2021 Reading Challenge – Part 1

For the last few years I have set a goal to read/listen to two new books each week (104 per year).  I love Audible and since discovering this service I have been able to enjoy many more books that I thought possible.  My eyesight is ok, but I have a lot of floaters in my vision, and trying to focus on a page for extended periods of time can trigger headaches.  However, I also love the act of reading a physical book.  It’s not just about the text you are reading, but the feel of the book in your hands and the spell of the paper itself.  

Last year I didn’t quite hit my target of finishing 104 new books.  I made it to 83, which I think is still a respectable number.  So far in 2021 I am up to 27 books.  Here is the list of what I have completed so far.

  1. Leap of Destiny: Not Alone Series – Book 5 by Craig Falconer (audible).*****
  2. Revelations: Not Alone Series – Book 6 by Craig Falconer (audible).*****
  3. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (audible).*****
  4. Elephants on Acid by Alex Boese (audible).**
  5. Electrified Sheep by Alex Boese (audible).**
  6. Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse (audible).**
  7. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek (audible).***
  8. The Remaining: Book 1 of The Remaining Series by DJ Molles (audible).*
  9. The Asshole Survival Guide by Robert I. Sutton (audible).***
  10. The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman (audible).***
  11. My Sh*t Therapist by Michelle Thomas (audible).*****
  12. The List by Siobhan Vivian (audible).*
  13. Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu (audible).*****
  14. The Supernova Era by Cixin Liu (audible).***
  15. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (audible).****
  16. A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger (audible).***
  17. Paranormality by Richard Wiseman (audible).****
  18. The Lying Room by Nicci French (book).****
  19. The Pig That Wants to be Eaten by Julian Baggini (audible).***
  20. Rip It Up by Richard Wiseman (audible).***
  21. What If? by Randall Munroe (book).*****
  22. Practice Perfect by Doug Lemov (audible).**
  23. The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney (book).**
  24. Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferris (audible).***
  25. The Awakening: Not Alone Series – Book 7 by Craig Falconer (audible).****
  26. Weaponised Lies by Daniel Leviton (book).****
  27. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (book).*****

Now, it is time for some graphs and charts, because… well… why not?

Mean rating of 3.37 so far.

The highlights for 2021 so far have included, My Sh*t Therapist and the Not Alone series.  The real low points have been The Remaining and The List.  The star of the year so far though, is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, someone who I’ve become a fan of in recent years.  Matt comes from Sheffield, which automatically gives him an advantage over other authors, but what I love about his work is his unflinching, honest and refreshing take on mental health.  Matt is a vocal advocate of mental health awareness, being someone who has struggled with severe depression and anxiety.  As someone who has also struggled with his mental health, it’s easy for me to spot those authors who write about it from their own experiences when compared to those who have researched it from an outside perspective.  I look forward to Matt Haig’s next book.

My Sh*t Therapist was also great, again because I identified with so much of it.  The treatment of mental health is a sore subject for many people, and I’ve written before about how ineffectual I have found talking therapies.  The most effective help I’ve had has been from reading, not just self-help books but also fiction.  I think it reflects on the year that I’ve had that the two best books of the year have been heavily influenced by the discussion around mental health.  In The Midnight Library we follow a young woman who has attempted suicide, only to find herself living countless variations of her life.  The ideas of parallel universes and repeating one’s life are fascinating.  In some ways, it is reminiscent of Replay by Ken Grimwood which also deals with repeating one’s life over and over.  

For all the excellent books I’ve read this year, there have been some real disasters as well.  The Remaining was so bad that within minutes of finishing the audio book, I could not remember the characters or the plot.  It was a waste of time and that’s perhaps the most damning criticism I can give.  Normally, even the most badly written books can provide at least one positive, but not this book.  It was unoriginal and dull.  

Another book I gave one star to was The List.  This is partly my fault as I only skimmed the blurb but I was expecting some kind of psychological exploration into high school life.  Instead, it was just another by-the-numbers, cliche high school drama.  I was bored throughout and none of the characters were interesting enough to be memorable.  It was a real effort to push through and finish the book and several times I nearly gave up.  

At the moment I am enjoying two books; The Chain by Adrian McKinty and the next book in the Not Alone series on Audible.  The former has an interesting and disturbing premise in which the protagonist’s child is abducted and will only be released if she abducts another child.  The person who has abducted her child has likewise had their own child abducted and they will only be released once our main character abducts another.  Hence, the chain.  I’m about a third of the way through it and, whilst I find the writing a little strange at times with unusual turns of phrase standing out against the rest of the prose, the premise is strong enough to keep me engaged.  

The Not Alone series is just insane but I’m enjoying it because it’s comfortable.  Listening to it is like being reunited with old friends.  It’s a nice contrast to some of the more serious books I’ve been reading.  For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows a young man called Dan McCarthy who stumbles across proof that the US government is hiding contact with an alien civilization.  The series has a sprawling ensemble of characters and the narrator gives a unique voice to each of them.  Although the series starts in the US, it ventures across the whole planet and provides a global perspective rather than being Amerocentric.


7 thoughts on “2021 Reading Challenge – Part 1

  1. That is an incredible book target to aim for, fantastic that you got to 83 last year. Mine is a much more modest 25 this year – my ultimate aim is 52, a book a week, which I think will have to wait until I retire. I don’t do audiobooks unfortunately, my concentration drifts too much.

    Anyway, this is the first time I’ve seen someone track female/male authors they have read, I thought it was just me! I’ve not got actual %s or nice graphs like yours but a few years ago, I noticed that I barely read any books written by women (mainly due to the genre’s I read) so started to make an effort to read more books by female authors.

    I’m just catching up on your blog and your FIRE journey so hope you don’t mind random and out of sync comments!


    1. Hey, thanks for your interest in my blog 🙂

      Audiobooks are amazing. I tend to listen to them when I’m out and about or doing housework. Occasionally my attention wanders and I have to rewind it though!

      I realised some time ago that I wasn’t reading much by female authors. It wasn’t a conscious thing but I wanted to push myself to read new genres and new authors. As for the graphs, I’m a real spreadsheet geek haha!

      What sort of genres do you read?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read mostly sci-fi and fantasy, mixed up with a bit of crime/thrillers and some young adult fiction (again either sci-fi or fantasy).

        I think in the early days, I was put off by some women authors whose books were just romance novels disguised in futuristic or otherworld settings – not my cup of tea!

        I track my reading/books on Goodreads and have found some stats – in 2020, 25% of the books I read were written by women, compared to 2010, where it was only 15%. Not a vast improvement really, must try harder!

        I see that you read a lot more non-fiction than I do (I only manage a handful a year) but there are some fiction books which you have read which are on my to-read list, such as the James A Corey books (I love The Expanse tv show) and Liu’s Three Body Problem series (I’ve only read the first one) – too many books, too little time!


      2. I do like sci-fi as well, as you have probably noticed. The Expanse books are great. I watched the show first and then read the books. It can be a little jarring as there are some differences between the two, but I’d highly recommend the series. The second book in the Three Body Trilogy is incredible. It might be my favourite sci-fi book. There are way too many books lol. I’m going to go shopping for some more tomorrow though, now that the shops are open.

        Have you read anything by Emily St. John Mandel? I’ve read Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel by her and both are brilliant. It’s best to read Station Eleven first and then The Glass Hotel after. Whilst they are not directly related, there are a few nice connections between the two.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I usually read the books before I watch the show but I was partway through the Expanse before I realised it was based on a series of books.

        I loved Station Eleven, thanks for the tip on The Glass Hotel, I have added to my list to read.

        Also must get on with the The Three Body Trilogy seeing as you rate it so highly!


      4. Yeah, let me know how you get on with The Three Body Trilogy. I don’t know how I feel about the TV adaptation in the works. I fear they will Westernise it rather than keeping the Chinacentric setting.

        Liked by 1 person

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