Ah 2021. Year two of the panini. A year of excitement and disappointment, little wins and big losses.
In some respects, 2021 was like a dropped ice cream cone that’s slowly beginning to decompose in the midday sun. There’s a pool of ice cream everywhere and when someone steps on it, turning it into a sludgy mess, you can’t help but think it looks sad. It could have been a perfectly good ice cream.
But in some ways, 2021 was like opening your curtains after a restless night’s sleep and seeing a soft, dazzling sunrise. Although you didn’t sleep well and you’re up way earlier than you want to be, you feel kind of lucky to be witnessing this.
I don’t know why I’m waxing lyrical to start 2022. All I’m basically saying is that 2021 was a great year or an awful year, depending on who you speak to.
For me, it was a pretty good year, and I count myself very lucky to be able to say that. If I had to describe it in one word, I’d say it was a year of rediscovery. Here’s why.
In 2021, I read 121 books, which is the most I’ve ever read in a year. Only by one book because I read 120 books in 2020 but, still, I’ll take it as a win.
My reading went up and down on a month-by-month basis last year, depending on how busy I was and the length of the books I was reading.
I read a lot of shorter books in April and July, and they consequently ended up being two of my best reading months (I read 13 books in April and 12 in July). Despite reading only one more book in April, my page count was much higher, so I must have read quite a few longer books than in July.
March and June were my ‘worst’ months, but I still read eight books in each month, so I don’t think that’s too bad at all.
Surprising absolutely no-one, the format I read most of in 2021 was audiobooks. More working from home and discovering Libro FM meant that my audiobook reading blossomed.
I read 75 audiobooks, 21 paperbacks, 19 ebooks, and six hardbacks, meaning that more than half of the books I read last year were audiobooks.
A lot of this is down to the fact that I can listen to audiobooks while doing other things so I naturally read them faster than physical books. But I also didn’t make the time to sit down and read physical books much last year, which is something I’m hoping to do more of in 2022.
For the first time this year, adult books overtook YA as my primary reading category. I read 67 adult books compared to 49 YA books (and also two new adult and three middle grade).
This was partly down to me reading more adult romance again this year (I’m a sucker for a happily ever after, OK), but also I’ve just been more in the mood for adult books recently.
Another first for me was that I read more romance books than any other genre in 2021, with 24% of all my books being adult romance. My next highest read genre was fantasy (no surprise there) at 18%, then contemporary at 17%, and nonfiction and historical fiction tying at 10% each.
If 2020 was the year that I discovered adult romance, 2021 was the year that I rediscovered classics and nonfiction.
If you’d asked me what was on my bingo card for 2021, getting back into classics would NOT have been there. At all. I just didn’t expect it to happen.
And yet, I read Orlando in January/February and then found myself wanting to pick up other classics that I’d been meaning to read for ages (years, even).
Suddenly, I was on a roll. I finally read Pride and Prejudice from cover to cover and adored it. After that Persuasion, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Frankenstein all followed. I even read A Christmas Carol over Christmas. I was reading books I’d always wanted to get to and it felt good.
With nonfiction, I rediscovered how much I love learning new things through reading. In August (I think), I read four or five short nonfiction audiobooks back-to-back because I just couldn’t get enough. Since then, I’ve been picking up one or two non fiction books each month on different subjects and I’m enjoying the genre so much.
This graph is a lovely reminder that I am STINGY with my 5 star ratings. 😂 I only gave SIX books 5 stars last year (but I’m hoping that number will be higher this year).
The thing is, I only rate books 5 stars if they’re basically perfect for me and have this indefinable quality that sets them apart from other reads.
The closest things I can compare this ‘quality’ to is:
- Books being stunningly written and captivating
- Books being highly evocative and making me feel extremes of emotion
- Books resonating with me strongly on a personal level
- Books having an ending that just blows me away into the stratosphere
Here’s a breakdown of my ratings in 2021:
1 star: 2 books
2 stars: 3 books
2.5 stars: 4 books
3 stars: 14 books
3.5 stars: 20 books
4 stars: 62 books
4.5 stars: 10 books
5 stars: 6 books
My first 5 star read of the year was Cemetery Boys and my last was Iron Widow. The others were Legendborn, One Last Stop, and She Who Became the Sun.
Honorable mentions from last year that I also loved are:
I actually blogged less in 2021 than in 2020 and there were several reasons for this.
In the UK, we were under a national lockdown from January to May 2021, but over summer rules relaxed as COVID cases decreased, and we were able to do things again.
I suddenly found myself with less time to blog. Why am I not working on my blog? I mused one day after being out with friends.
And then it hit me. I was out with friends. Lockdown was over. I was doing things I hadn’t been able to do since 2020. I had A SOCIAL LIFE???
And because I was out and about, I had less time for blogging, which…I was surprisingly OK with. I’d missed going to visit friends and spending time in other cities; I wanted to enjoy it while I could and while summer was in full swing.
But there was another reason I wasn’t so bothered about not blogging as regularly. I felt uninspired. The usual pull to open up WordPress and work on a post wasn’t nestled in my bones.
For the first time in about five (or six?) years, I felt burnt out. I just wasn’t in the mood to blog.
So, I didn’t. I let myself have breaks during autumn and winter, and only worked on blog posts when I felt excited about them.
The result was I blogged more sporadically, but I had more time for other hobbies (which I’ll get to).
Having a break also rejuvenated my desire to blog, so I feel pretty fresh going into 2022 and excited to post new things. Although I feel a bit sad that I didn’t post much at the end of 2021, I’d say some good things definitely came out of it.
Building on current hobbies and rediscovering old hobbies
One of the good things that came out of blogging less was that I rediscovered a hobby I’d been neglecting for several years: creative writing. I found myself wanting to write stories again and having ideas that I was actually excited about.
I also found a wonderful writing buddy in Helen, and we’ve spend many an evening leaving chaotic comments on each other’s Google docs, which has honestly given me so much serotonin. 😂
Another hobby I’ve got back into is boxing. I used to go to a regular boxing class each week, but it stopped due to the pandemic. Now, the trainer who runs the circuit classes I go to has started doing a boxing class on Wednesdays, so I’m attending that and really enjoying it.
I’ve been a regular runner for the last few years, but in 2021 I decided to make Sundays my weekly ‘long run’ day and I managed to keep it up throughout the whole year.
At the beginning of the year, the longest distance I’d run was about 8 or 9 miles, but by the end of the year I was running 12/13 miles and did my first half marathon level run. (I’ve also signed up to do my first half marathon race in 2022.)
I’d also been missing dance a lot so in 2021 I tried a ceroc class, which is a style of casual jive dance.
The instructors split everyone up into pairs and taught us a few steps of a sequence before rotating half of each pair, so that everyone danced with everyone.
By the end of the class, I’d met some new people, picked up a new style and had a lot of fun. With the rise of omicron over Christmas and new year, I haven’t been back to the class yet, but I’m hoping to return and learn some more of the style in 2022.
Travelling abroad wasn’t really an option last year, but when it was safe to do so, I travelled a bit within the UK and rediscovered a few places I hadn’t been to in years. Namely, Oxford and Edinburgh.
I hadn’t been to Oxford since about 2018, but in September, I met up with my friend Charlotte and we spent the day exploring museums and bookshops.
Oxford is a beautiful city so it was lovely to walk through the streets and enjoy the architecture and bustle. I also had one of the best vegan milkshakes I’ve had in a long time (biscoff flavour, god tier).
In October, Hollie and I went to Edinburgh for a mini-break. This was my birthday present to her in 2020, but we had to delay it by 18 months due to covid. Needless to say, we were excited to finally be going.
And we had a fantastic time. Hollie had never been to Edinburgh before, so we had a lot of fun exploring different places. We went to museums, Edinburgh Castle, and NUMEROUS vegan eateries.
We got the bus out to Portobello and went for a walk along the beach, then visited The Portobello Bookshop. We went to a queer-friendly vegan pizzeria, did a bookshop crawl with Kirsty, and met up with Romie to go to one of the prettiest vegan cafes I’ve ever been to.
I returned home with five new books and with the happy, blissful feeling you get when you’ve had a lovely trip away.
Later in October, I also went to a friend’s wedding with Hollie and we road tripped down to the south west (Falmouth) for it.
This ended up being the furthest south I’ve ever gone and also the longest drive I’ve ever done (5.5 hours, roughly) and it was so worth it. It was the first time in over a year that, for a day, I completely forgot covid existed.
The wedding was so beautiful and such a joyous occasion that the realities of covid just dropped away. We danced, we ate, we chatted to new people and just enjoyed the occasion. That’s the power of seeing two friends get married.
Looking back to earlier in the year, I also went to London, Liverpool, Bath, Bristol, and Newcastle over the summer and it felt so good to be able to go to different cities again after lockdown.
It was also lovely to be able to see family and friends in Newcastle, and Hollie and I spent a couple of fun days bookshopping in Bath and Bristol in June.
I’ve never been to Bristol properly until this year and may I just say, your honour, I’m in love.
You’ve probably guessed what’s coming next and, yes, you’re right. Despite being careful and cautious once lockdown was over, I still caught covid. 😷
We’re not sure who caught it, but my parents began to feel unwell in mid-November. When they did lateral flow tests, they both came back positive and they had most of the symptoms of the delta variant, so we weren’t entirely surprised.
I, on the other hand, didn’t have any of the same symptoms and wasn’t really feeling ill. I felt like I was getting a cold, but generally felt OK. Regardless, I booked us all in for PCR tests…and they all came back positive. Welp.
We cancelled all our plans (including going to see my sister for her birthday 😭) and quarantined for 10 days. Thankfully none of us were too ill (for me, it was like a bad cold and for my parents it was like bad flu) and we all recovered. But it certainly wasn’t pleasant or fun and I’m so glad we were all fully vaccinated (get those jabs, kids), as I dread to imagine what it would have been like otherwise.
You’ve made it to the end
So, that’s a brief roundup of my 2021. If you’ve made it to the end of this post thank you (and congrats) for reading the whole thing. Drop me a star emoji in the comments to show me that you made it to the end. 🌟
On the whole 2021 was a pretty great year for me. Rediscovering different interests and hobbies was enlightening and refreshing and I hope I can carry that good energy into 2022.
How was 2021 for you? How many books did you read last year and what was your favourite? Did you travel anywhere or do anything exciting?