Roger’s year in books and reading, 2021

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When it comes to books, I’ve never seriously attempted to rank a year’s reading in terms of “best of” or the like. To be sure, over time it becomes possible to perform triage and cull those books which have proven to be most influential. This task requires distance and patience.

However, I can say unequivocally that 2021 was an absolutely great reading year. There was less time to read compared with 2020, but I made better use of the time I had and prioritized it. This year my muse directed me to more novels than ever before, and there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. Each of them had an effect.

My choices are Euro-centric. Don’t expect an apology. This year I’ve tried to read and write as much as possible, understanding quite well that taken together, these are coping mechanisms for a maddening, perplexing American milieu.

2021 will be remembered as my year of disengagement, primarily defined as a separation from the pervasive, numbing corruption and stupidity of Nawbanian affairs, but also with regard to an entire nation divided into two annoying, armed camps.

The past year has been aspects of internal exile, or exile-in-place, occupying center stage in my noggin. I might be too old to physically relocate; it would have helped to have had a retirement plan, but my goal remains to direct my consciousness toward pursuits capable of being controlled to a reasonable extent: wife, home, cats, personal health, work, play and books. Lots and lots of books.

I was probably meant to be a dissident intellectual exile, and to be honest, this suits me wonderfully. Veneer salesmen (Gahan), shoe repairers (Ceausescu) and collective farm overlords (Lukashenko) may have the money and the power, but I have a really nice home library.

Fuck them.

Following are two reading lists for 2021. First, I’ve divided the books into categories, then arranged them from most recently read, December backward into January.

Novels (12)

  • The Emigrants, by W.G. Sebald
  • Little Man, What Now?, by Hans Fallada
  • Radiant Terminus, by Antoine Volodine
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Double, by Jose Saramago
  • The Island of the Day Before, by Umberto Eco
  • Utz, by Bruce Chatwin
  • The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño
  • Baltasar and Blimunda, by Jose Saramago
  • Trieste, by Daša Drndić
  • When the Doves Disappeared, by Sofi Oksanen
  • The Island of Second Sight, by Albert Thelen

Beer, Food, Potables (4)

  • The Audacity of Hops, by Tom Acitelli
  • Mezcal: The History, Craft & Cocktails of the World’s Ultimate Artisanal Spirit, by Emma Janzen
  • The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World, by Bee Wilson
  • Beer – The Story of the Pint: The History of Britain’s Most Popular Drink, by Martyn Cornell

History (9)

  • Communist Czechoslovakia 1945-1989: A Political and Social History, by Kevin McDermott
  • Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History, by Richard J. Evans (biography)
  • Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany, by Andrew Demshuk
  • The Turning Season: DDR-Oberliga Revisited, by Michael Wagg
  • The Grey Men: Pursuing the Stasi into the Present, by Ralph Hope
  • The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790, by Ritchie Robertson
  • The Cold War from the Margins: A Small Socialist State on the Global Cultural Scene, by Theodora K. Dragostinova
  • The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist
  • A People’s Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics, by Hadas Thier

Miscellaneous (2)

  • Building Community: Twelve Principles for a Healthy Future, by James S. Gruber, PE, PhD
  • A House in Sicily, by Daphne Phelps

Reverse Chronology, December – January

27. Communist Czechoslovakia 1945-1989: A Political and Social History, by Kevin McDermott

26. Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History, by Richard J. Evans

25. The Emigrants, a novel by W.G. Sebald

24. Mezcal: The History, Craft & Cocktails of the World’s Ultimate Artisanal Spirit, by Emma Janzen

23. Little Man, What Now?, a novel by Hans Fallada

22. The Audacity of Hops, by Tom Acitelli

21. Radiant Terminus, a novel by Antoine Volodine

20. Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel by Kurt Vonnegut

19. Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany, by Andrew Demshuk

18. The Double, a novel by Jose Saramago

17. Building Community: Twelve Principles for a Healthy Future, by James S. Gruber, PE, PhD

16. The Turning Season: DDR-Oberliga Revisited, by Michael Wagg

15. The Grey Men: Pursuing the Stasi into the Present, by Ralph Hope

14. The Island of the Day Before, a novel by Umberto Eco

13. Utz, a novel by Bruce Chatwin

12. A House in Sicily, by Daphne Phelps

11. The Savage Detectives, a novel by Roberto Bolaño

10. The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790, by Ritchie Robertson

09. The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World, by Bee Wilson

08. The Cold War from the Margins: A Small Socialist State on the Global Cultural Scene, by Theodora K. Dragostinova

07. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist

06. Baltasar and Blimunda, a novel by Jose Saramago

05. A People’s Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics, by Hadas Thier

04. Trieste, a novel by Daša Drndić

03. When the Doves Disappeared, a novel by Sofi Oksanen

02. Beer – The Story of the Pint: The History of Britain’s Most Popular Drink, by Martyn Cornell

01. The Island of Second Sight, a novel by Albert Thelen

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