*Life update: I knew the ease of Day#1 in Grade 1 online learning had to be an aberration. Let’s just say Day#2 involved (a few) tears, a LOT of frozen screens, and 9 minutes of a music class that involved no music until I finally agreed we could give up (the teacher kept freezing). We hosted a classmate for lunch (recess), tromped through the snow to collect materials for ice wreaths (gym/art), read books (literacy) and counted the shapes on a sweater pattern in increments of 5 (math) and called it a day. The Grade 5 child did fine on her own, bless her. While I was home supervising online learning, our car got rear-ended (while stopped at a crosswalk; not our fault so a lot less of a headache with insurance but we still have the hassle of sorting through body work, rental cars). It could have been so much worse, and we’re mostly just counting our blessings.
When I was growing up I read…constantly; hours and hours each day. I would walk over to our neighbours – who owned the complete Nancy Drew series – and get an entire grocery bag full of books. I would finish the stack in a few days and would trudge back across the driveway for another helping of my favourite titian-haired sleuth.
I did Sweet Valley High when I was in middle school (and The Baby-sitter’s Club, of course); when I was in high school I set my sights on Clive Cussler and devoured every Dirk Pitt adventure I could get my hands on, with a few John Grishams thrown in for good measure.
In university, outside of textbooks, it was mostly classic literature like Shakespeare or Faulkner (I tolerated the first and loathed the latter). I basically didn’t read for pleasure for about a decade, aside from devouring the Harry Potter series when each new book was released and one read-through of the Anne of Green Gables series in my first year of university.
I just couldn’t get “in” to books anymore. And then I read, of all things, a book called: The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King. How random. And just like that, I was hooked on non-fiction.
I would say about 60% of the books I read are non-fiction (my favourite being memoirs); of the remaining 40%, about 25% is classic fiction and 15% is modern fiction.
2021 reading highlights
I finished 88 books in 2021. I didn’t set out to reach a specific target (I plugged in 50 books as a goal in Goodreads, but didn’t pay much attention to the tally). It was a good year; there were only a handful of books I didn’t finish, which don’t end up in the completed tally.
I definitely tended toward non-fiction; lots of sports memoirs/biographies, which I always find interesting. I don’t think this was my favourite year of reading – there weren’t any “couldn’t-put-it-down moments” like I’ve had before with Where the Crawdads Sing (mixed feelings about the book but couldn’t put it down), A Gentleman in Moscow, The Glass Castle, Educated or The Sound of Gravel (which left me crying in the middle of the night) – the last three having some very clear parallels.
But there were lots of books that I enjoyed reading over the last 12 months. Some were good but didn’t stick with me (like Hooked by Michael Moss); then there were some books that have stuck with me, but I didn’t necessarily enjoy the writing style or structure (like Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman and Ladyparts by Deborah Copaken, for example).
Here are a few notes from my tracking spreadsheet (I’ll discuss this more tomorrow) that detail some reading highlights from the year. The books I’ve pulled out are listed in reading order – not by ranking of favourites. Interestingly, even though I read quite a few new books in 2021, I’m amazed how many of my final tally were re-reads. This is a habit I learned from my father and am passing on my children (who will re-read and re-watch anything approximately 1 million times); but I think this year, in particular, I found it comforting to return to familiar stories and well-loved characters.
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance – Angela Duckworth | Excellent book.
- A Promised Land – Barack Obama | This was really well written; wish I knew more about US politics to appreciate it even further. Loved the behind-the-scenes details AND just generally really liked his writing style.
- Tribe of Mentors – Tim Ferris | A re-read. A slew of advice from various entrepreneurs and other gurus. Just interesting to see all the different takes on issues.
- Off The Clock – Laura Vanderkam | Re-read. Love this.
- The Gospel of Ruth – Carolyn Curtis James | Excellent writing and very interesting + motivating lessons from the OT story. Ruth was a radical woman!
- It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way – Lysa Terkeurst | This was really good. I’ll want to re-read it at some point for sure. [Interesting, because recently I told someone I had just felt meh about this book…but apparently I really enjoyed it!]
- Bread and Wine – Shauna Niequist | Re-read; good – just an easy, comforting read.
- Walden – Henry David Thoreau | Classic. A bit dry at times…but very quotable and reflective!
- Recipe for Life – Mary Berry | I cannot get enough Great British Bake Off. Fun; interesting to read behind-the-scenes information.
- Daily Rituals – Mason Currey | A re-read. I really enjoyed this more the second time. Common themes: walks, coffee, drugs. Lots of insomnia. Lots of depression. Most people don’t work that long. Some people take years and years to write things. Lots of being solitary.
- The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin | Re-read. Just like reading a conversation with an old friend. Love the book so much, mostly because of the impact it had on my life. It has made me happier.
- The Happiness Trap – Russ Harris | This was really good. There is a lot to digest and this was kinda my third read-through, but there are many sound principles. It was the right book at the right time…
- How To Break Up With Your Phone – Catherine Price | SO good. Practical and full of great tips and quoteable quotes.
- Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel | Really enjoyed this. Gripping, thought provoking and very well written. Would make a good movie [I see this is now an HBO miniseries].
- Transcendent Kingdom – Yaa Hyasi | A few parts I didn’t love, but a probing look at faith, addiction, death, family ties…; definitely very well written.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox – Roald Dahl | Really enjoyed this!
- The Mysterious Benedict Society – Trenton Lee Stewart | This was really good; a fun read and very enjoyable to be able to read something that Abby recommended!!!
- George’s Marvelous Medicine – Roald Dahl | This was good; short (reminded me of The Fantastic Mr. Fox) and funny.
- Heidi – Johanna Spyri | This was great! Enjoyed reading this with the kids very much.
- Great Expectations – Charles Dickens | Good. Very long and wish it wasn’t so weighty to get through, but an amazing story with rich characters. Didn’t enjoy as much as a Tale of Two Cities [read in 2020], though.
- Harry Potters (Books 1, 3 and 6) – JK Rowling | Re-reads (for the umpteenth time; these three are my favourites).
- Anne of Green Gables – L.M Montgomery | Re-read with the kids. Classic.
What was your favourite book of 2021. I’ve seen Caste and The Midnight Library show up so many times they’ve both been added to my 2022 list.