So another year has come and gone and although 2021 was not the long endless night that 2020 became, for me it was a year of big changes as I ended up moving house, who took a lot of time and a lot of stress and ate into my reading time. On top of that the combination of lockdown courtesy of the virus that shall not be named and RL work ramping up meant it was harder to find time to read and review. As a result, my reviews got a bit out of control and I’ve been later in updating than I wanted and it was only today that I finished my 2021 tally.
That said, 2021 did mark the 15th anniversary of my starting the blog and I did reach the 100 books that I’d targeted for the year. In terms of my other targets:
- I was aiming for a 50/50 gender split and almost achieved that with a 49/51 female/male split.
- I wanted 20% of the book to be by writers of colour and ended up exceeding that with 26%.
- 40% of the books were to be non-fiction and I exceeded that with 47%.
Stats wise, I remain very surprised at how well this blog is doing on WordPress. The hit count has continued to grow and I’ve picked up some more subscribers, which is not bad going for a blog that solely does reviews. My thanks to everyone who stops by and takes the time to like or comment.
I set up some Affiliate links to Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Bookshop.org UK or Waterstone’s, which all did a lot better than I expected so I’m going to keep them up in 2022. Even so, I’m not turning this into a side hustle because I just don’t need the pressure. This is going to remain a personal review blog that reflects purely what I want to read at any given time and as a result, I will continue my tradition of not scheduling regular blog updates while aiming to try and post twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays.
My most popular review in 2021 was This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher, which I posted in May 2020 but seems to have gained in traction. Of the reviews I wrote in 2021 the most popular was Slough House by Mick Herron, which wasn’t much of a surprise given that the SLOUGH HOUSE SERIES has become a bit of a phenomenon and with the TV adaptations starring Gary Oldman due to drop in 2022 there’s a lot more interest in it.
I’ve set out below my favourite reads of the year in no particular order.
TEACHERS VS TECH? THE CASE FOR AN ED TECH REVOLUTION by Daisy Christodoulou is a well researched book, clearly written, fascinating and informative book that looks at the psychology of learning and teaching and how that ties in with the technology available to teachers (including initiatives from tech companies) to explain why tech hasn’t been as transformative for education as you’d expect it to be.
ESSAYING THE PAST: HOW TO READ, WRITE AND THINK ABOUT HISTORY by Jim Cullen is aimed at history students but is an excellent book that clearly sets out broad essay writing techniques, which can be used by students of any humanity or anyone in work who needs to write for their job. It’s clearly written and easy to follow plus it contains lots of examples to illustrate its points.
MODERN LANGUAGES: WHY IT MATTERS by Katrin Kohl is a very readable book that makes a convincing case for why it is important to study modern languages, how they offer a deeper means of connecting with people and thinking about culture and ideas and makes interesting points about the benefits and limits of AI translation programmes. As universities and schools increasingly cut language programmes, this is an important counterweight.
AUGMENTED REALITY by Mark Pesce is a slim but engrossing and deeply terrifying book that charts the origins and development of augmented reality (AR) technology before looking at how AR devices could use the information they gather about the world and its users and how the same could be utilised by Facebook, Google etc and the ethical issues that could result to privacy and property.
TWICE AS HARD by Opeyemi Sofoluke and Raphael Sofoluke is essential for Black people looking for navigating the corporate world or developing their own entrepreneurial brand and also vital for white people who want to be better, constructive allies to Black colleagues and entrepreneurs.
FORGED by Benedict Jacka is an adrenalin-fuelled action-fest that’s the 11th (and penultimate) book in this fantasy series, which concludes a few of the series’ plot strands (some in a very surprising manner) while setting up what promises to be a gripping conclusion. Particularly good is the way Alex embraces his Dark Mage origins here – it’s chilling, logical and really makes you wonder how this will end and I am on tenterhooks for the last book so I can find out.
SLOUGH HOUSE by Mick Herron is the 7th book in the best selling SLOUGH HOUSE SERIES and another fast-paced, action packed spy thriller that adds biting satire to the temperature of the nation. There is a sense of pieces being moved ready for further developments, most notably in the change in dynamic between Judd and Lady Di, and it’s not clear what the return of Sid will mean long term but the devastating ending and the question it leaves means I am very keen to read the next book.
THE LIAR OF RED VALLEY by Walter Goodwater is a slickly plotted, vividly imagined contemporary fantasy novel about power, authority and belonging and has a well realised main character who I rooted for. The world building works very well and I loved the way he incorporates his fantasy elements but the ending was, for me, slightly anti climactical given the events building up to it. Still there is scope here for a sequel, which I would definitely read.
THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE by Richard Osman is the thoroughly entertaining second novel in the THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES that draws on Elizabeth’s espionage past but has something to say about finding love in middle age and the fears that come with old age. The plot slightly strains to unite its various strands at the end but Osman pulls it off with aplomb while providing some laugh out loud moments such that I’m already very keen to get book number 3.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION:
THE CROSSING by Manjeet Mann pitches the plight of refugees against increasing anti-refugee sentiment within the UK. It’s told in verse and very well written with Mann effortlessly switching between Sammy and Nat to emphasise their common experiences and emotions. Sammy’s experiences make it a difficult read at times while Mann shows why people are attracted to racism without excusing it. This will be on the 2021 awards lists and it deserves to be.
YOU WILL BE OKAY by Julie Stokes and Laurène Boglio is a deeply compassionate, well written and timely book that’s sensitively illustrated by Laurène Boglio and offers practical guidance to children aged 9+ on how to handle a bereavement, including how to process and talk about their emotions.
Looking forward to 2022, my To Be Read Pile stands at a truly horrific 860. At the start of 2021 it was a very slightly less horrific 793. I had resolved last year not to take every book and ARC that was offered to me and to not go mad in the bookshops once they re-opened and basically I failed spectacularly. However, having had to shift that mammoth To Be Read Pile when moving house, I am determined to get on top of it. I am going to be a lot more selective in one I acquire in 2022 and I will not be buying so many books. With that in mind my reading aspirations for 2022 are as follows:
- a total reading target of 90.
- a 50/50 gender split.
- 25% of the books read to be by or co-written by writers of colour.
- 40% of the books read to be non-fiction.
Once again, I want to give a big thank you to everyone who stops by this Blog – I very much appreciate your time and hope you find it useful. I wish you all the very best for the coming year and very happy reading.
THE 2022 TO BE READ PILE OF DOOM! ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO STARE AT IT AND REACT WITH HORROR TO THE DATES OF ACQUISITION, WHICH TESTIFY TO MY DESPAIR!