Home > Personal Posts > Let’s have a quick look at my 2021 year with books.

Let’s have a quick look at my 2021 year with books.

I can’t believe we’re already in 2022. At work, I’m starting to see contracts that ends in 2030 and the first one struck me as being a mistake but after recounting the years, I thought, “Oh right, we’re that close to 2030 after all”. Before I share my 2022 reading projects with you, let’s have a look at my 2021 reading year.

I read 76 books, two less than in 2020 but the end of December has been busy, my concentration was shot and I couldn’t read anything. For a lot of bloggers, 76 books is what they read in three months, but for me it’s a good score.

I’ve read your posts full of stats about countries, writers’ gender, translated books, non-fiction vs fiction, numbers of pages read and all that and I admire you for checking out all these numbers. I work with numbers all day long and I keep them at bay from my reading. So, no stats like this from me, I’m afraid.

Here, I’m happy to live without numbers and only go with totally subjective opinions about books I read. So, here we go, with categories of my own.

Best Least Commented Billet

I looked into my billets in search of the least commented ones. Some of my favorite books of the year are in this category, sadly. Something happened to The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart, it fell into a pit and nobody cared about this Texan family saga. It is an amazing book, though. Rugged characters, beautiful writing and a story that takes you away to Texas for a while. I haven’t read Lonesome Dove yet, but I figure it’s the same kind of book.

Best Gallmeister Book

Frequent flyers of this blog know that I’m fan of books published by Gallmeister. They publish excellent American literature with a focus on crime fiction and Nature Writing, the books that Oliver Gallmeister loves and wishes to promote.

Among the eleven books that I read this year from their catalogue, my favorite on is Betty by Tiffany McDaniel. It’s a bestseller in France, readers, libraires and literary critics loved it. I was a bit reluctant to read it, as often with books with a lot of hype. (Still haven’t read Elena Ferrante for that same reason). It was a Book Club choice and I’m very happy the group pushed me to read it.

It’s based on the true story of Tiffany McDaniel’s mother growing up poor and part-Cherokee in Ohio in the 1950s. It is a beautiful homage to McDaniel’s grandfather too, written in a style that hooks you up. Violence and pain are part of the family story but it’s not a bleak book. Highly recommended.

There will be more Gallmeister books in 2022, starting with Italian crime fiction as they’ve branched out and started to publish non-American books.

Best Most Relaxing Book

This category is for comfort and fun books. I loved Miss Mole by E.H. Young . It was a wonderful study of character, an easy read with excellent insight. A total comfort book. Thanks for the recommendation, Ali.

I also had a blast with Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gishler. It’s like reading an action movie set in the near future and it was sheer fun. I owe this one to Guy.

But the book that combined comfort and fun was The Grey Ghost Murders by Keith McCafferty. It’s all-in-one for me: crime fiction, Nature Writing, fun and exotic.

Best Non-Book Post

Since 2019, I have a best-of category for my billets that are not a book review. This year, the most read and commented ones were about lists of books, my 20 Books of Summer List and my Book Club 2021-2022 List. That’s us, avid readers, we all love book lists, reading recommendations and book piles.

Sign of the times, there has been no Literary Escapade billet in 2021. I hope to resume these outings in 2022.

Best Read With-Sister-in-Law

I’m now in my third year of readalong with my sister-in-law. (Hi S!) It’s been a year with literary fiction and crime fiction. We couldn’t finish Elmore Leonard’s Western Stories. It’s well-written and all but we got tired of formulaic cowboy stories.

The most striking book we’ve read it The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. The characters are fictional but it’s based on the real place, the Dozier School in Florida. It was a reform school operated by the State of Florida and as you imagine, it was not a Care Bears kind of place. Reading it made me so angry on behalf of all the boys that were destroyed in that school and by the very people who were supposed to take care of them.

Best Translation Tragedy

A Translation Tragedy is a book available in English but sadly not in French or vice versa. This year I’ve read fifteen books that are not translated into English and nine that are not translated into French.

Among the nine books not available in French, three are from Australia and New Zealand, three are from America and three from UK. I think that Death on Demand by Paul Thomas would find its public in France as we are fans of crime fiction and his Maori maverick police officer would be a hit. Thank you, Kim, for organizing your Southern Cross Crime event as it led me to Death on Demand.

Nine of the fifteen books not available in English are French books, the others are from Italy, Colombia, Morocco, Japan, Egypt and Québec.

Noah’s Ark by Khaled al Khamissi is the book I’d want to see translated into English. The intertwined stories of the characters show the various reasons why people want to emigrate and how well it works for them.

Best Book-I-Want-To-Buy-To-All-My-Friends

I guess it’d be Convenience Store Woman by Sakaya Murata. The main character, Keiko Furukura, is a peculiar lady. She’s 36 and had been working at the SmileMart convenience store for 18 years. She’s single, never had a boyfriend, doesn’t wish to marry and loves her job. She doesn’t conform to the Japanese society norms. This novella is an easy read and shows an interesting side of Japan. Thanks Vishy for pointing this one to me!

Best Book Club Read

Our Book Club year was a success but the one book I want to show off is Entre deux mondes by Olivier Norek. It’s hard but not bleak and it will force you to see what happens to migrants on our shores and especially in Calais, in the North of France, across the UK. I wish that all the candidates to the French presidential election and the current British Home Secretary read it if they’re openminded enough to see the human beings behind their speeches and actions on emigration.

Best Non-Fiction

I loved the time I spent with Monsieur Proust’s Library by Anka Mulhstein.

It’s a slim book in which Anka explores Proust’s relationship with books, literature and writers. It’s a delightful book that will appeal to all readers, whether they’ve read Proust of not.

Best Random Discovery

By Random Discovery, I mean a book I read after leaping from another book. That’s exactly what happened with The Last Night at the Ritz by Elizabeth Savage. I read a book by her husband, Thomas Savage, realized that he was married to a writer and decided to try her books too.

The Last Night at the Ritz is told by an unreliable but likeable narrator and it goes back to a life of friendship between two women and their different paths in life.

Best Bleak Book

In 2021, I seemed to have the knack for picking bleak books, as I mentioned it in my billet B is for bleak : the bleak fest continues in Oktober. The bleakest book of my reading year was Les larmes sur la terre by Sandrine Collette.

In a dystopian future, Moe lands in a breaker’s yeard with her baby, gets a used car for housing and discovers that poor people are parked here with no real hope of ever going out. I’ve rarely read a book that dark and that hopeless. It has wonderful literary qualities in its style and the story is totally new. But wow, it’s taxing for the reader.

Best Spooky Book

Nothing prepared me for The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury. The main character is Tracy, a seventeen-year-old girl who lives in Alaska.

Her mother died the year before and their family fell apart after that. Her father and mother were mushers but now he doesn’t want to race anymore. And Tracy has a strange need to spend time in the wilderness, a need she shared with her mother. She has a special connection to wild life, one you’ll get to know if you read this book.

That’s all folks! 2021 has been an excellent reading year for me and I’m sure 2022 will be too. What was your favorite book in 2021? Say the first that comes to mind when you think “What did I read in 2021?”

Categories: Personal Posts Tags:
  1. January 8, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    The Hoke Moseley series and the Barsetshire Trollope novels. But that’s 10 books in all.

    Like

    • January 8, 2022 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks for humoring me. The Trollope series was a reread, no?

      Like

  2. R K
    January 8, 2022 at 8:05 pm

    Non-fiction: Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather
    Fiction: read Father Goriot second time since school.
    Discovered Delphi Classics series and hope to catch up on some more writers.
    Thank you for this blog

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 9:12 am

      Fall of the Roman Empire must be interesting.

      Father Goriot is best read when one is older, I think. It’s a classic taught in French high schools and the only result is to have teenagers turn their back to Balzac.

      Like

      • R K
        January 9, 2022 at 1:23 pm

        Yes, it’s interesting and easy to read. Author relies on current research to dismiss some of dated ideas on the subject. Talking about history – another reason I liked Father Goriot is his detailed descriptions of surroundings, day-to-day life, social classes and women place in society etc. For me it wasn’t just a novel, but in a way a history book as well. Maybe that’s why I like Realism literature

        Like

        • January 9, 2022 at 4:01 pm

          I’ll check it out in French.

          Re-Father Goriot. That’s exactly what you miss when you’re too young when you first read it. His take on the society of the time is amazing and so interesting. Same with Flaubert in Madame Bovary.
          Have you read Money by Zola? Very interesting about stock markets at the time.

          Like

          • R K
            January 10, 2022 at 8:43 pm

            Not yet, but I’ll have a look. Reminds me Dreiser’s Financier and Titan. Thanks

            Like

            • January 10, 2022 at 9:37 pm

              I’ll have a look at the Dreiser, thanks!

              Like

  3. January 8, 2022 at 8:27 pm

    Sounded like a great year actually.
    I love your categories, especially the Translation Tragedy!
    Thanks, just used my list audio credit for Norek’s. I have enjoyed several books by him, and didn’t realize this one was available in audio.
    Here is the link to my 2021 recaps: 3 posts, you can skip the 2nd one, as it’s full of numbers, charts and pies, lol:
    https://wordsandpeace.com/tag/year-of-reading/
    Happy new year of reading!

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 9:13 am

      It was a great year. I guess I am better at picking books I’ll enjoy. 🙂
      Happy new year of reading to you too.

      Like

  4. January 9, 2022 at 12:14 am

    I know how you feel on the most bloggers reading our yearly total in a handful of months. I’m happy to keep on plodding through. Enjoyment is the main thing 👌

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 9:15 am

      Well, I don’t have a job that implies that I read books for a living. So, it has to be on my spare time. And since I work 45-50 hours a week, have a family and other activities…I’ll never read twenty books per month.
      But I’m OK with that, I enjoy my reading time and that’s all that matters.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 9, 2022 at 2:00 pm

        I’m the same. Sometimes, I’m so drained after work that getting more than ten mins of reading feels like too much hard work 😴

        Like

        • January 9, 2022 at 4:03 pm

          Same for me. Reading is OK but I can’t stand spending more time on a computer and that’s why I’m not good at reading other bloggers’ posts. I can’t do it during the working week.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. January 9, 2022 at 1:51 am

    I’m with you as far as all those stats go, my spreadsheet is primarily a very basic way to remember the books I’ve read, but I love your categories. The book that pops into my mind probably has a lot to do with the fact that it was read recently and it’s ‘A Time of Gifts’ by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 9:17 am

      I have a lot of fun thinking of the categories, so I’m glad readers enjoy them.
      I’ll have a look at your review of Time of Gifts, if you’ve published it already. (As usual, I’m awful with following other bloggers’ reviews.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. January 9, 2022 at 2:48 am

    I don’t do stats either. I work with data at work, I don’t need it at home, too. And, to be honest, I find some of those blogger posts self-indulgent. I honestly don’t care if you read 20% of this or 80% of that 🤪😴

    But I digress… looks like you had a brilliant reading year. I like the sound of the Olivier Norek book but not sure it’s been translated into English.

    I read so many good books in 2021 I couldn’t really choose a favourite but I enjoyed reading a lot of Australian books… it’s still a novelty for me after all those years in the UK where they were so hard to get.

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 9:25 am

      I work with numbers and data too, so I know the feeling. (Btw, in French, “pie charts” are called “camemberts”. We do love our cheese.)

      I hope that this Norek gets translated too. Meanwhile, you can read his other book, The Lost and the Damned, knowing that he’s a real cop turned writer.

      I’ve seen your 2021 summary and I’m happy for you that you can read more of Australian lit.
      I wouldn’t be able to read some of the Australian books I’ve read without ebooks. Ebooks give you access to a lot of writers when you’re abroad.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. January 9, 2022 at 11:01 am

    I really liked Convenience Store Woman too. It had some important things to say about how society perceives and treats people who are somewhat different from the norm. A good one for book groups, I think. In another year, it could have made my end of year highlights too. I also agree with your comments about The Nickel Boys. (I listened to an abridged audio version on Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime, and it felt very striking and powerful.)

    Like you, I’m not a fan of reading stats and analyses – as you say, it feels too much like hard work!

    Wishing you all the best for 2022, Emma. I hope it’s a little less stressful than the last two.

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 12:39 pm

      A agree with you about Convenience Store Woman. Not conforming seems even worse in Japan than in Europe.
      The Nickel Boys is a book that stays with you for a long time. Have you read anything else by Colson Whitehead?

      I wish you the best for 2022 too, Jacqui. Let’s hope we’re riding the last wave of this virus.

      Like

      • January 9, 2022 at 3:08 pm

        I haven’t, but the Barry Jenkins TV adaptation of The Underground Railroad was very, very good.

        Like

        • January 9, 2022 at 3:58 pm

          Good to know. I’ll read more by him.

          Like

  8. January 9, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    I don’t mind statistics at all, but this was a great way of looking back at 2021. Keiko from Convenience Store Woman might be one of my favourite protagonists ever. Hope you will discover lots of great books in 2022 as well. 🙂

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 4:05 pm

      I don’t mind them either, I just don’t want to do mine. 🙂

      I see that Convenience Store Woman has a lot of admirers. It’s well deserved.

      Cheers to more happy reading times in 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. January 9, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    The first into my mind was Jennifer Government, probably by some sort of word association, but thank you for twisting my arm to read it. Agree Convenience Store Woman is very good.

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 4:06 pm

      Glad to hear that Max Barry comes to your mind. If you can, check out Company. It’s hilarious.

      Another admirer of Convenience Store Woman. A simple story that says a lot about Japanese society.

      Like

  10. January 9, 2022 at 5:24 pm

    One of the downsides of the stats is that it encourages too much comparison with other people’s numbers. Charts (whether in pie or camembert flavours) often don’t show the most important part of the reading that comes before blogging – enjoyment!
    I’m glad you enjoyed so many of your reads and I wish you a similarly pleasant reading year (and a 100+% increase in literary escapades and slightly fewer working hours).

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 8:55 pm

      I just forget them from one post to the other, to be honest.

      I wish both of us a wonderful reading year. Books seem to be the only sure thing in these weird times.

      Like

    • January 10, 2022 at 5:39 am

      Agree. I never give raw numbers in my end of year highlights, though I do give a few percentages at the end. Raw numbers are pretty meaningless, anyhow, whereas for my percentages give a flavour of where my reading is going (has been). But, overall, I most like the discussion of most interesting/best/favourite etc reads.

      Like

      • January 10, 2022 at 9:39 pm

        I don’t mind stats, I just don’t want to compute mine!

        Like

        • January 11, 2022 at 12:30 am

          Fair enough. I do a very few computations. I’m not interested in doing lots of charts etc. Too much time – but I do like stats, so am happy to read those of others. Most of all though I most like the discussions of highlights/favourites because in the end it’s the content of what we read that’s the most important isn’t it.

          Like

          • January 11, 2022 at 10:09 pm

            Like you, I’d rather read the comments and the why this or that book ends up on the Best Of The Year list.

            Liked by 1 person

  11. January 9, 2022 at 6:56 pm

    What an excellent way of doing this, I really enjoyed reading your round-up, so thank you. And that’s a very decent number of books. I wish I’d read fewer in December and had more work! I love that you read along with your sister-in-law. I have an ongoing reading project with my best friend, which started with the first lockdown but will continue now. We sit down in our respective homes on a Thursday evening and do a chapter or so of our current book, chatting on Facebook Messenger, and it’s just lovely. I also read some things with my husband – we’re currently reading Richard Osman’s second mystery, him on audiobook and me on a NetGalley copy I won. Have a fun and happy 2022 of reading!

    Like

    • January 9, 2022 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun with the categories.

      The sister-in-law and the book club readalongs are great because we read the same book at the same time. It’s very nice to be able to discuss a book with someone who has just read it too. They have the details fresh in mind and you can talk freely and without thinking about spoilers.

      Let’s have a wonderful reading year for 2022, with more working hours for you and less for me! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 11, 2022 at 2:57 pm

        Oh yes, I didn’t make it clear that my best friend and I are reading the same book and discussing it, we have a list of them now and a little place on our shelves for the next four or five!

        Like

  12. January 10, 2022 at 5:32 am

    I love your bests … I might steal some for next year! (And credit you)

    I love that your really liked Miss Mole.

    And re Best Least Commented Billet, I know what you mean. This is a great EOY category. The problem is that posts we write about for books that are not well known in the universe tend not to get read a lot. I’m guilty of that on other blogs, because there are just too many blog posts to read, and it happens of course to my posts. I like this category as a way of highlighting those posts and perhaps giving those books an extra little bit of push.

    Like

    • January 10, 2022 at 9:42 pm

      I have a lot of fun looking for categories. Some have been there since three years and some are new.

      Some posts don’t attract a lot of readers, because the book isn’t well-known, because the billet is published at the wrong time.

      I should tweet my best of list, billet after billet. See if they get more attention. Let’s see what happens to the Bruce Machart billet.

      Like

      • January 11, 2022 at 12:32 am

        Each year I think I’ll look for more fun categories but each year by the time I get to writing this post I’ve run out of oomph. I often collect the “search terms” as the year progresses so this year I might also start thinking about categories different to the ones I’ve been doing.

        And yes, exactly, re posts that don’t attract a lot of readers. Recognition and timing – the biggies.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. January 11, 2022 at 2:10 am

    I also enjoyed Convenience Store Woman! I’ll go and check out some of your neglected posts now 🙂

    Like

    • January 11, 2022 at 10:05 pm

      Another vote for Convenience Store Woman!
      Thanks for giving Bruce Machart a chance.

      Like

  14. January 18, 2022 at 6:20 pm

    I immediately felt such sympathy for your neglected billet that I rushed over to read it, but I had already left a comment. Shouldn’t there be a gold star for that level of dedication or something? LOL And I love your categories: fun for you and fun for readers. The one that made me laugh, ironically, was the Best Bleak Book!

    I also find your approach to stat’s refreshing, in the company of acknowledging why there is such variation between readers. I’m one of those people who reads for work, so I read a LOT. And last year I read more than I ever have (a little too much, for my comfort actually, but one of the side-effects of living in isolation, and a nice side-effect actually). But that’s me. There’s not much engagement on those posts for me though, so I’m considering just reflecting on the stat’s privately next year, but I really enjoy seeing how other people think about their years of reading and what excites them, what makes them cringe, and everything in between.

    Like

    • January 22, 2022 at 8:53 am

      You’re right! I should make a Most Frequent Commenter category!

      I’m glad that I don’t have to read literature for work but I wish I had more free time to read books and other blogs. I also enjoy reading about other readers’ journeys with books.

      Like

  1. January 9, 2022 at 12:36 pm

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