2021 in Books

It has been an interesting year for me in books. Mainly because I just wasn’t all that interested in reading! I’m not sure what’s up with my brain these days, but pretty much since the pandemic began, reading has taken a back burner to other, more immediate forms of entertainment. This is actually my lowest yearly reading total since I began blogging, with only 48 books read! Most of those were new-to-me, with only one reread, and I abandoned a further four books through 2021. Here are a few stats for the year:

Book Type: 35 fiction – 13 nonfiction
Fiction Type: 19 speculative – 16 realistic
Media: 31.5 text – 15 audio – 1.5 visual
Audience: 38 adult – 9 YA – 1 children’s
Authors: 37 women – 10 men – 1 both

New to me authors: 23
Most read authors: Martha Wells with 6 books (from the Murderbot series)

Shortest book: It Could Be Worse (98 pgs)
Longest book: As the Shadow Rises (485 pgs)
Shortest audiobook: The Lost Gargoyle of Paris (3:01)
Longest audiobook: Apples Never Fall  (18:04)

The OUCH collection: no classics, no translations, only a single chunkster, and seven books that I wish I’d abandoned…

A few fun things:

  • 1 collection read this year
  • 13 books were out of my comfort zone
  • most and least popular on Goodreads are Wild (~1.2 million) and In Search of Elsewhere (40)
  • highest and lowest rated on GR are In Search of Elsewhere (4.69) and The Woods Are Always Watching (3.09)

Best bookish experience: I began taking photos of my books read this year! At first, I just took photos wherever (like on the shelves at the library), but later I started to play with themes, trying to match the backgrounds to the book when possible. It became a fun photography project as I learned more about photography in general. My favorites of the 48 books this year are the following:

Best book-related discovery: Cain’s Jawbone! I have yet to find a copy of this book – in fact, my order through bookshop.org eventually refunded after five weeks of backorder – but I’ll get it one day. It’s a puzzle mystery. The pages are out of order and can be placed in lots of different ways, and the goal is to figure out who the murderer(s) is/are, as well as who got killed. It’s fascinating! My friend Stephanie got her copy, and the two of us are going to try to solve the book together!


Best of the Year

It was hard to pick favorites in 2021. I wasn’t much in a reading mood, and I didn’t read all that many books, even less that I enjoyed. Even those I did enjoy, I mostly no longer remember. My brain wasn’t sticking to books this year. Normally I choose favorites not only based on my initial thoughts and enjoyment, but by how well a book sticks with me over time. Books that linger are books that tend to grow in intensity (either good or bad), so the good ones tend to be the ones that become longterm favorites. Nothing stuck this year, and I know that’s entirely due to me, and not to the books themselves. So these are my best guesses, and perhaps when I lift out of this fog, the list will change.

  • Cuckoo Song: Beautiful writing, incredibly imaginative setting, great characters, perfect balance of story and depth, just an all around great book. One of the only books from this year that I put on my Christmas wishlist.
  • The Night Hawks: I love this series, and I particularly loved this volume of the series. Especially the ending, especially hints about where the series may go in the next volume, which I’m happy will come out in 2022!
  • Runner up: All Our Hidden Gifts: A lot of fun to read, magic and curses and witchcraft mixed with a good deal of politics, cultural references, and social commentary.
  • Runner up: the Murderbot series: These were brilliant escape books with a fascinating narrator in a genre that is WAY outside my comfort zone. I can’t wait until more are published.

Most Fun to Read

  • the Murderbot books: totally out of my comfort zone, but I started with the first book and didn’t stop until I’d been through every published volume!
  • The Alchemist of Fire and Fortune: returning to an old friend, loved it so much
  • The Box in the Woods: a surprising little standalone after a series I’d enjoyed, so again, a return to old friends and a fun little mystery that I read through twice

Most Beautiful Writing

  • One Great Lie: Caletti’s prose is always beautiful, to be honest, and this one was no different; especially great in the Venice setting
  • Cuckoo Song: pure masterpiece painting in words

Most Disappointing and/or Distasteful

  • Wild: Hands down the worst, so filled with lies and the glorification of reckless hiking, and uuuugh I can’t believe I finished this drivel – why do people like this one so much??
  • The Woods Are Always Watching: hillbilly stereotypes, impossible situations, and a great giant bear-mauling to act as the hand of god!
  • Night Theater: y’all, I really don’t know what was up with this book…
  • As the Shadow Rises: I loved the first book in the series, but this second one was a slog, and in December, I quit the third book about a quarter of the way in, which is really disappointing!

Best Settings, Vividness, and/or Visceral Moments

  • Cuckoo Song: brushing fingers through her hair to come away with bits of crumbling leaf; opening her mouth to swallow a porcelain doll; so many other moments of brilliant imagination
  • Ghosts of the Tsunami: This is real life, and the author paints a vivid picture of a rural part of Japan post-tsunami in 2011.
  • The Original: the all-white setting of a digital world, the orange-carvings, the intense world-building in this short novella…
  • Any Sign of Life: I can’t actually write this out with giving away major spoilers, but let’s just say the first time we meet the Culprits of this situation is one of the most visceral moments that I read in 2021. World-building is phenomenal too.

Best Relationships

  • Vivi and Rhys, The Ex Hex: straight up sexy witchy romance
  • Beck and Hot ‘N’ Crusty, It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story: the relationship between a girl and her own origin story, mixed with the friendships formed at the restaurant
  • Ruth and Harry, The Night Hawks: the most complicated kind of hands-off romance and co-parenting
  • Murderbot and…well, just about everyone, the Murderbot books: Murderbot just wants to be left alone with its media…
  • Spensa and Chet, Cytonic: fellow explorers

Physical Books I Bought / Kept From My 2021 Reads

And there you go – the end of an unremarkable reading year! Here’s to 2022 being so much better!

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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