2021 In Review – by the Numbers

Every year since 2014, I’ve tried to do an audit of my reading, as well as a list of my favorite books of the year. It’s my way of keeping myself accountable, and is especially interesting this year as I’m working with a small committee on developing diversity benchmarks for my library.

2021 Overview

Bar chart summary of my 2021 reading.
I logged 213 books in 2021, finished 200, reviewed 78, and rated 39 as 8 or above. I must be gentle with myself about reviewing only 40% of the books I read.
I still wish I could write more and faster.
Pie chart of where I got the books I read in 2021 - 55% from the library, 14% from Libby, 8% from Hoopla, 14% own, 5% from the author, 4% from the publisher, and .5% as a gift.
For the first time, I split out the print library books from the library ebooks. Total library usage was 76.6%, up 5% from 2020.
Pie chart of my 2021 reading formats - about 60% print, 21% audio, 11% ebooks, and 9% graphic novels.
Audiobooks and graphic novels are both down from 2020. Notably, buying myself a new ereader has kept my ebook reading up much higher than it was when I was only reading ebooks on my phone – go figure!

What I Read

Fantasy still far in the lead, as usual, though at least Sci-Fi got a little closer to Nonfiction than it was last year.
A pie chart of the books I read split by the age of the audience they were written for - 64% Middle Grade, 17% Adult, 15% Teen, 2% Picture Book, and 1% Not Quite Middle Grade.
The high percentage of middle grade is no surprise, but Adult overtook Teen this year, while books for younger readers have nearly fallen off the chart.

The Authors

Pie chart of my 2021 reading by author ethnicity - 56% white. 15% African, 9% Asian, 5% South Asian, 8% Latinx, 2% Native, and 1% mixed.
I’m a little sad that I’m back to more than 50% of my reading being by white authors. I will have to try harder this year. Still, 44% by authors of color is way better than the 15% I read in 2015 when I first started tracking.
World map showing the countries of origin of the authors I read in 2021 - the US, Canada, Barbados, Argentina, the UK, Ireland, France, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia.
I don’t think there’s much change here, as I don’t make too much of an effort to read authors outside of the US. It’s fun to see the map, though!
Pie chart of the author genders of my 2021 reading - 76% female, 18% male, 3% male and female on the same book, and 1.4% nonbinary.
76% books by women is up 5% from last year. I did read trans authors this year, but recorded them as their preferred gender, so they don’t show up here. Nonbinary is a tiny count, but the first year it’s shown up at all. I can still do better.

The Characters

Pie chart of the ethnicities of the characters in my 2021 reading - 42% white, 13% Black, 8% mixed, 8% Asian, 6% Latinx, 5% South Asian, 2% animal, 2% Indigenous, 2% brown.
In 2019, my percentage of white characters was 39%, and in 2020 34%. This tells me that I need to be really conscientious about my reading – it’s not enough to just vaguely aim to read more diverse books. At least I am seeing slightly fewer of the generically brown characters.
Pie chart of the character traits of my 2021 reading - 26% straight, 14% LGBTQ, 10% orphan, 5% low income, 2%immigrantt, 2% non-neurotypical, 2.% survivor.
This is the column in my reading spreadsheet where I track things other than character ethnicity, such as other religions than Christianity, LGBTQ things, etc. It is most common in middle grade books for characters to seem middle class, cis-gendered, not religious, and to have no romantic feelings. I feel like I should maybe adopt the checkbox system my library has started using, rather than having one box to track all of this. I am sure I missed data this way! But I am very excited that my percentage of LGBTQ books nearly doubled from last year. Low income is also up a lot, from 1% last year, and oddly, an increase in books about orphans as well.

I’ve been doing these graphs for several years now – here they are from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 20162015, and 2014. As always, if you know of any middle grade or teen books, especially fantasy books, that would help me round things out as far as reading more LGBTQ or Indigenous authors, and authors outside the US or UK, please do let me know!  

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
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