reading roundup // 2021.

i’ll be honest: 2021 was a weird reading year for me. i started the year expecting to read fewer books than i read in 2020 and wound up far exceeding my expectations. for a few months after i left my job all i could concentrate on were romance and quick mystery novels, but i slowly wound my way back to some of the others that had been on my list for a long time.

with lamp and cushions added. memphis, tennessee. april 2021.

first, my 2021 reading by the numbers:

of the 101 books i read in 2021,

  • 91 were by authors who identify as women
  • 47 were by bipoc authors
  • 25 were non-fiction
  • 1 was a translation [need to work on this in 2022]
  • 8 were by authors who identify as lgbtq+ and / or centered lgbtq+ characters [also want to improve this in 2022]
  • 27 were set outside of the united states or had significant portions that were
i am helpless to resist a good bookstore. chicago, illinois. december 2021.

second, here’s how i did with my initial reading goals:

read at least 40 books. the funny part is, i really didn’t think i was selling myself short when i set this goal. i thought my reading would sort of level off in 2021 and it never did. i passed this goal in early june and never looked back.

make sure i am reading books set outside the united states. thanks to a few book clubs and discovering authors like talia hibbert and lisa jewell i did pretty well with this goal, and in the end a quarter of what i read were either entirely set outside the united states or included significant portions that were. most were still set in europe, however, and that is something i would like to continue expanding this year. i definitely owe thanks to the bank holiday book club and the adventurous kate book club for helping with these numbers, as both intentionally seek globally diverse reads.

read at least 3 graphic novels. i didn’t succeed with this one, but not for a lack of interest. i cut back significantly on buying books last year, particularly after i left my job, and didn’t want to read these on my kindle. i managed to read one in december, and i have many others saved in my various wish lists and will definitely be seeking these out again in the future.

read 7-10 books by lgbtq+ authors and / or books centering lgbtq+ characters. the bhbc also deserves credit for helping me achieve this goal. i still have a lot of room to improve in this category, and it will continue to be something i prioritize in years to come.

re-read shantaram. you know, there were so many times i thought about starting this and then never did. i wanted to borrow it from the library but memphis didn’t have any digital copies, and my original physical copy is falling apart to the point where i’m not sure it would survive another reading. i found a fresh copy at my parents’ house and “borrowed” it, so maybe i’ll finally get around to it this year.

this sight brings me so much joy. memphis, tennessee. april 2020.

and finally, my favorites from the year:

fiction. one of the standout books i read that i continue to think about on a weekly basis is tia williams’ seven days in june. there is something about that book that has stuck with me, and i can definitely see myself reading it again in a few years. also if you are a podcast listener, this conversation between williams and hillary kerr is a great listen.

honorable mentions:

  • stay with me by ayobami adebayo
  • girl, woman, other by bernardine evaristo [my runner up for favorite fiction]
  • the sympathizer by viet thanh nguyen
  • the family upstairs by lisa jewell
  • malibu rising by taylor jenkins reid
  • the flatshare by beth o’leary
  • ask again, yes by mary beth keane
  • the love hypothesis by ali hazelwood
  • beautiful world, where are you by sally rooney
  • daisy jones and the six by taylor jenkins reid [highly recommend listening to the full-cast audiobook]
  • in every mirror she’s black by lola akinmadé åkerström

nonfiction. i think this has to be know my name by chanel miller, the first book i finished in 2021. miller’s story of surviving sexual assault, navigating the justice system as part of a high profile case, and deciding to go public with her name is an incredible read and one that i continue to think about often.

honorable mentions:

  • you’re not listening by kate murphy
  • so you want to talk about race by ijeoma oluo
  • amateur by thomas page mcbee
  • disability visibility edited by alice wong
  • think again by adam grant
  • caste by isabel wilkerson
  • the witches are coming by lindy west [great as an audiobook]
  • sometimes i trip on how happy we could be by nichole perkins
  • crying in h mart by michelle zauner [also very great as an audiobook]
  • into thin air by jon krakauer
  • i was their american dream by malaka gharib

you can see my full list of 2021 reads here.

series. i added this category this year because many of my favorite romance novels from the year were part of ongoing series. i find it quite telling that all five of these are written by women of color, feature diverse casts, and normalize mental health, disability, and neurodiversity.

  • primas of power series by alexis daria
  • the marriage game series by sara desai
  • the wedding date series by jasmine guillory
  • the brown sisters series by talia hibbert
  • the kiss quotient series by helen hoang

and there you have it. i am continuing to contemplate my reading goals for this year and hope to share them soon.


past reading roundups: 2020

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