2021 in Books

With just a couple days to spare, I made my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 40 books. It was a close thing, but I was able to make it up in the final months of the year. Here is how the numbers breakdown by genre:

  • 7 fiction books
  • 8 general nonfiction books
  • 10 books on Buddhism
  • 15 books on Japan and/or Asia

Forty is not a lot of books considering I spent the first few months of the year in full book research mode on Iki. I did read quite a few academic papers during that time. Then of course we had a pretty intense couple of summer months which changed everything. All in all, it was a good year for books. I took thousands of words of notes, and even added 60 new books to my Want to Read list, which is at 337 books to date.

Out of the 40 read this year only 21 were audiobooks. This is a change for the good I think. It means I read more books closely, giving me more time to take smart notes, something that is a bit more difficult to do in audio. Six out of my seven fiction books were in audio, so you can see the trend there. I also discovered a number of podcasts, thus my listening time was taken up by catching up on those backlogs. Now that I am working from home, and have no commute, I don’t expect my audiobook listening ratio to be too high in 2022.

You can see all my 2021 books listed below with a rating for quick perusal, but I would say this year’s standouts include:

  • Seeking Sakyamuni: This book is just so up my alley. I read it after The Irish Buddhist which is also fascinating. This vein of “maritime transnational pan-Asian Buddhist networks struggling against colonialism” is something I will continue to mine in 2022.
  • In the Dragon’s Shadow: A great tour of Southeast Asia that is very readable. If you want to get a sense of where the next Great Power political struggle will play out, this is a good place to start.
  • The Economist’s Hour: I think this is one of those general books that everyone should read to understand the world we live in today. This is the book I have been sharing with everyone this year.

If you want to follow along, or connect with me about books and reading, get me on Goodreads. Twitter is also a good place to connect. This year I tried to track my book reading there too in a massive thread using the #NowReading2021 hashtag, which is a great way to see what everyone is up to. I will continue to do that in 2022. Happy reading!


2021 Read Books by category

You can see all the books with ratings (and some mini-reviews) in a sortable table on Goodreads but I thought I would break them out into some loose categories for your perusal.

Asia (15 books)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Rise of Modern Japan
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Providence Was With Us: How A Japanese Doctor Turned The Afghan Desert Green Review →
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ランディー・チャネル宗榮のバイリンガル茶の湯BOOK
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ In the Dragon’s Shadow: Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Korea: A Very Short Introduction
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Art of Emptiness Review →
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Japan’s Quest for Stability in Southeast Asia: Navigating the Turning Points in Postwar Asia Review →
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan Review →
⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Three Tigers, One Mountain: A Journey Through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Maritime Asia vs. Continental Asia: National Strategies in a Region of Change (review forthcoming)
⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Concise History of Japan
⭐️⭐️⭐️ African Samurai: The True Story of a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan
⭐️⭐️ Places Review →
⭐️⭐️ The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps: The Bloody Battles and Intrigues of the Shinsengumi

Buddhism (10 books)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Finding the Heart Sutra: Guided by a Magician, an Art Collector and Buddhist Sages from Tibet to Japan (such a fun book!)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Buddhism and Modernity: Sources from Nineteenth-Century Japan (Review →)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Seeking Sakyamuni: South Asia in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great World Religions: Buddhism (a re-listen)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah (a re-read)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Life is a Near Death Experience: Skills for Illness, Aging, Dying, and Loss
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity Across the South China Sea
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Loving-Kindness in Plain English: The Practice of Metta
⭐️⭐️⭐️ 英語対訳で読む禅入門 Introduction to Zen

Non-fiction (8 books)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Economist’s Hour: The Rise of a Discipline, the Failures of Globalization, and the Road to Nationalism (highly recommended!)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Intimations (some great essays)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Antiracist Baby Review →
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Notes on Grief
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Pops

Fiction (7 books)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Sandman: Act II
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Piranesi
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Pastoral (Quincunx, #1)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Queen’s Gambit
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (re-listened this one with my daughter as she was wrapping up the series)
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Ring (Quincunx, #3)
⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Exphoria Code: A Novel

Published by Chad Kohalyk

Belletrist, communitarian, tech contrarian. Generous with Likes.

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