I read 161 books last year. I didn’t set a goal or track my progress, I did however spend an exorbitant amount of time listening to audio books while running, driving, working out, cooking, cleaning, and sitting still staring off into space. That, and the fact that I listen to most books at 1.5x to 2x speeds, means I inevitably racked up a bunch of titles over the past twelve months.
Following last year’s pandemic inspired 2020 reading list I looked back through my 2021 titles and included my favorites here.
2021 READING LIST
8 Kindle Books
1 Physical Book
FAVORITE BOOK OF 2021
Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent
I’d never read anything from Antonia before, but once I started I couldn’t stop. I first listened to A Short Ride In The Jungle: The Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle and then read her other two books (see below) on Kindle. Her adventurous spirit, sly humor, and ability to weave together history, current events, and personal introspections made for a constant page turner and I can’t wait for her to publish another book.
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: All three of Antonia’s books make my list of top titles for 2021.
- Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains
- A Short Ride In The Jungle: The Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle
- Tuk-Tuk to the Road: Two Girls, Three Wheels, 12,500 Miles
In addition to reading all of Antonia’s books, I did a deep dive of a few other authors throughout the year.
Levison Wood: Another prolific traveler and explorer, Levison’s preferred mode of transportation is on foot and he’s undertaken some incredible treks across the world’s most iconic regions. He’s also good at incorporating history, current events, personal struggles and accomplishments into his travel tomes. Last year I listened to every audio book I could from him and am looking forward to future titles.
- Walking The Nile
- Walking the Himalayas: An Adventure of Survival and Endurance
- Walking the Americas: 1,800 Miles, Eight Countries, and One Incredible Journey from Mexico to Colombia
- An Arabian Journey: One Man’s Quest Through the Heart of the Middle East
- The Last Giants: The Rise and Fall of the African Elephant
Adam Fletcher: Another travel writer, I loved Adam’s books for the cheeky humor and funny stories. The narrator’s voice in the audiobooks was perfectly cast for Adam’s style and I found myself laughing out loud often.
- Don’t Go There: From Chernobyl to North Korea – One Man’s Quest to Lose Himself and Find Everyone Else in the World
- Don’t Come Back: A Funny Travel Adventure of Bad-Tempered Baboons, Black Magic, and Breakups
- Tuk-Tuk For Two: Two Strangers, One Unforgettable Race Through India in a Tuk-Tuk named Winnie
FAVORITE GENRE: TRAVEL & EXPLORATION
I read mostly nonfiction books (I think I completed 2 fiction books last year, begrudgingly) and my preferred topics are history, exploration, anthropology, travel and adventure, ideally all combined into one amazing story. These titles were my favorites from the past year.
- River Notes: A Natural and Human History of the Colorado by Wade Davis
- Magdalena: River of Dreams: A Story of Colombia by Wade Davis
Wade is one of my favorite authors and I enjoyed these two books about iconic rivers as well as watched more of his lectures and interviews on YouTube.
- Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
- The Marsh Arabs by Wilfred Thesiger
I’ve been intending to read Thesiger for some time and his in depth travels, observations and stories are well worth the read.
- The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
- In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
Like Thesiger, Chatwin has been on my radar for awhile. I finally read two of his books and found Songlines fascinating, which is probably why it’s referenced in so many other books I’ve read.
- Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by Paul Theroux
After reading several of Paul’s travel books last year I worked my way through Deep South on my Kindle (I’m a slow actual reader). In contrast to his other books from around the world the focus was much closer to home and included great perspectives on our own nation and culture and how some of our own people in the United States are often overlooked when we set out to help other people in need around the world. I also tried reading one of Paul’s fiction novels, but struggled to get through it, a good reminder to stick with nonfiction.
- Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel Everett
An incredible account of how Daniel lived with a tribe in the Amazon and painstakingly learned their language. Deep insights into language, culture, faith and the world in an all around enthralling story.
TRAVEL BY BICYCLE
- Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy
Solo female bicycle tourist in the 1960’s.
- Around The World On Bicycle by Fred Birchmore
Solo bicycle tourist rode around the world in 1935.
- The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance by David Herlihy
Solo bicycle tourist in 1892 who didn’t make it home.
- The Longest Walk: An Odyssey of the Human Spirit by George Meegan
Not a cycle story, but the longest recorded walk (19,019 miles) through the Americas in the 1970’s & 1980’s.
TRAVEL IN ASIA
- Sparring with Charlie: Motorbiking Down the Ho Chi Minh Trail by Christopher Hunt
Similar to Antonia’s book about motorbiking the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
- Eat The Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town by Barbara Demick
Intense and interesting history of Tibet.
- Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah by Neil McKee
- Stranger In The Forest: On Foot Across Borneo by Eric Hanssen
I’ve yet to experience Borneo, but both of these books got me excited to explore this part of the world. Neil’s book was fun and interesting while Eric’s was a wild adventure, and both shed light on the culture, history and people in Borneo.
POLAR & OCEAN EXPLORATION
- Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton
- Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie
I love reading about explorers in the 1800’s and both of these polar sagas are remarkable.
- Expedition Deep Ocean: The First Descent to the Bottom of All Five Oceans by Josh Young
I’d never heard of Victor Vescovo but after this book chronicling his quest to visit the bottom of the world’s oceans in 2018-2019 I devoured documentaries and interviews about his accomplishment.
- The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown
Another good book from Daniel (also authored The Boys In The Boat).
- The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell
Maybe not my favorite book, but it was made as an audiobook first and produced like a radio show with sound effects and recorded interviews that make the story very engaging.
- A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age by Stephen Nadler
About Baruch Spinoza’s 1670 book that challenged the areas of organized religion, faith, democracy and political nations.
VARIOUS ENJOYABLE TITLES
- Bee People and the Bugs They Love by Frank Mortimer
I learned way more about bees and beekeeping than I ever knew I wanted to. I actually I think about this book quite often, and not just when I’m being chased by bees!
- The Rhine: Following Europe’s Greatest River from Amsterdam to the Alps by Ben Coates
Enjoyable travelog, reminded me of Adam Fletcher’s style.
- The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy
Interesting look into the life of a long haul trucker.
- Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld
I wasn’t allowed to watch Seinfeld growing up, but this book had me laughing out loud.
- The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish by Emily Voigt
Similar to The Feather Thief, The Falcon Thief, and the Orchid Thief, all written by different authors.
- The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket by Benjamin Lord
- The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston
- World War C: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One by Sanjay Gupta
- The Death And Life Of The Great Lakes by Dave Egan
- The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move by Sonia Shah
- Peril by Bob Woodard
- Hype: How Scammers, Grifters, and Con Artists Are Taking Over the Internet—and Why We’re Following by Gabrielle Bluestone
- Cultish: The Language Of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell
- Empire Of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
- Seed Money: Monsanto’s Past and Our Food Future by Bartow J. Elmore
And that pretty much wraps it up! There were many more titles that I found interesting last year, although I wouldn’t necessarily read them again, or even recommend them to anyone I know, or at least anyone I like.
I’m still reading most of my books from the public library’s free digital titles and purchasing a few each year from Audible.com.
If you have any books you’ve really enjoyed recently send me a message, I’m always adding more titles to my “to-read” list!