What I Read This Year

It was another excellent reading year in which I met my goal to read more than 50 books in 2021. As the pandemic continued to plague us1, I found myself drawn toward re-reading a number of books that I had read before. There is definitely comfort to be found in the familiar. On top of the books I read this year, I was no less inveterate with the amount of news articles and blog posts that I consumed. Although, in-keeping with another of my goals, I avoided as much doom-leaden news as I could.

  1. Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations (r2)
  2. Dahl, Roald: Fantastic Mr. Fox (r)
  3. Dahl, Roald: Danny the Champion of the World
  4. Dexter, Colin: The Dead of Jericho
  5. Dexter, Colin: The Riddle of The Third Mile
  6. Dexter, Colin: The Secret of Annexe 3
  7. Dexter, Colin: The Wench is Dead
  8. Dexter, Colin: The Jewel That Was Ours
  9. Dexter, Colin: The Way Through the Woods
  10. Dexter, Colin: The Daughters of Cain
  11. Dexter, Colin: Death is Now My Neighbour
  12. Dexter, Colin: The Remorseful Day
  1. Flea: Acid for the Children
  2. Glei, Jocelyn K.: Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done
  3. Kiedis, Anthony (with Larry Sloman): Scar Tissue (r)
  4. King, Stephen: On Writing
  5. Kureishi, Hanif: The Buddha of Suburbia (r)
  6. le Carré, John: The Looking Glass War
  7. Murakami, Haruki: Sputnik Sweetheart
  8. Murakami, Haruki: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle3
  9. Packer, Dr J. I., et al (Ed): Holy Bible (ESV) (r)
  10. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone4 (r)
  11. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (r)
  12. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (r)
  13. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (r)
  14. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (r)
  15. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (r)
  16. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (r)
  17. Rowling, J. K.: Tales of Beadle the Bard
  18. Shakespeare, William: Macbeth (r)
  1. Simenon, Georges: Pietr the Latvian5
  2. Simenon, Georges: The Late Monsieur Gallet
  3. Simenon, Georges: The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien
  4. Simenon, Georges: The Carter of Le Providence
  5. Simenon, Georges: The Yellow Dog
  6. Simenon, Georges: Night at the Crossroads
  7. Simenon, Georges: A Crime in Holland
  8. Simenon, Georges: The Grand Banks Café
  9. Simenon, Georges: A Man’s Head
  10. Simenon, Georges: The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin
  11. Simenon, Georges: The Two-Penny Bar
  12. Simenon, Georges: The Shadow Puppet
  13. Simenon, Georges: The Saint-Fiacre Affair
  14. Simenon, Georges: The Flemish House
  15. Simenon, Georges: The Madman of Bergerac
  16. Simenon, Georges: The Misty Harbour
  17. Simenon, Georges: Liberty Bar
  18. Simenon, Georges: Lock No. 1
  19. Simenon, Georges: Maigret
  20. Simenon, Georges: Cécile is Dead
  21. White, T. H.: The Sword in the Stone
  22. Wolf, Virgina: A Room of One’s Own

In 2022, I intend to continue my journey with the inimitable Inspector Maigret; immerse myself in George Smiley‘s battle with his nemesis Karla; and return to the fantastical realms of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Tolkein’s Middle-earth.

  1. Pun definitely intended.[]
  2. (r) Indicates ‘re–reading’.[]
  3. Easily the most enjoyable, strange and challenging book I read this year.[]
  4. Revisiting the world of Harry Potter during the summer holiday epitomises the pull towards comfort that I felt this year.[]
  5. Having completed the Martin Beck series last year and the Inspector Morse series early this year. I needed to select the next detective, whose world I could lose myself within. I settled on Georges Simenon’s Jules Maigret and have not been disappointed. I am already 20 books in to the series of 75 currently available from Penguin.[]

Morning Reading

A daily ritual that I have observed for several years now is to begin each day by reading from selected philosophical and theological texts. Last year, alongside revisiting the Stoics, I managed to give myself a grounding in Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. I supplemented these with some early Christian monasticism and the maxims of the 17th Century philosopher Baltasar Gracián.1

  1. Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations (r2)
  2. Confucius: The Analects
  3. Epictetus: Discourses and Selected Writings (r)
  4. Gracián, Baltasar: The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence
  5. Mascaro, Juan: The Dhammapada
  6. Seneca: Letters from a Stoic (r)
  7. Tzu, Lao: Tao Te Ching
  8. Walker, Brian Browne: Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu
  9. Ward, Benedicta: The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks

I have begun 2021 with fewer texts, covering a wider range of subjects and ideas. Alongside Aurelius and Seneca, I am going to re-read specific sections of the bible; take a broader look at Western philosophy3; and also read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing‘ which has been sitting unread in my Kindle Library for over a year. Not a philosophical text per se, but one that I hope will go some way to helping me achieve one of my goals for 2021.

  1. Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations (r)
  2. The Bible (NSV)
    • New Testament:
      • The Epistles of Paul
      • James’ Epistle
    • Old Testament:
      • Psalms
      • Proverbs
  3. King, Stephen: On Writing
  4. Russell, Bertrand: History of Western Philosophy
  5. Seneca: Dialogues and Essays
  1. Hat tip to Doug Belshaw for that one.[]
  2. (r) Indicates ‘re-reading’.[]
  3. I feel that I have a firm understanding of Stoicism. And from sixteen years of teaching A-Level Literature and Media Studies, a sound understanding of more modern philosophies, particularly romanticism, modernism and post-modernism. My knowledge of various religions is good and I have a reasonable grounding in Eastern philosophies and theology but there are significant gaps in my understanding of Western philosophy. I hope that Bertrand Russell’s much lauded (and criticised) book can help begin to plug those gaps.[]

What I Read This Year

‘Reading more’ was not one of my goals for 2020, yet it was my best year for reading in a long time. I’m sure the lockdown contributed to this but I am pleased that I maintained my momentum once I returned to a fully open school in September. On top of the 41 books listed below, I also read over 1,500 articles from The Guardian, as well as countless blog posts and articles from across the web. A good year all round, and one that at least from this point of view, I feel much richer for.

  1. Adams, Douglas: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (r1)
  2. Adams, Douglas: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (r)
  3. Adams, Douglas: Life, the Universe and Everything (r)
  4. Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations (r)
  5. Confucius: The Analects
  6. Dexter, Colin: Last Bus to Woodstock
  7. Dexter, Colin: Last Seen Wearing
  8. Dexter, Colin: The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
  9. Dexter, Colin: Service of All the Dead
  10. Dickens, Charles: A Christmas Carol (r)
  11. Epictetus: Discourses and Selected Writings (r)
  12. Gracián, Baltasar: The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence
  13. le Carré, John: Call for the Dead
  14. le Carré, John: A Murder of Quality
  15. le Carré, John: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  1. Le Guin, Ursula K.: Tehanu
  2. Le Guin, Ursula K.: Tales from Earthsea
    • The Finder
    • Darkrose and Diamond
    • The Bones of the Earth
    • On the High Marsh
    • Dragonfly
  3. Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Other Wind
  4. Le Guin, Ursula K.: A Description of Earthsea
  5. Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Word of Unbinding
  6. Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Rule of Names
  7. Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Daughter of Odren
  8. Le Guin, Ursula K.: Firelight
  9. Le Guin, Ursula K.: Earthsea Revisioned2
  10. Mascaro, Juan: The Dhammapada
  11. Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
  12. Seneca: Letters from a Stoic (r)
  13. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: Roseanna
  14. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Man Who Went Up in Smoke
  15. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Man on the Balcony
  16. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Laughing Policeman
  17. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Fire Engine That Disappeared
  18. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: Murder at the Savoy
  19. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Abominable Man
  20. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Locked Room
  21. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: Cop Killer
  22. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Terrorists3
  1. Tolkien, J. R. R.: Tales from the Perilous Realm (r)
    • Roverandom
    • Farmer Giles of Ham
    • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
    • Smith of Wooton Major
    • Leaf by Niggle
    • On Fairy Stories
  2. Tzu, Lao: Tao Te Ching
  3. Walker, Brian Browne: Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu
  4. Ward, Benedicta: The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks
  1. (r) Indicates ‘re–reading’.[]
  2. This completed my first reading of the entire ‘Earthsea Cycle‘. I read the first three novels in 2019 and took a break but I was very happy to rejoin Ged and Tenar; not least due to the revisioning Le Guin undertook returning to Earthsea eighteen years after ’The Farthest Shore.‘ Her exploration of womanhood and female empowerment from ’Tehanu‘; through ’The Finder‘ and ’Dragonfly‘; culminating in ’The Other Wind‘ was deeply gratifying. I admire Le Guin’s bravery in returning to a world she had firmly established and to then completely redefine it.[]
  3. It was very satisfying to immerse myself in such a tightly constructed sequence of crime novels; and interesting to read the series that established nordic–noir as a genre.[]