2021 in Review

In 2021, I finished and reviewed 43 books, yet another (tiny) increase over 2020 and once again the best year for reading since 2012 (which was the last time I averaged 5 books a month). The year got off to a good reading start and closed strong, but once again had sags in the spring and summer when I got behind on reviews and fell out of the habit of reading daily. This year, at least, the end-of-year catch-up was less dramatic; all but two of the books I reviewed in December were finished in December.

The best books I read this year were Naomi Novik's magic boarding school fantasies A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate, which I rated a 9 and a 10 respectively. Memorable characters, some great world-building, truly exceptional characterization of a mother/daughter relationship, adroit avoidance of genre pitfalls, and two of my favorite fictional tropes: for me, this series has it all. The third and concluding book of that series is my most anticipated book of 2022.

My large reviewing project of this year was a complete re-read of C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, starting with my 1000th published review. As you can see, I have a lot of opinions about those books; they were a huge part of my childhood, and I'd been talking about writing those reviews for years. They were the longest reviews I've published and, unusually for me, full-spoiler reviews, and they took up a lot of my reviewing energy for the year. Of the seven books in the series, I was pleased to see that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Magician's Nephew held up and are still very much worth reading. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in particular, is an exceptional sense-of-wonder fantasy novel with a story structure that remains rare.

The best non-fiction book I read in 2021 is a prosaic choice that's only of specialist interest, but JavaScript: The Definitive Guide is precisely the type of programming language manual that I look for when learning a new language. It taught me what I was hoping to learn when I picked it up.

Honorable mentions are a crowded field this year; I read a lot of books that were good but not great. Worth calling out are Arkady Martine's A Desolation Called Peace (sequel to the excellent A Memory Called Empire), if for nothing else than Three Seagrass; Micaiah Johnson's impressive debut The Space Between Worlds; and Becky Chambers's last Wayfarer novel, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within. On the non-fiction side, Allie Brosh's Solutions and Other Problems is a much harder and sadder book than the exceptional Hyperbole and a Half, but it was still very much worth reading.

This was another year spent reading mostly recently-published books, without much backfill of either award winners or my existing library. In 2022, I hope to balance keeping up with new books of interest with returning to series I left unfinished, award lists I left only partly explored, and books I snapped up in earlier years and then never got around to.

Below is some additional analysis plus personal reading statistics, probably only of interest to me.

In 2021, I read and reviewed 43 books, up one book from 2020 and continuing a long-term trend of (very slowly) increasing my reading every year. Page count was up more substantially, which was a mild surprise since I thought I read more novellas and shorter books this year, but I did finish some weighty tomes early in the year. Average rating was down considerably, at the second-lowest it's been since I started tracking it.

Overall statistics, with the change from last year:

Books read 43 (+1)
Total pages 13,999 (+936)
Average rating 6.84 (-0.37)
Pages per day 38.4 (+2.7)
Days per book 8.49 (-0.22)

Breakdown by genre:

SF and fantasy 35 81%
Other fiction 0 0%
Non-fiction 7 16%
Graphic novels 1 2%
RPGs 0 0%

(Percentages do not add to 100% due to rounding.) This was an even less diverse year by genre than last year, with even more of a focus on SF and fantasy. I did read a single graphic novel, which is one more than last year. One of these days, I'll get back to reading RPGs and my backlog of non-SFF novels.

Of the SF and fantasy novels, here's a rough breakdown of the books by reason for seeking them out. (As always, each book is only counted once, and reasons higher on the list override reasons lower on the list if both reasons apply.)

Award winners 3 9%
Award series 0 0%
Re-reads 8 23%
Genre classics 0 0%
Favorite authors 10 29%
Current SF&F 8 23%
Recommendations 1 3%
Random 5 14%

(Percentages add to more than 100% due to rounding.) My re-read of the Chronicles of Narnia significantly increased the re-read count. Beyond that, the number of award winners and books from favorite authors stayed about the same. Most of the increase in SF and fantasy reading for the year was reading current books that were part of award slates and exploring more random authors.

The project of reading all award winners continues to be stalled. I'm staying current on the Hugo Best Novel shortlist, but not the other awards, and I've not been prioritizing the backlist of award winners from prior years.

Last modified and spun 2022-01-01