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Books I Read in December 2021


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At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal of reading 25 books. I cruised through a few books with my Book Club, but when summer rolled around, my free time became consumed with visits from friends, weekend trips, and wedding planning. As the end of the year drew closer, I realized I had only read 13 books - it seemed impossible that I would reach my goal.


Then, at the beginning of December, we left for our 3-month sailing trip in Florida and The Bahamas. We drove across the country before setting sail on our new boat, Cristina (aka Twende, which means “let’s go!” in Swahili), and I started reading again, with enthusiasm. As it turns out, a sailing trip is a perfect opportunity for lots and lots of reading. Our boat is equipped with autopilot, meaning there is a lot of time where we only need to be paying “half-attention.” The autopilot steers the boat to the destination we enter into the GPS; we just need to keep an eye out for unexpected things in our path - other boats, crab pots, floating objects. So, on many long sailing days in December, I flew through as many books as I could. Although I didn’t quite reach my goal, I closed out 2021 having read 21 books. Here’s a look at what I read in December and what I loved.


A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

My Take: My friend recommended this to me, describing it as a “darker Harry Potter.” It didn’t disappoint. The book transports you to a frightening magical world, where gifted teenagers battle monsters (and each other) in wild and dramatic ways. But it’s more than just a bunch of spells and curses; the characters are interesting and their relationships keep you engaged until the very end.













Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

My Take: I couldn’t put this book down. Entrancing characters, interpersonal drama, and a storyline that makes you desperate to know the outcome. The book is focused around one family and one epic night, with flashbacks that build a rich picture of their history and the events that led them to the present. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop.













Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

My Take: This is a captivating and heart-wrenching story of life amidst the stunning violence of 1990s Colombia. The book, told from the alternating perspectives of a young girl and her live-in maid, is brimming with emotion, fear, joy, love, betrayal, and everything in between. It is a beautifully-crafted, unsettling story, inspired by the author’s life.













Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

My Take: It took me a little while to get into this quirky, unexpected story but once it hooks you, it really hooks you. The premise is bizarre until it’s not. The characters are hard to connect with until they’re not. In the end, I appreciated this book’s unusual yet sentimental portrayal of love.













Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

My Take: This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read and is a truly spectacular creation. It draws you into a world so strange that it is, at first, hard to understand what you’re even reading about. Once you settle into the oddness of the setting and the characters, you’ll realize just how impressive Saunders’ mind is. I wouldn’t call it an easy read but it’s one you certainly won’t forget.













The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

My Take: This is a remarkable story, so much so that at times it is hard to believe it is real. The book follows the life of Clemantine Wamariya, who co-authored the book with Elizabeth Weil, starting in 1994 when she and her sister escape the obliterating violence of the Rwandan genocide. She goes on to experience such hardship and, later, to achieve such fame that the two feel almost irreconcilable. All in all, it is a truly unforgettable story.













A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

My Take: I read this book as a kid but decided to pick it up again as we sailed along the Florida coast. The story follows a family through multiple generations, starting in the mid-1800s, as they build a life for themselves in the hard-scrabble wilds of Florida. The descriptions of old Florida are mesmerizing and beautiful, and the reality of life so different from what it is today that it’s hard to believe Smith is writing about the same place. The writing is simple yet the story is robust.












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