2021 Reading in Review

I just shared my top 5 books for 2021, only two of which I hadn’t reviewed on my blog. Now it’s time to go through some overall stats!

Overall

I read 37 books out of my 40-book goal. Roughly half of those were by authors who were Black, indigenous, Asian, or Latino. The rest were by white authors. As usual, I read mostly women. I also read about half fiction and half nonfiction this year, which surprised me because I felt like I read mostly nonfiction. I’m thinking I felt this way because nonfiction usually takes me a week or more to read, and I often spend time highlighting quotes, while I typically blow through fiction in a day or two. Eight of the books in my nonfiction category were memoirs.

The “men” category includes books that had both men and women authors.
Nonfiction includes 8 memoirs; the rest was mostly social science.

I also listened to three audiobooks, which is a record for me. I finished Born a Crime by Trevor Noah on December 31, and definitely recommend it. Noah himself reads it and his narration is great. I also listened to most of The Stonewall Reader on audio, and enjoyed that as well because some of the essays in the anthology were actual recordings of interviews, and the rest were performed by LGBTQ readers. It was an eclectic mix and I definitely enjoyed some essays more than others, but it was informative and well put together. Finally, I listened to Stiff by Mary Roach, narrated by Shelly Frasier, who brought Roach’s hilarious and informative writing to life.

Tiny Book Club

Here are the books I read with my sister this year.

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth WurtzelProzac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
A memoir about addiction. This was super meh for both of us.
Looking for Miss America by Margot MifflinLooking for Miss America by Margot Mifflin
A discussion on the history of pageants and the definition of womanhood in America. We liked it.
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li JiangRed Scarf Girl by Jiang Ji-Li
A memoir about growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. Really chilling.
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế MaiThe Mountains Sing by  Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Historical, multigenerational fiction about growing up in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, loosely based on the author’s life. This was fantastic, displaying all the extremes of human potential, both good and evil.
Some Desperate Glory by Edwin Campion VaughanSome Desperate Glory by Edwin Campion Vaughan
The real diary of an English officer during WWI. Heartbreaking but amazing.

Online Book Club

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. KendiHow to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Half memoir, half social science on how to exemplify antiracism in American society. A little academic but still good.
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya TalagaSeven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
Nonfiction following the human rights violations of Indigenous peoples in Canada. This may have been the heaviest read of 2021.
Bad Feminist by Roxane GayBad Feminist by Roxane Gay
An iconic collection of memoir essays. I liked this, but there were a lot of pop culture references I didn’t get; it was just slightly before my time.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Hurston classic about being a Black woman in the 1930s. Because this is a lot older than what I usually read, the writing style was a little hard to get used to but the symbolism and description of Black life was beautiful.
The Stonewall Reader by New York Public LibraryThe Stonewall Reader
An anthology about the gay rights movement before, during, and after the Stonewall riots of 1969. This took me FOREVER to finish, but it taught me a lot about how life evolved for LGBTQ folks during the 60s and 70s. I particularly enjoyed the essays in the After Stonewall section.
Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline BoulleyFirekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
A YA thriller about an Ojibwe girl solving a murder while figuring out where she belongs. This was SO worth the read ( and the longest book I read this year). Plus look at that gorgeous cover!
The Black Flamingo by Dean AttaThe Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
A novel in verse about a Black boy growing up gay. This was a really nice coming-of-age story that dealt with real issues but wasn’t too heavy.

Other Books

The rest of what I read in 2021 (that I didn’t already review here).

How Stella Learned to Talk by Christina HungerHow Stella Learned to Talk by Christina Hunger
Hunger, a speech pathologist, taught her dog to use buttons to communicate with her. I low-key want to buy some buttons for my dog now.
Atomic Habits by James ClearAtomic Habits by James Clear
I did a mentor program through the summer of 2021 and read this with my mentor. It was okay. Most of what Clear suggests is basically common sense, but I guess this became the sensation that it did because we all need common sense explained to us sometimes.
The Push by Ashley AudrainThe Push by Ashley Audrain
A thriller about motherhood. I wanted to like this but it was pretty generic.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila HarrisThe Other Black Girl by Zakiya Delila Harris
Another thriller, but not generic at all. This followed a young woman who was the only Black girl in her office – until she wasn’t. The plot and twists were super off-the-wall, which I enjoyed.
Stiff by Mary RoachStiff by Mary Roach
Nonfiction all about what happens to our bodies when we die. This was one of my most fascinating reads of the year and I probably should have included it in my top 5. Roach covered topics from the decomposition process to options for body disposal to what happens when you donate your body to science. Includes graphic descriptions of doctors doing continuing education by operating on severed heads, so read at your own risk. I also ended up listening to the chapter on the effects of car crashes on bodies while I was stuck in traffic for an hour because of an awful car crash – how’s that for irony? Roach also touched on how cars aren’t really designed for women, which I especially appreciated because this was written in 2003. As I mentioned above, I listened to this on audio and Shelly Frasier was a fantastic narrator for a book that was as funny as it was gruesome. HIGHLY recommend.
White Feminism by Koa BeckWhite Feminism by Koa Beck
A collection of essays about the feminist movement and how it has consistently left women of color behind. I loved this and talked about it in my top 5.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-GarciaMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia
A horror/thriller set in 1950s Mexico. A creepy, enjoyable read. I think this may be a retelling of The Haunting of Hill House.
Born a Crime by Trevor NoahBorn a Crime by Trevor Noah
A memoir about growing up in South Africa during and after apartheid. I listened to this one, which Noah narrates himself. This was such a detailed memoir, and I came away with such respect for his mother, who he speaks about with incredible love and reverence. It’s obvious they have a great relationship (not without its complications, but that’s family). I’m hoping he does another memoir later about building his career, because he brought us through his early adulthood and I finished this wanting more.

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