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When I'm not outside: what I read in 2021

Maybe a more accurate title to this post would start "when I'm not outside (& sometimes when I am)" because some of the best times spent in the outdoors this year have been with my Kindle in hand. The opposite is also true - some of my best times reading have been in outside spaces. Either way, 2021 marked my biggest year of personal reading since probably elementary school. I ended with a grand tally of 21 books, ranging from 50 pages to 800 in length. I also branched further out of my genre comfort zone than ever before, mostly thanks to my incredibly well-rounded and beautiful-minded partner, Rick (along with a few prompts from book-loving girlfriends). I've highlighted a few of my absolute favourite reads, but they were seriously all (mostly) excellent.

Side note, if you're interested in bullet journaling or reading journals or just reading in general (I assume those of you on this post may fall into one of those categories at least), check out my talented friend @pages.with.megan on Instagram!

Outdoors (adventure & conservation). Is this a real genre?

  • Mad Trapper of Rat River: A True Story Of Canada's Biggest Manhunt by Dick North

This novel was recommended to me by a biologist when I accepted my MSc position, as the story largely takes place on the land and in the communities where my project is. This was my first exploration into stories of Arctic Canada. I really enjoyed this read and the history folded into it.

  • The Twenty-Ninth Day: Surviving a Grizzly Attack in the Canadian Tundra by Alex Messenger

The perfect evening novel to enjoy in my little cabin in Inuvik, NWT, as a I prepared for many adventures on the arctic tundra (slight sarcasm regarding my timing of reading this, but the actual novel is great).

  • A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River by Aldo Leopold

A conservation classic that you may be tired of hearing about by now (but people adore this writing and the man behind it for a good reason). 2021 marked my actual read of this novel, as the first time I half-listened to an audio-book when it was a required text for my fourth-year wildlife management course back in 2018. Apparently its value and charm stuck with me over the years, and I've somehow accidentally acquired three copies now.

Mind expanding content. Honestly, just read all of these cover to cover. Seriously excellent.

  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

  • Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith

  • Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

  • Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind by Ajit Varki & Danny Brower

Looking to dip your toes in historic Russian literature? Ya, I wasn't either. Luckily these novels are all quite short, but their length doesn't parallel their significance and impact. Depressing, but simple, important lessons are housed in these pages. I've come to really appreciate this genre (thank you Rick).

  • The death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

  • How much land does a man need by Leo Tolstoy

  • Five Great Short Stories by Anton Chekhov

  • One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, H. T. Willetts

Ancient Greek fiction, based on true(?) events. I was seriously shocked to find myself thoroughly enjoying Madeline Miller's work, another genre I wouldn't normally reach for. These are fantastic, impactful stories, probably some of my favourites of all time (again, thank you Rick).

  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

  • Circe by Madeline Miller

Straight up fiction. Unfortunately, I really didn't care for either of these reads but I enjoyed the process of trying highly rated books from new genres (fantasy and romance, respectively).

  • The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

  • Normal People by Sally Rooney

2022 is off to a great start with my first three novels closed by the end of January.

  • The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds by Caroline Van Hemert

Excellent recommendation from my lab-mate, Becca. A really beautiful combination of story-telling, thought provoking content, and nerdy biology material.

  • The Odyssey by Homer, Emily Wilson translation

Following up on my love for Madeline Miller's novels, I went back to read a translation of the Odyssey, which inspired her work. I'm still pleasantly shocked at how smooth the literature about ancient Greece is digesting for me!

  • 1984 by George Orwell

It's been on the list for a while, but as critically acclaimed as it is, I just didn't enjoy this read or deeply under the sentiment. I think I need to read more about this book to make sure I actually understood...

I'm currently working on Robin Wall Kimmerer's Gathering Moss, which is already proving to be a very satisfying read. If you have any book recommendations, be sure to drop them in the comments!



Reading in my cabin in Inuvik, NWT, August 2021.

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