Year End Book Report: My Favorite Books/Comics I Read in 2021

Year End Badass Book Report

2021.  What can I say.  I’m still working from home.  Things got a little better in some respects, a little worse in others.  But through it all I was able to keep reading.  And logging my reading.

So, as usual, you can find my reading logs on Goodreads. I log everything I read there. My reading goal for 2021 was originally 115 books. However, I reached that goal in like October.  So, I went in and readjusted my reading goal to 140.  And according to Goodreads, I finished out the year with 170 books.  I tied my total from last year.  Let’s take a look at some of GoodReads’ stats for my reading last year.

Reading 170 books certainly sounds impressive. And I did it twice.  It’s not all novels, obviously.  There are a generous amount of comics in there.  And several smaller kids books.  I actually didn’t even log *all* the books I read to my kids.  Only some of them.  The newer ones.

Let’s look at some of my other Reading totals.

Here’s my shortest and longest book I read.  The shortest was one issue of The Flash (1987-).  Starting in 2020, I did a read through of the first 62 issues of that Flash series.  An issue at a time.  In 2021 I read #36 through #61.  That was a fun re-read.  The longest book as you can see is Stephen King’s The Institute.  That was a pretty good book too.  It felt like there should have been a small connection to Firestarter in that book.  But it never materialized.

Here are my “most popular” and “least popular” shelved books.  Most popular was Huck Finn.  I had started a re-read of the three Mark Twain books I’d read back in high school; A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huck Finn.  I read all three last year.  I hope to read the two other Tom Sawyer books he wrote that I’d never read; Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer Detective.  Again, one of the least popular things I read was an issue of my The Flash (1987-) re-read.

I’ve already set my GoodReads reading goal for this year.  I set it to 150.  I’m not trying to stress myself out with this goal.  But I am trying to up it a little every year.

Let’s move on with my recap of my favorite books I read this year.

Rules are the same.  Only books/comics I read for the first time in 2021 are eligible for this list.  No re-reads, of which I had a few (I think I mentioned most of them earlier).  I don’t typically read brand new stuff the year it comes out, but it happens.  This year I read 5 novels that were released in 2021.  I wonder if any of them made the list. Let’s find out.

Here are the top 5 books I read last year in no particular order.

Images and links are from GoodReads pages.

Books

Project Hail Mary
Project Hail Mary (2021) by Andy Weir
– I had wanted to read The Martian for years, and then the Matt Damon movie came out.  I loved it, and kind of thought, “Well, now I don’t need to read that book.”  Which is not true, I really should.  However, when Weir put out his next book, Artemis (2017), I checked it out and read it.  And promptly hated it.  So, when Project Hail Mary came out this year, I was a bit cautious.  This looked a lot more like The Martian than his previous book, so I gave it a shot.  And I really really liked it.  A guy wakes up on a spaceship.  He’s clearly not in our solar system.  He seems to have previously been in a coma.  His crew mates are dead.  And he can’t remember anything.  This is where you start in the book and we have to learn everything along with the main character.  The story goes into some surprising places.  I really enjoyed it.  The strength of this is making me want to read The Martian again.

The Tournament
The Tournament (2014) by Matthew Reilly
– I love Matthew Reilly.  His Jack West Jr books have made it onto my “best of” list.  I think his Scarecrow series has also made it onto my lists.  He’s a really fun action author and I really enjoy reading his books.  I think at this point, I’ve only not read maybe 2-3 of his books.  This had been on my “to read” list for a while, but for some reason Reilly’s Kindle books very rarely go on sale.  I typcially like to pick up Kindle books when they are $2.99 or less.  His rarely go there.  So it wasn’t until this year that I finally used a gift card to buy this book.  And I’m glad I did.  This book is GREAT.  It takes place in the 1500s.  Queen Elizabeth II is just a teenager.  Her teacher is Roger Ascham.  They travel to Constantinople to witness a grand chess tournament to determine the greatest chess master in the world.  But a murder during the tournament sends Roger Ascham, a smart, amateur detective, into the depths of the sultan’s palace to discover a murderer.  Lots of mystery and suspense in this one.

BTTF Ultimate Visual History
Back to the Future Ultimate Visual History (2015) by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk
– I’ve mentioned before I love oral histories.  I previous read all three of JW Rinzler’s “Making of” Star Wars books.  I want to read Rinzler’s Indiana Jones “Making of” book.  Last year I read one on Jaws and one on one of my favorite video games, NBA Jam.  I’d also many years ago read one on Saturday Night Live.  I’ve even read a Back to the Future “Making of” book before.  And I didn’t love it because, honestly, I already knew all the stuff in that book.  So, while I bought this newer Back to the Future Ultimate Visual History, I was worried I wasn’t going to like it because I thought I would already know everything it had to tell me.  But I was wrong.  This book is so well laid out.  Lots of great info.  There was even a bunch of stuff I didn’t know.  They dig into many aspects of the production of the movie.  Even the whole Eric Stoltz debacle.  And it tackles both sequels, as well as Back to the Future The Ride, and Back to the Future The Animated Series.  So it’s comprehensive.  And very readable.  Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Director Should Have Shot You
The Director Should Have Shot You: Memoirs of the Film Trade by Alan Dean Foster
– By Subterranean Press.  Being a movie novelization junkie, and host of a movie novelization podcast, I was super excited to discover Alan Dean Foster, the godfather of movie novelizations, wrote a memoir.  And it’s not just a memoir.  It’s a deep dive into all of the movie novelizations that he’s written, including one that was never published.  He goes through each book one by one in chronological order and gives anecdotes about the writing of the book.  It’s a lot of fun, super informative, with lots of good pictures.  Highly recommend this, especially to novelization fans.  Unsigned copies of this book are still available.  Click the image of the book above to go get one.

Six of Crows Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows Duology (2015/2016) by Leigh Bardugo – This is by the same author that started the Shadow and Bone series that is now a series on Netflix.  Technically, these two books are a part of that Shadow and Bone series.  In fact, the Netflix series adapts part of Six of Crows in its first season.   Anyway, I was aware of the Shadow and Bone series and wanted to read it.  But then I was searching “heist” books and Six of Crows kept coming up on people’s lists.  So I went ahead and read it.  And loved it.  THEN, I figured out that Six of Crows takes place a few years after the three Shadow and Bone books.  The timeline here is complicated, but in the books, Shadow and Bone is the first trilogy.  Then chronologically comes Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom.  Then taking place a few years after these books is another trilogy.  But I enjoyed Six of Crows so much I just read these two books first anyway.  And they are amazing.  Great characters.  Lots of fun intricate plans.  Good dialogue.  Really enjoyed this.  I also read the first two Shadow and Bone books after these, and I can see where I may have spoiled myself on a few things by doing it this way, but I don’t care.  Reading these two first were worth it.

I’m going to throw in one extra. Call it a “Baker’s Five” of books.

Devil and the Dark Water
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
– This book was on this list until literally the last 5 days of 2021.  I read Turton’s first book in 2019.  It was mostly good, but sort of went off the rails towards the end.  However it was written engagingly enough that I was interested in his next book.  And this was it.  It is sort of a Sherlockian setup.  Takes place in the 16th century on a sailing ship.  Murders start happening.  The “Sherlock” character is locked up in the brig as a suspect.  And the “Watson” character has to solve the mystery on his own.  That’s a very basic setup.  There’s a lot going on in this book.  But it has a great atmosphere, I loved the mystery, and I really enjoyed the characters.  There are a couple of Macguffins in the story.  But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As usual, I also read a bunch of movie novelizations this year for I Read Movies.  However, I don’t include those in this list.  I do a separate write up for I Read Movies year end.  Check it out here.

Let’s switch over to comics! Here are the top 5 comics I read last year in no particular order.

Comics

Red Hood 1
Red Hood and the Outlaws (Rebirth) by Scott Lobdell and Dexter Soy
– So, as I do, I sort of got on a Jason Todd kick this year. I was always curious about the Red Hood, so I decided to check out Lobdell’s Rebirth series.  And loved it.  I read through the whole thing.  Jason Todd as Red Hood, Artemis, and Bizarro make a great team.  And they were like a family.  It was such a good dynamic.  And Lobdell brought the humor.  Jason Todd’s relationship with Batman and the rest of the family is so sardonic.  But it’s clear that he appreciates them.  His whole sardonic attitude is great and it belies the fact that he’s great at what he does.  He’s usually as prepared as Batman is.  This is a great series and I wanted to delve more into Jason Todd’s adventures, so next I read…

Under the Red Hood Red Hood Lost Days
Batman: Under the Red Hood/Lost Days by Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke, and Jeremy Haun – These books are two different runs separated by 5-6 years, but I’m putting them together because they are by the same author and they are mirrors of each other.  Under the Red Hood was the original run where Winick had Jason Todd return as the titular character.  It’s a great story, told from Batman’s POV that involves the Joker, Talia al Ghul, and Nightwing.  I loved it.  Red Hood: Lost Days is a follow up to the original run, also written by Winick, but many years later.  Essentially, it’s Under the Red Hood, but this time it’s from Red Hood’s POV.  So we get a lot of what you didn’t see in the first book.  This one is also excellent and I highly recommend it.

Fire Power 1 Fire Power 2
Fire Power by Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee – I’m a fan of Robert Kirkman.  Unlike others, I don’t worship at the altar of Walking Dead, but I love Kirkman’s work on Astounding Wolf-Man, Invincible, and Marvel Zombies.  I’m also a big fan of Samnee’s art.  One of my all time favorite things is his Black Widow run with Mark Waid.  So combine these two on a kung fu tale and YES PLEASE.  I read the first three volumes of this which goes up to about issue 12.  It’s about an ancient shaolin temple that seeks to rediscover the art of throwing fire.  And one man comes to the temple to learn.  Then, the story shifts like 15 years, and we see the man with his wife and kids, and his days at the shaolin temple come back to haunt him when a rival temple comes to attack his family.  It’s really good, I really enjoyed this title.  Great art, of course.  And the story really picks up during the “15 years later” part.

MM Mighty Thor 1 MM Hulk 1 MM: X-Men 1
Marvel Masterworks (Thor, Hulk, X-Men) –  Continuing my journey reading through some of these old Marvel issues.  I had set a goal for myself earlier this year to read all the Marvel Masterworks volume 1s featuring the original line up of the Avengers; Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, Wasp, and Captain America.  Yes, Captain America wasn’t in Avengers #1, but he showed up in #4, and he’s so linked to the group at this point I’m including him.  I’ve done all of those now except Captain America, Ant-Man and Wasp.  Captain America has two, the Golden Age archive, and the Modern Age archive (essentially before and after “frozen in ice”).  I’ll probably just do both.  Anyway, this year I tackled The Mighty Thor (Journey into Mystery), The Incredible Hulk, and in a break from my Avengers challenge, the original X-Men.  I loved all of these.  In X-Men you see a ton of firsts including Cerebro, Magneto, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver.  And everyone is in love with Jean Grey.  Hulk’s is super weird.  Originally he only changes at night.  Then, he has an accident where in order to change into the Hulk, Banner has to bathe himself in Gamma Rays with a radiation gun.  EVERY TIME.  And Thor’s is a lot of fun too with appearances by Loki and Odin.  And Thor has his Doctor Blake secret identity.  And his nurse Jane Foster.  OMG.  So much drama.  I really recommend reading these early adventures of your favorite heroes.  They are so much fun.  Like I said, this year I hope to do Captain America, Ant-Man/Wasp (Tales to Astonish), and maybe Uncanny X-Men.

Black Widow 1 Black Widow 2
Black Widow by Kelly Thompson – Kelly Thompson is the best.  I originally discovered her on Kate Bishop: Hawkeye.  Then I followed her to West Coast Avengers.  Which I loved and was sad it didn’t continue after issue #10.  Now I’m reading her Deadpool series and this, her Black Widow series.  This is so good.  The first collection has Bucky and Hawkeye, the second collection has Yelena and Spider-Girl.  I love Thompson’s voice.  Her dialogue is so great.  The art is by Elena Casagrande and Rafael de Latorre.  And it’s *also* fantastic.  This is a great series.  Love it.

And those were my favorite books and comics I read in 2021. I’ll maybe have a followup article to this talking about some Honorable Mentions.  You know, things that maybe I liked that almost made the list, but also things I didn’t like and really want to talk about.

Hope you enjoyed this article and found something new that you may eventually love.  Let me know if you do!

Okay, that covers EVERYTHING I’ve read.  Next up…MOVIES!  Stay tuned.

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