Best books so far this year*

I have made the calculations, and these calculations tell me: You do not have enough time to read all of the books you currently want to read. Nor time for those you will undoubtedly learn about and want to read, in the future.

And yet, I continue to hoard books from my local library and on my old Kindle, which fails to “disappear” them when they expire since it never figured out how to connect itself to the Internets. Nevertheless, I stubbornly continue to add books to my lists and insert them into my mind. Here were a few of my favorites, so far, this year.

* Not published this year. But consumed (by me) this year

Favorites read in 2021 (so far)

How to Be An Antiracist: Ibram Kendi made me recognize that being an anti-racist is an active verb (eg, I am anti-racist), not a passive one (eg. “I am not racist.”). A must read to help understand the structural roots of racism and how meaningful policy changes are needed to undo these structures. Recommended podcast accompaniment: Seeing White by Scene on Radio.

Pachinko: I never knew how Koreans were treated in Japan until I read Min Jin Lee’s novel about three generations of a Korean family uprooted from their home. Thoroughly sad but enthralling.

Never Let Me Go: I had read so much about Britain’s Kazuo Ishiguro that I had to read his clone classic, and I’m glad I did. Favorite takeaway: Why create art, or learn finer things, when you are going to die young? Indeed a question we might as well ask ourselves, with a possibly slightly longer time span but finite indeed.

Teaching to Transgress: I learned of bell hooks classic through my former boss at work, and picked up the audio version of this book. Recommended academic examination of power dynamics, race, feminism, and power structures. I found that many of the ideas were similar to those in the more recently published “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood” and wondered of this was an influence for that author (Christopher Emdin).

Change: Very useful book to apply to your activism/advocacy strategies. I found a very useful synopsis here.

The Year of Magical Thinking: This was my first Joan Didion book, and perhaps it was not the best place to start. As can be expected, the However, I enjoyed her style of writing very much.

Like Water for Chocolate: Had never read, had never seen the movie. Delightful magical realism.

House of Spirits: Thoroughly enjoyable characters and story by the “most widely read Spanish-language author” in the world. Apparently, I love a little magical realism.

The So-So’s of 2021

Together: Several helpful points but too repetitive; it could have been 1/4 of the length. One part that struck me: When a racist man passed within a liberal group of friends unintentionally, and finally revealed his identity; in the meantime, he slowly modified and changed his views as he discussed these with friends.

Desert Solitaire: I picked up Edward Abbey’s classic right before we left to live in the desert of Las Cruces, New Mexico for three months. Sure, it’s an older book, but I found Abbey’s misogynist/racist/speciesist hot-takes frozen over like primitive man. However he was uneven, also expressing concern for the earth and its creatures. I also could appreciate his takes on tourists/cars/parking lots.

Abandoned books of 2021

  • Fear of Flying
  • The Bean Trees
  • Drifts

Currently reading: The Art of the Story (excellent story collection from 1999), Vanishing Half, Middlemarch (never finished when I had to return the book heading to Cuba in March 2020 (!), and the How of Happiness (excellent, based on scientific research not foo-fooey).

What’s on your list? Any books I should add to mine? Where do you discover the books you love? Comment below!

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