What I read in 2021

18 May 2022

The fact that I’m publishing my 2021 annual reading review in May, when this post usually comes out in the first few days of January, just goes to show how packed the beginning of 2022 has been.

January was especially wild at The StoryGraph with our biggest day of traffic ever and the running of our new January Pages Challenge. The pace hasn’t really let up since then!

Last year was the first year in a while where the total number of books I read didn’t improve on the year prior and I was a tiny bit disappointed at that. Don’t get me wrong, I still read a good number of books, but it’s always nice to see an increase year over year.

In 2020, I read 67 books. In 2021 I read … 65. Two fewer books! I know, I know, it’s still pretty good. It’s many more than I was reading just five years ago, and for that I’m glad.

So what were those books? On to the highlights!

. . .


The Eighth Life (for Brilka), by Nino Haratischwili, translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin

I cannot believe I read a 950-page book and wasn’t bored once.

If the thought of an epic multi-generational family saga spanning a century, meshed in with a history of Georgia and the Soviet Union, with airs of mystery, sadness, and darkness sound compelling, then definitely pick this one up.

I was wholly immersed in the story, captivated by the narration and writing, and was also surprised, given the breadth of the book in both timespan and cast size, that I didn’t get confused between who was who once. The characters and their relation to one another were always so clear in my mind.

It’s such a big book, with so much time for things to go wrong, and…they just didn’t!

A magical story and a new all-time favourite!

The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth #3)

The cover of the edition I had describes this book as “intricate and extraordinary” and those are two of the best words to describe it and the whole series.

Normally, I’m not one for books where I have to work so hard to get a grasp of what’s going on, but N.K. Jemisin earned my trust ever since The Fifth Season and I was so here to put in the work.

And it was worth it!

If you’re curious about this series, love challenging books and science fiction, and want to disappear into a novel, ingenious world, with a unique magic system, then I highly recommend The Broken Earth trilogy.

Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman, translated by Neil Smith (Beartown #2)

I was surprised by how much I ended up being affected by this book. I was concerned that it had been too long since I’d read Beartown — just over two years — and it did take me a while to connect with the characters again, but Backman does an excellent job of catching you up.

He has a magical way of writing so succinctly whilst being incredibly emotive, without coming off as cheesy.

I think Backman might be one of my favourite storytellers.


Know My Name, by Chanel Miller

CW // Sexual assault

I am in awe of Chanel Miller and her memoir, which covers the night of her sexual assault on Stanford’s campus and all that was to follow.

This book will take you on an emotional journal. It will make you sad, frustrated, and angry. It’ll have you shaking your head in disbelief, even as you read about things that you may already know to be true about the world, about the criminal justice system, about victim blaming, and more.

It’ll also leave you feeling empowered, inspired, and hopeful.

This is a challenging read though, and it may not be for everyone. If you are in a position to engage with this subject matter and with Miller’s fantastic writing and storytelling, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so.

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, by Ben Macintyre

This is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read! Rich detail combined with page-turning action. It’s one of those books where if it were fiction you’d say the plot was unbelievable.

I didn’t know much about the spy world, though I’ve always been intrigued, and this book makes me want to read more on the subject, both nonfiction and fiction.

If you know nothing about Oleg Gordievsky but you’re curious about this world and want to read this book, don’t read the blurb or Google him, and if your edition has photo sections, leave them until the end.

Just go straight in and — after getting through a slightly slow, dense beginning — prepare to be captivated!

Ben Macintyre is a great writer and I’m looking forward to reading more of his books.

. . .

And here are the rest of the books I read in the order I read them with links to my reviews:

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas, by Adam Kay

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger

If I Don’t Have You, by Sareeta Domingostayed up all night to finish this one!

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein) — finally finished this fabulous quartet!

The Mountains Sing, by Nguyễn Phan Quế MaiI interviewed Quế Mai live on Instagram!

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life., by Samantha Irby

Are We Home Yet?, by Katy Massey

The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder)

Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir, by Ernestine Hayes

Black Buck, by Mateo Askaripour

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha PhilyawI rarely do rereads, but I read this one twice in 2021, the second time to prepare for an interview with Philyaw!

where the memory was, by Hibaq Osmana poetry collection! I hadn’t really read much poetry since school, but read 5 collections in 2021 due to a reading challenge I was doing!

Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuartwasn’t expecting to love this one as much as I did!

The First Collection, by Sarah Lipton-Sidibeh (poetry)

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal

Mixed Feelings, by Sarah Raphael and Naomi Shimada

Through the Leopard’s Gaze, by Njambi McGrath

Chittle Bit Lilly, by Linda Loveridgea special, emotional read, given it was written by a close friend’s mother inspired by and in memory of her late son.

The Stand, by Stephen Kingonly one book read in 2021 as part of my slow chronological read through King’s stuff. A rather unsettling one to read given the subject matter…

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli (translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre) — I thought I’d love this one much more!

Take a Hint, Dani Brown, by Talia Hibbert (The Brown Sisters #2)

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan (Crazy Rich Asians #1)

Locating Strongwoman, by Tolu Agbelusi (poetry)

The Space Between Black and White, by Esuantsiwa Jane Goldsmith

Self-Portrait in Green, by Marie NDiaye (translated by Jordan Stump)

Love Again, by Rasheda Ashanti Malcolm

One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston

Sweethand, by N.G. Peltier

The AI-First Company: How to Compete and Win with Artificial Intelligence, by Ash Fontana

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir, by Thi Bui

PET, by Akwaeke Emezi

Symona’s Still Single, by Lisa Bent

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made, by Jason Schreier

Jamakespeare, by Brenda Garrick (poetry)—Shakespeare-inspired soliloquies in Patois! Fun!

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (translated by Henning Koch)—really enjoyed this one but thought it’d be an all-time fave!

On Reflection, by Adjoa Wiredu (poetry)

Life Is a Dream, by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, edited and translated by Ken Liu

Mother’s Milk, by Edward St Aubyn (The Patrick Melrose Novels #4)

Minor Detail, by Adania Shibli (translated by Elisabeth Jaquette)

Conversations with Friends, by Sally Rooney

Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag (translated by Srinath Perur)

Lote, by Shola von Reinhold

My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix

Wonder, by R.J. Palaciofirst book that’s made me cry as an adult! I don’t typically cry at books.

Ugly Dogs Don’t Cry, by D.D. Armstrong

Bad Love, by Maame Blue

Looking for Bono, by Abidemi Sanusia really fun and funny book!

The Street Hawker’s Apprentice, by Kabir Kareem-Bello

Deadly Sacrifice, by Stella Oni

Under Solomon Skies, by Berni Sorga-Millwood

Assembly, by Natasha Brown

The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende (translated by Magda Bogin)—the highlight of StoryGraph’s 2022 social media calendar was definitely getting to interview Allende live on Instagram!

A Circle of Five, by Harris Joshua

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara

Snapshot, by Brandon Sanderson

Jingle Jangle: The Invention of Jeronicus Jangle, by Lyn Sisson-Talbert and David E. Talbert

. . .

Have you read any of these? Any going onto your to-read list?

Despite a busy start to this year, a 75 pages-a-day goal means that my reading is going really well (even if my sleep suffered in earlier months as I tried to figure out a new routine…) and I’m already at 33 books.

Five years ago, it took me a whole year to get to 25!

If I continue at this pace, I’ll surpass 80.

Let’s see how it goes. Happy reading!

. . .

Check out my 2021 Reading Wrap-Up on The StoryGraph

tags: books, reading

Back to Writing