2021 Reading: By the numbers

I read 115 books this year. 37,600 words, if one is to believe word counts from Goodreads. That’s a lot of books. A lot of words. Those words were sometimes brilliant, sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring, sometimes just meh. I decided to break up my “favorite” lists into three blogposts (fiction, nonfiction/memoir, YA/MG) that will come shortly after the first of the year. As we close out 2021, though, I thought it would be fun to look at all these words not with words, but with numbers. So here we go!


It can be difficult to categorize books by genre and category, as those two distinctions cross (i.e., a book can be both YA and a thriller) and the lines categorizing books can be mushy (i.e., some people think Girl A is a thriller, some don’t; Why Fish Don’t Exist can be seen as both memoir and narrative nonfiction). So I just called ‘em as I read ‘em, and here’s the pie chart (I love pie charts!).

Within nonfiction, my reading was pretty evenly divided between memoir and general nonfiction. Those general nonfiction reads included considerations of history, politics, social issues, and some true crime thrown in for fun (not fun for those involved, of course, but so addictive!). In adult fiction, about half I’ve categorized as “general fiction” (a bit of a catch-all—contemporary, literary, “book club” fiction, short stories—it’s all in there), with the rest pretty evenly divided between historical (12 books) and thrillers (10 books). Finally, my kid lit reads were mostly fiction this year, evenly divided between young adult and middle grade.

Reading Medium

I’m an equal opportunity book consumer, and I thought breaking down how I did my reading this year would be interesting. As the pie chart (another pie chart!) shows, the books my eyes encountered first were pretty evenly divided between physical books and ebooks. But I also listened to a LOT of books this year—while driving, walking, cleaning, showering—so many chances to listen!

If I were to do a more detailed statistical analysis (think of the possible graphics!) it would be clear that there is a STRONG relationship between genre/category and reading medium. Specifically, I listened to all of the nonfiction/memoir and I read almost all of the fiction. That’s just what works for me; your mileage may vary. Also, all the audiobooks and ebooks were originally library loans (Libby is the most amazing app ever!), but I have purchased many of the ones I loved after reading. I may read them again. They may just sit on one of the nine bookcases in my house. Who cares. I’m just happy to have them nearby.

Goodreads rating

For years, I’ve written down the books I read in a journal, but now I’ve decided to try to keep up with Goodreads, as well. (And I’ll probably use Storygraph, too, next year – it looks like another great way to track my reading!) I rate books as I finish them, but occasionally revise a rating after giving the book a bit more thought.

I’ll give a five star rating to something that hit on mostly all cylinders for me—the writing, the characters, the story, the research, the structure—all the things that make me think, “yeah, that’s a great book.” Four star books are those that were good but not great. Three star books are those that were just okay. I finished them, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to others (or at least to others who have the same reading tastes as me). Finally, two star books are ones I truly disliked or found offensive. Or, occasionally, I’ll give two stars to a book the world loved and I definitely didn’t, just to be a voice speaking up against the masses (I’m looking at you, Crawdads). I don’t do one star ratings. Too mean? Or I just can’t figure out the distinction between one and two stars in my reading-and-rating brain.

As the final (sigh!) pie chart shows, the lion’s share of my reads in 2021 were four star books, with equal (but smaller shares) falling into the five and three star categories. Seven books this year disappointed (or angered) me enough to garner only two stars.

So there you have it. Lots of pages, baked in my brain and sliced into pie. I’ll be back with posts on my favorites soon!

3 replies to “2021 Reading: By the numbers

  1. Hi Kathy:

    Wow, that is a lot of reading. I love to read, too, so it was fun and interesting to see your post.

    Hope that all is well, and best wishes for a happy new year,


    From: Kathy Miller
    Reply-To: Kathy Miller
    Date: Friday, December 31, 2021 at 12:55 PM
    To: “Smith, Sandi”
    Subject: [New post] 2021 Reading: By the numbers

    Kathy Miller posted: ” I read 115 books this year. 37,600 words, if one is to believe word counts from Goodreads. That’s a lot of books. A lot of words. Those words were sometimes brilliant, sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring, sometimes just meh. I dec”

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