2021 book reading in review

Russ Allbery eagle at eyrie.org
Sat Jan 1 11:53:13 PST 2022

In 2021, I finished and reviewed 43 books, yet another (tiny) increase
over 2020 and once again the best year for reading since 2012 (which
was the last time I averaged 5 books a month). The year got off to a
good reading start and closed strong, but once again had sags in the
spring and summer when I got behind on reviews and fell out of the
habit of reading daily. This year, at least, the end-of-year catch-up
was less dramatic; all but two of the books I reviewed in December were
finished in December.

The best books I read this year were Naomi Novik's magic boarding
school fantasies [1]A Deadly Education and [2]The Last Graduate, which
I rated a 9 and a 10 respectively. Memorable characters, some great
world-building, truly exceptional characterization of a mother/daughter
relationship, adroit avoidance of genre pitfalls, and two of my
favorite fictional tropes: for me, this series has it all. The third
and concluding book of that series is my most anticipated book of 2022.

My large reviewing project of this year was a complete re-read of C.S.
Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, starting with my [3]1000th published
review. As you can see, I have a lot of opinions about those books;
they were a huge part of my childhood, and I'd been talking about
writing those reviews for years. They were the longest reviews I've
published and, unusually for me, full-spoiler reviews, and they took up
a lot of my reviewing energy for the year. Of the seven books in the
series, I was pleased to see that [4]The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
and [5]The Magician's Nephew held up and are still very much worth
reading. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in particular, is an
exceptional sense-of-wonder fantasy novel with a story structure that
remains rare.

The best non-fiction book I read in 2021 is a prosaic choice that's
only of specialist interest, but [6]JavaScript: The Definitive Guide
is precisely the type of programming language manual that I look for
when learning a new language. It taught me what I was hoping to learn
when I picked it up.

Honorable mentions are a crowded field this year; I read a lot of books
that were good but not great. Worth calling out are Arkady Martine's
[7]A Desolation Called Peace (sequel to the excellent [8]A Memory
Called Empire), if for nothing else than Three Seagrass; Micaiah
Johnson's impressive debut [9]The Space Between Worlds; and Becky
Chambers's last Wayfarer novel, [10]The Galaxy, and the Ground Within.
On the non-fiction side, Allie Brosh's [11]Solutions and Other Problems
is a much harder and sadder book than the exceptional [12]Hyperbole and
a Half, but it was still very much worth reading.

This was another year spent reading mostly recently-published books,
without much backfill of either award winners or my existing library.
In 2022, I hope to balance keeping up with new books of interest with
returning to series I left unfinished, award lists I left only partly
explored, and books I snapped up in earlier years and then never got
around to.

Below is some additional analysis plus personal reading statistics,
probably only of interest to me.

In 2021, I read and reviewed 43 books, up one book from 2020 and
continuing a long-term trend of (very slowly) increasing my reading
every year. Page count was up more substantially, which was a mild
surprise since I thought I read more novellas and shorter books this
year, but I did finish some weighty tomes early in the year. Average
rating was down considerably, at the second-lowest it's been since I
started tracking it.

Overall statistics, with the change from last year:

Books read      43      (+1)
Total pages     13,999  (+936)
Average rating  6.84    (-0.37)
Pages per day   38.4    (+2.7)
Days per book   8.49    (-0.22)

Breakdown by genre:

SF and fantasy  35  81%
Other fiction    0   0%
Non-fiction      7  16%
Graphic novels   1   2%
RPGs             0   0%

(Percentages do not add to 100% due to rounding.) This was an even less
diverse year by genre than last year, with even more of a focus on SF
and fantasy. I did read a single graphic novel, which is one more than
last year. One of these days, I'll get back to reading RPGs and my
backlog of non-SFF novels.

Of the SF and fantasy novels, here's a rough breakdown of the books by
reason for seeking them out. (As always, each book is only counted
once, and reasons higher on the list override reasons lower on the list
if both reasons apply.)

Award winners      3   9%
Award series       0   0%
Re-reads           8  23%
Genre classics     0   0%
Favorite authors  10  29%
Current SF&F       8  23%
Recommendations    1   3%
Random             5  14%

(Percentages add to more than 100% due to rounding.) My re-read of the
Chronicles of Narnia significantly increased the re-read count. Beyond
that, the number of award winners and books from favorite authors
stayed about the same. Most of the increase in SF and fantasy reading
for the year was reading current books that were part of award slates
and exploring more random authors.

The project of reading all award winners continues to be stalled. I'm
staying current on the Hugo Best Novel shortlist, but not the other
awards, and I've not been prioritizing the backlist of award winners
from prior years.

   1. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-593-12849-4.html
   2. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-593-12887-7.html
   3. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-02-044220-3.html
   4. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-02-044260-2.html
   5. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-02-044230-0.html
   6. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/1-4919-5202-4.html
   7. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/1-250-18648-X.html
   8. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/1-250-18645-5.html
   9. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-593-13506-7.html
  10. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-06-293605-0.html
  11. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/1-9821-5694-5.html
  12. https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/1-4767-6459-X.html

Russ Allbery (eagle at eyrie.org)             <https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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