Hello hello!! It’s time for the last end-of-2021 post, which is my 2021 reading stats post! I love making these posts because they give me a chance to do some reflection on my reading habits and tendencies, which aren’t always obvious to me as I’m doing my reading throughout the year.

To begin, I read 146 books in 2021.

I wanted to get to 150, and I could’ve read some graphic novels or novellas to get to that number, but I was just too lazy and couldn’t really be bothered lol. Anyway, 146 is definitely not a number to be ashamed of, so I’m more than happy with it.

I also DNFd 58 books at anywhere between like 20 pages to 200 pages.

Im not sure how that number compares to my DNFs from last year, especially because my DNFs range so much in terms of the pages I read before DNFing, but my feeling is that overall I DNFd a lot less in 2021. In general I feel like I was much better at choosing the kinds of books that I’d like in 2021, which meant that I ended up enjoying a lot of the books I read (more on that below).

Here’s a breakdown of the books I read by genre, and to me, there are no surprises here. In my mind, my top genres are literary fiction, romance, historical fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction–what usually varies is how those genres tend to rank compared to each other. Literary fiction is my bread and butter as always, with 41 books. Then we have romance at 33 books (I binged a lot of romance books this year because they’re the only books I can read when I feel shitty lol), historical fiction at 23 books, nonfiction at 20 books, and fantasy at 19 books. I wouldn’t really change these stats, except that I hope I’m able to find more fantasy books that I like this year.

Onto my rating breakdown, which I’m really happy with! Most of my ratings are 4 stars, which is really great, and there are very few 2.5-star-and-below ratings, which I’m also really happy with. Overall my average rating is 3.55 stars, which is very high for me, so it’s a good sign that I was at least liking most of the books I picked up. A big part of that is because I just DNFd books that I knew were going to get 2.5 stars or less, and also because I feel like I was able to find more books that really appealed to me, and that I knew were going to be to my taste. Also EIGHT whole 5-star ratings!!! Last year I gave so few novels 5 stars, so I’m happy that I found so many ones in 2021.

My reading format stats are absolutely no surprise to me, and they’re also pretty much the same as my ones from 2020. Almost all the reading I do these days is either through ebooks (80 books) or audiobooks (59 books), and that’s what the stats show. Also lol I can’t believe I read exactly 7 physical books this year; every time I pick up a physical book these days I’m like ???? how do I turn up the brightness on this thing??? what do you mean I can’t just select a word to look up its definition?? hello tech support I think this machine is broken??

That being said, I think my audiobook stats would’ve been higher if I hadn’t stopped listening to audiobooks in the second half of the year (for various reasons, but mainly because the main thing I did while listening to audiobooks–colouring–got to be very bad for my neck/posture so I had stop lol). But as it stands, 58 audiobooks is definitely not a bad number. I’m going to try to find another way to incorporate audiobooks into my routines this year, because I really miss listening to them, and there are so many new ones that I’d love to listen to.

More stats that are also not a surprise to me: most of the books I read were published very recently, either in 2022 (13 books), 2021 (83 books), or 2020 (26 books). There are still quite a few backlist books farther back, though, so there’s a little variety at least. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

Now this is a stat I’m very interested in, especially since in 2021 I started to become much more aware of which publishers were releasing which books, and which publishers released the kinds of books that I typically tended to enjoy. Most of the books I read fell under 4 of the big 5 publishers, with Penguin at the top as always (38 books), then Macmillan (22 books), then HarperCollins (21 books), then Hachette (8 books). After that we have various indie publishers, with Grove Atlantic at the top with 8 books–which I’m so happy to see, to be honest. I absolutely love Grove Atlantic’s books (I have a whole post coming up about them πŸ‘€), and I will continue to read the books they put out every year because I just consistently enjoy them.

In terms of the countries the books I read were set in, we have US at the lead with 59 books, then the UK at 39 books, then Ireland at 12 books, and finally South Korea with 7 books. The US, UK, and Ireland are pretty much always my top countries, but I’m glad to see South Korea also at the forefront, especially since I’ve really gotten into translated Korean literature this year. I’m hoping that number gets higher this year as I pick up more Korean books (and there are already so many interesting 2022 ones that I have my eye on!).

And finally, my blog stats! I wrote 51 posts this year, which averages out to about a post a week, which I honestly can’t believe I did lol. Writing blog posts takes SO MUCH time, so I’m glad I was able to at least have some consistency throughout the year. (Honestly a lot of those posts came because I was VERY bored during class and thought I might as well make some recommendation posts for the blog to pass the time lol. So shoutout to my boring classes for helping my blog grow.)

My blog has continued to grow since I started blogging in earnest in 2020, and I’m hoping I can continue doing that this year!

I also just want to say thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to read and/or like and/or comment on my posts!! I appreciate it so much, and it honestly makes me so happy to see that people actually trust my reviews and read the books I love because they trust my opinions πŸ₯ΊπŸ₯ΊπŸ₯ΊπŸ₯Ί so thank you so much, and here’s to hoping 2022 is a good reading year for all of us!!

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People Want to Live by Farah Ali

“Sometimes a new underpass or a flyover or a shiny mall distracts me and that is good, but then I see a piece of wall I often passed when I was little and I am again pulled thinly, painfully, through that narrow corridor between the past and the future, between that which we can never change and that which gives us a chance to escape.”

People Want to Live is a collection that’s defined, I think, by its psychological acuity. Farah Ali writes about all manner of characters–bereaved, estranged, alienated, unsettled–in a sparse, measured way, her style deftly communicating a sense that every word in these stories has been carefully considered and chosen, is purposeful in what it is meant to convey and how it is meant to convey it.

It’s always hard to find a common thread that runs through all the stories of a collection, but I think what ties together Ali’s is her interest in the dissonance between and within characters: in “Heroes,” a bereaved mother tries to reconcile the media’s depictions of her dead son with the reality of what her son was like; in “Believers,” a young man grapples with the push and pull between faith and self-sufficiency; in “An Act of Charity,” a dissatisfied couple intervenes in the life of their friends’ maid. In all of these stories there is a sense of disquietude, and though a few do skew more dramatic in terms of their plot, Ali depicts them all in her keen-eyed, carefully controlled way. They are not “quiet” stories so much as they are precise, honed because they have been sharpened to their most essential parts, lean because any excess has been trimmed out.

As for which stories were my favourites, I think the absolute standout of this collection is “Present Tense,” a remarkably unsettling story about the often traumatic ways in which family impresses itself upon the past, and so also the present and the future. Here’s a quote that stuck with me,

It’s just the kind of short story that I love, the kind that tells you a lot without actually telling you a lot, the kind that is able to use its narrative surface to gesture at an immense depth. Another favourite was “Foreigners,” a story where a couple is interviewed (read: interrogated) by a man at the American Consulate in Pakistan. And oof, this one is just cutthroat in its depiction of how otherness becomes instated in a context like that, and the almost tangible sense of power that those doing the othering wield in those situations. (Other favourites also include “Believers” and “An Act of Charity,” which I’ve already mentioned.)

Though I loved a lot of this collection’s stories, though, there were a few that didn’t quite work for me: namely, “Tourism,” “The Effect of Heat on Poor People,” “Together,” and “What’s Fair?” (especially sad I didn’t like that last one because it was the one that ended the collection, and I wanted the collection to end with a bang). These are the stories I just didn’t “get”–not in the sense that they were challenging or confusing to understand, but rather that I just had no idea what they were narratively trying to do.

Overall, though, this was a really enjoyable and deftly written short story collection, with a lot of standouts, and with a psychological focus that I especially appreciated. If you love literary fiction and you love short stories, then you really can’t go wrong with this collection.

Thank you so much to McSweeney’s for sending me a review copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

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A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

When I first heard about A Marvellous Light, it sounded like it was pretty much written for me: tropey! romantic! historical! magical! And reader, it did not disappoint.

Gotta say, I love this new trend of bringing fanfiction sensibilities into traditionally published fiction, because at its heart, fanfiction really embodies everything I love reading about: there’s the romance, yes, but also the dialogue, the focus on relationships and relationship dynamics, the exploration of tropes. And ultimately I think that’s why A Marvellous Light worked so well for me. For one, it was just a genuinely fun book: there’s sentient houses and magical games and libraries, and the characters are given the space to explore all those things without everything necessarily having to be about Moving the Plot Forward. It’s a well-paced and well-written book, too, deftly balancing plot with character development, and giving us some really moving and poignant character moments as well as some more high stakes, action-packed ones. Of course, this book doesn’t work without its delightful duo: Edwin and Robin. They had such a lovely dynamic, and not to get too emo or anything, but there’s just something so heartwarming about watching two people get to know about and care for each other. The tenderness! The yearning! The tentativeness that develops into something more sturdy, more steady! It really is all about the Mortifying Ordeal Of Being Known.

All in all, this was a confidently and assuredly written debut, and I’m so excited to see where Edwin and Robin’s story goes next (the second book is going to be set on the Titanic ?!!!?!?!).

Thanks so much to Tor for providing me with an e-ARC of this via Netgalley!

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