My 2021 in reading

And just like that, another year is gone. As in 2020, I spent 2021 carefully logging my reading on my Kindle to visualize at year-end.

If you’d like to know how I did this or to view my data from 2020, check out this post.

How much did I read?

Depending on what metric you go by, I either read more than last year (73 vs. 65 completed books) or slightly less (8.4 vs 8.7 million words)

2021 felt like a rough year, worse in some ways than 2020. I struggled to get much done in my personal life. I’m surprised that I managed to keep up the reading even as everything else lay fallow.

What did I read?

More nonfiction than fiction, which doesn’t surprise me. I don’t understand the reputation that nonfiction has as being “hard” or somehow more “enriching” than fiction. Fiction requires emotional energy to invest in the story, and when I’m exhausted nonfiction goes down a lot smoother.

I also reread 10 books, or 14% of my total. Almost all the rereads were of nonfiction. Again, when life is tough it’s much easier to reread something I’d already enjoyed than invest myself in something new.

Some of favorite books completed this year were, in no particular order,

  1. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen
    • This is the kind of science writing I need more of–fascinating, engaging, and terrifying. I’ve been very cautious of reading COVID-adjacent work, but this was still highly enjoyable.
  2. In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos by Richard Lloyd Parry
    • I enjoyed Parry’s People Who Eat Darkness several years ago, and wanted to give another of his books a try. This was a gripping look into a time and a place I knew very little about–Indonesia at the end of a dictatorship.
  3. His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
    • At its core, this is a classic love triangle beach read, but I very much enjoyed its new-to-me setting, Ghana. Highly recommended if you’re looking for something fun with a satisfying ending.

Who did I read?

In 2020, I noticed that I’d only read 7 books by non-white authors and decided to change that in 2021.

18 (25%) of the books I completed in 2021 were by non-white authors, including 13 (18%) by Black authors.

What struck me here is how this compares to female authors. I made no effort at all to read work by women, and yet they still made up 60% of my completed books.

Authors of color, however, I had to actively seek out. Even with that effort, I still read less than half as many books by authors of color as I did books by women.

In 2022, I’m going to keep up this effort. One thing I’m especially interested in is reading books translated into English, something I’ve never really sought out before.

When did I read?

I was very excited to compare this year’s chart with last year’s to see if getting a new job and a new dog would change my reading habits.

Sadly, I’ve decided to omit that comparison chart, as I am an extremely boring person who sticks to a routine come hell or high water. I’m going to bed a bit later in the day, but not so much later that a comparison chart would look at all interesting.

I also made the same reading progress chart as I did last year. Again, not sure it’s of much interest to anyone other than myself, but I do love seeing which books took forever to complete (very sloped lines), which I ripped right through (flat lines), and which I stopped and started (vertical lines)


  1. Hi Erin, I love your reading analysis and I plan to perform the same kind of work with my reading data (for fun and also to learn some dataViz cool stuff on the way).

    On your calendar image (when did I read), what part of it is from a dataviz library and what part from photoshop editing ? It looks very nice !


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