2021 Books in Review

I was only able to read 17 books this year. This is the least number of books I have read since 2009. I’m not very happy with that, but 2022 is a new year and another opportunity to read more books!


  • Only 5 books from outside the US
  • 63% of books were written by Men
  • 69% of books I read were on the Kindle (4 audiobooks, 1 real book and the rest were kindle books)
  • 3,286 pages
  • 1,879 minutes of audiobooks (~31 hours)
  • Almost half the books I read where about the environment (44%)
  • 4 audiobooks came from the library, saving me $89.10

Top rated (5-star) books:

Book Review | The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and our Health—and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard
3525 / 5Non-fiction, environment

Wow! I wish I would have read this years ago! I learned so much about all our crap! I’m already on the road to simplify and minimize, but this really got me thinking about what more I can do.

Similar books that I’m interested in:

The video that started the conversation…

Other book recommendations from the book:

Other Notes:

  • 350.org – Climate change non-profit fighting the use of fossil fuels.
  • waterfootprint.org – The Water Footprint Network is a platform for collaboration between companies, organizations and individuals to solve the world’s water crises by advancing fair and smart water use.
  • sustainable-economy.org – Center for Sustainable Economy.
  • eartheconomics.org – We all rely on services provided by nature, often without realizing it or in ways we don’t fully recognize. Earth Economics identifies and quantifies those benefits to ensure they are included in the decision-making process at all levels, so communities can mitigate risk, increase resilience, and protect their natural capital wealth.

Paradigms are so pervasive and invisible that they can be easily mistaken for truth. When this happens, we limit our creativity in finding solutions to the problems we face, since our thinking is cramped and predefined by society’s dominant framework.

There are the downshifters, those who voluntarily live simply, unplugging from commercial culture, working, and buying less.

…downshifting, enough-ism, or voluntary simplicity–involves embracing a shift towards working and spending less.

Annie Leonard

Exciting New February Releases

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam M. Grant

Book Synopsis: Why do we refresh our wardrobes every year, renovate our kitchens every decade, but never update our beliefs and our views? Why do we laugh at people using computers that are ten years old, but yet still cling to opinions we formed ten years ago?

This book sounds equal parts minimalist and environmentalism. Right up my alley and I’m excited to read it when it publishes on February 2. Also, it’s from the author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates

Book Synopsis: Bill Gates shares what he’s learned in more than a decade of studying climate change and investing in innovations to address the problems, and sets out a vision for how the world can build the tools it needs to get to zero greenhouse gas emissions.

I may be in the minority here as I know that he created a monopoly with Windows but I like Bill Gates. I think he and his wife are truly giving back a lot of their wealth and time to try to make things better for people all over the world. In this book, I hope to gain some insight into how he thinks we can beat this thing. It releases, February 16, 2021.

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert

Book synopsis: In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a super coral that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth.

Publishing February 9, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote The Sixth Extinction. Even though, I’m not sure I loved that book, it is wildly popular and I heard her speak on Bill Gates podcast, so I want to give this new book a chance.

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz

Book Synopsis: In Four Lost Cities, acclaimed science journalist Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the center of a sophisticated civilization: the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman vacation town of Pompeii on Italy’s southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia, and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia, which stood beside the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today.

Another book coming out on February 2, this one looks to be a lighter read, but still with an important message. I like lost city stories like Atlantis (I know fictional) and I’m looking forward to see how Annalee helps these cities of the past come alive and tell us the story of why they disappeared.

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

Book synopsis: Contemptuous of their parents, who pass their days in a stupor of liquor, drugs, and sex, the children feel neglected and suffocated at the same time. When a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, the group’s ringleaders—including Eve, who narrates the story—decide to run away, leading the younger ones on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside.

This one came out last year but still sounds very interesting to me. It’s the only thing on this list that is fiction, but it is a powerful story. The Sierra Club calls this one out as a Must-Read. That’s a strong endorsement.

The Great Purge

Goodreads site

I had around 730 books on my to-read shelf on Goodreads. Even if I read 50 books a year that’s over 14 years before I get through that list. I have been on Goodreads since 2007, that’s also 14 years. and I have read 726 books. I’ve been adding books for 14 years, but I don’t think I’ve ever done an audit of all the 700+ books on my to-read and I can’t remember why I added some that have been there for over 13 years.

So in the last few years, I have gotten better at writing notes in Goodreads as to why I added certain books, then when I come back later I can see if that reason is still enough to keep the book on my list given that I will probably have added even more books. But again, I hadn’t reviewed the list.

Now that we are up-to-speed, I’ve started to review them over the last few weeks. It’s hard. I’m afraid to take anything off my list because I assume that I had a good reason to add them in the past. Why do I think that past me is smarter than present me? So, I have to be brutal in the culling.

How I’m going about it. When I come to a book on the list…

  • If I don’t immediately know that I love the book and can’t wait to read it
  • I look to see if there are any notes on the book from myself or better yet a recommendation
  • If no recommendation then I look to see if anyone I follow has done a review
  • Lastly, I read the book description
  • If after reading the description I’m still on the fence then I look at some of the reviews

Reading the reviews is hard because everyone is so different. Many people don’t just randomly pick a book and start reading. They have an interest in the topic a reason for picking up the book in the first place, so you have to take that into account. Plus, those that write reviews are invested in the book enough to create a review.

I usually review every book, more for myself than for other readers to see if they should read the book or not, I look at it as a history or journal of what I’m reading. But we can assume that not everyone is like me and that those writing a review have strong feelings one way or the other. So you tend to get people that hated it or loved it not too much in between.

I’m still making my way through all 730ish books on my to-read, but so far I’ve already taken off 100. It’s going to take a while and I can’t be in a rush or somethings will be dropped because I’m in too much of a hurry to complete the task. I could also keep things I shouldn’t because I’m rushing.

I’m thinking this is something I should really do yearly as well. Since many times my interest ebb and flow. I may lose interest in a topic and don’t want to invest the time in a book that is on a subject that no longer interests me.

2020 Books in Review

I had high hopes for 2020 as far as reading went. But 2020 had other plans for all of us. My wife and I welcomed a new baby girl into our lives and the world gave us a global pandemic. You would think I would have more time on my hands with a global pandemic, but preparing and having a third little girl did divert my time slightly. While I planned to read many more books in 2020 I only made it through 36 books this year. Less than the 55 I was able to read in 2019.

Although I read less I think I did better with reading diversity. In 2019 I read only 23% female authors’ books, while in 2020 I managed 40%, still less than half, and something I can still improve upon, but better. 89% of the books I read were non-fiction. I believe fiction is important to read, but my favorite genre is definitely non-fiction, I really feel like reading those books is time well spent. Back to diversity; I also look at the nationality of the writers I read. In 2020, I read 77% from United States writers. I did manage to read 3 Canadians, but that’s still the North American continent.

As far as how I liked the books, my average score was 4, the lowest was 2, and the highest was 5. I’ll make sure to link to all the 5-star books below. My favorite binding or way of reading was Kindle (48.6%). This makes sense when you see how many books I read about minimalism this year and last. Next was audiobooks, 31.4%. I’m sure I would have read even more audiobooks in 2020 if my commute would have lasted past March.

I read 6,524 pages digital and real this year. I listened to 6,170 minutes (102.8 hours, 4.3 days) of audiobooks. I enjoyed listening to books on walks while riding an indoor bike and sometimes laying on the ground waiting for a child of mine to fall asleep.

Topics or why I read the books I did this year. 9 books were related to minimalism, 5 were general education, 4 on the environment and cycling (4 each). This is a big one. I saved $310.09 by using the library in 2020.

One thing that was different this year is that each book got a blog post, something I have not been very good at doing in the past. I hope to get better at this.

5 Star books I read in 2020:

If you can only read one of these books read, How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger.

Book Review | How to Be an Antiracist

How to Be an Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi
3054 / 5Non-fiction, Race

This year changed a lot of things. A major one of those things was the Black Lives Matter movement. It brought to the forefront hundreds of years of oppression. I’m no expert on this movement and as a privileged, white, heterosexual, male, I can’t begin to understand the struggle of African-Americans in this country. Having said that, not trying is failing. Reading a book doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make a huge difference. I’m trying to learn and see things from another person’s eyes.

Ibram’s book does that. I encourage you to listen to this 6 minute NPR story about this book:

Book Review | A Rose for Emily

A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner
A Rose for Emily
by William Faulkner
364 / 5Fiction, short story, classic

Emily is a member of a family in the antebellum Southern aristocracy; after the Civil War, the family has fallen on hard times.

A very short story that you can read online here. A bit of history and a somewhat sad story. Very well-written and an enjoyable read. Only 4 stars as I wish it was longer. Looks like the whole movie is available on youtube:

Book Review | Ninety Percent of Everything

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate by Rose George
3043 / 5Non-fiction, Economics, Travel

Rose George writes a very extensive (verbose) description of the shipping industry as it is today. In order to accomplish this she actually gets on a ship and sails with the crew of a cargo ship through their normal route, including pirate infested waters. I read the book more for the economics of shipping. I wanted to understand how we got to this place where it is insanely cheap to ship via cargo ships and cargo containers. She covers this and so much more.

The extra is where she loses me. At times she dives into the history of shipping, then she passes to the legality of it, then the a short biography of the current captain of the ship she is on, then the shipping company Maersk, then it reads as a travel book, then she covers a short history of harbor towns. You can see what I am getting at here. It’s just too much. She managed to pack in 3 or 4 book subjects into one book. While the title speaks to me, the economy of shipping, there is so much more in this book. For this reason, it gets only 3 stars.

Book Review | The Truths We Hold

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris
3364 / 5Non-fiction, autobiography, politics

Good biography from Harris. Obviously focusing on her professional career the most. People who want to know her stance on things may benefit from reading this. Boiled down to fairness for all and climate change is important. Not bad, but you have to wonder how much of this was her telling us exactly what we want to hear.

I’m really glad that I read this before she became America’s first female, first Black, and first South Asian vice president-elect. That’s a lot of first and she has a lot to be proud of already. I’m looking forward to seeing what she and Biden can do.

Book Review | Origin

Origin by Dan Brown
Origin by Dan Brown
4564 / 5Fiction, Thriller, Mystery

Excellent Robert Langdon story again. Maybe not as strong as the first 4 books, but totally worth reading if you haven’t yet. If you have read or seen any of the books, such as the Da Vinci Code, you already know what to expect from this book. This is a great book and lots of fun to read.

It was nice to take a break from all the non-fiction I read. This is one of only 4 fiction books I read the entire year. So, that right there should tell you something. “I don’t read fiction much, but when I do they are good picks.” LOL.