It’s that time of year again: looking back and what the heck happened at Grab the Lapels. Frequently, I have people tell me that they didn’t realize I don’t review books written by authors who identify as men at GTL. Perhaps because I still read books by male authors, and add their covers to my TBR on the Sunday Lowdown? Let’s first compare how many books I read by people who identify as men vs. women/non-binary:
While women and non-binary authors dominate, I was surprised that almost 20% of my reading included books by men. However, this figure includes all books that I read or attempted to read. That does not mean 20% of the books I completed were by men. Let’s look closer:
I love that this chart is like a speed gauge. As you can see, I picked up and did not finish 31 books this year — almost 20%. Now, you may be eyeballing that 20% suspiciously and thinking, “Did Melanie not finish any book by a man?” No, these numbers do nor correlate. I DNF’d plenty of books by women, too. The main reason? Largely, I did not finish audiobooks that had narrators I had a hard time understanding, or books that were ignorant (racist, fatphobic, ableist) right away. Sometimes, offensive books are a product of their time, so let’s look at that:
Post-2009 dominates the chart above, but I still encountered some books that included unnecessary bigoted language and dumped them. And then I read novels from the 1910s that were more forward-thinking. Surprises here? Yes! I can’t believe I read so many new books. The 2020s bar includes any book published in 2020 or 2021, so that was a lot of new material for me. But why so many new books? Part of my big goal this year was to get through books I own. It doesn’t help when I see a new book and pre-order it (woops), but I did make great headway on what I read:
More than any other chart, this one makes me happy. Look at all the books I read (or DNF’d) from my own collection. Any book that I did not massively love and foresee me reading again in the future went into the Little Free Library box near my home. It felt great to be unburdened by a large collection of unread books that can now be loved in someone else’s hands. Some books I didn’t get rid of, though, because they are digital. In fact, digital was the way to go in 2021:
Because we did not have access to vaccines until April, much of the early days I wasn’t going to my library, I was checking out library e-books from home. Also, because I want to reduce my physical book collection to save space and reduce allergens, any book I purchase is likely a digital copy. Audiobooks are a close second because all my commute time to and from school (50 minutes one way) meant going through audiobooks pretty quickly in 2021.
And lastly, which kinds of books did I spend all my time on?
Because Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I were finishing our #ReadingValdemar challenge, I’m not surprised there are so many fantasy/paranormal books listed. I also read a series of novellas about a paranormal investigator cat and another about werewolves, both by S.M. Reine. I was perplexed by the number of multi-genre novels I read, ones that were both science fiction and post-apocalypse, or journalism and bildungsroman and thriller, or philosophy and a quest, etc. While they are the hardest to “sell” to another reader when I write my reviews, multi-genre novels are my favorite for how they make the most of the best of different genres.
Which books left a lasting impression? 2021 had a few books that lived in my brain rent free, ones I kept returning to while I worked and studied, read new novels and drove around, cooked and showered. Here are the ten that stuck with me the most:
- The Street by Ann Petry
- A Loss for Words by Lou Ann Walker
- The Albino Album by Chavisa Woods
- The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
- Laura Rider’s Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton
- Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
- The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
- When Darkness Loves Us by Elizabeth Engstrom
- Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- Immobility by Brian Evenson
Is it a coincidence that 8/10 of these books I read with another person? No. I’m learning that the best reading experiences are not done alone, that the best of reading is loving the experience with someone else, whether it’s your mom or spouse, or your friend on a Hawaiian vacation or darling chum in England. Interested in reading a book with me? Add some titles and time periods in the comments so we can work something out.
What will happen at Grab the Lapels in 2022? I’m leaning toward:
- My old system of reading the oldest and newest book I own each month
- A book with a fat female protagonist
- More books by and about D/deaf people
- A category for either a library book or re-reading a book I own so I can review and then decide if I should keep it
- Really getting into the S.M. Reine Descentverse series. I’m still trying to decide if I should review one book at a time or a whole sub-series like I did in the past.
- Biscuit Book Club will continue, and I look forward to doing some buddy reads as well.