2021 in Reading Review

I know it has been a while since I’ve posted, but the holidays are busy and, for my own mental health, I decided to give myself a bit of a blogging break.

Normally, I’d give you a run down on what we’ve been doing, so here it is. We’ve been doing holiday stuff. That’s about it. The rest of this post is going to be all about books, so…buckle up, buttercup!

Even though I’m not going to be talking about what I’m reading right now, I’m still going to link up with Kathryn at Book Date and her It’s Monday…What Are You Reading? blog hop. Next Sunday, I’ll be back with a normal reading update. I’m still toying with how I want to present that, but hopefully I’ll have it worked out by next week.

Now, get ready for a lot of stats!

I’m not going to list every single book I read this year, but you can check that out here if you are interested.

Total books read: 163 (a high for me!)

Print Books: 73 / 44.8%
E-books: 61 / 37.4%
Audiobooks: 29 / 17.8%

Purchased/Subscription books: 63 / 38.7%
Library Books: 95 / 58.3%
Personal Loan Books: 3 / 1.8%
ARCs: 2 / 1.2%

Average rating: 3.911
*One thing I realized is that my ratings mean pretty much nothing. Going back over my ratings for the year, I saw several books that I felt either deserved a lower or higher rating than I gave them at the time, so take this number with a grain of salt.

Books by female authors: 125 / 76.7%
Books by male authors: 37 / 22.7%
Books by non-binary authors: 1 / 0.6%

(The following categories are to the best of my knowledge…)
Books by Authors of Color: 43/ 26.4%
Books by Black/African Authors: 16 / 9.8%
Books by Asian/AAPI Authors: 18 / 11.0%
Books by Latinx Authors: 2 / 1.2%
Books by Middle Eastern/Middle Eastern American Authors: 3 / 1.8%
Books by Indigenous Authors: 4 / 2.5%
My reading was a lot “whiter” than I had thought. However, two white authors (Louise Penny and William Kent Krueger) made up an outsized portion of my reading as I read through the Three Pines and Cork O’Connor series. If you take those two out, my reading diversity evens out a bit.

I thought I was tracking books by LGBTQ+ authors, but apparently that wasn’t in my spreadsheet. I’ve adopted another tracker for 2022, which does track this.

Books by Genre:
Classic Fiction: 8 / 5.0%
Dystopian Fiction: 3 / 1.8%
Fantasy: 13 / 8.0%
General Non-Fiction: 8 / 5.0%
Graphic novels and memoirs: 7 / 4.3%
Historical Fiction: 16 / 9.8%
Horror: 3 / 1.8%
Light Fiction: 12 / 7.4%
Literary Fiction: 10 / 6.1%
Memoirs/Essays: 7 /4.3%
Middle Grade: 1 / 0.6%
Mystery: 54 / 33.1%
Poetry: 1 / 0.6%
Sci-Fi: 5 / 3.1%
Short Stories: 7 / 4.3%
Thrillers: 6 / 3.4%
Young Adult: 2 / 1.2%

My Top Ten Books of 2021

These “Top 10” lists are usually pretty hard for me to form, but this year was actually pretty easy. While I don’t have a single BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR, these 10 clearly floated to the top. I’m listing them here in alphabetical order, so please don’t think that any rise above any others:

Book of Magic (Practical Magic #4) by Alice Hoffman
To be fair, this book benefits from being the finale to a series that I deeply love. But, even among that series, this is an extremely strong book. This is a faster moving book than the previous three and I think the character development is the strongest among the “modern” books in the series (so, not including Magic Lessons, which I maintain is the best book of the series). And, if you’ve read any of the books, you need to read this one to see how it all ends up. But, really, just read them all…

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara
Naomi Hirahara is an established author, but I had never heard of her. Now, though, I’m going to start diving into her backlist. This is also a case where a World War II novel didn’t seem repetitive to me. I think this is for 2 reasons. First, this book had to be set during World War II, it was the only way the set up would work (It is set against the backdrop of the Japanese Internment Camps and a program where some Japanese Americans, who had proven their patriotism, could be relocated to an urban area no where near their home). Secondly, while it happens during the War, the War is really just sort of there in the background and the mystery is separate from it. As for the mystery, it’s a strong one that not only illustrates the racism Japanese Americans had to face, but also illuminates the love between sisters.

The House on the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
I read this one for my Marginals and Margaritas book club (where we only read books by Marginalized authors and, in theory, drink margaritas…but that last part hasn’t materialized yet. Mostly, we just enjoy our beverage of choice). I had heard nothing but wonderful things about this book and it lived up to the hype. This book is just love on the page.

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger (A Prequel to the Cork O’Connor series)
I love William Kent Krueger…I have been burning my way through the Cork O’Connor books as quickly as I can get them at the library (they have a surprising number of holds for such a long standing series, so it is taking a while). However, there is another side to Krueger. He also has 2 standalone novels. I’ve so far only read the first, Ordinary Grace, but I’ve heard the second (This Tender Land, which I will be reading soon) is under the same umbrella is just as gorgeous. This book felt like a bridge between his fast-moving Cork O’Connor books and his more contemplative standalone. Best of all, since it is a prequel, it can be read at any point during the Cork O’Connor series, or as a standalone!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
I’m not one for space books, so this is a big deal for me. In fact I loved it so much, I gave a copy to my husband–which he has yet to crack open. Grrr! (I need him to read it, love it, and give it to me so I can put it on my keeper shelf). My one advice here is that, if you are an audiobook person, go the audio route on this one. There is a very specific reason why audio is so good–even better than print–for this one.

State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
Let me just say this: If you don’t like Hillary Clinton, just pass this one up. It’s not for you. And I’m not saying that this is for people who just adore Clinton, but if you hold any active animosity towards her (or if you are a misguided person who thinks Trump is anything more than a waste of human flesh. Yes, I said that. It’s my blog and get to say what I think), just skip this. Otherwise, this is one hell of a fun book. There are many ways you could describe this book: an inside look at the US government, a globe trotting thriller, a veiled tell-all (which I don’t think it is that at all, but I can see how some might try to read too much truth into it)..but I prefer to read it as the ultimate female friendship book, which is not at all what I expected going into it. The main character in this book knows that she can–and has to–depend on those she can trust and that includes her best friend.

I also want to point out that this is a great example of the difference between a mystery and a thriller. If you read Louise Penny’s Three Pines novels, those are mysteries and are written as such. This is a thriller and a very different genre. Penny understands that and her writing reflects it–which shows how strong of an author she really is.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
I do love a witchy book and this one is, at the very least, witch-adjacent. Yes, there is talk of selling your soul to the devil and midnight nude dancing at abandoned homesteads, but it is really about young women finding their own voices and the strength–and dangers–found in numbers. Oh, and the 80s nostalgia…so much 80s nostalgia! I enjoyed this one so much that I’ll be re-reading it in 2022 for one of my book clubs!

What Comes After by Joanne Tompkins
I love books set in areas that I know well and I will admit that my only reason for reading this one is that it is set in the general area where my husband grew up. Is that area of the world (the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas in Washington State) depicted well? Very much so. Is there reason to read this beyond the setting? Absolutely. This is a lovely story of family and forgiveness. It will simultaneous break and heal your heart. This is one that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

Wintering by Katherine May
This is the book that introduced me to Katherine May, who has spoken to me in a way few authors can. While I came to this book through my short-lived tiptoe into hygge (I’ve posted about my feelings on this before–short story, hygge is all fine and good, but it is not a magic pill and is not the reason why Scandinavians are the happiest people on Earth), it is not a hygge book. This is about allowing yourself your own personal winters and why that is so important. I read this in September and I think that it made my actual winter (which is frequently also a metaphorical winter for me) so much more manageable.

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
My disclaimer here is that you need to be okay with weird. This is a weird book. but only because it is based (and based faithfully) on Norse Mythology, and Norse Mythology is beyond weird. If you can get beyond the weird, you will find a beautiful story about a woman’s strength. Oddly, this is a book that I had to unfairly knock a portion of a star off when I rated it–not because of anything wrong with the book. Instead, every time she referred to Loki as blonde (which, let’s face it, was probably how he should be in the Norse tails), I would (usually internally) yell, “No! Loki has black hair! Have you not seen him?” Yes, the Marvel influence is wide…

2021 was a very successful reading year for me. I felt that I had finally gotten my groove back after being burned out from heavy-duty book reviewing. Here’s to hoping that 2022 is even better!

9 thoughts on “2021 in Reading Review

  1. Wow you certainly track so much about your reading. I would like to read the Alice Hoffman Magic series. Great to see the last one on your top faves of ’21. Happy New Year.

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  2. You had a wonderful reading year. I generally track format and genre, but nothing about the authors. I hope 2022 is at least as good. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

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  3. Someday I plan to analyze my reading a bit more. And I, too, react to books with my ratings…and I tend NOT to read books I won’t enjoy.

    I am currently reading State of Terror, as my First Book of the Year, and I’m loving it! I enjoyed Louise Penny’s Gamache series (or Three Pines, I guess), and the collaboration of the two is winning one for me.

    LOVE your characterization of Trump…I am rolling over in laughter here.

    I wish we didn’t have to laugh, though, until he is made to pay for his corruptions. I hope he will be prevented from ever serving in the WH again…or that he is carted off to prison. That probably won’t happen.

    Have a great week! Are you reading State of Terror as your First Book?

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  4. I am super excited to see Clark and Division and The Book of Magic on your favorites list for the year. Both are books I want to read this year.

    It looks like you had a great reading year, Melinda, I hope 2022 will be a good one for you too!

    Happy New Year!

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  5. I really should read Alice Hoffman. I mean I love a bit of magical realism as much as the next person. And I need to reading Project Hail Mary, and Klune. And probably the rest too,but lets start with those first three.

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  6. I’m glad you had such a wonderful reading year. It was a rough year for most of us, and books like Wintering offered solace during this traumatic time, I think.

    I hope you will post often in 2022 and that I will get a chance to hear more about the books you are enjoying.

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About Melinda