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:
- Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
- Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcertation in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
- The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
- A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
- Writers & Lovers by Lily King
- Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu
- The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
- The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
- Bewilderment by Richard Powers
- The Guncle by Steven Rowley
- The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGee
- The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
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?