Reading Wrap Up 2021

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Back when I (semi) regularly blogged about life, I spent a lot of time talking about books. And while I still spend a lot of time talking about books (more than my friends probably appreciate), I rarely share my own personal reading logs and thoughts on this blog. So I thought I’d change that and end the year (it's not the 5th of January at all...) how I mean to go on.

That said, I won’t divulge all my not so appreciative reviews, and instead focus on the positives. Unfortunately, 2021 has been one of the more disappointing reading years for me, and as I’ve looked through the list of books I’ve read outside of work, I think it’s because I’ve been picking up way more short and fast paced books than I usually do as I’ve felt compelled to get books *read* to achieve my reading goal (in vain). I’ve been depriving myself of chunkier books, which I feel sad about. My new year’s resolution is to pick up books regardless of size, and just be at peace with it potentially taking months for me to get through.

Some statistics for the year:

  • Total number of books read: 34 books (plus another 33 books for work, but I won't be including them in any other stats).

  • Total number of different authors read from: 25 (16 new authors for me, 9 authors I'd read from before)

  • Rereads: 26%

  • Age categories: 56% adult, 44% YA and 0% children's.

  • Fiction/Non fiction split: 100%/0% (I'm actually gobsmacked by this - must rectify this stat in 2022 to include some non-fiction at least).

Now, for the genre split, I've gone with a good ol' pie chart, because, who doesn't love a pie chart?!

Screenshot 2021-12-29 201500jpg

I recently started listening to the book podcast Books Unbound by Ariel Bissett and Raeleen Lemay, and they have this concept of the 'mashed potato book': a book which has been on your TBR (to be read pile) for AGES, a book you really want to read but for some reason you've not, maybe you're saving it for the right moment, maybe you feel intimidated by it, or maybe you're worried it won't live up to expectation. Anyway, some mashed potato books I finally read this year that had been on my TBR for way too long were:

  • La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman (which I gave 4 stars), and,
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (which I gave 5 stars).
I'm so glad I finally got round to these. I have so many on my mashed potato book list to get to, and I'll mention some in my goals for 2022 below.

Anyway, in no particular order, let's get to...

My top 5 2021 reads:

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1. Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Stardust was my first Neil Gaiman book (well, technically the second, as I read Good Omens a couple of years ago, but that was co-authored by Terry Pratchett so I don't really count it) and my goodness, it was a pure delight. It was whimsical and funny and enchanting, and I so wanted to savour it but I just couldn't stop myself from gobbling it up in a couple of days. 

I was totally in awe of Gaiman's creativity and imagination when I read this. An absolute wordsmith and storyteller. I definitely plan to read more of his books this coming year.

2. Heartstopper - Alice Oseman

2021 was the year I tried out some graphic novels for the first time, and am I glad I did. Mixing gorgeous artwork and an engaging story? I mean, I can't understand why I was so hesitant to try them out in the first place! But I'm glad I did, and my favourite series of those I read this year was the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman.

I read volumes 1 - 3 (with the intention of reading 4 this year) and they are honestly the literary equivalent of a warm hug. Cuteness and warmth and wholesomeness wrapped into one; my heart felt as though it would burst reading all three of these. 

If you're ever feeling at a low ebb, or in a reading slump, I'd highly recommend.

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

I think everyone should go into this book knowing the original Swedish title, 'Men Who Hate Women', as it really sets the tone for what this book is going to explore. There are some pretty graphic and disturbing scenes and events, so I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who is inclined, to read up content warnings beforehand.

With that said, this book was incredible. Wonderfully paced, suitably intriguing and mysterious, and full of twists and turns. It was, for me, the perfect whodunnit book.

Lisbeth Salander is a badass, and I want to read on with this series purely to get to see her do some more badass things. Mikael was fine, I didn't feel like he had much of a personality, but I guess, being a main character, sometimes it's a good thing to have a character be quite bland so that you as the reader can pay more attention to the plot.

I enjoyed the exploration of 'atypical' relationships, and by that I mean, relationships which go against what is seen as the grain. It was refreshing to see the portrayal of healthy polyamorous couples, and I think that's something I'd like to see more of in books.

Despite being a little bit of a slow starter (my advice, get a notebook and pen to keep track of the characters at the start), I finished the last 3/4 of this book over the span of two days. I won't say much more, because the less you know about these types of stories before going in, the better.

4. In Five Years - Rebecca Serle

Aside from a quick break to mop up my tears, I read this book in one sitting. In Five Years was such an unexpectedly fantastic read that I want to read everything else by Rebecca Serle now.

I’ve seen criticisms that the book isn’t anything at all like it’s marketed as, but luckily I dodged all of that so went in with no expectations and was thoroughly impressed.

This is a story, ultimately, of friendship and it was a heart-wrenching one at that. Romance very much takes a backseat, if a seat at all? It’s a story about self-discovery and I just adored every moment of it (even when I was racked with sobs and my dog had to come over to mop up my tears).

What I particularly loved though was how it completely subverted certain tropes and clichés. When I started the book, and as I was reading, I expected certain things to happen and when they didn’t, I was pleasantly surprised and started to gain more and more faith in the author and that this book was really going to resonate with me.

5. The Last Argument of Kings - Joe Abercrombie

This is the third and final instalment of The First Law trilogy so the only non-spoiler thing I'm going to say is this: if you like fantasy, love a morally grey character who you simultaneously root for and feel conflicted about rooting for, and don't mind lots of horrible, grim things happening, then pick this trilogy up! You will not regret it. Great conclusion to a fantastic series and I will definitely be picking up the next in this world.


Reading goals for 2022:

I'm going to split these up into types of books I'd like to read more of/less of, and specific books I'd like to get to in 2022.

Genres

  • Read more fantasy and sci fi. I read a sad number of science fiction books this year and I must change that in 2022.

  • Read fewer contemporary romance books. These are my ultimate comfort reads, but I've noticed in recent years that the odds of me actually rating a contemporary romance more than 3 stars is pretty low in comparison to other genres, and I read quite a lot for work anyway, so I think it's time I focused on books I'm more likely to enjoy personally.

  • Read at least 2 non-fiction books.

  • Read at least 2 classics.

Books

This year I’d like to read (or finish, as I have started a couple):

  • The Fellowship of the Ring - J R R Tolkien (I know, SHAME on me for not having read this yet in all my 25 years on the planet)

  • The Poppy War - R F Kuang

  • The Rage of Dragons - Evan Winter

  • Dune - Frank Herbert

Right, I think that's plenty to be getting on with! I wish you all the best reading years ahead! And if you do have any recommendations or want to chat books, you can contact me here. I am ALWAYS up for discussing books.

Until the next time,

Candida x