Now that I’ve had a week or so to reflect on my 2021 reading and collect my reading stats, it’s time for another recap. I almost didn’t post this one. It was a total pain to put together. I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling so hard to compare this year’s reading to previous years. Then I remembered that because I didn’t use a spreadsheet to track my reading this year, I must have accidentially or on purpose? changed all the data I was collecting. Oops. Oh well.
If you stick with me through my painstakingly gathered stats, I’ll reward you with my top five favorite books at the end of the post. Or just skim the stats and skip to the bottom. Either way is fine with me.
We will start this journey by paging through the reading summary pages I made back at the end of 2020 when I was setting up my reading journal for 2021.
Remember the bookshelf spread I made? Here’s how that turned out.
Surprise! I actually really like this spread.
If you remember, I had a color code I used to mark the books spines with the appropriate genre, and I added a little heart to the spine if it was also a romance. I did it this way because I wanted to track romances separately from genre because romance novels come in all genres, and I didn’t want to lose track of the genre breakdown just because I marked something as a romance. The only problem is, because of this completely logical and brilliant change, it turns out that I completely busted my ability to track my year over year genre stats. Whee!
I counted up the spines (another sad side effect of not using a spreadsheet) and twenty of the fifty-nine books I read in 2021 were romances (meaning they had a primary romance plot that ends “happily ever after” or “happily for now”). That’s about one third of the books I read last year.
I don’t really have any sort of goal or target or limit or whatever associated with how many romances I read each year. It’s just a meaningless data point. The first of many in this post.
I suppose what is interesting is the distribution of where those romances fall on my tracker, which is something you can’t see easily when you’re tracking things in a spreadsheet. Score one for the reading journal approach, I guess? Anyway, as I was saying, if you look for the hearts on the spines in the image above, you may notice that my romance reading was heavily weighted toward the end of the year, just as things in my life (and in the world) were starting to get stressful again. Coincidence? Probably not.
Oh, yeah. One more side note. For any detail-oriented folks reading this, yes, there are sixty books on the shelves in that photo, and I keep saying I only read 59. I ended up abandoning one of these books at about the halfway point, but I’d already drawn it in. I do plan to finish it later, so I included it on my shelves. I just decided not to include it in my total stats. I suppose this is one downside of drawing in pen. Not really a problem if you use a spreadsheet. I guess that’s minus one for the reading journal approach.
After more spine counting (and re-counting, just to make sure I didn’t mess it up), here’s how many books I read in each genre and what percent of my reading that turns out to be, in descending order (most to least read).
- Fantasy — 15 books (25%)
- Sci-Fi — 13 books (22%)
- Contemporary — 12 books (20%)
- Mystery — 8 books (13%)
- Self help / writing / business — 6 books (10%)
- General non-fiction — 2 books (3%)
- Memoir — 2 books (3%)
- Historical — 2 books (3%)
If you’re thinking, “Aren’t these just more meaningless data points?”, the answer is yes!
What do I even do with this information I’ve gathered? Nothing.
I mean, I don’t have any goals pertaining to which genres I read, and I don’t plan to create any for 2022. And, because of the genre tracking changes I made, I can’t even compare these percentages to last year in any meaningful way.
Are you beginning to see why this was a very frustrating post to try to write?
Oh hey! Check it out! When you turn the page, there are even more book stats and goals to review. This should be fun.
Whatever possessed me to create a table with numbers that I was going to have to eventually tally up in a notebook?
This right here is why god invented spreadsheets. I really want to kick past me in the shins right now. Once for the data table and then a second time for thinking that creating a “21 in 2021” TBR was a good idea.
Here are some fun stats that I collected in that sweet data table that I didn’t have any goals associated with:
- 86% of the books I read were ebooks with 7% paper and 7% audiobook.
- 76% of the books I read were adult vs. 24% YA.
- I got 58% of the books I read from the library.
- 29% of the books I read were new releases (published in 2021).
- 93% of the books I read were traditionally published.
Dear future self: Stop compiling meaningless reading stats. Just stop.
Also buried in that table on the left page are the numbers I needed to add up to help me determine if I accomplished my actual reading goals or not. Here’s how I did on my 2021 Reading Goals.
- Read at least 52 books — Accomplished! I read a total of 59.
- Read at least 12 books by Black authors — Yep. I read 13.
- Read at least 12 books by other authors of color — Not quite… I read 8.
- Read at least 12 books by queer authors (and/or with strong positive queer rep) — Done. I read 13.
- Read my “21 in 2021” TBR — Hahahahaha. No. I read 1 of the 21 books on this list.
Not terrible considering that I think we can all agree that the “21 in 2021” TBR was a very bad idea. So I’m not going to feel bad about that epic fail.
I feel a lot worse about the four books I fell short of my goal on reading books by non-Black authors of color. At least I did better on those metrics than I did last year (36% total books written by BIPOC authors vs. 28% last year, and 22% written by queer authors and/or with queer POV characters vs. 12% last year). These are possibly the only data points I’m tracking that I care about.
But hang on! We’re not quite done, yet. (Even though we probably should be.) On the next two pages I also decided to track a couple more things that weren’t part of my goals.
Why do I do this?
On the bright side, it looks like I did complete a handful of the 2021 Read Harder Challenge tasks without really trying (5 out of 24, or 21%).
However, it appears that I abandoned the book haul list I’d intended to keep. I know I bought more than three books in 2021. I suppose I could go back, figure out what I purchased, and then fill this page in, but who am I kidding? That seems like a lot of work, and it’s just more meaningless data.
I honestly wish I could say that I learned something from this exercise, but I think I just can’t help myself from collecting data, even if I’m doing nothing with it. It’s like I’ve become the evil boss guy from Office Space with the TPS reports. Gross.
Okay. That’s it. Data tables and spreadsheets have been officially banned from my reading life in 2022.
But I’ll keep my color-coded book spines with the little hearts on the ones that are romances. That’s fun.
All right. We’re done with the data. Phew. And I promised you a top five list. So let’s move on from the numbers and get to the unquantifiable part of my 2021 wrap-up, shall we?
Back when I was trying to decide if I wanted to make a reading journal, I watched a bunch of reading journal set-ups on YouTube. Come to think of it, that may be where I got the terrible idea for the “21 in 2021” TBR in the first place. But there was good stuff in there, too. I think.
Anyway, I remember seeing some people do a sort of “battle of the books” bracket tournament thing. I liked the idea. The only catch was, I didn’t think it was fair to pit two books against each other just because I happened to read them in consecutive months. So I did my favorites a little differently.
I meant to put something in the middle of this spread, but then I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I ended up leaving it sad and blank.
As you can see in the photo, I picked a favorite book read from each month. Then I eliminated the two non-fiction contenders, because I didn’t think it was fair to mix fiction and non-fiction. That left me with ten favorite fiction books, and I wanted to narrow that down to a top five. Because I like top five lists.
And here are the top five (fiction) books I read in 2021 (listed in the order I read them):
- Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
- Master of One by by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
- Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
- The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
- Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Unsurprisingly, they are all sci-fi / fantasy novels. Possibly more surprising is that only one of them could also be considered to be a romance (Winter’s Orbit). They are all really good reads, though. So, if you haven’t checked them out, go read the blurbs and grab one that sounds appealing to you.
Now, that this post is done, it’s time for me to have a long think about what data associated with my reading that I actually care about tracking in 2022. While I do that, let me know in comments, what was your favorite book that you read in 2021?
I’ll be back soon with some “looking ahead to 2022” posts (aka “2022 Goals”). Until then, happy reading!