What I’ve Learned About my Reading Habits by Using The StoryGraph

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 Although Goodreads has served me well over the many years I’ve been using it, for me, it’s become a bit clunky and outdated.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:

  • Emotional
  • Reflective
  • Dark

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 LifeTo 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.

The totals

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.

Remember more

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!)
  • History
  • Poetry (I haven’t read anything new for a long time)
  • Politics
  • 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!

Think critically

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.

If you would like to follow me on The Storygraph, you can do so by using this link.


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Please note, this was originally published on A Thousand lives.

Book Haul #1 ~Ali Smith, Ottessa Moshfegh, Zadie Smith & More

It’s been a while since I have purchased physical books and enough to make a whole post out of, but I thought I would give you a quick round-up of the books I have brought in the last few months. Most of these I got this month, as I treated myself to some books for my birthday.

I love physical books as much as the next person, but that said, I am trying to consciously limit my consumption this year because I have very little space and am on somewhat of a budget. Also, with the pandemic, I’m not going out of my way to browse in bookshops at the moment.

That said, I have splurged a little this month and this is what I’ve bought.


Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

Coming of Age, Fiction

I brought this because it was the only book listed on the Booker prize nominees that I had heard of and wanted to read.

It opens with an incident following a young black woman who is interrogated by the police for appearing to kidnap a young, white child. This all takes place in Philadelphia, in an affluent neighborhood. Emira, the babysitter and one of two main protagonists, looks after the child of Alix, a well known white blogger. Their lives are inextricably linked but divided along the lines of social and racial inequality.

I am currently reading this at the moment and am about seventy pages in – I’m enjoying it and can’t wait to read the rest of it. I also love the cover and design!

Autumn, Winter, Spring, Ali Smith (Seasonal Quartet)

Fiction, literary fiction

I first read Autumn a while ago but had it on loan from my local library. In love with the cover designs by David Hockney, I decided to purchase that and the rest of the books that are out in paperback. Although Summer came out a month or so ago, I’ve decided to wait until that comes out in paperback so I can have the whole collection.

This Seasonal Quartet is made up of four stand-alone novels which are all connected in some way. Having only read the first one, I don’t know how or why, but I’m guessing like the seasons, they have some similarities and stark differences. With Autumn, I feel in love with Ali Smith’s remarkable prose and sense of starkness and political commentary, so I can’t wait to read the rest of them. As a concept and physical book, they are all so appealing.

English Pastoral, James Rebanks

Nature writing, Non-fiction

James Rebanks, a farmer whose family has farmed the same land in the Lake District through generations, has published his fourth book which looks at what lands means to us and how it is owned, regulated and enjoyed in England.

I read The Shepherd’s Life last year and was taken aback by how beautifully it was written. It dealt with issues such as tourism and our respect for places of great beauty, but also his struggles with continuing the generation of farming in his family. I am very much looking forward to reading his next book as it deals with the wider political questions over land ownership, and how we can make farming into a more sustainable endeavour for the future.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh

Psychological fiction

Image: Violet Daniels

I have heard great things about this book and seen it everywhere, so I thought I’d pick it up.

Telling the story of a young woman, living in New York and struggling to figure her life out – I was naturally drawn to the premise of this novel. Being a regular insomniac myself, I am also drawn to her struggles with sleep and hopes at self-medication. From what I’ve read about this book, it combines dark humour with some heavy topics so I’m looking forward to seeing how the author navigates this contrast.

Intimations, Zadie Smith

Non-fiction, personal essays

After having a roaring success with Alone Together, I decided to give another Covid memoir a go. Although a lot shorter I figured I would enjoy this one too. Written by the highly accredited author Zadie Smith, this collection of essays documents her experience of lockdown and the emotional and personal difficulties it involved.

I know Smith is a profound and talented writer, so I am interested in reading about her perception of recent events and how it affected her life. I’m sure it won’t take too long to read either, in being such a small book.


That’s it for now! You can keep up to date with any new books I buy over on my new Instagram account. I’m trying to learn how to take nice photos but I am still new to the whole thing, so please be kind!

Happy reading, as usual!

Violet

Please note – this post does contain Amazon affiliate links and if you choose to use them, I will earn a small fee but this doesn’t impact my review in anyway.

How Lockdown changed my reading habits

Are you leaving lockdown wishing you had read more? The experience of lockdown across the world lead to a kind of ‘reading revolution’ as we all had more time on our hands, but will this continue?

Our reading habits may have changed for better or for worse during this period, but in this post I am going to share with you how lockdown altered my habits, with the hope that it may encourage you to reflect on yours.

1. Treating reading like a job

This could be interpreted as positive or negative, but lockdown meant that I have not been at work and I had to take up something to fill the empty days with.

I started reaching out to people, became a member of NetGalley and all of a sudden had more opportunities to review books for people and companies. Working to deadlines and reading less of what I wanted has made it feel like more of a job, but definitely not a chore.

Reading has therefore, become more like a job, but one I have come to love.

Image: Violet Daniels

2. Abandoning TBRs

I love making lists of any kinds and I have always had some form of TBR going.

Having more review requests has meant I have strayed away from my personal TBR list, which I have come to realise isn’t a bad thing.

Reading habits change all the time and so do the books we want to read, sometimes it feels counterproductive to have a list to stick to. Sticking to this wholeheartedly could close down books we expose ourselves to. Everyday we learn about new books and it becomes easy to stray away from our reading plans. But so what?

I still have my TBR but I am definitely not following it strictly.

3. Realising less is more

Lockdown has played havoc for my concentration. I have found that I can only read for 15-20 minutes at a time before I start to lose focus. But on the other hand, I find myself actually picking up books more times in the day – so they probably balance each other out.

Previously, I used to try and read as much as I could in one session, as I probably only had one opportunity every day to read whilst working. But now with my time being more flexible I can read less but more frequently, which I like.

Image: Violet Daniels

4. Diversifying my reading choices

The exposure of the Black Lives Matter movement has made me realise how white my reading choices are.

I am now making a conscious effort to read more by authors of colour, especially women of colour who are majorly underrepresented in the literary industry. I am aiming to read at least one book written by a BAME author per month in an effort to diversify my reading habits.

Last month I read My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and this month I aim to read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. These are small actions but a step in the right direction, which I would encourage everyone to take.

5. Using a Kindle more

As I am receiving more books to review, these are usually in the form of e-ARCs which means I am using my Kindle a lot. I’ve also been reading outside more and Kindle’s are perfect for this.

They are lighter and easier to hold whilst being out and about and I have been enjoying using it. Obviously, it’s no replacement for the physical book, but definitely a game changer for being able to carry so much reading material on the go.

6. Books are my perfect form of escapism

Some people watch TV, films or play video games to switch off, but I read. I think I have always known this, but lockdown has really shown I do turn to alternative worlds to escape the present.

Whether it’s fiction or non fiction, I have found reading takes me away from the present and the unrelenting news cycle that can cause havoc for anxious people like me. It is perfect one to one time, a form of self care, and a break from everything that is going on.

So those were reflections on how my reading habits have fluctuated during this period. I think it’s important to remember that habits will always shift during our lives. We should never beat ourselves up if we don’t meet our own standards or stray away from our goals, but acknowledge it when it’s necessary and go from there. Have your reading habits changed, if so, how?

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April Wrap Up

Hello! Hope you all had a good month, despite everything that has been going on in the world. It was a month of up and downs for me but one thing is for sure, I definitely was able to enjoy reading.

I’m glad that this month I seem to have re-discovered my love for non-fiction, as well as reading some classics which have been on my TBR for ages. There were a few books I was disappointed with, but on the whole I had some great reads!

What I read this month

Hiroshima John Hersey ★★★★

John Hersey provides a harrowing account of the tragedies of Hiroshima, told through the eyes and ears of those who lived through it. Not one for a light read, but nonetheless an essential one for understanding the past and how it influenced our present world.

Machines Like Me Ian McEwan ★★★☆☆

I had been eagerly awaiting for this to be released in paperback but was left incredibly disappointed. It raises some interesting themes about humanity and the future of AI but it’s delivery was somewhat lacking, and I didn’t think the alternate history added anything to the novel. Interesting, but not the best McEwan out there.

The Flatshare Beth O’Leary ★★★★

This was exactly what I needed to read during lockdown. It is a lighthearted, uplifting and funny story about a woman who opts in to share a flat with a man she never plans to meet. It left me feeling warm and bubbly inside and is a read I’d recommend to anyone!

Call Me By Your Name Andre Aciman ★★★★

A hot and steamy love story I wasn’t quite prepared for, but one I enjoyed all the same. I loved Aciman’s prose and his ability to take you away to endless summer days in the Italian Rivera. I questioned his portrayal of love but nonetheless, think it is a great read and an important one.

The Past Is Present John Markowski ★★★★

This is the first book I read for Reedsy Discovery and I was incredibly impressed. The book was fast paced and driven by excellent character narratives which alternated between the turn of events. A classic page turner. Due to be released on 8th May, you can see my review here.

Why I Write George Orwell ★★★★★

Orwell makes the ongoing case for socialism crystal clear, in this short collection of essays written against the background of rising Fascism across Europe in World War Two. Essential then, but all the more now. An enduring message written with conviction and coherency.

Lonesome Traveler Jack Kerouac ★★★★

Travel writing at its finest – I really needed this bit of escapism. Follow one man as he travels across America, Europe, Morocco and a desolate mountain top. Hard to follow in places but nonetheless, a classic Kerouac featuring beautiful, poetic prose.

The Graduate Charles Webb ★★☆☆☆

Disappointing from start to finish, the characters were inauthentic and the story lacked any depth or coherency. This could have been an interesting novel about post-graduation life, but I felt that the way the novel was written limited its impact. Film is probably better.

What I’m currently reading

The Library of Lost and Found Phaedra Patrick

I picked this up as a bit of light relief from some heavy books I have been reading recently. I’ve seen it around a lot and thought I would give it a go. It is mainly told through the perspective of one woman, Martha, who one day, receives a parcel on the doorstep of a library she works in. The parcel is a book inscribed by her grandmother, who died years before the date it was written in. Martha attempts to unravel the mysteries surrounding this book and in the process, rediscovers herself and what it means to really live.

I’m really enjoying this book so far and am close to finishing it. A review will certainly be up soon!

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, Robert Tressell

This book has been on my to read pile for as long as I can remember, and now in isolation I’ve finally had the chance to read it. Deemed as the favourite book of both George Orwell and Jeremy Corbyn alike, I felt like I had to read it to further broaden my horizons on the necessities of socialism and its origins.

The book is told through a variety of perspectives of men who are overworked and exploited – but who cannot face up to the extent of their own poverty. The main narrator, Owen, is the only one who can see the reality of their poor working conditions and the wider problems. He tries to explain socialism, inequality, wealth redistribution and poverty to his peers – but with little luck. I’ve read around 300 pages so far and am very much enjoying it, I am learning a lot. A review is definitely on the horizon.

What’s on my May TBR?

I’m bound to change my mind if I commit to reading certain titles next but again, there’s so much I want to read! But I have a few ideas, for non- fiction I’d like to have a go at:

  • Fully Connected: Surviving and Thriving in an Age of Overload by Julia Hobsbawn. This book looks at the way human society and interactivity has changed with the arrival of the internet, 24/7 media coverage and social media.
  • Airhead by Emily Maitlis. After her stunning interrogation of Prince Andrew during the Epstein scandal, I have become a fan of Emily Maitlis. She is a brilliant broadcaster and journalist and I can’t wait to read this autobiography.

For fiction, I’d like to read:

  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. I have read The Secret History and absolutely devoured The Goldfinch and loved every word, so I am holding out high hopes for this one too. I have no idea what it is about but as always with Tartt, I do feel a little intimidated by this book due to its size, but then I remember how much I devoured The Goldfinch
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Have seen and read great things about this novel, including great praise by Barack Obama so I can’t wait to get stuck into this too!

My reading stats

  • Total pages read: 1,819
  • Total books finished: 8
  • Average rating: 3.75

Final thoughts

April has definitely been a strange month and probably one that I will remember for the rest of my life. In the UK, we have been in lockdown for over a month and life still isn’t due to return to normality for a while. I experienced highs and lows throughout the month, but nonetheless I am so happy I have found the time to read and write again.

What did you read in April? And what are you looking forward to reading next month? Please let me know in the comments! And wherever you are in the world, how is the virus affecting you?

Hope you are all well and in good spirits 🙂