Final 2020 Statistics and Retrospective / 2021 Reading Goals

In 2020…

My mother was supposed to visit us in May – my first visit from family in 13 years – and we were meant to be in the States for Christmas. These planned trips had to be cancelled, of course, and many gigs and regular events we would have attended in London and elsewhere couldn’t go ahead.

We managed two mini-breaks, one to Dorset and Devon and one to Hay-on-Wye, as well as a daytrip to Avebury and Silbury Hill, a night out at an Oxford comedy club, a few meals out, and some outdoor meet-ups with family and friends.

It was also the year we finally started doing video chats with family in America, and we kept up with certain friends better than ever thanks to Zoom meetings.

All told, I have no grounds for complaint about the year that has just passed. I know we are lucky to have had good health, stable employment and a wonderful town and community.

Moreover, I was spoiled for choice with online bookish and musical content last year:

  • 45 livestreamed gigs (28+ Bookshop Band, 4 Duke Special, 3 Edgelarks and Megson, 2 Switchfoot, and 1 each by Bellowhead, Krista Detor, Lau, Mark Erelli and Nerina Pallot)
  • 8 neighborhood book club meetings
  • 8 literary festival events
  • 8 quizzes (mostly general trivia; 1 bookish, run by Penguin – I did well among the hundreds of entries!)

  • 6 literary prize announcements
  • 4 festivals, mostly of folk music
  • 4 book launch events
  • 3 book club/preview events
  • 2 conferences (mostly book-related)

I’m also lucky that, unlike many, my reading was not affected by a stressful year. My reading total was very close to the previous year’s (343), which means that after five years above 300 and climbing, I’ve now figured out what my natural limit is. Next year I will aim for 340 again.

Some interesting additional statistics, courtesy of Goodreads:

First read of the year:                          Last read of the year:

This was my Christmas book haul thus far (I have a feeling more may be marooned at my in-laws’ house), including money to spend the next time I can get to Bookbarn. I started a few of them right away.

My husband reads between one-fifth and one-quarter of what I do in a year, but by anyone’s accounting, 76 books is a lot in a year, especially considering that he has a busy full-time university lecturer job, is a town councillor, and is on lots of other voluntary committees. We overlap in some of our reading tastes (nature and travel writing, and some literary fiction) and I pass a lot of my review copies or library books his way, but he’s less devoted to new books and more likely to pick up books with heavier historical, political, or scientific content. If you’re interested, his rundown of his reading, including his top 3 reads of the year, is here.

2021 Reading Goals

My immediate priorities are to clear my set-aside pile (20 books) and everything I’m currently reading, start some January releases, and get back into some university library books to last me while I have limited access to our public library.

These are the 2021 proofs and finished copies I have received thus far:

Looking further ahead, I plan to continue and/or participate in many of 2020’s reading challenges again, as well as join in Liz’s Anne Tyler readalong for the novels I own and haven’t read yet. (The first one for me will be The Clock Winder in mid- to late February.)

Genres in which my achievement often lags far behind my intentions include literature in translation, biographies, and travel books. To address the first one, I’m going to set up a shelf in my house for unread works in translation, as a visual reminder and area to select from. I’ll start with the one below left as part of my “M” 4-in-a-Row.

I would be happy to read even one biography this year, since they often take me many months to read. I’m going to make it the one above, of Janet Frame. Standard travel narratives intimidate me for some reason; I get on with them much better if they are in essays or incorporate memoir and/or nature writing. We have a whole shelf of unread travel books, many of which are of the more traditional going somewhere and reporting on what you see type. I want to clear the shelf to give them to my father-in-law, who expressed interest in reading more travel books. I’ll start with the 2018 Young Writer of the Year Award winner, above.

A “Classic of the Month” and “Doorstopper of the Month” are regular features on my blog, yet I don’t always manage to complete one each month. My aim will be to have at least one classic and one doorstopper on the go at all times, and hope that that translates to one a month as much as possible. Here’s my first pair:

I can see that lots of other book bloggers are prioritizing doorstoppers and backlist reading in 2021. Apart from the modest goals I’ve set here, I expect my reading to be as varied and over-the-top as ever. I know I’ll read lots of 2021 releases, but backlist books are often more memorable, so I’ll try to arrange my stacks and choose my challenges so as to let them shine.


What are some of your reading goals for 2021?

31 responses

  1. Not a single goal. Life’s stressful enough without self-imposed obligations. Getting the book group choice read in a timely fashion is quite enough for me thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Enjoy your reading by whim! Plenty of my book club members don’t even manage the one book each month 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think my only goal is to try and read as much of the TBR as possible! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. An excellent goal! With 435 unread books in my house, I have my work cut out for me there … especially considering all the 2021 releases I’m likely to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My late mother adored the Harry Thompson book – it’s had a prominent place on my shelves ever since, I really ought to read it too. I’m keeping my goals simple too – good luck with your 2021 reading.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s really good so far. A great storm at sea scene, and I’m only on about p. 50!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really intrigued by The Lamplighters, will be interesting to hear your thoughts. I’m very impressed by the number of digital literary and other cultural events you managed to attend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Lamplighters was sent to me unsolicited. I wasn’t sure if I’d read it, but I’ve seen enough good reviews that I will certainly give it a try.

      I ‘went to’ a lot more events than I would have if I was paying £30 to get to London every time! Many of the gigs were free, too, though we gave donations to the artists or bought albums.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have Thin Places too and love Kerri so am very much looking forward to it. Look forward to hearing what you think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I generally love nature books with a memoir element, so it seems like a safe bet for me 🙂


  6. You amaze me – 340 books is staggering (and if I did that, I could clear the TBR stack in one year!).

    Hope you have an equally fulfilling reading year in 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, I could clear my physical TBR in 1.3 years … but only if I didn’t acquire any more books from publishers or bookshops, or borrow any from libraries! Which is unrealistic.


  7. Love the picture with your cat!

    One of my goals is to up my percentage of authors of color. 2020 was an improvement on 2019 – by 10% – and I’d like to improve again in 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like how the selfie angle makes him most prominent in the shot — which is just as it should be since he’s the most important member of the household 😉

      I haven’t done the stats on BIPOC authors. If I did, I have an awful feeling that it would be shockingly low. Any tips on how to consciously do better?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmm… well, I started trying to just purchase more books by authors of color, so there’s always options in my house. One could put more books by authors of color on hold through the library, just to have them always available. When I look at my previous years’ reading starts on Goodreads, it was pitiful until about 2015 when I really started making more of an effort. I still want to do even better now. And I do think the publishing industry is promoting more books by BIPOC authors, which is awesome to see. Good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. P.S. I went back through my book list and worked out that I read 15% authors of color. Not sure if that’s a ratio to be proud of or not…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well at the least, now you know! 🙂


      2. And two years ago I was 18%, so you’re not alone.


  8. Love the photo of you all. I did my first video calls this year although they do exhaust me somewhat.

    My reading goals are obviously to read all of Anne Tyler (I haven’t quite started the first one yet) and I’m looking forward to a few folks like you joining in where you can. I also want to take part in 20 Books of Summer, All August / All Virago (and similar) and Ali’s Daphne du Maurier week in May (she bought me a DdM to make sure I did!). All off the TBR of course. Big goal is to read everything that is currently on my TBR at the moment, i.e. be done with Christmas books from 2020 as I add Christmas books from 2021 onto my shelf. Not sure that will happen, but we’ll see.

    Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can find Zoom meetings overwhelming. Worst was when our church tried to recreate the after-service “coffee” meetup — there would be 50+ screens with so many people trying to talk at once. I have skipped book club a couple of times this year because I just found it too much. It’s better with our close group of friends where we know each other well and don’t feel any pressure to be formal.

      Ah, thanks for the reminder about the Daphne du Maurier week. I have My Cousin Rachel set aside for that. And then I heard Ali might do something for Patricia Highsmith’s big anniversary this year? I have a couple of her books to read, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. […] another two), and I haven’t listed any that I already own as proofs or finished copies (pictured here) or have been promised. With a couple of exceptions, these books are due out between January and […]


  10. Of course, I am instantly interested in the book only you read – Frances Parkinson Keyes is one of those names I see a lot in secondhand shops but have never read, and The Cost of a Bestseller is such an intriguing title. I see you gave it 3* on Goodreads, so maybe I don’t need to rush to it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to manually add the book to Goodreads. It was a random one I picked up (sans dustjacket and in poor condition) from the outdoor clearance shelves at Hay Cinema bookshop in September. Her name was unfamiliar to me, but I liked the idea of a writer reflecting on bestseller-dom in the 1950s. Obviously very different from today! I get the impression that she’s not much read nowadays and that her historical romances are sort of twee. Her New Orleans-set books, at least, are still known. My review is here:


  11. OK I have just about picked myself up off the floor having seen the number of books you read last year Rebecca. I have to ask you – how on earth do you manage to do that? I’m not strong on arithmetic but it sounds like six books a week so almost a book a day? Are you naturally a very fast reader or do you spend large parts of your day reading?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I read about 50 pages an hour, so not all that quickly, but I do spend up to six hours a day reading. I get asked this a lot, and I mostly attribute it to what I *don’t* have: full-time work outside the home/a commute, children, a television, a smartphone, or other hobbies. I know one friend in real life and one fellow blogger who read the same or more that I do in a year: for the former I think it really is that she’s an amazingly fast reader (and that she chooses very light material such as romance and fantasy), and the latter is more like me, very single-minded.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve seen other bloggers who say they read 200+ books a year but when you delve into that figure you find they are counting comic books and picture books for young children. Others tend to read YA which are often pretty slim books.

        But I know that’s not the case with you, hence my curiosity. I no longer work full time, don’t have children and though we have a tv I watch no more than 90 mins a day. I do have other hobbies though and am looking after my husband who’s not been in good health. I’m trying to carve out more time in the day, even if its just 5 minutes.


      2. I do read graphic novels and poetry books, which tend to be shorter, but these balance out with the longer and/or more serious books. I like to read children’s picture books I find while doing my volunteer shelving at the library, but I never count them towards my total. My extreme multi-reading habit (usually 20+ books at a time) definitely helps as well. I have a short attention span so move between books frequently. With such a large stack, there will always be at least one book that appeals to me at any given time.

        I’m sorry to hear that your husband’s been unwell. I’m sure caregiving is a big time commitment for you. My other general recommendation (though it might not be applicable to you) would be to not think “I can only read at X time or in X place,” whether that be at bedtime or in a particular chair. Look for the little moments when you can pick up a book — over morning coffee, while waiting in a queue to get into the supermarket, while drying your hair, whatever. Having multiple books scattered around the house, in your handbag, etc., and/or reading in various formats, e.g. on a Kindle or via an audiobook on your phone, in addition to print books, can help with that.


  12. I’m so glad to hear you had a good year despite all the craziness in the world. I certainly can’t complain, either – I’m so fortunate to have a stable home and safe place to live.
    I see that you and your husband both loved Tim Dee’s book! (Of course I’m interested in your husband’s book list!)
    Love the picture of you guys with your cat! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m constantly adding books I’ve read to his stack, so it’s frustrating for him (and me) that he reads so slowly by comparison 😉 We overlap mostly in our nonfiction interests, though he also reads more technical wildlife/geography books and enjoys some on a politics theme.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Great pic with kitty in purr-fect placement! And waaait, now everyone’s reading backlisted stuff, just when I’m shifting gears back to more contemporary pub’s? So unfair. *stamps feet* ahh, just for a moment it’s fun to throw a virtual tantrum about something that really does not matter one bit. And,yet, it is ironic! It makes me sad to think that nobody else has shelved that Frances Parkinson Keyes book, especially as I think it sounds so delightful. I hope to find a copy at some point! (And, yet, I’m happy that SOMEone has shelved it, too!) For 2021 goals, one thing that I’m going to experiment with is having a slightly tidier stack, which will hopefully make my note-taking easier to manage (rather than opening a variety of files just to update a few keyed passages each day or so), but as you know, I’m a poly-reader like you, so this might be a brief experiment indeed (so far, so good). There are about ten books between us for this year, but I expect my numbers to fall during 2021…we’ll see, though, depending how things go, I might retreat back into other people’s stories, which is a lovely place to be, of course. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t that funny that people are swinging round to backlist reads again? It seems to go in waves! For some I wonder if it had something to do with being disappointed with, e.g. the Women’s Prize longlist.

      I had to create a Goodreads library record for the Keyes; although there were lots of her books on there already, this is one that had never been added. Is she an author you’d come across before?


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