As I’ve done in January for several years, I’m taking this opportunity to list the books I read in the year just gone. The Milkman, by Ann Burns was the last book I completed reading in 2021; the first was Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. So that’s the title of this piece explained.
Since 2016 my standing Reading Resolution has been to read 50 titles in the year. I don’t think I quite managed to keep that in 2021, though I came close. You can count the titles below if you like, but I don’t think you’ll be any the wiser for doing so! A couple are long, encyclopedic books that I admit I didn’t read from cover to cover, though I dipped into them frequently. Also there are a couple of titles missing — full length books I read as a “beta reader”. They aren’t yet published, so I prefer to keep those private.
Another reason I missed my mark, I think, was that I let myself get a bit complacent. To be sure of keeping a resolution, especially one that stretches across a whole year, you really need to do something towards it every day. But I didn’t always read for long enough some days, and even missed a number of days reading altogether. Also, I read a number of rather long novels rather slowly; The Mirror and the Light took me 36 days, The Cider House Rules and The Baron in the Trees took 26 each. I also deliberately slowed down my reading for Louis Glück’s slim poetry book A Village Life, which took 29 days. (Though, to be sure, I was reading other titles at the same time).
Milkman took a long time to read too. In the end it took me 22 days, not because it’s such a long novel (though it’s not short), but because of the style of the writing, which demands quite a lot of the reader. Of this reader, at any rate. It’s a very good read, mind you, but I lost concentration and lost track about a third of the way in and had to restart.
All the books
I don’t want to ramble on more. Here is the list. Maybe there’s a title or two you’d like to add to your own “to read in the future” list. All the books are good reads, each in their own way. Some, though are very specialised. (I’m thinking of Rosie Deedes’ Into the Depths, Kristian Wedel’s Göteborg 400, and Kristina Svensson’s two books especially.)
Book titles link to their GoodBooks page or to a publisher’s page. Author names (and translator’s names) link to an appropriate homepage, Wikipedia entry or equivalent. Some of the Swedish books only link to Swedish language webpages. Parenthetical links go to blog post at TheSupercargo where the book is mentioned.
- Call Me by Your Name by André Acimon (See A Mediterranean Quintet)
- This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin (See Call it Huxley)
- Menace of the Machine edited by Mike Ashley (See Census-Taker of the Secret Commonwealth)
- Kalla det vad fan du vill by Marjaneh Bakhtiari (See Call it Huxley)
- Childhood (The Poet Magazine, Winter 2020) edited by Robin Barratt
- A Universal History of Infamy, The Garden of Forking Paths & Artifices (in Collected Fictions) by Jorge Luis Borges translated by Andrew Hurley
- Milkman by Anna Burns
- The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino translated by Ann Goldstein (See A Mediterranean Quintet)
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (See Liminal places)
- The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves
- Segu by Maryse Condé translated by Barbara Bray
- Outline by Rachel Cusk (See A Mediterranean Quintet); also Transit and Kudos
- Into the Depths: A Chaplain’s Reflections on Death, Dying and Pastoral Care by Rosie Deedes
- Anansi Boys by Niel Gaiman (See Census-Taker of the Secret Commonwealth)
- A Village Life by Louise Glück (See How do you read poetry? and A Mediterranean Quintet)
- Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (See Liminal places)
- Pilgermann by Russell Hoban (See Pilgrim, Riddly and setting free the Turtles)
- Just Like You by Nick Hornby
- The Cider House Rules by John Irving (See In Flight from the Cider House Rules)
- Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing
- Agent Running in the Field by John Le Carré
- Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy
- The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi, illustrated by Graham Greenfield (See Visiting imaginary places) [It seems there is a newer edition: see here.]
- The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
- This Census-Taker by China Miéville (See Census-Taker of the Secret Commonwealth)
- Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford (See Call it Huxley)
- The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
- The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman (See Census-Taker of the Secret Commonwealth)
- Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman (See Actual author meets inplied reader also Clio and other daemons)
- A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin
- Many Different Kinds of Love by Michael Rosen
- A Sense of Justice by Beryl Sable (See Debbie Jimack)
- Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (See Census-Taker of the Secret Commonwealth)
- The Best of Me by David Sedaris
- Sen for jag hem by Karin Smirnoff (See Thinking how to translate Jana Kippo)
- Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit
- Strövtåg in Funäsfjällen and Smultronställen mellan Göteborg och Stockholm by Kristina Svensson
- Here We Are by Graham Swift (See Census-Taker of the Secret Commonwealth)
- Appointment in Arezzo: A friendship with Muriel Spark by Alan Taylor (See A Mediterranean Quintet)
- Flights by Olga Tokarczuk translated by Jennifer Croft (See In Flight from the Cider House Rules also Liminal places)
- The Feral Women’s Institute by Sherry Tolputt
- The Sword in the Stone by T H White (See Census-Taker of the Secret Commonwealth)
- Göteborg 400: Stadens historia i bilder by Kristian Wedel
2 thoughts on “To Milkman from The Mirror: books read in 2021”
My pile was much smaller last year.
How was Gothenburg 400?
Thanks Kristina! Certainly a varied list.
I thought Gothenburg 400 was a nice coffee-table book. It’s very well illustrated, with a good deal of text for most of the pictures. But for the historian in me the title was a bit misleading as it concentrates on the late-19th and 20th centuries, when photographs were available. The city’s first 250 years are dealt with in a very perfunctory 20-30 pages.