Books Read in 2021
Here's a quick rundown of all the books I read in 2021. Books I particularly enjoyed and would recommend are in bold. Total books read: 57. Non-fiction: 20. Fiction 37.
Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike #5) by Robert Galbraith
Could not put this book down! Kept wishing it would never end... which is not something I normally say about a nearly 1000 page book. I love the character development of Strike, Robin and the host of supporting characters that happens with each new book in the series.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Quite enjoyed finding out more about Coriolanus Snow and how he became the character I came to dislike in the The Hunger Games. I thought the narrator's voice was particularly effective in eliciting the contradicting emotions I felt about this younger Snow as I was taken through the events of the book.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Quite dark and bloody in places... and a little slow at times, but really liked the story and characters.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Not what I was expecting at all, but a good glimpse into a different culture via a universal subject.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Gah, really didn’t enjoy this, and am wondering how it won the Goodreads award.
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss
An excellent, concise read with loads of practical takeaways on negotiation and essentially, how to relate to others. Also loved all the anecdotes and stories the author pulled together to showcase in each lesson.
The Art of War: A New Translation by Michael Nylan by Sun Tzu
Don't think this was the best translation for me to pick up. Will need to try with a different interpreter / translator.
The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) by Philip Pullman
Enjoyed it more than book #1. Loved finding out more about Lyra after the events of His Dark Materials. I think the last book in the trilogy will be a good one.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
Really interesting collection of cases. Highlights to me just how much we don’t understand about the human mind and how much untapped potential there is.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This was so good - what an amazing writer. A heart-breakingly sad read.
The Opinionated Guide to React by Sara Viera
A helpful guide for anyone who's somewhat new to React and unsure of how to do things due to the vast amount of choice available. This was also a fun read and I liked how open the author is about her misgivings / lack of confidence in certain areas.
Clean Code by Robert C. Martin
I found the first few chapters helpful, but found the remainder difficult to follow because the examples were specifically in Java which I don't know. One to revisit once I have more experience of working on large code bases, as part of a big team.
South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
I enjoyed it, but didn't find it substantial enough. There were too many questions left unanswered. Didn't expect it to end when it did and was left feeling unfulfilled.
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway
I found the initial chapters that were dedicated to each of The Four interesting. I found it hard to focus on the subsequent chapters where I found the writing a little too unfocused.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Found the middle part a bit laggy but rather enjoyed the speed uptick towards the end of the book. The tension between the various main characters was also well written.
Just Fucking Ship by Amy Hoy
Helpful practical tips on productivity with the aim of actually “going live “ with your product, whatever that might be. Read this if you have trouble finishing things or following through.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Would highly recommend as a philosophical read on life.
Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright
Disappointed as I really enjoyed the author’s MOOC Princeton course. This seemed much more subjective and based on the author’s own experience. I was expecting more science and evolutionary psychology to underpin arguments but this was not the case.
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li
Enjoyed getting a glimpse into a multigenerational story of American immigrants, centred around a Chinese restaurant. I appreciated the rich descriptions that came through and felt that the characters were vivid, real and didn’t shy away from the messiness of real life.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The audiobook was an excellent format for the style in which this book was written. This book is essentially a band documentary, told from lots of different characters’ viewpoints. The various voice actors really brought the story to life for me.
The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett
Another classic Follett book that pulls you in quickly through great characters and storytelling. Loved revisiting the Kingsbridge saga.
The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
Disappointed with this as I loved Mosse's previous books on the Languedoc. Reading this straight after The Evening and the Morning, with all of its twists and turns, this book felt a little too slow for my liking.
Hidden in Plain Sight by Jeffrey Archer
Urgh, just no. This grated on me from the start and I just couldn’t carry on. I found the conversations between the characters annoying and glib. The investigation storyline was also boring. Abandoning the series.
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
I was so excited to finally get my hands on this... only to be disappointed. Didn't love how Wade's character turned out, wasn't nearly as bought into the pop culture references as I was in book 1 (which was bloody amazing), and the ending was just like, "... what??".
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Definitely doesn't shy away from the difficult topics. Extremely real and slightly uncomfortable reading which made for a great read.
Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
This was super fun - great for an intro to coding for kids, but also good fun for geeky adults.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
A different take on the whodunnit genre. Really enjoyed reading this from a not-your-typical character perspective.
Circe by Madeline Miller
What a great way to showcase Greek mythology!
The Coding Career Handbook by Shawn Swyx Wang
Supremely useful reference book for how to think about a modern software engineering career.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Couldn't get into it initially (it's quite dark, and I don't think I was in the best frame of mind), but picked it up a few months later and enjoyed the second half.
The Undoing by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Yawn fest. Tried but just couldn’t get into it.
So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport
Short and to the point which I really appreciated. It has a simple core premise, which is that career advice focused on "just doing what you love" is unhelpful and dangerous.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Good but definitely wasn't easy reading. Feel like I need to do a Google search to understand more of the nuances of the story that I don't think I've fully appreciated.
De-Coding The Technical Interview Process by Emma Bostian
A really helpful read for anyone going into frontend dev interviews and needs what’s essentially a cheat sheet for all the topics you’ll probably be asked.
Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
I've always been really intrigued about Leonardo da Vinci, but didn't know too much about the details of his life. This biography was brilliant, with amazing pictures of Leonardo's art pieces and notebooks to accompany the text which sought to describe the artistry, meaning and thoughts behind the images.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
I didn’t know much about the Korea-Japan war so it was good to learn about what life was like during that period. I also liked that it touched on topics like immigration, shame, the role of women, filial duty and identity.
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
Not amongst my favourite stories from Murakami, but did enjoy the first 3.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
A really light and fun read. I picked this up after listening to Matthew on a few podcasts and he is a great storyteller. Loved realising this and learning more about his story.
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
A good read all in all, though a little data-reference heavy in parts. More a problem with me as that’s the point of the book… but I’d rather it be slightly more concise.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
There were some parts of the book that captured core human emotions so well (in the context of relationships). However there was a significantly larger part of the book that I felt really indifferent about.
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates
A practical book on how to tackle the climate change issue. Bill Gates lays down how we, the general public, should be thinking about the problem, and where the solutions lie.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
It wasn’t bad, and was intriguing enough to make me want to finish... but it was much to do about nothing. I felt vaguely disappointed at the end, but almost didn’t care because at least I reached the end.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
I like books like these - short, memorable characters and thought provoking. Touches on the ethics of AI, genetic engineering, social impact of AI and what it means to be human.
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
Enjoyable holiday read. Something a little different from my usual choice of books. I preferred this to the author’s first book as it felt a little more plausible… though still a little fantastical in places.
One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
Very readable. Characters were a little stereotypical in places but thought the pacing and character narratives were pretty spot on.
One Of Us Is Next by Karen McManus
A good sequel to the first book, that kept me guessing to the end.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Annoyed because it started off so well but then dragged on for way too long, IMHO.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
I loved this Pretty Woman role reversal for the main characters. It was also super interesting to learn that women can exhibit autism pretty differently from men (which tends to be the default behaviour we think about from media portrayals).
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I’ve never read a book structured like this. Each chapter was like a short story but linked to the previous ones. I love the multigenerational storyline, seeing the progression of the parallel bloodlines and learning more about the history of slavery. Also loved the ending.
Speeches of Note by Shaun Usher
There were some rather obscure speeches in here, which I really couldn't connect with... but for the personalities who I did know, I really enjoyed listening to their famous speeches brought to life in audio. I particularly enjoyed the Justin Trudeau speech.
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
Completely different form of fantasy compared to anything else I've read before. Love how "malaysian" this book is - could really picture all the characters and their accents. Story got a little crazy part way through, but glad I stuck it out to the end.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
I liked the world in which it takes place, the history and the main characters. Keen to find out what happens in the next book!
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
This was a long book about... not much. Summary: use checklists, especially with processes that are operated under high stress environments.
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
An absolute master class in storytelling. It’s a more than 600 page book which I finished in under 5 days... without a weekend involved.
The Chateau by Catherine Cooper
Didn’t love the characters or storyline, and skim read most of it just to get an idea of how the story plays out.
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Still really enjoying this series. Not as good as the last one, in terms of intrigue, but a good and satisfying ending.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Unfortunately, this did not live up to expectations and I found it a real slog. The pacing was a little slow and the main character's internal monologue was annoying to follow.