At the end of each year, I like to take a moment to reflect on the year that has passed, and compare it to my expectations from the beginning of the year. In particular, I’ve been doing this for several years when it comes to the books I’ve read along with a few of the other GeekFamily writers; it helps me capture how I felt at a particular point in time, and then to see how life actually played out compared to what I was anticipating.
2020 was a bit of a mess: going into it, we had no idea that we’d be entering a global pandemic that would disrupt so much of our lives. Despite that, I think we were more hopeful that 2021 would bring changes: for one, we thought that the vaccine might allow many of us to resume normal activities to some degree … but the combination of the Delta variant and still not enough people getting vaccinated has dampened that here in the United States, while much of the rest of the world is still struggling just to get enough vaccines to begin with. Our 2020 resolutions that spilled over into 2021 may spill over again—or maybe we’ll just have to write new ones.
Join us as we take a look back at the reading resolutions we made at the beginning of the year, and tell you about our reading habits this past year.
Jonathan H. Liu
Last year’s resolution (which I didn’t complete) was to try to clear enough space in front of my basement office bookshelves so I could get to the shelves without stepping over books. The pandemic slowed down the rate of review copies and I was starting to get a handle on it, but in 2021 it picked up again. It took a leaking water tank and a minor flood over Thanksgiving to finally kick me into action, and I’ve since culled nearly 20 boxes of books from the shelves and piles on the floor. Some rearranging has given me that desired space in front of the shelves (as pictured above, with my daughter’s dolls paying a visit), though just out of frame I still have about ten more boxes on the floor, so I’ll need to cut back a bit more before I can truly check this resolution off the list.
In terms of specific books, I failed to finish the Dystopia Triptych, but did finish The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book (which is one of my favorites of the year). I also finished reading the Ministry of SUITs series to my youngest daughter, though we didn’t get through that many more besides that. I did recently start reading The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban to her, a book that I’d read to my older kids long enough ago that they’d both forgotten most of it. And this year I did get through a few of the specific titles I wanted to read in 2020: Joe Ide’s IQ series (I have one more to go), the Illuminae trilogy, and I just started reading Otherworld. I also managed to read a few more of the titles from the list of Authors or Series I’ve Enjoyed in the Past.
Finally, I didn’t hit my goal of 150 books—as of this writing I’m at 109, so I’m unlikely to cross that line before the end of the year. I did find this year that my brain has had more trouble focusing on reading longer books, and it wasn’t until this fall that I’ve been able to get back to some more longer fiction. While I did log my books in Goodreads again, I also started using The Storygraph as an alternative, and I think next year I may move there entirely, as I continue to prune away Amazon.
When I first sat down to think about this, I didn’t think I had all that much to contribute. I went through a reading slump around July or August and haven’t read much since. However, I found the reading log I created for my Happy Planner that I had filed away and while translating it to an Excel spreadsheet I realized I had read a lot more than I actually remembered. Thanks to my TMS treatments this year, I listened to some of my first audiobooks. That was when I did my most reading of the year. Overall, I read 20 books this year and did not finish four. I also started a few but haven’t finished them yet, so they don’t count for this. I know my goal for 2021 was to increase my reading but considering how many health issues I’ve had this year, I think I’ve actually done pretty well considering. In 2022, I plan to pick up at least five books I haven’t finished this year and decide if I want to finish them or mark them as DNF. May the odds ever be in their favor.
What Had I Planned?
During the 2010s, I struggled to read many books. In previous decades, I would read a lot in bed before sleeping, but the arrival of my first iPad in about 2011 or so almost entirely eliminated that bedtime ritual. In 2020, I made an intention of changing that, and set a goal of reading 20 books that year. I beat it, by one book. So, I did the same for 2021, setting a goal of reading 21 books. The books I read are often of varying lengths, so I don’t feel bad counting a few short ones to compensate for the 500-800-page ones that I sometimes read. I had hoped to get to and finish both Emma and Persuasion with Rory, along with Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series.
How Did I Do?
I did not end up finishing Emma or even starting Persuasion, or tackle the Lady Astronaut series. Something to look forward to for 2022! Here’s more detail about all I did get to, though.
I thought I would hit 22 books for the year, but some things got in the way to keep Rory and me from finishing our two-person book club reading of Emma, but we should finish that early next year. So, instead, I just hit my 21-book goal. I’m happy with that. I read some incredible books this year, and have enjoyed reading and reflecting on my reading more, now that I keep track of what I read in Goodreads.
My books ran the gamut: the mysterious and lovely The Ten Thousand Doors of January, coincidentally read in January; my grandfather’s The Adventures of Learning in College, a fun look at mid-century college life from the perspective of an English professor (my grandfather); Ready Player Two, a fun sequel to the fun original, with just as many gratuitous ’80s references; another read of Pride and Prejudice, this time the annotated version with Rory; Writing a Woman’s Life, an interesting look at writing about women through the decades and centuries; The Phantom Tollbooth, which I hadn’t fully re-read since childhood; Jenny Lawson’s Broken (in the best way possible) which I liked but not as much as her first book; the first two books in the A Boy Called Christmas series by Matt Haig, which were fantastic; our own Fran Wilde’s Clock Star Rose Spine, a moving collection of her poetry; Project Hail Mary, which everyone was correct to adore; Several People Are Typing, a quick, compelling, and weird read for anyone who uses Slack or has an office job; plus a few others, including some throw-away fluff books that filled in the gaps.
All in all, I read fewer fluff books in 2021 than I had in 2020, which I’m happy about. I enjoy fluffy books sometimes, to get a break from the seriousness of life, just as I like cheesy Christmas romance movies. But only as a mental break from more serious or quality fare.
2021 was a much better year for me and books than 2020.
I didn’t do too badly on my reading resolutions, though, as I probably could have (should have) predicted, my plan to reread Terry Pratchett entirely collapsed. I got as far as reading and reviewing The Color of Magic, reading The Light Fantastic, and buying a copy of Equal Rites. After that, it ground to a halt. Not very impressive.
My ability to produce my old Word Wednesday column also completely collapsed. As I predicted in last year’s resolution post, homeschooling became a thing again in the early months of 2021. Indeed, in the UK, children didn’t return to school after the Christmas break. This broke my ability to write in the daytime and crushed my energy for non-fiction books, which tended to be where most of my Word Wednesday focus was diverted.
Books became a retreat for me in what was a difficult year. My mum passed away in February, on the back of my dad dying only 6 months or so earlier. My escape was the written word. I ended up reading so many good novels in 2021, more of which I’ll write about in our forthcoming books of the year post. Whilst finding time to read was largely a lot harder than in previous years, I still tried to carve out the mental space to escape planet earth and head to some awesome SFF destinations. I didn’t review everything I read, but the ability to immerse myself in other worlds was invaluable for my well-being in a very difficult year. I read some truly exceptional fiction in 2021 and I thank all the authors for keeping me going.
I did succeed in my endeavor to buy more books from bricks-and-mortar stores. Admittedly, lots of these purchases were still through the internet, but using portals such as Bookshop.org and Biggergreenbooks.com. I was moderately successful in my attempt to read books that I had purchased, rather than ones I was sent from publishers. I don’t think I hit my target of 50/50 but it was probably closer than any of the last 5 or 10 years. I still bought more books than I could read (and more games than I could play for that matter) but that is the lot of a bibliophile. There is, after all, no such thing as too many books!
We hope you had a good year of reading! Join us next week for our 2022 reading resolutions!