Reading Better | December.

This is another epic post … and the last one I have looking back at 2021. TL;DR It was probably my best year of reading ever and there isn’t much I’d like to change for 2022.

I read 20 books last month, bringing my YTD total to 212 (shelved here on Goodreads). All that reading brought me plenty of comfort & joy and the audiobooks were welcome company for all the knitting (three of the 22 projects I shared on Tuesday were December finishes). It’s not surprising that half of those 20 were audio and 3/4 were borrowed … I continue to be delighted at the audiobook selections that are immediately available on Libby and Hoopla!

Three books – all from the Aspen Long List buddy read (blogged here) – checked all four of my intention boxes: What Strange Paradise, Arsonists’ City, and What Storm, What Thunder (all Goodreads links). I have one more long list title to read (The Final Revival of Opal & Nev) and that’s it until the short list comes out in February.

The rest of the ♥-notes from my journal are few:
♥ I still love A Christmas Carol (this was my 7th re-listen).
Still Life … my favorite book of 2021.
♥ I want to be a Brené Brown completist … I have just a few more books from her backlist and added Atlas of the Heart to my shelf last month.

That’s a quick wrap-up for December, and now I have a few charts and thoughts to share about 2021 as a whole. First, the charts (click the images to embiggen):

I would love to increase the percentages of Growth and Diversity. and I can probably stop tracking Delight.

Looking back over the whole year:

♥ I read more books this year than I probably read in whole decades of my life (the 1980s and 1990s) …
♥ with a higher quality – nearly 25% were amazing and only 26% were “likes”.
♥ connecting through bookclubs, buddy reads, book/author events, conversations with friends … all good. and did so much to enrich my reading life.
♥ reading new releases and backlist. and I especially ♥ being a completist about an author. I read all of Claire Fuller and will be reading Maggie O’Farrell, Sarah Winman, and Louise Erdrich this year (and whoa, Erdrich has a LOT of backlist – I expect this might be a years-long project for her!)
♥ prize short lists: Aspen Words, Women’s Prize, Booker, National Book Award (not so much there for the long lists!)

and finally – what do I want to change for this year? short answer, not much! I would like to increase the percentages of growth (36%) and diversity (39%), increase the number of books owned and read (should be easy – just 17 for 2021), and start sharing short reviews of all the books here. I did start sharing short reviews of the 5-star books on Instagram last summer. Here’s a peek at December’s. I’m going to tweak the things I track, too. I’m going to play around with January’s reflections/post to decide exactly how.

In closing – and wow, if you read this far, thank you! this is a tiny reward – here are the top five books I shared with the Fiction Matters crew earlier this month:

  1. Still Life
  2. How the Word Is Passed
  3. Cloud Cuckoo Land
  4. Girl, Woman, Other
  5. A Tale for the Time Being

What was your favorite book of 2021?

23 thoughts on “Reading Better | December.

  1. So many books and so much delight! I haven’t read Still Life yet, but it’s in my queue. I think my favorite book of 2021 was Shuggie Bain. I didn’t expect it to be nearly as good as it was, so the unexpectedness was part of it for me. I find myself still thinking about it at least once/week, especially now that I’m reading Young Mungo.

    1. Wow, Shuggie Bain … I’m glad I read it! and I can’t wait to see how Young Mungo compares. I think you’re going to love Still Life (and I expect I’m not the first person who’s told you that!)

  2. That is a seriously impressive number of books to read in one year! And so much GOOD reading, too! I’m finding it really interesting to see you break down the numbers by format and source; I’ve added some shelves to my Goodreads so that I’ll be able to keep track over the course of this year whether I’m reading on paper, e-reader, or audio and which books have come from the library.

    My favorite book of last year? That’s a tough one. If I had to pick the one that delighted me the most, I’d say The Guncle. That’s certainly the one I’ve been recommending the most of my 5-star reads from last year.

    1. Wow, The Guncle! … it’s still months away in my queue. I love tracking the numbers – and seeing them in a picture 🙂 you can’t change what you don’t measure!

    2. First – what does TL;DR mean?
      My favorite book of 2021 – ugh – probably Cloud Cuckoo Land. I am not sure I have really done a good review of my 2021 reading but that one was so wonderful

  3. Wow! Impressive stats for sure. My list is much shorter (but it was enjoyable) and I don’t “do” audio books. My favorite? There are actually a few: “Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo,” “The Sweetness of Water,” and “The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families and A Hundred Years of German History.” right now I’m reading “Agatha of Little Neon” for the RWU group.

    1. I LOVED The Sweetness of Water – can’t wait to see what comes next from that promising author! and I downloaded (on audio!) Agatha of Little Neon. I’ve read a few dark books lately and I’m ready for something a little lighter.

  4. I am very impressed with the number of books you read and how much delight you got from them.
    My favorite book of 2021 is Still Life and I am recommending it to everyone I know. I read a library copy and plan on ordering a copy for my bookshelves and to read it again this year.

    1. Delight is such an interesting feeling – by the end of the year I pretty much convinced myself I must be getting SOME delight from the book or I wouldn’t finish it … so what’s the point in tracking?! I’ve lost track of how many folks I’ve pressed into reading Still Life and I’m delighted (ha!) that so far no one has said they haven’t loved it too!

  5. Lots of good reads here. I please that I’m able to purposefully find more time to read [putting down the ipad before bed]. Audiobooks fill the time when cleaning the house, knitting, sewing/stitching, and commuting. Hoping to hit my highest # of books read this year by just reading what makes me happy. So far January has been a very good month.

  6. You know my favorite! I love Tale for the Time Being, too. The tracking of your reads is so impressive. What you track is interesting as well as the number of books you read!

    1. Still Life twins! A Tale for the Time Being changed the way I thought about reading … a very meta experience. and all the different ways we (at Fiction Matters) interpreted the story and the themes just blew my mind.

  7. Your reading inspirers me every day Mary! I can always look to you for a new book. I think my favorite book… looking back at Goodreads was The Keepers of the House – a 1956 Pulitzer Prize winner read for book bingo. An unexpected wonderful story.

  8. These numbers are just astounding, Mary! Just wow!

    My favorite book(s) out of those I read last year were: A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, Braiding Sweetgrass, and Finding The Mother Tree. These are books I have not stopped thinking about (which for me makes a good book even better)

    1. I finally read Swim in the Pond this month and have Braiding Sweetgrass on my book cart (and in my audible library) – it’s one I definitely will read in 2022!

  9. That’s an amazing amount of books you read and listened to last year Mary…so awesome! I love reading for the pure joy of reading, it’s an escape from every day life for me. This past year I have found quite a few new authors to read, authors I want to revisit and to consider for the future. I never keep track of the books I read and find it interesting that you and others do. Good for you and enjoy this year of reading and listening too!

    1. I just started keeping a book journal last year and it brings me so much joy to flip back through the pages and remember each of those books. I’m curious – if you don’t keep track, do you ever find yourself reading a book you’ve already read and not quite remembered?

      1. That’s awesome and I have not thought about keeping a book journal for that reason. I really haven’t re-read a book that I didn’t remember. I do re-read books now and then simply because I really enjoyed the book itself and normally it’s been a few years since I might have read it.

    1. I hear you about the waves … seems like I’ve been in more of a reading one than a knitting one lately, but Musselburgh might change that!

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