Tuesday, January 18, 2022

2021 Reading Year in Review

2021 followed on the heels of 2020 as one of my worst reading years (quantity-wise) in recent decades and I'm not entirely sure why but some years are just like that, I guess. There were many days that I simply didn't feel like reading. I was just off. But, I still managed to fulfill some of my annual goals and I'm very happy about that. 

2021 Reading Year in Review

Number of books read: 110

Total pages read: 27,899

Average book length: 253 pages

Longest book read in 2021: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - 1057 pages

Shortest book read (not including children's books): Fox 8 by George Saunders - 21 pages

Fiction reads: 101

Nonfiction reads: 9

Short story collections/anthologies: 14

Number of book titles that give me a negative feeling: 5

Classics or modern classics read: 13

Sci-fi: 14

Biggest surprise in the stats: That sci-fi number. I had no idea I'd read so much sci-fi in 2021. 

Please note that when deciding on favorites: 

  1. I'm terrible at narrowing down, so . . . 
  2. I went by kind of a spark joy method. Which book titles gave me the strongest warm, happy feeling?
  3. I have eliminated rereads, even though most rereads are read because they're favorites. 
  4. I realize there are way more than the Top 10 most people end with in fiction favorites but please remember that I'm quick to abandon books and like or love most everything I read. This is a great thing.
  5. My choices may not correlate to my 5-star ratings because I went with the titles that give me that warm, happy feeling right now.  

Favorite fiction (adult): 

  • Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
  • Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Yawaguchi
  • Milkman by Anna Burns
  • The Last Night in London by Karen White
  • Night Came with Many Stars by Simon Van Booy
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  • Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
  • They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
  • The Boatman by Billy O'Callahan
  • September Moon by John Moore
  • The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
  • The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan 

Favorite fiction (children's picture books to YA):

  • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  • The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Where is Our Library? by Josh Funk and Stevie Lewis
  • Ungifted by Gordon Korman
  • All of the "Spy School" series books I read by Stuart Gibbs
  • Two Girls, A Clock, and a Crooked House by Michael Poore

Favorite nonfiction:

  • The Gap by Benjamin Gilmour
  • Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria

Books that I don't think got enough attention: 

  • When We Were Young by Richard Roper - The tale of a broken friendship and how two young men take a long walk on an English path together to try to repair their rift before it's too late. Both heartbreaking and often hilarious. I love Richard Roper's writing. He has a knack for mixing light and dark with levity but I always sob at the end of his books. 
  • Climate Change and How We'll Fix It by Alice Harman and Andrés Lozano (illustrator) - Goodreads says only 8 people shelved this book, which is a shame because it would make an exceptional school resource. It explains climate change with clarity, including through imaginary conversations. 

Book I'm most pleased to have read: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I think this was my 4th attempt? I was enjoying it when we were on vacation, a few years ago, but the old mass market paperback copy I'd repeatedly tried to read for ages actually fell to pieces as I was reading it and it took me months to find a new copy at a decent price. Then another few years passed. I have wanted to read this book since I was a child (when I bought that paperback that fell apart, probably at a garage sale). I'm absolutely thrilled to have finally read it. 

The two books I cannot shut up about: 

  1. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir - By far the most entertaining book I read in 2021. You don't have to love sci-fi to appreciate the storytelling. Since I couldn't shut up, several people read Project Hail Mary on my advice. They all loved it and most have continued to talk about it throughout the year, as I did. 
  2. Night Came with Many Stars by Simon Van Booy - As you know if you've been hanging around for any length of time, I love Simon Van Booy's writing and I adore the author, whom I got to know in my early blogging years. I personally think Night Came with Many Stars is his best novel, although I love them all. Again, I was a bit of an evangelist for this book and several people have told me they read it on my recommendation and loved it. 

So far in 2022: I've read 10 books. But, 3 of those are children's books that came in my First of Year Book Outlet order, 1 from a middle grade series I had on hand, and one is a manga. Not exactly heavy reading material. Regardless of genre/type/age range, this year is starting out like a normal January — the first normal January in 3 years (it's usually my best month) so I have high hopes that this will be a better reading year than the last two. 

If you duct taped me to a wall and said you wouldn't unstick me till I told you my single favorite book in 2021, I would say, "Let me go!!!" OK, and then I'd admit it was Project Hail Mary. But, wow, I read so many terrific books. Since I did read 5 that give me a bad spark when I read their titles, I've been thinking about why I pushed myself through those particular books. I think in two cases I expected them to improve and the rest I forged on because they were short, so why not get my money's worth? As many books as I own, I need to never finish anything that isn't absolutely grabbing me, so I'll be working on that. In fact, after giving those negative vibes some thought I DNF'd a book but it wasn't awful; I think it was just not the right timing for that one.

Other things that were odd about 2021 were the fact that I didn't read as many nonfiction or classics titles as I normally do. Usually, I have a nonfiction title going at all times. This past year, I not only didn't always have a bookmark in a nonfiction title but also abandoned a couple halfway through. And, weirdly, I was enjoying them! I just felt so bogged down by my disinterest in reading that I felt like I needed to let them go because they were slower reads. I hope someday to return to both. 

As to the classics, I did read more than one per month on average if you include the Christmas books that I reread, but I normally try to read a minimum of one classic per month and my classic reads were not as evenly distributed throughout the year as I prefer them to be. I'll try to work on that, this year, as well, although my main goal is to just read off my shelves and let books call to me. 

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  1. I really really liked Project Hail Mary too- it will probably be among my favorites for 2022. I don't always keep my favorites list down to ten, either. Who says it has to be ten! There's way too many books for limits like that, ha.

    1. Project Hail Mary was so good. I can visualize myself rereading it several times. So entertaining. As to favorites lists . . . I don't think I've ever constrained myself to a list of 10. I may have tried in my early blogging years but it just doesn't work for me. If there are ever fewer than 10 books I consider favorites, I will do the same in the other direction. I didn't even bother trying to narrow down to 10. I just printed out my list of books read and circled the ones that gave me a spark of joy when I read their titles. That makes much more sense to me. I agree with you! Why limit yourself? :)

  2. I keep coming across Milkman in the bookstore and picking it up then putting it down. I don't know why I'm shying away from it.

    1. It's a rather slow read (or was for me) but a unique one. As to the avoidance . . . trust yourself. It might call to you someday but if it doesn't, there are a gazillion other books that will.


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