Technically, most of these books were purchased at the end of 2020. If you read my Bookish Resolutions for 2021, you may remember I talked about being more conscious and selective about the books I bought. For every book I buy, I have to get rid of one of my books. In this way, I’ll be forced to not spend so much money on books or constantly collect books I don’t have enough time to read.
Over on my Youtube channel, I did a book haul and unhaul, but since this post would be super long if I included both in one post, I decided to break up the haul and unhaul. The unhaul will be coming Saturday, but if you can’t wait, just watch my video to see the unhaul.
So today, I’m sharing twenty books I bought or received as gifts for Christmas. Also, you might notice quite a few of these revolve around Chinese history. Sorry, it’s what I’m really into currently. Let’s get into it!
The first book is China: A History by the Field Museum. It’s a pretty short book filled with basic, condensed information about the history of China, as well as gorgeous pictures. I don’t know why, but when it comes to history, I need the pictures. Even when I read a purely prose book about something in history without pictures, I’ll always look up pictures on my phone/laptop to be about to visualize whatever or whoever the book talks about.
I liked to imagine it is the child in me popping its head out.
The next book is The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao by Ian Johnson. It documents how Mao’s regime tried to destroy religion of any sort in China (whether traditional like Buddhism and Daoism, as well as more recent religions in China like Christianity and Islam), only to have it come back after his death.
It’s a nonfiction book, and I’m really interested in learning more about religion in China, especially in the 20th century. I’ve read a lot of Chinese philosophy books about early Chinese religions, so I’m curious to see how they developed or changed because of Mao’s rule.
My cover does not look exactly like this, but this one was the only one I could find. This book is 30-Second Ancient China: The 50 Most Important Achievements of a Timeless Civilization, Each Explained in Half a Minute by Yijie Zhuang. I really appreciate history books which condense a large amount of information into a small amount of reading, which is why I picked up this book. It has beautiful pictures, though I honestly think each page would take more like a couple minutes to read…maybe I’m just a slow reader.
Finally we move away from Chinese books (we will be back though) to the next book, Lost Science: Astonishing Tales of Forgotten Genius by Kitty Ferguson. I’m not all that interested in science, but the information I could find about this book just made me really want to read it. Its point is to look at real stories of people making scientific advancements, which have been mostly forgotten to the modern day.
I really enjoy learning about information that its exactly mainstream, so I’m pretty sure I will enjoy reading this book. Who would have thought I would get any book about science, since I’ve disliked any science class I took (except geology and health, those were interesting).
The next book I bought is The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron. While this is technically fiction, from what I understand, Cameron did an immense amount of research into the life of our ancient ancestors to bring this narrative to life. This follows a young girl who must raise an orphan 40,000 years ago. What I forgot to mention in my video is that it also follows an archaeologist in the present who is on an expedition to find ancient bones. I assume the two stories will be woven together.
It’s nice to see a historical fiction which is not set in the 1940s. I like when authors write about time periods which haven’t been overwritten to death, even one as subjective and mysterious as prehistory.
I read this next book last year, and I absolutely loved it. Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart is the first book of the Li Du mystery series, set in early 18th century China. It follows an exiled scholar who must solve a complex murder mystery, combining history with mystery (my personal favorite!).
I got this book from the library last year, but unfortunately, the library did not have any of the sequels. My boyfriend ended up giving me the second book of the series, and I was thrilled to see this one, the first book, as well as the third one (we’ll get to that in a minute) on Book Outlet for really cheap. So I ended up buying the first and third.
This is the third book of the Li Du series, called City of Ink by Elsa Hart. In this one, Li Du finally is able to return home after years of exile. I haven’t had a chance to read this book, or the second of the series, but hopefully this year!
Also, random, but I also still haven’t had time to read Hart’s new book, The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne, which is set in England in the early 18th century. A very different book than this series because of the setting, but I want to get to that book this year too.
Also, looks like we’re back to Chinese books for a bit…I think I have a problem.
The next book is a Chinese classic I read a few years ago, Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin (or Tsao Hsueh-chin as this book spells it). Published in the late 18th century, this book tells of a noble family, especially having to do with a young man and the woman he falls in love with. Personally, one of the more memorable things about this book was the drama ensuing because of traditional within families.
I do hope to reread this book again, because when I originally read it, I had very little knowledge about the history of China, so I’m curious what I would think of it now, having a lot more knowledge of Chinese history.
The next book I bought was Take, Burn or Destroy by S. Thomas Russell. I didn’t know this when I bought the book, but it’s the third book of a series. Set during the French Revolution, it is a thrilling adventure set at sea, part thriller, part history.
After having read and enjoyed Treasure Island, I’ve been curious to read more adventures at sea. Fingers crossed I actually enjoy this book, because I definitely randomly bought it. This is why I’m forcing myself to curb my book buying habits…
The next book is Untimely Demise: A Darkly Humorous Presentation of 365 Deadly Deeds by William Dylan Powell. How do I describe this book? A book about weird deaths? A comedy? Kind of…it’s such a weird book about the strangest unnatural ways to die throughout history.
I’m a sucker when it comes to learning about true crimes, so I was sold when I saw this book.
I did get three books in Chinese, but I’m skipping over them because I couldn’t find the covers I bought. But I want to study Chinese more and I got some Tang dynasty poetry books and the Diary of Marco Polo in Chinese.
The next book is Style and The Man by Alan Flusser. This book talks about sewing, styling, and changing clothes for men. I’ve been sewing for years, but mostly it’s been for myself. But recently I’ve been sewing more for my boyfriend, so I got this book to learn a bit more about a vintage, or classic style of clothes for men.
Just something as simple as tying a tie seems incredibly difficult to me.
The next book is Mythic Creatures: 30 Postcards. It’s not exactly a book in the traditional sense, but I got it from Book Outlet so I’m counting it. It’s a collection of historical photos and paintings of different mythical creatures, printed on 30 different postcards.
Will I ever use any of these postcards? Probably not. But I thought the pictures were too pretty to pass up.
The next book is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Despite having read this book twice, and loving it so much, I did not own a physical copy. I have only ever read it from the library, or from a free kindle book from Amazon which was rift with typos. My point is, it was about time I bought this book in its physical form, and I cannot wait to reread it!
For those who have never heard of it, this book is set during the mid-19th century, following a girl from southern England who must travel to a northern factory town. There, she meets a handsome factory owner and their two very different ideals clash. It’s half romance, half historical drama, combining the hate to love of Pride and Prejudice with the historical detail of Charles Dickens and George Elliot. It’s a great book!
I received all the rest of the books for Christmas. The first one is Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews, which is the first book of the Meg Lanslow cozy mystery series. I love cozy mystery books, though I don’t know much about this book. These types of books are very easy to read and digestible, so I look forward to reading it soon!
Saying that, I don’t know much about it besides that it’s about a woman who goes to attend a wedding, only to have one of the guests turn up dead and Meg set out to solve the mystery.
The next book is Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. Part historical romance, part modern mystery, this book follows two different characters in different eras. In 1958 Havana, a high society socialite falls in love with a revolutionary. In modern day, her granddaughter must put together the missing steps of her deceased granddaughter by returning to the city of Havana.
I honestly don’t know much about the history of Cuba, so I’m really excited to be able to read this book.
The next book is a nonfiction history, titled A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell. I don’t know much about it besides what the title obviously hints, but I’m curious to learn about the real life WWII spy Virginia Hall.
To be honest, I’ve read a lot of fictional books about WWII (some better than others), but I haven’t read as many nonfiction books about it, so I’m excited to read this book.
I read this next series years ago, but I’m looking forward to rereading it has an adult. This book, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, contains an entire trilogy of books: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and the Amber Spyglass.
Set in a magical world where children have demon familiars and the evil magisterium (not to be confused with the real life Catholic magisterium though I won’t get into that controversy) seeks to destroy much of the goodness in the world for more power. I remember enjoying this series, though my tastes in books have changed extremely in over a decade, so I’m curious to see if my tastes still hold up.
I read the next book a couple years ago, and even wrote a book review on it. That book is The Explorers Guild: Volume One by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner. Half graphic novel, half prose book, this book follows a secret organization as they seek to find the legendary Shambhala.
I wish more people knew of this book, because I think it is so underrated! It’s such a great adventure, combining graphic novels like Tintin with more of a traditional travel adventure book.
Well, this post is getting extremely long, and it’s taken me almost two hours to write just the first draft.
Have you heard of or read any of these books? Do any of them look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,