A la Jessamyn, who also has a Twitter thread of the books she reads each year.

2021 stats

Total number of books read: 74, far fewer than last year — just could not find books I wanted to read

average read per month: 6.2 books
average read per week: 1.4 books
number read in worst month: (3, October)
number read in best month: (9, April and July)

percentage by male authors: 37% (27 books)
percentage by female authors: 63% (47 books)

fiction as percentage of total: 90.5 % (67 books)
crime fiction as percentage of fiction total: 61% (41 of 67 books)
non-fiction as percentage of total: 9.5% (7 books, two by David Sedaris)

percentage of total liked: 78% (58 books)
percentage of total so-so or disliked: 22% (16 books)


Favourites: The best book I read this year hands-down was Sarah Winman’s Still Life (2021), with complex characters and plotting, cinematic locations, and a lot of heart. Everyone I recommended it to also loved it. I also really liked Lucy by the Sea (20220 by Elizabeth Strout, a quiet novel set in Maine about the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Surprising favourites were Remarkably Bright Creatures (2022) by Shelby Van Pelt, a generous, heart-warming, and not at all saccharine novel set around an aquarium in Sowell Bay, WA; Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies (2016) by Ross King, for its scope and readability; Sea of Tranquility (2022) by Emily St. John Mandel, which is a really engaging time-travel novel, not usually my thing; Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners (2018) by Gretchen Anthony, which was funny, engaging, touching; Joan is Okay (2022) by Weike Wang, where lightness and humour intersect brilliantly with racism and simmering rage; Graveyard Fields (2021) by Steven Tingle, introducing (I hope) Davis Reed, a mediocre private investigator living in the Carolinas; and Dava Shastri’s Last Day (2021) by Kirthana Ramisetti, which I loved for the interesting characters.

A couple of the stranger books that I read (and liked) this year were No One is Talking About This (2021) by Patricia Lockwood, about the modern life dilemma of living with split selves, split minds, located both in real space and in the virtual world; Hurricane Girl (2022) by Marcy Dermansky (short and compelling and at the end I wasn’t sure what happened); and Unlikely Animals (2022) by Annie Hartnett, a leisurely paced novel set in New Hampshire, drawing on natural history, and narrated by inhabitants of the local cemetery.

Some favourite crime fiction this year included the Cara Hunter Adam Fawley series, the Louise Luna Alice Vega series, the new Suburban Dicks series by Fabian Nicieza, set in suburban New Jersey, and of course the Patricia Cornwell Kay Scarpetta series. Also found The Last to Vanish (2022) by Megan Miranda, set in a small North Carolina town that’s a gateway to the Appalachian Trail, to be atmospheric and suspenseful.

It took me a while to get into Beautiful Ruins: A Novel (2012) by Jess Walter, with a complex and unhurried plot that stretches across time and place; and Elizabeth George’s latest Lynley, Something to Hide (2022), a much-too-long novel about a family from Nigeria living in London. I ended up loving Beautiful Ruins and feeling like Something to Hide was worth reading in the end.

Disappointments: I love Anne Tyler, but her latest, French Braid (2022), left me flat. Both Peter Swanson books — Eight Perfect Murders: A Novel (2020) and Nine Lives: A Novel (2022) — and both Anthony Horowitz books featuring Daniel Hawthorne — The Word Is Murder (2017) and A Line to Kill (2021) — felt clunky to me, predictable, plodding, over-explained, and were ultimately not satisfying. The House Across the Lake (2022) by Riley Sager and The Book of Cold Cases (2022) by Simone St. James both relied on supernatural activity to resolve the stories, which feels like cheating to me.

Full book list.

number of books read in 2021: 74
number of books read in 2021: 105
number of books read in 2020: 59
number of books read in 2019: 67
number of books read in 2018: 63
number of books read in 2017: 52
number of books read in 2016: 71
number of books read in 2015: 54
number of books read in 2014: 52
number of books read in 2013: 47
number of books read in 2012: 50
number of books read in 2011: 55
number of books read in 2010: 34
number of books read in 2009: 74
number of books read in 2008:
number of books read in 2007:
number of books read in 2006:
number of books read in 2005: 37
number of books read in 2004: 46
number of books read in 2003: 40
number of books read in 2002: 30+ (3 months forgot to count)

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