I’ve survived another year, and got some good reading done during it! I set a goal of reading 30 books, and that’s just what I did. Just to keep things interesting, I set a goal of reading 40 books in 2022 — but first, a retrospective on 2021. The top ten (imho) with brief descriptions follow, and then the list of all 30 will be after that. Hope this is informative!

10. Louis XIV by Josephine Wilkinson

What you see is what you get — a straightforward biography of the French king, otherwise known as the “Sun King,” and the longest-reigning monarch in history. The focus is more on his personal life than his political or military accomplishments.

9. Machine Learning in Action by Peter Harrington

A thorough and approachable introduction to machine learning, with helpful explanations and engaging hands-on lessons.

8. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

A harrowing story of a high school senior whose father is an alcoholic veteran. A sympathetic look at how PTSD can derail entire families. The romantic arc is quite cute, too.

7. Team of Five by Kate Andersen Brower

An insightful series of interviews and other vignettes illustrating the lives and work of the living former presidents during Trump’s administration.

6. In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland

An engaging look at the backstory of Islam; the book begins in late antiquity and runs through the beginning of the Abbasids. A lot of detail and a smooth read, covering a great deal of history not included in standard Western curriculums.

5. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Duhigg draws on a broad swath of material, both anecdotal and scientific, making a convincing argument of how habits work, and how we can use that to make meaningful change in our own lives. He also expands this to cover how habits of organizations shape their work.

4. Concepts of Modern Mathematics by Ian Stewart

A well-written survey of a broad sweep of mathematical topics. 

3. Geisha by Liza Dalby

A dreamy memoir-cum-anthology study about life in Ponchoto, a historic geisha district in Kyoto, and as a geisha more broadly. Touches on topics from kimono and hairstyles to okiya and shamisen.

2. Heat by Bill Buford

A fast-paced memoir chock full of memorable characters and more kitchen knowledge and philosophy that I would think could be crammed into one book.

1. The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence

An in-depth look at China in the last few centuries, picking up at the end of the Ming dynasty, going through the Qing, and finishing up with the turmoil of the 20th century.

All books read in 2021 (hit the 30-mark!)

  • The Power of Habit — Charles Duhigg
  • Team of Five — Kate Andersen Brower
  • Four Queens — Nancy Goldstone
  • Untamed — Glennon Doyle
  • Heat — Bill Buford
  • A Brief History of Korea — Michael J. Seth
  • The Upward Spiral — Alex Korb
  • Calculus Demystified — Steven G. Krantz
  • Essentialism — Greg McKeown
  • The Best American Essays 2020 — André Aciman, ed.
  • In the Shadow of the Sword — Tom Holland
  • Concepts of Modern Mathematics — Ian Stewart
  • The Best American Travel Writing 2020 — Robert Macfarlane, ed.
  • Year of Yes — Shonda Rhimes
  • The Answer Is… — Alex Trebek
  • Introduction to Matrices and Linear Transformations — Daniel Finkbeiner
  • The Search for Modern China — Jonathan D. Spence
  • Marco Polo: the journey that changed the world — Jon Man
  • Information — editors, Scientific American
  • Geisha — Liza Dalby
  • The Forgotten Man — Amity Shlaes
  • Beyond the Quadratic Formula — Ron Irving
  • City of Eros — Timothy J. Gilfoyle
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory — Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Elizabeth and Margaret — Andrew Morton
  • Machine Learning in Action — Peter Harrington
  • Forgive for Good — Dr. Fred Luskin
  • Foundations of Mathematical Analysis — Richard Johnsonbaugh and W. E. Pfaffenberger
  • Essential Strategies for Social Anxiety — Alison McKleroy
  • Louis XIV — Josephine Wilkinson