Thursday Thoughts: 2021 in review

Thursday Thoughts has returned! (At least temporarily—I don't plan to continue these posts after 1/6, but while I'm on break, they're back.) Since I'm taking a break from reviewing books for the last two Mondays of 2021, I figured we could take some time to look back over the reading I accomplished this year!

Broader trends

First of all, except for the last two weeks of 2021, I reviewed a book every single week of the year, which I believe is a new record! Those of you who have only known me since I joined #IMWAYR have no idea how comically flaky of a blogger I used to be, but when I joined in March 2020 (right as the pandemic started) with a review of Ramona Blue, I actually started a streak of weekly posts that ended with the break I'm taking now. So although I don't have any data on my reading in previous years, you can infer that this year was a more successful year in reading than any other year since I started this blog (except maybe 2020).

Another major trend in my reading this year was the addition of picture books! The wonderful #IMWAYR community showed me so many delightful picture books that I couldn't resist their allure, so I began borrowing e-books through my library (via either Libby or Hoopla) and devouring even more delightful stories. I imagine some of the picture book reading cut into my MG/YA reading, but it was worth it to see so many stories I would have missed otherwise.

And one last major trend I've been cognizant of in the last few months is that I've been leaning into my love of graphic novels! I've had a few readers who have commented on the vast quantity of graphic novels I've read since I started this blog (we're currently at 69 and counting), and they've reminded me that even though I sometimes worry about driving my readers up the wall with yet another graphic novel review, I've actually developed some experience with the medium! So this last semester of college in particular, rather than driving myself crazy trying to cram in prose books, I gave myself permission to read what I enjoy and what I have time for. And I also realized that, if I'm on a time crunch, a longer graphic novel that I actually like takes less time to read than a shorter one that I keep avoiding. So all of those realizations combined pushed me to start a streak of excellent graphic novels that I hope will continue—The Girl From the Sea, Other Boys, Nimona, Marshmallow & Jordan, and The Legend of Auntie Po!

The numbers

Now let's see how many books I've actually read this year!

To be clear, each indented bullet point's number is included in the total for the overarching bullet point (which is hopefully just obvious!).

  • Books read this year: 76
    • MG and YA combined: 43
      • Middle grade: 29
        • Graphic novels: 20 (out of 27 total graphic novels)
        • Not graphic novels: 9
          • Family read-alouds: 3 (out of 6 total family read-alouds)
      • Young adult: 14
        • Graphic novels: 7 (out of 27 total graphic novels)
        • Not graphic novels: 7
          • Family read-alouds: 3 (out of 6 total family read-alouds)
    • Picture books: 33
I'm honestly pretty pleased with these quantities! I read a total of 10 prose books on my own (i.e. not graphic novels, picture books, or read-alouds) which sounds pretty pitiful but honestly isn't too bad for me, considering (a) the slower reading speed due to my OCD that I've tried to overcome, (b) my general lack of reading time thanks to college, and (c) my higher-than-average preference for graphic novels.

I was somewhat surprised to see how many MG books I've read—I think earlier in the year, I was reading a ton of MG books that I wasn't actually enjoying, so I'm hoping to be a little more cautious with my picks so I read MG books with the level of depth that actually interests me.

Of prose books I read on my own, a whopping 4 were YA, and I hope to increase that number in the new year considering how many YA books I keep buying for some unclear reason.

Diversity

There's obviously something both pointless and a little bit harmful about trying to quantify different types of diversity—you're lumping certain groups in with one another, or you're conflating people who grew up in the United States with immigrants to the United States and even with people whose entire story is outside the United States. But still, I think it's easy to have a general feeling that you're "reading diverse books" when there are still gaps to be addressed, so I did want to count up the numbers and identify those gaps.

By the way, my general standard for the categories below was that the identity needed to apply to the protagonist (not a side character) and be #ownvoices. (Non-#ownvoices representation is of course still valuable as well, but I wanted to look at this from the perspective of learning about others, rather than being represented, and I am more hesitant to say that reading a non-#ownvoices story is educating me about another's experience). For LGBTQ+ identities, I included books where the author is a member of the queer community but may not necessarily have the same LGBTQ+ identity as the protagonist, and I additionally made note of several books with prominent LGBTQ+ representation that may not meet my criteria.

  • MG and YA:
    • Race:
      • Asian or Pacific Islander: 9
      • Black: 6
      • Hispanic or Latinx: 1
      • Other: 1
    • LGBTQ+ identity:
      • Lesbian/gay: 6
      • Not labeled, but same-sex attraction: 2
      • Transgender: 1
      • Anthology: 1
      • Others with prominent representation that may not meet criteria: 3
  • Picture books:
    • Race:
      • Asian or Pacific Islander: 9
      • Black: 4
      • Hispanic or Latinx: 2
      • Native American: 1
      • Other: 4
    • LGBTQ+ identity:
      • None

With regards to race, I was feeling like Asian and Pacific Islander individuals were more represented in my reading than other races, and that turned out to be true, although Black individuals had a relatively large role in my reading as well. Still, I could definitely do more to read about Hispanic/Latinx and Native American individuals, and although I didn't allude to this in the numbers, I read virtually nothing at all with Indian/Middle Eastern or Muslim characters. So there's definitely a ton of room to improve!

I was surprised with LGBTQ+ representation at how little I actually read across the full LGBTQ+ spectrum—I read a whopping 1 book with a transgender protagonist, I read no books with #ownvoices nonbinary/genderqueer protagonists, and I read no books with asexual protagonists. So that's something to work on! I'd also like to cram in some picture books with LGBTQ+ representation as well—there are actually a few that come to mind that I haven't yet read.

And I didn't quantify this, but as I looked through my reviews, I noticed that I read few if any books with protagonists who have disabilities/mental health conditions or are neurodiverse. (Considering I literally have a diagnosed mental health condition, you'd think I'd at least be reading a little more about that, but apparently not.) So that's also something to consider for 2022! 

Conclusion

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with these reading outcomes for the year! I read a pretty solid quantity of books, and I enjoyed getting to try out picture books and leaning into my love of graphic novels. Hopefully next year, I can continue these trends while also addressing some of the gaps in my reading with regards to diversity. It's sure to be an interesting 2022 in reading!

What about you? If you've noticed any trends in your year's reading, or if you've posted a round-up post like this one and want to share it, leave a comment below!

And if you're curious, here's what I'm planning for upcoming Thursday Thoughts posts:

  • 12/23: Several of my favorite Christmas books (which I maybe should have reviewed earlier, but whatever!)
  • 12/30: Reviews revisited (January – June 2021)
  • 1/6: Updates on my book-hoarding situation
See you then!

Comments

  1. I love seeing diversity in people's reading since we learn so much from reading about people who are different from ourselves. Have a great weekend!

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    Replies
    1. We really do, and I'm glad to be joining so many other bloggers who are making an effort to read more diverse books! Have a great weekend as well—thanks so much for stopping by, Helen!

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  2. Wow, it sounds like a wonderful reading year for you!! I like taking a look back at the end of the year.

    I LOVED Ramona Blue!! One of my favorites last year (on audio). And I have Marshmallow and Jordan on my TBR short stack - next up after Shannon Hale's graphic memoir (which you must try! She's really good.)

    I love that your family reads aloud together. We continued reading aloud to our sons until they were into their teens, and it was such an enjoyable time for all of us - and so great to share so many wonderful books together!

    Here's to another great reading year in 2022!
    (oh, and don't expect my 2021 wrap-up anytime soon - I am WAY behind, as often happens this time of year and still haven't posted my November summary!)

    Enjoy the holidays!

    Sue
    Book By Book

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    1. I've never actually done a roundup at the end of the year before, but I figured it would be neat to try out for 2021! And I took a look at your review of Ramona Blue—you really summed up what makes that book so special! It was a really fitting one to join #IMWAYR with. Also, I hope you enjoy Marshmallow & Jordan—and I just added Shannon Hale's memoirs to my "need to buy" shelf on Goodreads (unrelated, but I finally put my Goodreads back together, thankfully). And reading aloud really is so wonderful—people think it's just for little kids, and of course it's good to be able to read books on your own as you get older, but there's also nothing wrong with sharing stories you love with people you love! Also, that's definitely fair about your wrap-ups—running a blog really is a ton of work! Thanks so much for stopping by, Sue, and happy holidays!

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  3. Congratulations on consistent blogging! That is so tough and something I struggle with yearly.

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    1. Thank you! It's definitely super-tough—I've had years where I suspect that I didn't blog more often than I did, but for some reason, it's been easier for the last year-and-a-half or so. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jennifer!

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