Books I read in 2021 by jgn on Friday, December 31, 2021 in reading

Thanks to Goodreads, I know what books I completed in the past year. I also participated in the Goodreads "reading challenge" where you promise to read some number of books. I promised 53, and managed to complete 53. This is more than I typically finish: I think the pandemic had something to do with it. Also, strangely, I had to fly quite a lot this year, despite the pandemic, and that provided a lot of time for getting to the final pages.

Looking over the year, among the fiction I most enjoyed and would recommend are: 2021-books-read.png

I also see some highly-rated (by me) novels that I cannot really recommend; while they hit the mark for me, I don't think others would really dig 'em. Also, I see where my ratings were a bit off. For instance, I see I gave Amor Towles's Rules of Civility 5 stars but gave his A Gentleman in Moscow only 4. I read Gentleman first and thought its structure was a little haphazard, which is why I downgraded it. But in reflection, I think it was the better novel, so I'm going to have to subtract a star from Rules.

In non-fiction, my highest rated are

This seems to be the first time in many years when I didn't have a highly-rated tech book. Another oddity is that I only read one rock book, Amy Rigby's Girl to City (excellent). I suppose some people read more music books when they can't see music as much (as under the pandemic) but I think my desire to read more rock books is piqued by the live music experience. On the other hand, I read 7 books I'd classify as memoir/autobiography; this year, they were all memoir (as opposed to full-on autobiography). I gave two of them 5 stars, both by the same author: Paula Fox's Borrowed Finery, and her The Coldest Winter. Some surprises in memoir: I gave Anna Kendrick's Scrappy Little Nobody a 4 (better than I would have expected) and Elizabeth Hardwick's celebrated Sleepless Nights a 3 (it was kind of boring and I didn't see the rationiale for its artiness).

I've been doing the Challenge since 2016, and here's how things stack up over the years:

Year Challenge Books Read Pages Length (Avg) Rating (Avg)
2016 28 30 8,281 276 4.1
2017 26 34 10,166 299 3.9
2018 31 39 13,692 351 3.9
2019 53 47 13,798 293 4.0
2020 53 27 9,546 353 3.9
2021 53 53 14,631 275 3.9

The "Challenge" column is the number I strived to read, and "Books" is the actual total. In 2019 I started challenging myself to read 53 books/year but it was only this year that I managed to satify that expectation. I will admit that I read some shorter books (hence, the smallest average number of pages since 2016.) You might notice that dip in reading in 2020: My ability to focus was disrupted by politics and the 2020 Presidential election. Besides being completely distracted, I was not the healthiest: I must have gained 15 pounds that I still haven't gotten rid of. And lest I forget, I had a spell of afib in February, 2020, that lasted until June: That really messed up my reading time. On the other hand, while I read fewer pages in 2020, each book was longer. I suppose looking over this summary, my "natural" year of reading is about 40 books of about 325 pages each, for some 13,000 pages. As I note, I read a lot of shorter books this year to hit my number (53); so I think that number may be a bit inflated and I should allow myself to read longer works (on average). So for 2022, I think I'll challenge myself to 45. I look at the reading tallies of some of my friends (Ellie: 62 books / 369 pp. average; Kelly: 105/337) and don't know how they do it.

Some might think that my average rating of about 3.9 is too high; but I am pretty choosy about what I read, so I'll stand by that average number. Here's how I grade. 5 is the highest and 1 is the lowest:

  1. A terrible book that I probably didn't even finish. Poorly written and uninteresting content.
  2. A weak book that may have some merit but is essentially forgettable.
  3. Not bad.
  4. A good book that I might come back to some time. Memorable. Maybe important.
  5. Top-notch. If I had the time I'd re-read it.
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