Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021: A Year in Pages

2021 isn't done yet, and there are still two days of reading left, but today is as good a day as any to look back on my reading this year. It's been a really good one, not just in the number of books I've read but in the quality. I've tried to make smarter choices about what to read, choosing books that challenge me to think in new ways, to take perspectives I wouldn't have otherwise, and that push me outside my comfort zone.

I know this is hard to see; you can click to make it larger, but if you'd like to see all the books I finished this year, you can see them here. As of yesterday, I've finished 141 books -- I blew my initial goal of 65 out of the water! For the record, I didn't feel like I artificially set that goal low on purpose; I had done something similar in 2020, but I was hoping 2021 would be a more typical year and that I wouldn't have as much time to read, so I'd increased my goal from 2020 (60) by a very modest five books. Of course, we all know how that panned out. I will likely set a goal for 2022, but I'm really torn about the number. It's something to ponder.

For the record, here are the books that I rated 5 stars in 2021:

These books, I think, are representative of all my reading from the past year. There's a mix of genres (fiction, nonfiction, magical realism, autobiography, historical fiction, etc.), a mix of authors, and (though you can't tell from just looking at the list) a mix of formats -- print, ebook, audio.

Some general observations:

  • I greatly increased the number of books I read "with my ears" this year. 27 of the books I finished (19%) were on audio.
  • The books I read were overwhelmingly borrowed from the library -- 110 of the 141 to date (78%). Some of these books I've gone on to purchase in hard copy so that I can reread them.
  • I only read 17 books on paper this year, and they tended to take me longer to finish, usually because I prioritized books from the library that I only had for a limited time. I'll also confess that I sometimes was more likely to choose digital books because they were easier to read while also doing some kind of crafting.

Overall, I am satisfied with my reading this year. I've read a lot of very good and great books, in no small part due to the recommendations of reading friends. Many of the books I didn't like as well were read to fill a bingo square or were an unknown commodity in that other readers whose opinions I value hadn't read them.

What do I want for 2022? More reading that challenges me -- books that give me new perspectives, that cause me to rethink my opinions, that come from voices I may not have heard. I want to continue reading the back catalog of writers I enjoy (Maggie O'Farrell, Louise Erdrich, Ruth Ozeki, Lauren Groff, etc.). And I definitely want to keep reading books that I can discuss with others, both through organized efforts like the Erdrich-along and Read With Us and more casual discussions.

How did your reading year shape up? Were any of my favorites of 2021 also on your list? What are you looking forward to in 2022?


  1. That looks like a very satisfying year in reading! I also loved Anxious People and Writers & Lovers, and I'm getting ready to start The Sentence soon. I'm most looking forward to Douglas Stuart's new book in April, but before that, discussing Matrix next month.

  2. I’m sorry but I have not heard of any of the books you read but it’s sounds like you truly enjoyed reading them, which is good. I’m looking forward to reading the books on my shelves next year. I have so many that need to be read!

    1. None of them? Wow, and here I was thinking that my reading was maybe a little too mainstream! The good news is that there are more books in the world than any one person could read, with more being written every day, so there are books out there for everyone.

  3. Bravo to you, Sarah, on a year filled with satisfying reads! May your new year be filled with even more good books - and good friends to discuss them with.
    Happy New Year! XO

  4. Well done Sarah! I don’t do star ratings anymore but I do want to go back and see the numbers for audio and ebook reading. I have very much enjoyed your reading posts this year.

  5. That is an IMPRESSIVE number of books.

    I think the book that stood out for me in 2021 was In The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

    Wishing you a very happy 2022 and time to read ALL THE BOOKS!

  6. Well done, Sarah! Somehow it was a propulsive reading year for so many of us; I don't dare try to replicate my own success in 2021! I love how many of my blogging friends are such devoted readers - I can always find the perfect recommendation in blog posts. And thank you for doing such a great job of blogging about your books each week. It's been a fun way to follow along!

    Here's to a year of good stories, well told (as Anne Bogel often says).

  7. Discussing books and sharing titles with each other has influenced my reading and brought more insight to each one. We also share the same 5 star books. Here's to an insightful 2022!

  8. Congratulations on a fabulous reading year. Although I read it previous to 2020, A Tale for the Time Being is one of my favorite books. I also enjoyed The Pull of the Stars. A few of my best reads of 2021: The Vanishing Half, The Water Dancer, The Narrowboat Summer, Red at the Bone, Three Simple Lines, and Horizon. My local group is reading Transcendent Kingdom in 2022 and I look forward to that.

  9. What an amazing reading year you've had! (and thank you for the many, many recommendations that I got from what you read!)

    I see there are several books we both loved! :) But my favorite books of all this year were Finding the Mother Tree and Braiding Sweetgrass. Life changing books for me!