My 2021 Reading List

2021 turned out not to be a good reading year for me. While in 2020 I finished 25 books, in 2021 I finished only 13. My original goal for 2021 was 36 books. What happened? Amidst all the big things that were happening in my life, I struggled to stay consistent with my good habits. When the circumstances in my life changed, my reading habit also shifted from audiobooks back to physical books. And when I didn’t have any physical books within my arm’s reach, my reading habit stagnated. In 2022, I will be sure to have a steady supply of books at all times!

As for the stats, 5 out of 13 books that I finished in 2021, or 38%, were physical books and the rest were audiobooks. For reference, 12% of the books I finished in 2020 were physical books. My Audible stats for 2021 cover only four months from January to April. In that time, I spent a total of 139 hours listening to books as opposed to the 227 hours in the whole of 2020. As audiobooks don’t fit my current daily routine, I have cancelled my Audible subscription for now. In 2022, most of the books I read will likely be good old physical books, although I do have some unfinished audiobooks on Audible.

Alright, let’s put my skill of summarisation to the test.

The best

  1. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle – I had a hard time deciding which book from Eckhart Tolle to put on this list. I listened to both The Power of Now and A New Earth. Both books emphasise the importance of living in the present moment, although A New Earth goes into more detail. Personally, I prefer The Power of Now because of its brevity, which makes it easier to come back to. Indeed, this is a book I should revisit at least once a year.
  2. The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – First published in 1973 by the Russian dissident Solzhenitsyn, it describes the history of the Soviet forced labor camp system, also known as Gulag. It took me two months to finish this dense, three-part opus, which is also a little rough around the edges. The book varies from detailed research on different aspects of the Gulag system to interesting descriptions on everyday life at the camp and exciting stories on escape attempts.
  3. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag-Montefiore – Having just finished The Gulag Archipelago, I found myself in the rabbit hole of Soviet history. The book gives an interesting peek behind the curtain on the life of Stalin and his inner circle from 1920s until Stalin’s death in 1953. The book does heavy name-dropping of prominent figures of the time, which is why some foreknowledge on Russian history is recommended to get most out of the book.
  4. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan – Introduced at the very beginning of this book is the commonly accepted and lazy version of the history of civilisation, where the past is seen through the lens of the winners of recent history. The Silk Roads rectifies this misconception of Western superiority by introducing a version of history where the Middle East and Central Asia, intersected by the Silk Roads, are put in the limelight.
  5. Uskollinen lukija (English: The Witch Hunter), by Max Seeck – The Witch Hunter is the first part in the detective Jessica Niemi series by Max Seeck, a Finnish author who writes Nordic noir, or Scandinavian crime fiction. The plot plays with violence and is set in a grim setting, but the result is not too overburdening as as the strong characters and the snappy writing style make it an easy page turner. I’m looking forward to reading other works by the author.

The rest

  • 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
  • A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle
  • Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford
  • Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chan and Jon Halliday
  • The Ice Coven, by Max Seeck

Goals for 2022

As a lesson from this year, I won’t set any artificial reading goal for 2022. Instead, I will make sure to always have a new book ready and visible, as an antidote to doing something unproductive. What about the types of books? In 2022, I want to expand my knowledge of the Finnish literary landscape. One approach would be to look at books that have been awarded with (or considered for) the Finlandia Prize, an annual Finnish literary award. On the other hand, I also have a backlog of other interesting books on my reading list, listed below, and I will be going through the list on my own pace.

On my reading list

  • Osta, vuokraa, vaurastu, by Joonas Orava and Olli Turunen
  • Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility, by Stewart Brand
  • Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Simony, Cass R. Sunstein
  • Singapore: Unlikely Power, by John Curtis Perry
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter
  • The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World, by Peter Frankopan
  • A Modern History of Hong Kong: 1841-1997, by Steve Tsang
  • Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, by Tom O’Neill, Dan Piepenbring
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce
  • Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
  • Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, Kelly Tieger
  • Kauna, by Max Seeck