2021 Reading Stats

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:

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.

We could do this together!

What will happen at Grab the Lapels in 2022? I’m leaning toward:

  1. My old system of reading the oldest and newest book I own each month
  2. A book with a fat female protagonist
  3. More books by and about D/deaf people
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. Biscuit Book Club will continue, and I look forward to doing some buddy reads as well.
See you in 2022!

39 comments

  1. Your graphics always win! Curious about the genres – some are obvious if you were sorting them yourself, but others I never really understand eg. ‘women’s’ and ‘men’s’ fiction.

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    • I chose “women’s” and “men’s” fiction as categories because I realized that it’s easy to think of books about women as romance or domestic life, something like that, but what I really mean is a book about women or a woman that largely concerns issues that face women. For example, that may be a woman trying to get a job in a male-dominated field or a woman working as a hair stylist, or a woman caring for grandchildren because her own adult child died. Whereas men’s fiction might be more geared toward a bunch of men who teach at a community college together, or single men raising children, or men taking a road trip. I don’t want people to think all men’s fiction is military and hunting and sea captains, or some such. It’s not a perfect categorization, but when I finished each book, I thought, “This work was about men/women doing things men/women cared about” rather than a more obvious genre.

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  2. I would love to do a buddy read with you! I don’t know what or when though lol.
    I really need to try to focus on reading books I own but also, this next year’s goal is going to force me to buy more books so that collection is going to keep growing. :3

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  3. Great analysis. I think cross-genre books are the best. An ‘ideal’ book for me would be Female/literary/SF/Coming of Age and young women seem to be writing those kinds of books now.
    I have two of your top 10 in my TBR – Woman on the Edge of Time (Audible) and Herland (eReader).
    And Hi to Biscuit. Keep commenting!

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    • I love dystopian/made-up language/raggedy girls and women characters/road trips.

      I found Woman on the Edge of Time hard to listen to, so I abandoned the audibook and got the ebook.

      I told Biscuit you left her a comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fun stats! I don’t track my DNF’s beyond a special dedicated shelf on Goodreads. Congrats on reading so many of your own books. That’s something I think many book bloggers struggle with. Happy New Year, Melanie!

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  5. Love your stats and graphics! You had a great reading year. I love Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. I first read it in a women’s lit course in college and it turned me on to other Piercy books including her awesome poetry. Happy New Year!

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  6. Hi Melanie! I wanted to stop by and wish you a happy new year (looks like 2021 was a good one in terms of reading anyway!) and say that I’m sorry I haven’t stopped by to say hi recently. I’ve been thinking of you and miss our chats! I hope you are well.

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    • I’ve been thinking about you too! Every once in a while I pop onto Goodreads to see if anyone has messaged me, and I see you’re quite active on there. The Cromwell book sounds like a slog. Girl, let it go. I hope you and your daughter had a great New Year’s Eve together!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! I’m at a point now where Cromwell has grown on me and it makes more sense, but it took me 200+ pages 😂.

        Send me an email anytime- or GR message (I do check GR quite a bit during the day). My email has changed- gmail has shut down my old account (long story) but you can get me at the same one with @hotmail.com instead (it’s an oldie).

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  7. Melanie- I’m pleased to hear it our little book club will continue. I had assumed it was on auto renew! Happy New Year! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

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  8. A great round-up! I like doing read-alongs, I’m not sure I’d have got through Roots without Bill and Buried in Print, or not so quickly. I am always up for them, not sure if we overlap enough, though. Fancy reading a Larry McMurtry for my reading project this year? Happy reading for 2022 and I will look forward to your posts.

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    • I also read Roots with a buddy — Books by the Cup, whom I don’t see blogging very often but I know still reads and shares on Goodreads. We had a great time breaking the book up and talking about it bit by bit. Happy 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’d done this in past years and then didn’t in 2020 for reasons I cannot remember. I need to clean up some of these books that I’ve owned for waaaay too long. At the very least, I need to start the book and decide if I’m even still interested, and if not, off to the Free Little Library it goes.

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  9. I’m so impressed by your pie charts – your academic roots are showing 🙂

    Ok question about reducing the amount of books you own. I’m totally down with this, you know I give away books as soon as I finish reading them, but what do you mean by reducing allergens – are books an allergen? Or just like, a dust collector? I’m so curious now!

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    • Oh yeah, books are actually really dirty. I wrote a post about it, and here’s the section about why books are dirty:

      According to a chemical engineer, there are several reasons the paper in your physical books breaks down. Some are pretty basic: if you aren’t dusting incessantly, your books are breaking down. If you keep food near your bookshelves, the paper can break down. Open windows, poor ventilation, and obvious problems like a leaky roof all affect your books. Now, if you’re like me and suffering from ridiculous allergies right now because the trees are trying to get it on, then you know that having items in your house that collect dust and even mold spores is bad for your health.

      Liked by 1 person

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