In 2021 I attempted to keep a detailed journal of all the new (or at least new-to-me) books, movies, tv shows, music and podcasts I experienced during the year.
I made it through May. After that, it gets a little dicey.
Looking back at the accounting of it has been eye-opening. There’s so much more of it than I realized. Reviewing the year has really helped me get a sense of what has stuck with me and what has turned out to be forgettable. So, I thought I’d share it here, starting with books (since I’m the kind of guy who likes to believe that I’m a book-first person). Rather than take up a lot of your time with mini-reviews I’ve decided to describe every work in 20 words or less. The rest is up to you.
The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife (Brad Balukjian). What if you met all the guys in a pack of baseball cards? Great idea, disappointing execution.
The Conquest of the Illinois (George Rogers Clark). First-person account from the general who secured the Illinois River Valley during the Revolutionary War. Short, fascinating.
Yogi: A Life Behind the Mask (Jon Pessah). A fascinating man, but the writing style grated. Like 500 pages of ESPN The Magazine pieces. Wish I liked it better.
Breathe: The New Science of a Lost Art (James Nestor). Fascinating, easy to follow, not jargon-laden. Practical techniques well explained. I’ve found it helpful and healthful.
The Disabled God (Nancy Eisland). An early approach at theology of disability. An important voice in an essential conversation. Challenging, with important insights.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (David Epstein). Explores the advantages for those who have had diverse experiences in work, training and development, contra the “Laser-Focused” approach.
A Study in Emerald (Neil Gaiman). Graphic novel imagining Sherlock Holmes in the Lovecraft Cthulu mythos. A blast if you like either or both of those.
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez). First book of a trippy graphic novel about a family, a house, and a wild set of keys. Fun read.
What Is the Bible? (Rob Bell). I liked it. YMMV on his style, but his explanation of how to read the Bible is pretty solid. Worthwhile.
Ted Strong Jr.: The Untold Story of an Original Harlem Globetrotter and Negro Leagues All-Star (Sherman L. Jenkins). The inspiring life of a Negro League All-Star and Harlem Globetrotter which was almost lost to history. Joyous read.
The Prophetic Imagination (Walter Brueggemann). A reading of the Hebrew Scriptures which sees the prophets as divine agents of counter-culture. Brief but rich, must-read classic.
Four Lost Cities (Annalee Newitz). The author looks at current archeology to consider the forces that can make seemingly healthy cities and civilizations disappear.
A Burning In My Bones (Winn Collier). Authorized biography of beloved pastor/author/translator Eugene Peterson. Gave human scale to a larger-than-life figure, affectionately.
From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution (Brendan Purcell). Purcell considers human origins from the discipline of philosophy, a fresh angle which offers fresh insights. Friendly to science and religion.
Tear Down These Walls: Following Jesus into Deeper Unity (John H. Armstrong). John is a personal mentor and inspiration who has committed himself to Christian unity. This is his latest work exploring that vision, and it is a beautiful expression of his mission.