The Deep Bookshelf in 2021

The 10 books I read this year not because I thought I’d like them, but because I thought I wouldn’t.

Luke Burgis
10 min readDec 20, 2021


What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. — Franz Kafka

How do you choose which books to read? In my early twenties, I defaulted into books — I read the easy stuff that came to me naturally. All of us default into things — career choices, relationships, diets — without exercising personal intentionality. That intentional choosing is an important skill to develop in life, but it’s not easy. Books are an easy place to start, though.

When I say that “I read the easy stuff”, I don’t mean page-turners or Dan Brownesque thrillers; and I don’t mean the books that make the bestseller lists or a celebrity author’s ‘Book Picks of the Year.’

(I learned how most ‘top lists’ work over the past year, and Good God, it’s depressing.)

I’m also not referring to the ease of algorithmic suggestion, either. No doubt that it’s easy to one-click buy the books that show up constantly in my feed, or the books Amazon suggests to me, or the books that an Instagram ‘influencer’ photographs himself reading on the couch amidst mindblowing hygge — cozy quilts, hot chocolate, and the world’s most comfortable socks.

What I really mean is this: I defaulted into the most frictionless type of reading possible. I only read books that I thought I would ‘like.’

That seems like a natural thing to do, doesn’t it?

No, not exactly. If ease or comfort-level is what I limit my book-reading to, it’ll be hard to understand new perspectives — or even to receive them in the first place. I’m likely to become more intellectually and spiritually fragile. I won’t develop any anti-mimetic machinery in my gut to resist a world caught up in a Cult of Convenience. We’re not made for convenience or comfort; we’re made for greatness.

I don’t think there’s anything natural about the way most of us find books. The problem is…



Luke Burgis

Author of “WANTING: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life.” Find more at