Last year, I didn’t write public goals necessarily, but I did commit to some reading goals. Here’s my final wrap-up of how those went.
Here’s how things ended up:
- one book in French (0/1)
five books about horses (5/5) five books about Vermont (6/5) five books from the “to be read” pile (5/5)
- one book of poetry (0/1)
- one play (0/1)
five books by authors of color (12/5) three books about museums (4/3) five award nominees (Hugo, Nebula, Dragon, Pulitzer, etc.) (7/5) two books about science (2/2) three classics (3/3) three books about organizing/politics (4/3) three memoirs or biographies (5/3)
I read a total of 116 books in 2021, which was past my first goal of 75 and then my second goal of 100. Reading was a good place for my brain in 2021.
Obviously, there were some things I just didn’t hit. Of them, I’m only really disappointed about the book in French, because I can feel my fluency slipping away a little more each year. I read a fair amount of poetry, just not all together, and reading a play was a stretch goal that I would have to be intentional about and just did not happen.
Here’s a very quick hit list of my 5 star reads this year:
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (+ the other three books in the Wayfarers series)
Conversations with a Prince: A Year of Riding at East Hill Farm by Helen Husher (look out for a review post about this in the new year)
The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars
Charity and Sylvia by Rachel Hope Cleves
The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate
Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Peterson
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Happy City by Charles Montgomery
Firsting and Lasting by Jean M. O’Brien
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
The Age of the Horse by Susanna Forest
If I had to cherry pick even among those I’d say:
Nonfiction book that I loved the most: The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate. This had been on my to-read list for years because I have always been curious about Henry Ward Beecher, and this book totally blew my mind with its skill on every level – history, biography, writing.
Fiction book that I loved the most: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Looooooooooooved this book. It’s weird to call a long, complicated high fantasy book about court intrigue a comfort book but wow, did this book just make my brain deliriously happy to read.
Most compulsively readable: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik. Could. not. put. it. down.
Book that improved my brain the most in 2021: Firsting and Lasting by Jean M. O’Brien. This is a meticulous, careful accounting of the ways in which native people were displaced in local history in New England. The things she did with sources, the ways she reshaped historiography I’ve had in my head since grad school, the ways it has influenced my own work and the way I see the historical landscape around me – all immeasurable. I immediately loaned it to my boss and we talked about it weekly for months, no exaggeration. (Please note if this makes you want to run out and pick it up that it is a very academic work, dense and slow to read and it took me, who does this for a living, almost a month to work through and digest. Which is not to cast any aspersions on anyone’s intelligence and/or reading level – simply to give you a heads up for what you might get into!)
Book that disappointed me the most: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. Her history was just bad. I ended up digging through her citations and then I got to be the asshole at my book club who complained about the hot book of the moment. I do not disagree with her larger thesis, but this was just…sloppy and polemical.
Overall, another notable thing about my reading for 2021 was that I read a lot more physical books. For years I was a Kindle-first reader, getting books from the library five or six at a time and blasting through them. Sometime in 2020 I started to struggle with that, and started to buy more books, and started to vigorously use the ILL system at my local library. It was a great change for everything but my bank account. (Ok, and maybe my library shelves.) Reading physical books has helped me build focus, keep away from screens, and engage more deeply with the material.
What’s ahead for 2022? More reading, of course. I’ve got an overall goal of 100 books and may post about categories again; look for that goal-setting post in the next week or two.