7 Books I Didn't Read in 2021
It was a huge year
Happy new year, you Damn Optimists! I committed to publishing 5 articles in 5 weeks, and this is the 5th. I figured I’d have fun with it. Please share if you enjoyed it.
Like many internet writer types, I have a tendency to publish an annual reflection. Results have been mixed: my most popular post this year was 8 Things I Didn’t Learn in 2020, while probably the least read piece in my entire writing history was Some Random Dude’s Top 10 Reads of 2017 which made it sound like I read many more than 10 books that year.
I want to continue my series of award-winning year-end posts with a reflection on books I am proud not to have read this year. Here goes.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I have carefully managed to avoid reading this pedophilic classic for 30 consecutive years, a milestone perhaps worth celebrating. Having had several near-misses at university, now feels too late anyway to get deeply involved in the life of a French middle aged professor’s romantic obsession with a 12 year old. However, even as my college-era pretentiousness has given way to other approaches to life (Dudeism, mostly), everything is possible. Hoping for continued resilience against my pseudo-intellectual tendencies in 2022.
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I really like Malcolm Gladwell. Or at least the one book of his I read, which happened to not be Blink, his most famous book. Instead, I read Outliers (as an aspiring outlier myself) and devoured it so quickly that I don’t remember pretty much any of it, kind of like a warm garlic naan. So am I complaining that he writes too well? That his narrative is too engaging? Maybe. But without having read Blink, I am choosing to form an opinion that yes – that’s exactly what it is.
Dune by Frank Herbert. This sci-fi epic was recommended to me by several people I respect over the years, with the frequency and urgency increasing to fever pitch as we neared the release of the big budget movie based on it. But then the movie came out and I watched it, and now I can both talk about it like I read it1 and not have to read it. Which is really the best of both worlds.
Originals by Adam Grant. Certainly an important book to read for anyone who wants to be, well, original. Though cynics may ask what might happen if everyone read the same guide to being original, we are not cynics here. We are Damn Optimists. That said, this book somehow made it onto every list of books ever published in civilization — including this one, now. So given I read more blurbs about it than there are words in the book, I felt comfortable excluding this (probably) well-researched, (probably) eye-opening read from my reading list.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I mostly stayed off the road this year, and so did not get to immerse myself in this classic tale of counterculture, youthful ennui and probably lots of drugs. Though the world never tires of tales of young white guys going on adventures (isn’t that literally most of the West’s literary canon?), I kinda did. I’ve also read, like, every word Ram Dass has ever written which gave me enough counterculture and drugs to last a lifetime.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Part of me is sad I will never read what may or may not to be a culmination of every HBR article ever written on human behavior. I am sure there are some educational and thoroughly entertaining anecdotes about how incentives work that will make me feel wily like a coyote and that I will make sure to forget to use at work. But I am afraid I am simply too late to the party: every aspiring tech leader already has this on their curated Zoom bookshelf, and if I want to be Original™ (see entry #4), I am gonna need to pick something that’s still in the early stages of the Gartner Hype Cycle. Like a book on the history of slugs, or something.
How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard. I didn’t read it this year because I read it a couple of years ago. And I am glad I read it too, because it gave me the skillset needed to write this article. Thanks Pierre!
Thanks for reading, friend. What’d you think of this piece? 👇
Yes, yes, the movie is just the very beginning of the book, etc etc. I hear ya.