And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. – Ecclesiastes 12:12 KJV
I read a lot. Technical journals (AIAA, ASME, ISSF), Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space News, National Geographic, Nat Geo History, Sky & Telescope, Backpacker, others. Newspapers every day – the actual paper ones (yes, I’m that old). And, of course, there is my work: technical reports by the dozen, briefing papers, proposals, etc. Most of that last is electronic; seems work has gone ‘virtual’ these days.
But I still have time to read books. I’m not an e-reader kind of guy; I want to hold the book in my hand and feel the heft of it, the smell of it. I spend too much time on my electronic devices as it is.
Looking over past years, 2021 has been typical: space related books, history, good mysteries, a few religious books, current events, some great literature. A few ‘re-reads’ of books read decades ago have crept in as well.
Here is my list of books read in 2021 – in no particular order. Not a bad book among them:
The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot
The Cure at Troy – Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney
Giants in the Earth by O. E. Rolvaag
The Good Shepard by C. S. Forester
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman
The Stargazer by Anne Hillerman
The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
The Dance hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman
Talking Mysteries by Tony Hillerman and E. Bulow
Prophetic City by Stephen L. Kleinberg
Once A Warrior by Jake Wood
Once they Moved Like the Wind by David Roberts
Kearney’s March by Winston Groom
The Twentieth Maine by John J. Pullen
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Mercury 13 by Martha Ackmann
Shuttle, Flight by Paul Dye
Go, Flight by Milt Heflin and Rick Houston
Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars by Eileen Collins and Jonathan Ward
Liftoff by Eric Berger
The Poudre, a Photo History by Stanley R. Case
The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach by Prof. Peter Schickele
Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips
In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
Looking ahead to 2022 I have already accumulated several books either purchased outright or received as gifts. Ready to read:
Back to Earth by Nicole Stott
Not Yet Imagined – A study of Hubble Space Telescope Operations – by Christopher Gainor
50 Years of Solar System Exploration – Historical Perspectives – Linda Billings, editor
Brave Companions – Portraits in History – by David McCullough
No Barriers by Erik Weihenmayer and Buddy Levy
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
And if Anne Hillerman produces a new Manuelito mystery novel continuing the series started by her father – I will be first in line at the bookstore to get a copy.
The book I am going to read first in 2022 – taken off the shelf from my daughter’s collection, is The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas. Everyone should have a little classic literature in their lives. I’ve missed reading this one and need to fill that blank. It is, so I’ve heard, a book where nothing is quite what it seems to be. Maybe a parable for our times.
Of all of these books, what is my most recommended?
All of them are good. But my pick of the year is an old one: The Good Shepard by C. S. Forester. It was written in 1955 and Hollywood just made it into the stunning movie “Greyhound’ in 2020.
But the book – the book as it always does – the book reveals the internal dialog, the fears, and the courage of the principal character in a way that the silver screen with all its CGI capabilities cannot.
Read that book for its lesson of the importance of character: “Yet these were matters of primary importance, for in war the character and personality of the leader is decisive of events much more than the minor questions of material.”
And finally, 2022 may be the time I take the advice of Eileen Collins, Homer Hickam, and many others to start writing my own book. There may be a few stories that I need to preserve for posterity. All mostly true, of course.