At the start of 2017, I made a list of books I wanted to read for several years but never had. There were some real bangers in the 20-odd titles (and real duds), but I read them all. It was the first time in a while that I had stuck with a New Year's resolution – basically out of spite since having an uncomfortable, public-shaming moment with a start-of-the-year change at the age of 12.
It's not like this resolution was difficult; reading is fun even without a library card. The list did accomplish a couple of things, though. Namely, it pushed me out of my normie vein of literary fiction. And while it was challenging to stay disciplined through like a million words (i.e. video games are a lot easier to consume than pages), I feel like the seeds I started to sow were focused on intentionality. 2020 has now brought that into stark relief for me.
Even the concept of time has had to run the gauntlet for a few laps this pandemic. On top of the obvious global health crisis, being a new dad puts a serious emphasis on my time management. (being a new dad is freaking awesome btw).
Honestly my main goal in 2021 is to be deliberate in how I spend my waking hours with my family – no matter anything I lay out here, that's where my heart's at. I want to focus on my wife and son and limit any distractions (e.g. lingering on work thoughts or playing dumb games on my phone).
With this on my mind, I like the idea of returning to something that outlines things I want to or could do. I plan on taking this beyond just a reading list, but for those keeping up, here are my books for the new year.
2021 reading list*
The Storm Before the Storm – Mike Duncan
I loved The History of Rome podcast. Duncan has an incredible grasp on Rome's history and political players big and small. Excited to read this book (cheating a little by starting it in late December).
Lord of the Rings trilogy – JRR Tolkien
I thought I had read these when the movies came out ... but turns out I hadn't. I recently re-watched the trilogy and decided its time to read them.
Rage – Bob Woodward
Finished Fear by Woodward in November. Very interesting reporting although I would say Woodward isn't the best wordsmith. Thought this too about All The President's Men. An incredible story of fact-finding not incredibly told.
Empires, Nations, and Families – Anne Hyde
I like to peruse the Pulitzer winner/finalists lists for history as well as fiction and choose things to read. I love books on the American West, and this looked right up my alley.
Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire – David Remnick
Besides a few Hardcore History episodes on the Cold War, I haven't read, listened, or seen much on this time period.
The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery – Eric Foner
In the past three years, I've read dozens of books on the Civil War – on military tactics, political currents, cultural touchpoints – but Foner's book has slipped through the cracks. Now it's time.
Liberation Trilogy – Rick Atkinson
My dad has recently turned into a military history buff and wants me to check this series out. An Army at Dawn won the Pulitzer. I've listened to a lot more WWII history than read it, so I'm excited to give this a go.
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
I was expelled from my high school my junior year (long story) just in time to miss out on a lot of the classics in English literature class. I've slowly been trying to play catch-up in the past decade.
The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites – John H. Walton
I read Walton's first two Lost World pieces and found them very helpful in putting the Old Testament in context as well as setting the scene for ancient literature and culture.
God-ordained violence in the Old Testament has been one of the hardest things for me to square in scripture. I have a lot of thoughts and have had many discussions on this and still have lingering questions. Trying to re-contexualize the writing in its time and for its purpose is difficult and stepping out of my 21st century frame can feel almost impossible.
In The Lost World of Genesis One, Walton was very helpful in framing and defining scripture and the world around it. I'm hoping for some enlightened thoughts in this one as well.
*(subject to change and subject to me forgetting to update this list when it changes).