2021 Reading Wrap-Up and Recommendations

I read a bunch of books in 2021, and you, dear reader, are the one who benefits. Don’t waste hours digging through the remainders at Dollar Tree looking for your next read. Just waste a few minutes right here and get some much better options.

Best Book I Read in 2021 – That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

You can read it on its own, but it’ll make more sense if you read the two books that precede it in the series: Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. But like a lot of Lewis’ social commentary, it’s like it was ripped from today’s headlines. If you ever feel like you live in a country that’s being taken over by a cabal of Satan-worshiping sadists, well, Lewis felt the same way eighty years ago.

There’s so much depth and symbolism here, and that’s just what I’m aware of. I’m sure there’s twice as much that just went straight over my head. It’s hard to think of any author who had a better grasp of the conflict points between Christianity and secular humanism/socialism/scientism, and how those philosophies can’t co-exist but must inevitably fight to the death.

Best Christian Theology Book – Knowing God by J.I. Packer

Not a difficult read, but full of so many “Whoa, I never thought about it like that” moments that I was re-reading every other paragraph. The analysis of God’s nature and character as revealed in scripture is both fresh and obviously true. If you’re going to title a book “Knowing God,” you better be bringing your best fried chicken to the pot luck, if you know what I’m saying. And that’s what Packer does; you really will know God better after reading this.

Best Memoir – Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Did Phil Knight actually write this? I mean, not a ghost writer, but really Phil Knight? The Nike guy? Because for a soulless corporate oligarch and tool of communist China, he’s a really good writer. Also, his evolution from weirdo runner guy to weirdo runner guy who dominates a billion-dollar industry is pretty interesting.

Best Collection of Brainy Essays Full of Long Sentences and Big Words I Had to Look Up – A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

Fair warning: David Foster Wallace is an acquired taste that just happens to be right in my wheelhouse, like gas station sausage biscuits. But if you’re willing to sit through all the wheel-spinning and thesaurus-abusing, he has some incredibly perceptive and prescient analysis in those essays. For example, he has one essay, written in the ’90s, about how TV has destroyed American culture (and note that he’s not writing from the perspective of someone who hates TV, but someone who loves it, and has obviously spent a lot of time in front of it). But if you take that essay and replace every instance of the word “television” with “social media,” the essay is still just as accurate, and just as good.

The Read This Not That Award – Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

If you loved Andy Weir’s novel The Martian and want to see more stories about a funny/nerdy guy getting out of life-threatening scrapes using science and math, then I strongly recommend you just read The Martian again and skip Project Hail Mary. It’s not that Project Hail Mary is bad; it’s just a rehash of the same idea with some bigger plot holes and questionable storytelling decisions. Starting with the fact that, unless you want everyone associated with a space mission to think, “We’re probably screwed,” you’re not going to name it “Project Hail Mary.”

The Read This Not That Award Runner-Up – Devolution by Max Brooks

Max Brooks wrote World War Z as a novel in the disguise of a historical document–treating the zombie plague as something that had actually happened and telling the story of it through historical documents and first-person interviews. It was an interesting, fresh take on a well-worn genre. He attempts to do the same thing in Devolution, only this time telling the story of the destruction of an upscale vacation resort by a band of sasquatches. And the results are… um, no. Just no.

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