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Year in Review: What I Learned from my 2021 Reading Journal

Last year was the first year that I started keeping a handwritten reading journal. Before then, I was tracking my reads and reviews online, mostly through Goodreads, which was functional and partially automated (since it links to my Kindle reading app) but not as fun. I wanted to have a physical object that I could hold onto and decorate how I liked.

Keeping a handwritten reading journal was a little more work to keep up with, but it was much more enjoyable. It gave me new insights into how much I was reading and what types of books I gravitated toward. In the last few years, I’d put pressure on myself to read certain books because they were popular indie titles, like finalists in the SPFBO competition. But I wasn’t enjoying it as much. This year, I gave myself permission to read whatever I wanted to. I stopped in the middle of any book that I wasn’t enjoying (which is why I didn’t have anything rated 1 or 2 stars) and I jumped around between series, authors, and genres. As my excitement grew, I began reading more and more. And I broke my personal record for the most books I’ve read in a year! (Since finishing school.)

So now, I want to look back in more detail about what I learned as I went through the journal for the first time.

I didn’t need 250 pages

When I first started the journal, I had no idea how many pages I would need, so I chose the journal that I bought in part because it had so many pages. That led me to use a journal with thinner paper, and sometimes, you can see ghosting from one side of the page onto the other. But I didn’t even manage to use 200 pages. Just check out the page numbers on the index:

Total pages used: 175

I needed more space to add books in my spread

My reading goal for the year was 52 books. I wanted to add some extra space, just in case I surpassed that, so I made sure I could fit 80 books in many of my spreads. That was my previous record. But I blew it away with over 100 books, and I found at the end of the year that I was running out of space. I tried some creative ways to add more pages by taping them in:

My bookshelf of titles
I squeezed the last two books into the bottom of the middle page

I’m a sucker for pretty covers

Like many people, I thought that I was smarter than to judge a book by its cover. But pretty covers are the first thing that catch my attention about a book and often inspire me to take a closer look. And I find it very satisfying to see a matching set of covers on a series all laid out in a line. I didn’t know if I was going to keep up with printing out the cover art for every single book I read, but this ended up being one of my favorite parts of the journal. Especially since I read mostly ebooks, so I don’t have these books to display on a real shelf, it’s fun to see them all together here.

I need to diversify the authors that I read

I wasn’t paying much attention to the authors that I chose to read, so this year, I was just tracking things like gender and race/ethnicity to learn more. Now, it’s not perfect, because not every author explicitly states everything about their identity. Some authors can be found on places like Twitter with more information (or even putting their pronouns in their bio!), but some I had to guess based on photos or even just their names.

It’s probably not surprising that I ended up mostly reading books by white women. I’m a white woman myself, so I gravitate to authors like me. I don’t care about reading an equal number of books by men, especially straight cis white men. Like anyone who took an English literature class, I’ve read enough books by white men to last a lifetime. And it’s harder to find authors who identify as non-binary, although I read many queer authors. But I could read more books by people of color, especially Black authors, to get a different perspective.

This tracking system was a mess
My attempt at final stats

I read the most books when I wasn’t feeling well

I started off slow early in the year and picked up speed around May. But when I read the most books (almost twice as many) was August, when my migraines were the worst. I had almost no tolerance or focus for anything besides books, and I found paper books easier to read than on a screen, so I reread many paperbacks I already owned. Reading was a comfort to me when I was in pain. If I hadn’t been reading, I’m not sure what else I could have done.

I can’t wait to read more books in 2022!

There are many series that I started last year and want to continue with, and even more books that I’ve yet to try. There is a never-ending supply of wonderful books in the world and I can’t wait to discover these new worlds. My 2022 reading journal is already filling up with new ideas and improvements over last year’s, so I know I will continue to enjoy it!


I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.