And setting reading goals for the new year.
Well into 2021, I decided to switch to The StoryGraph to keep track of my reading. Although Goodreads has served me well over the many years I’ve been using it, for me, it’s become a bit clunky and outdated. But above all, it’s owned by Amazon, whom I despise (only naturally, as a bookseller.)
The StoryGraph is one of the top alternatives to Goodreads, and for a good reason. One of the selling points is that it gives you in-depth stats on your reading — something Goodreads doesn’t offer. I’m still yet to build up a community there, but I’m in love with the features it has.
I was hesitant to make the switch because of the catalogue of books I’ve built up over the years on Goodreads, but one of the best things about The Storgraph is that you can easily convert all your data over. So alas, I haven’t lost any of my reading history.
As 2021 draws to a close, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on my reading habits over the years and set some goals. Of course, we all love resolutions around this time of the year, right?
Let’s get stuck into it.
My year in reading for 2021
As life has been on the way to returning to normality, naturally, I’ve had less time to read. I returned to work in May and have noticeably been shorter on time and motivation to read.
Despite working in a bookshop and being surrounded by inspiration to read constantly, I’m nearly always exhausted. So when I get home late in the evenings, sometimes all I want to do is stick something on to watch.
This year I’ve gotten comfortable with reading less. As a result, I failed the challenge I set myself in 2020 to read 50 books as I read 35. But that doesn’t mean I’m coming away feeling disappointed — in fact — quite the opposite. On the contrary, I feel thoroughly content with what I’ve read this year.
But what have I been reading?
Moods and genres
Thanks to The Storygraph, I know exactly what kind of books I’ve been reading. My top moods are as follows:
I have to say, it doesn’t paint me in the best light, but then again, I do like an emotionally challenging and thought-provoking book. This year I inhaled A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, We are Not Like them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza, another emotionally difficult book and Misery by Stephen King, which is incredibly dark.
It’s not surprising then that those are my top moods. In terms of genre, they are almost all fiction (85%) instead of non-fiction, making up just 15% of the books I read in 2021. And within fiction my top genres are:
- Contemporary (9 books)
- Literary (8 books)
- Fantasy (7 books)
- Young adult (6 books)
- Historical (5 books)
I could have told you the top two without using The Storygraph, but the others are a surprise. Nonetheless, I spent the early part of 2021 re-reading Harry Potter and sampled some teenage ‘indie’ fiction, which explains why they have appeared in my top genres.
Pace and length
Being a literary fiction lover, I appreciate a novel that is a slow burner. I love unnecessary detail, discovering the depth of a character and when a writer can gradually peel back the layers. I prefer character-driven stories over plot, but I love when both appear hand in hand (hence why The Goldfinch remains one of my all-time favourite books.)
As a result, I tend to pick up chunkier books, which, unsurprisingly, is reflected in my reading stats.
Only 9% of the books I read this year were considered fast-paced, as opposed to 32% that were slow-paced.
Interestingly, this is reflected with the page number I tend to gravitate to. Over half the books I read were between 300–499 pages and 18% were a whopping 500+ pages (A Little Life, To Paradise and The Mirror and the Light can be blamed for that…)
Many readers prefer shorter, faced paced books, but I prefer to form long term attachments to characters and worlds. I like to lose myself in them for longer, which is why I inevitably favour slower, bigger books. I would like to read shorter books next year, though, to try and appreciate the various forms a good book can have.
Many of the books I read this year had a profound impact on me. I know many of them I will go back to and continue to remember, which is why I’m not bothered with the smaller number I got through, as opposed to previous years.
Nonetheless, here are my totals for 2021.
- 35 books read
- 11,950 pages turned
- Average rating of 3.83 stars
It is fascinating to look at these stats, and they do make you pause and think. Next year, I want to read more genres and get out of (what appears to be my literary/contemporary fiction comfort zone.)
On that note, I have some goals in mind for the new year.
My reading goals for 2022
I stopped making generic New Years resolutions years ago. Like most people, I’d stick to them for a few weeks and then forget about them. But there’s nothing wrong with goal setting. It’s more flexible, realistic and achievable.
There’s a lot that I want to do with my reading next year. Above all, I want to continue prioritising quality over quantity and not getting bogged down in the number of books I get through, but instead, the genuine impact they leave on me. Books can inspire us, but they can also change us. I want to read books that make me think.
That starts with making some minor changes.
It’s easy to flip from one book to the next without stopping to think and reflect on what we’ve just read. Although it’s exciting to pick up a new book and try something new, it’s essential to try and remember what you thought of a book and how it made you feel.
After buying myself a reading journal, in the new year, I’m going to try to fill in a page for every book I read. It doesn’t take much time (maybe five minutes) and will help me, in the long run, to look back on the books I’ve read and what I liked and disliked.
Although using apps like Goodreads and The Storygraph are handy for documenting what we have read, journals help us to remember how we thought and felt about a book.
Diversify my genres
In all fairness, I did a bit of this in 2021 but mostly stuck to literary and contemporary fiction (my ride or die genres.) Next year, I want to branch out and try new things, even if it means I end up not liking a book.
Here are the genres I want to get stuck into:
- Horror (more Stephen King, please give me your recommendations if you have any. I recently read Misery and enjoyed it a lot!)
- Poetry (I haven’t read anything new for a long time)
- Short stories
Although it’s important to read what we love and enjoy, there’s no harm in wanting to stretch and challenge ourselves when reading.
We might even be surprised by what we find! If you have any recommendations for books in these genres, please drop them in a comment below!
As a writer, part of the reason I read is to study the craft. I want to know what makes a good book, and part of this is reflecting on the reading experience and the techniques used.
In my new reading journal, there’s a section for jotting down thoughts on your favourite parts and reflections. Here, I’m going to try and document specific features a writer uses that I like. Hopefully, this will then help me with my own writing. The only real way to get better at writing is to read the work of others.
It has been a good reading year for me. I discovered some new authors I love and returned to some I had forgotten about. But most importantly, my mindset has changed to mirror something more positive. I’m now less concerned with the number of books I get through but pausing to reflect on the ones I have spared my time with.
After all, we only get a limited amount of time to read, and we should all be spending it wisely.
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Please note, this was originally published on A Thousand lives.