2021: Reading Year in Review

Once again, we’ve reached the end of a year, and I like to reflect on the reading I’ve done in a final end-of-year wrap-up post

In spite of the pandemic, I had a great reading year, courtesy of audiobooks. If not for audiobooks, I’m not sure how many books I’d have been able to read, but I listened to audiobooks as I took my daily walks, washed dishes, and cooked. I feel particularly good about how many books I checked out of the library. I’m fortunate to have a really good library with an extensive collection available via Overdrive, and I discovered using Libby to listen to library audiobooks this year. I actually prefer the Libby app to the Audible app. It has more fine-grained controls.

My progress with reading challenges was mixed, as usual. I came close to completing the Book Voyage Around the World Challenge. I didn’t read a book set in South America. Aside from that, I managed to read a book set in each of the zones around the world. I really liked this challenge. I think it encouraged me to read more widely than I usually do. My performance on the Southern Literature Reading Challenge was a bit of a joke. I finished the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and managed to read more than I expected, so I increased my initial goal. I did okay with the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge. I love that challenge, but I have trouble meeting the prompts each month. Maybe in 2022!

Some quick reading stats, courtesy Goodreads:

  • I read a total of 52 books.
  • I read 18,155 pages (not sure how accurate that is given I listened to so many books).
  • My average book length was 354 pages.
  • The most popular book I read was Frankenstein (which I read along with the Obscure podcast).
  • The least popular book I read was Shelley’s Ghost (only 42 other Goodreads users have shelved it).
  • I rated books an average of 4.6 stars (which is an indicator of how good the books were!).

The 52 books I read in 2021 break down as follows:

  • 21 books of fiction (one I read twice, so counted it as 2 books)
  • 27 books of nonfiction
  • 3 books of poetry or verse
  • No dramas
  • 35 audiobooks
  • 9 re-reads (I re-read The Underground Railroad twice)
  • 2 graphic novels/comic books
  • 3 children’s books
  • 2 YA/middle-grade books

For the first time ever, I believe, I read more nonfiction than fiction.

I usually pick my favorites from each category, but that’s going to be so hard this year as I read so many great books. I decided to try to pick my top picks from each category, though even narrowing it down this much was hard.


Klara and the Sun Middlemarch The Final Revival of Opal & Nev A Brief History of Seven Killings


I didn’t really have a favorite poetry book, and given that my favorite was a re-read, I opted not to profile it here. Below, you can see (and purchase) all of the books I read in 2021.

Review: Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro

Review: Klara and the Sun, Kazuo IshiguroKlara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, Sura Siu
Published by Random House Audio on March 2, 2021
Length: 10 hours 16 minutes
Format: Audio, Audiobook
Source: Audible
Buy on AmazonBuy on Bookshop

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.



'KLARA AND THE SUN,' the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

'KLARA AND THE SUN' is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: What does it mean to love?
In its award citation in 2017, the Nobel committee described Ishiguro's books as "novels of great emotional force" and said he has "uncovered the abyss of our illusory sense of connection with the world."

Kazuo Ishiguro seems to me, more than any other author living, to be writing to explore what it means to be human. Where does our humanity reside? How do we remember? How are we remembered? Or, as Josie’s father asks Klara in one of the most profoundly moving parts of the book, “Do you believe in the human heart? I don’t mean simply the organ. I’m speaking in the poetic sense. The human heart. Do you believe there is such a thing?” That passage was the first part of the book to cause me to burst into tears—it was not the last—and as I explained to my husband, it reminded me of this essay, “Joyas Voladores” by Brian Doyle, adding more dimension to the essay (which, honestly, didn’t make me cry the first time I read it but now makes me cry because I associate it with this passage). Ron Charles argues in his review of Klara and the Sun that ” the real subject, as always in Ishiguro’s dusk-lit fiction, is the moral quandary of the human heart.”

I have yet to finish an Ishiguro novel without bawling, and this book was no exception. As with his other novels, in Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro’s narrator has a compelling voice. Her childlike propensity to hope, her belief in the healing power of the sun, is simply heartbreaking. It’s hard not to draw parallels to both The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, and both of those novels also have memorable narrators who struggle to make sense of the mysteries of the human heart as well. There is something different in Klara’s struggle to please, to understand. She has the lack of agency of Kathy in Never Let Me Go and the outsider observational perspective of Stevens in The Remains of the Day, but she’s somehow more innocent. The ending of the book just wrecked me.

This book is one of the best I read this year. It has me thinking about what it means to be human and how much of our humanity we have lost over the last several years. Prepare the tissues if you read it. I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Superb.