Halfway into 2021: My Reading Year So Far

As we’re halfway into the year, I’ve been thinking about how I’m progressing on my reading and blogging goals. 

Reading:

In my New Year’s Resolution Post, I wrote about my reading goals for the year.

At the end of June, I’d read 56 books, roughly half audiobooks. According to The StoryGraph, most of thee books have been contemporary fiction, with other primary genres being romance, fantasy, literary, historical, and LGBTQIA+ (StoryGraph defines the genres for each book).  Most of my books have been 300-500 pages, medium-paced, and the most common “moods” of my books have been emotional, reflective, adventurous, and mysterious (again, as defined by SG). This is my first year using StoryGraph, so I have no comparison to previous years.

In January I said I wanted to read with greater focus, paying more attention to how books are written and reading for quality rather than quantity. I’ve done this – a bit – by taking my time with books like Caste and The Body Keeps the Score, rather than rushing through them. I’ve found myself balancing really heavy topics with much lighter books like romance and fantasy.  There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground in the books I read.   

Some of my favorite books this year have been Real Life, Piranesi, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Broken (in the Best Possible Way), Shuggie Bain, Concrete Rose, and Firekeeper’s Daughter. Two books I learned a lot from were Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow and The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Keek. A few of my favorite just-for-fun reads were Neverwhere, Venetia, A Rogue of One’s Own, Act Your Age Eve Brown, The Proposal, and Comet in Moominland.

Blogging:

This year’s been all about new tools. I’ve been using OneNote as an organizer for my posts, and that’s helped me keep all my drafts, templates, and ideas organized and in one place. I switched my Kindle for a Kobo, I started using The StoryGraph to track my reading and challenges, I’ve been learning to use Canva for graphics, and I worked with a designer on my new blog header.  What I need to work on now is actually posting my reviews in Goodreads. 

This year I wanted to spend more time writing reviews. Last year, when I got stressed, I had a hard time writing reviews, and that’s still true; yet reviews are one of the things I enjoy most about book blogging. This year I started out strong, writing about four reviews per month.  But lately I haven’t come close to that, and I’ve relied more on mini-reviews than I’d like to. 

Challenges:

In January, I said I’d make more effort to read books that aren’t on wait lists and more backlist books. For the Beat the Backlist challenge, I’ve defined “backlist” as books published 2019 or earlier, and by an author I’ve already read. By that definition, I’ve read 13 backlist books this year — by new favorites like Sarah Moss and T.J. Klune and older favorites like Neil Gaiman. I’ve never counted this in previous years so I have no baseline, nor did I have a specific goal. 

I haven’t read much for the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge, even though I handpicked the prompts. I’ve completed 6 of the 12 MMD. If I stick to my summer TBR list, I should complete a few more by September. I haven’t really challenged myself (for example, by reading lengthier works, books that intimidate me, and books I already own). Here’s what I’ve completed.

  1. Read a book in translation: Comet in Moominland by Tove Janssen
  2. Read a book set somewhere I’ve never been but would like to visit: The Mountains Sing by Que Mai Phan Nguyen (Vietnam)
  3. Read a book of any genre that addresses current events: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
  4. Read a classic I’ve been meaning to read: Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
  5. Read three books by the same author: T. Kingfisher
  6. Read a book in the backlist of a new favorite author: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

For the Reading Nonfiction challenge, I’ve read 9 works of nonfiction but only 4 have addressed the challenge prompts (Food, Biography, Disease, and Published This Year). I’ve been reading quite a bit about food (Eat A Peach, Crying in H Mart), race (You’ll Never Guess What Happened to Lacey, Caste), and mental health (Broken, The Body Keeps the Score). Some of the prompts for this challenge are very specific, like oceanography, inventions, and hobbies. I’ve been picking books I’m interested in rather than trying to meet those categories.

I haven’t done well with my five-year “Reading Around the World” challenge, where I’m trying to read books set in 50 countries I haven’t read about before. This year I’ve read books set in India, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, but only added one new country, Barbados, with How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House (which I highly recommend).

That’s my look at 2021, so far. I’ll summarize this year’s reading in this way: I haven’t pushed myself very hard to meet challenges, but I’ve read a lot of great books that meet my general goals, which are to read for enjoyment, and to better understand different populations and issues.

How is your reading year going? How do you think your 2021 reading is different from last year?

  9 comments for “Halfway into 2021: My Reading Year So Far

  1. July 13, 2021 at 10:44 am

    A good round-up. I’m not sure what the mood of all my books this year would come out as! I’m reading quite a lot, and at the moment I’m spending a second month working through some social justice and ownvoices / other lives than mine themed books. I am also doing quite well keeping up with my NetGalley reading and have some lighter ones in there.

    • July 15, 2021 at 5:57 pm

      Thanks Liz. I like the way StoryGraph tracks things like mood. It sounds like you’re reading some interesting books (I highly recommend Caste) and congrats on keeping up with NetGalley. I’ve made a pretty good effort not to overcommit to NetGalley this year.

      • July 16, 2021 at 1:57 pm

        I really want to read Caste but I think it’s more US-orientated so I want to get through more of my UK-based books first. Thank you on NetGalley – I still have some ollllld ones to get back to but at least keeping up with new releases!

      • July 16, 2021 at 2:43 pm

        You’re right, Caste is very US focused. Have you read Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race?

      • July 16, 2021 at 2:58 pm

        I have, I read that along with my best friend a while ago. Fantastic book.

  2. July 13, 2021 at 8:29 pm

    I’m curious about StoryGraph. I should just join it and see what it’s like. I’m glad you enjoyed Jenny Lawson’s book. That one is high on my priority list. I hope the rest of 2021 is good to you!

    • July 15, 2021 at 5:54 pm

      I like StoryGraph, although right now I’m sort of duplicating what I do with Goodreads… I’m not sure having two tracking programs is worth the extra effort. I hope you enjoy Jenny Lawson’s book as much as I did!

  3. July 23, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    It’s so good to take stock mid-year. It’s hard to meet goals with assessment 🙂

    I appreciate your listing your favorites among the books you’ve read so far. I am always trying to read more hot-off-the-presses books as I get mired in the backlist myself, so it’s good to see which of the new books are winners.

    The only real challenge I do is the Back to the Classics, and I recently did my own assessment and discovered I have 6.5 out of 12 read, which means I’m on track and can indulge in a some on-a-whim books, which is always refreshing.

    It sounds like you are WAY more organized when it comes to blogging than I am. I rarely do drafts, just write and post, and then correct typos as I find them in real time.

    Good luck with the second half. May it be rewarding and fun.

    Read on!

  4. July 27, 2021 at 4:39 pm

    The key take away here for me is your phrase “I’ve read a lot of great books” since whether you nail all those challenges doesn’t matter really if the books you end up reading are not to your taste….

    My version of Reading Around the World has slipped too – I’m going for authors from 50 countries rather than books set in the country. I have only 7 to go but somehow that last 7 is proving elusive

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