I know I said I wasn’t going to publish my top books of 2021 until 1 January, but I’ve got such a big TBR post to do then, and I am not going to finish one last book for this year, so I thought I’d share my reading stats and top 18 books for 2021 tonight. So here we go …

Reading stats for 2021

I kept a spreadsheet recording various aspects of my reading again this year, and here are the salient points …

In 2021 I read 185 (159 in 2020) books, of which 86 (83) were fiction and 99 (76) non-fiction. 116 (94) were by women, 62 (56) by men, 5 (8) by both (multiple authors) and 2 more (1) by a mix of male, female and non-gender-binary people.

Where did my books come from?

NetGalley 47 – Bookshop online (mainly Bookshop.org and Hive nowadays) 41 – Gift 27 – Publisher 24 – Own 20 – Charity shop 9 – Bookshop physical 4 – Author 4 – Bookcrossing 2 – Bookshop independent 2 – Bought from publisher 2 – Subscribed 1 – Lent 1 – Bought from author 1

Still fewer from charity shops, which was down to the pandemic plus a lot of NetGalley and Shiny New Books reads (thank you, publishers!)

Most books by far were set in the UK although fewer in number and proportion than last year at 94 (99) with the US second 44 (24) and then 24 (12) other countries (some a combination of a few) plus fantasy worlds and the whole world.

I read books by 87 (76) different publishers, the most common being Vintage (because of Anne Tyler, last year Virago because of Angela Thirkell), Virago and Penguin.

I read most books published in 2021 at 60 (39 from 2020 last year), which is down to Shiny and NetGalley. I read books from many different years, with all decades in the 20th and 21st centuries represented.

Onto diversity of authors and themes. 73% (79.25%) of the authors I read were White (as far as I could tell), with 26.5% (19.5%) People of Colour and 0.5% (1.26%) a mix of White and POC authors. The UK is apparently 87% / 13% so I was pleased to increase my diversity count again this year. 112 (121) authors were British and 54 (26) American, the others from 13 (9) other countries or a mix. Out of the 185 (159) books I read, I assigned a diversity theme to 74 of them (43/159 last year), so 50 (21) about race, 17 (8) LGBTQI+ issues and 3 (10) covering both, 2 (3) disability and (1) LGBTQI+ and disability, 1 (none) about class and 1 (none) class and race. This doesn’t meant such themes didn’t come up in other books, just that they weren’t the main theme.

Best books of 2021

As I read 185 books, I allowed myself 18 best books. I have some honourable mentions, too, and one is a bit of a cheat … These are in order of reading through the year.

Best fiction

Dorothy Evelyn Smith – O, the Brave Music

Paul Magrs – Hunky Dory

CLR James – Minty Alley

Jo McMillan – Motherland

Anne Tyler – Ladder of Years

Alex Haley – Roots (how could I not!)

Buchi Emecheta – Second-Class Citizen

Honourable mentions to the publishers Dean Street Press and British Library Women Writers, who produced consistently very enjoyable and absorbing books that as a whole brightened my year considerably. Molly Clavering in particular was an excellent new find, reflected in my Christmas incomings (see tomorrow).

Best non-fiction

Christine Burns – Trans Britain

Isabella Tree – Wilding

Maya Angelou – her whole autobiography!

Mike Pitts – Digging up Britain

Sathnam Sanghera – Empireland

Johny Pitts – Afropean

David Olusoga – Black and British

Pete Paphides – Broken Greek

Hassan Akkad – Hope not Fear

Lev Parikian – Light Rains Sometimes Fall

Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason – Saga Land

Honourable mentions to Madness’ autobiography – “Before We Was We“, Kit de Waal’s collection of memoirs, “Common People“, Stephen Rutt’s “The Eternal Season” and Shon Faye’s “The Transgender Issue” (I added the Burns instead because of the variety of voices covered).

A great year of reading. I have Fallen Behind but will look at everyone else’s best-ofs tomorrow, promise!