Aldous Leonard (July 26, 1894 – November 22, 1963) written in 1931 and published in 1932 A dystopian future, although not as believable as some. But a good read.
60 Doctor Zhivago Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich (February 10, 1890 – May 30, 1960) 1957 Translated by Max Hayward and Manya Harari, 1958. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. Not a happy story, really, but a good one.
61 Euripides I Euripides (circa 480 – circa 406 B.C.) 414 B.C. The first of three volumes of plays by Euripides and volume five in the Modern Library’s The Complete Greek Tragedies. The seven plays are: Alcestis (438 B.C.), The Medea (431 B.C.), The Heracleidae (430 B.C.), Hippolytus (428 B.C.), Cyclops (unknown), Heracles (416 B.C.), and Iphigenia in Tauris (414 B.C.).
62 Company of Spears Mallinson, Allan (born February 6, 1949) 2006 This is the eighth Matthew Hervey story, this time set in South Africa and fighting the Zulus.
63 The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays Tolkien, J. R. R. (January 3, 1892 – September 2, 1973) From 1931 to 1959 This is a collection of essays, published in 2006 by Christopher Tolkien. The parts are: Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics (1936), On Translating Beowulf (1940), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1953), On Fairy-Stories (1939), English and Welsh (1955), A Secret Vice (1931), Valedictory Address (1959).

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