My 2021 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one and links to some Twitter threads where I shared some passages that caught my attention while reading the books. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much I do recommend its reading.

  1. Le Comte de Monte-Cristo“, tome II (by Alexandre Dumas) (+++): Great book, a must read. In this second part we see how justice and vengeance are meticulously delivered by the almighty count of Monte-Cristo. “Wait and hope”. [Twitter thread].
  2. Un coeur simple“, (by Gustave Flaubert) (+): Short and sad story about Félicité, a poor and simple servant who sees how her circle gets narrowed down to the point of idolizing a dead parrot. [Twitter thread].
  3. Heart of Darkness“, (by Joseph Conrad) (+): Marlow’s search for Kurtz, the most successful ivory trader of the company at an station by the river Congo. Danger, savages, darkness, “horror!”. [Twitter thread].
  4. Poetics“, (by Aristotle) (+): A treatise on tragedy: argumentation, characters, plotting and sufferings, music, scenery, metric… Unfortunately, the second part of the treatise covering comedy hasn’t been conserved till our time. [Twitter thread].
  5. Un paseo por los espacios n-dimensionales“, (by Esteban Ferrer and Soledad Le Clainche) (++): This is a book from a collection of 40 short books on mathematics that my mother gifted me with in 2019. My idea is to read a few of those books per year. This book was written by two professors from my alma mater and it’s a brief review of Algebra with notes on its evolution and some of its applications. [Twitter thread].
  6. Rhetoric“, (by Aristotle) (++): Being rhetoric the art of persuasion, in this book Aristotle discusses the different types of speeches, emotional states, rhythms, structures, choices of words… to better achieve the purpose of the speech. [Twitter thread].
  7. Hombres buenos“, (by Arturo Pérez-Reverte) (+++): A great novel based on a real trip to Paris made in 1785 by two members of the Spanish (language) Academy to get hold of a copy of the Encyclopédie by D’Alembert and Didérot, which was at that time censored in Spain. The book offers many details on the research for the novel, discusses many other relevant books of that time and depicts the struggles that the protagonists suffered in that quest to bring some enlightenment to Spain. [Twitter thread].
  8. Series y sucesiones“, (by Ángel M. Núñez) (+): A book written by a couple of teachers from my alma mater on series, successions and limits and the evolution of them, describing the contributions by mathematicians such as Nicolas d’ Oresme, D’Alembert, Cauchy or von Neumann. [Twitter thread].
  9. The world of yesterday“, (by Stefan Zweig) (+++): This book makes for a great read, very well written and with a good taste. The description of Vienna before 1914, the cultural activities of that society, the acquaintances of the author, the freedom they enjoyed, etc., makes for a beautiful picture of the world of yesterday. Then history turns for the worse: first world war, the poision of nationalism, hyperinflation destroying German society, the rise of Hitler, persecution of Jews, living in exile… both a historical recount and warning. [Twitter thread].
  10. La traición progresista“, (by Alejo Schapire) (+++): A brief and straightforward book lamenting the path followed by the political left and liberals in many Western countries with the focus given to identities. The book is rich on examples and references. [Twitter thread].
  11. Divine Comedy“, (by Dante Alighieri) (+++): This is an impressive landmark of literature. The book describes Dante’s passage through the inferno, purgatorio and paradiso, with the guidance of the poet Virgil. The structure of the book with the description of the different levels is remarkable. The amount of detailed information of historic or mythical characters from Tuscany, Rome, Greece, etc., is overwhelming, with the only downside of having to interrupt the reading of poetry to frequently consult footnotes. [Twitter thread].
  12. El fin de la fiesta“, (by Rubén Amón) (++): The book discusses the current situation of bullfighting, the challenges it faces with lack of appreciation from part of the society, the attacks it receives, and also some clues for its defence, its strengths and virtues. I liked the book and the message, but the style and narrative were repetitive at times. [Twitter thread].
  13. The righteous mind“, (by Jonathan Haidt) (+++): This book offers a review of the evolution of moral psychology and what the author calls Moral foundations theory, showing as well moral differences between liberals and conservatives, helping to understand people with different intuitions and morals. A very valuable book. [Twitter thread].
  14. Prey. Immigration, Islam and the erosion of women’s rights“, (by Ayaan Hirsi Ali) (++): Necessary book on an uncomfortable subject. The thesis is that women’s rights are receding and society cannot turn a blind eye on that fact. The reading of the book is at times tough and disgusting due to the nature of the cases, the cover ups by different institutions in several European countries… [Twitter thread].
  15. Tony Ryan. Ireland’s aviator“, (by Richard Aldous) (++): A biography of the man behind Guinness Peat Aviation (a major leasing company in the 70s and 80s, and arguably one of the creators of the aircraft leasing business as such) and Ryanair. A remarkable life with continuous ups and downs. [Twitter thread].
  16. La conquista de México“, (by Hugh Thomas) (+++): Historical relation of the different Spanish expeditions to what now is Mexico, including that of Hernán Cortés (and other ones such as those of Grijalva or Narváez) until the conquest of Tenochtitlan, of which 500th anniversary took place this year. The book is very exhaustive covering different aspects of the times and events: the greatness and beauty of the city of Tenochtitlan, the traditions of the Aztec or Mexica empire (including human sacrifices and heavy taxation onto other cities, which contributed to their demise), the tension between different Mexican peoples but also the intrigues between different Spanish conquerors (Cortés, Narváez, Velázquez, the son of Columbus…) and the legal charges and proceedings they faced back in Spain, the navigation details of their trips, the different settlements, commercial exchanges, the relationships and alliances built with some peoples (varying with time), the infighting in various places across several years especially including the “sad night” when the Spanish had to flee the city and were on the brink of a total defeat to the recovery period at Tlaxcala and the final assault and devastation of Tenochtitlan. Very good read even if a long one in which I was stuck for some weeks at some points of the narrative. [Twitter thread].
  17. Camino Winds“, (by John Grisham) (++): In this novel the author goes back to Camino Island and its community of writers that were presented in a previous novel. This time one of the authors is murdered the night a hurricane hits the village. The plot includes professional killers and big corporations. Very entertaining. [Twitter thread].
  18. Fables“, (by Aesop) (++): Compilation of fables from the VII-VI century b.C, most of them between animals (wolves, foxes, rabits, oxen, ants…) which form the basis of a big part of European popular culture. The fables are short, one or two paragraphs, and the edition I read included a line with the moral of the fable explicitly. [Twitter thread].
  19. Metamorphoses“, (by Ovid) (++): Written in the first century, the book is an epic poem that covers from the creation to the time of Caesar, describing up to 250 myths and legends of Greek and Roman mythology, with the transformation of many characters into different beings, animals, trees, rocks or rivers. At times the story is difficult to follow as the organization within the different chapters is a bit unclear even if the author worked on the transitions. [Twitter thread].
  20. Más allá de la razón áurea“, (by Fernando Blasco) (++): Another book of the maths collection. This one discusses the golden ratio and its use in different fields as well as some other mathematical constants including pi and e. The book includes some hard math but as well a few tricks that can be used as magic. [Twitter thread].

I started 2021 reading at a good pace until summer holidays, then a couple of trips interrupted my rhythm and it took me months to recover it, as always, thanks to the rigorous approach following these two tips:

  • a blog post from Farnam Street blog “Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day“, which was published well after I had adopted such an approach to reading but captures it very well,
  • the Wikipedia article about the Pomodoro Technique, which enables you to efficiently use the last hours of the day.

Another question that I have got a couple of times is about the source of the list of some of the classics that I read. That one comes from yet another blog post from Farnam Street blog. That post mentioned the Great Books curriculum for the bachelor in arts of Saint John’s College in Annapolis. You can get the list from the Wikipedia or directly from the college website. As I am not reading exclusively those books I advance at a pace of 5 to 8 books out of that curriculum per year, thus it will take me other 20 years to finish the program.

I wish you all very interesting reads in 2022!

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 ones.

1 Comment

Filed under Books

One response to “My 2021 reading list

  1. Pingback: Summary of (my) 2021 | The Blog by Javier

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