My 2021 in books and Blyton

Last year I did more in-depth round up of my year in books, so I think I’ll try to stick to the same format this year.

As I said last year (yes I’m being lazy and have copy and pasted this): Every year I set some reading goals. The main one is how many books – I generally start with a goal of 100 and if if I hit that early I’ll increase it, and I also have some looser goals that I don’t put actual numbers on.

Goal: read at least 100 books

Last year I aimed for 150 and read 166, but I was on furlough for 7 months last year, while this year I only had two months on furlough. So I aimed for 100 books and read 121, which I am more than happy with.

Goal: Read more new books than rereads

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with re-reading old favourites, I love revisiting childhood books as well as things I first read a few years ago and enjoyed. I am blessed with the sort of memory which means I can reread a murder mystery two or three years later and still not remember who did it, but some books are so good that even if I do remember it doesn’t matter, I’ll still enjoy it.

Having said that, I think anyone would miss out massively if they only ever re-read books. I know I would which is why I try to strike a good balance whereby I read at least as many new books as I do old ones. Last year I read 115 new to 51 old, which is a great result for me.

This year I read 27 that I had already read before and 94 that were new.

I am terrible at maths but the internet tells me that last year 70% of my books were new, this year 78% were. Obviously that doesn’t take into account the length of those books, but either way, I hit that goal!

The rereads

Most of my re-reads came from me re-reading the whole Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry. I’ve read the first five probably a dozen times, the last three I bought as a grown up so I’ve read them a little less often.

Another series I revisited is the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris, about a librarian who solves murders. I’ve read these all at least once before, in print, this time I’m listening to the audiobooks. I listened to six of the ten books last year but the covers aren’t very inspiring so I’ll just show three.

My re-reading of all the Buffy novels didn’t really get very far as I only managed two, and though I did continue with the Kinsey Millhone books, I only read two of those as well.

Most, but not all, of my Blytons were re-reads as well, but I will get to them later.

The new

There are too many new ones to list, but a few things I ‘discovered’ were:

The Robert Langdon books by Dan Brown. ‘Where have you been?’ I hear you ask. ‘Those books were huge about fifteen years ago, and now everyone hates them.’

Well, I’m almost always late to a good reading party. I just never had the inclination to read them before, but as they’re always on those ‘must read’ lists, I thought I’d give them a go. And, I really liked them. They were clever, fast-paced and I just tore through them. They were ridiculous, like the biggest summer blockbusters on 500 pages, but great fun. I really must watch the films now.

I was also late to the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children party. I have seen the film of that, though. I’ve been meaning to read the book – or as it turned out – books for a while, and now I’ve read the first two and I loved them. The fact all the photos inside are real vintage ones is just brilliant.

I was a little less late to the Thursday Murder Club party, I read that not long after the second book came out. I’m not sure I completely understood the hype – it was good, but only from about the half-way point on.

Goal: Read some books I’ve always meant to

My list of books to read is probably a mile long at this point, many of which have been there years yet I’ve never got around to them.

Lately I’ve tired to focus on reading one classic a year, reading some books that have inspired film or TV adaptations that I’ve enjoyed, and books that seem to appear on every ‘must read’ list.

The classics

This is the point that I rack my brain to recall if I did actually read any classics.

If we discount children’s ones (for the moment) then yes, I read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – so chosen as I knew it was pretty short.

The children’s classics (all in audiobook format) were Alice in Wonderland (I could take it or leave it) The Secret Garden (I loved it), and The Phoenix and the Carpet (good, but not as good as the first book).

The books adapted for screen

As I’ve said before I love reading books that films were based on, and seeing films that were based on books, regardless of which order that happens in. I’ve already mentioned quite a few that have been adapted – a few of the Robert Landon ones, Miss Peregrine, and the above four classics. I also think that some of the Aurora Teagarden books have been made into TV movies though I haven’t seen any of them.

I can add to that Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (seen), 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (not seen) The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (seen) and The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (not seen).

Books on all those ‘must read’ lists

I ticked off quite a few must read books this year though I think I’ve mentioned all of them already.

The Robert Langdons, Gone Girl, Of Mice and Men, The Book Thief and Alice in Wonderland certainly all appear on a lot of lists – though they do not necessarily all appear on the same lists.

One that appears on some perhaps more niche lists (lists of paranormal fiction, or books you will like if you like Jodi Taylor, Ben Aaronovitch and Jasper Fforde) was Soulless – the first Parasol Protectorate book by Gail Carriger. I liked it, but not as much as anything by the three names above, and so I’ve not picked up any more of the series yet. It may be one of those ones that takes time to really get into.

Goal: Find a good balance between books for children’s and books for grown ups

Again, there’s nothing wrong with loving children’s fiction – there have been so many amazing books published for children, and more come out every day. But it is easy for me to fall into reading too many children’s books as on the whole they are much easier than books for grown ups. I think it’s important to challenge myself as I usually end up loving the grown up books I do read.

Last year I read 104 grown up books to 56 for children, and 6 for teens/young adults.

This year I read 77 for grown ups,  36 for children and 8 for teens/young adults, so percentage-wise not too different.


Goal: Read more feministly

This was a new goal last year and I did reasonably well, but I have shirked a bit in 2021.

I read a short book We Are Feminist, which was all infographics, by Helen Pankhurst (the great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst).

The only other one I could count is The Radium Girls by Kate Moore, which looks at the appalling treatment of women who worked in American dial painting factories in the 1920s. Although there were men affected by radium poisoning – it was sold as a health tonic! – the book focuses on a group of women, generally lowly paid and not listened to when their health began to fail in horrific ways. The book details their long fight to have recognition that their work was the cause of their illnesses, some of the women fighting until their deaths.

I got a couple of interesting feminist books for my Christmas so my 2022 can start off well for this goal.

I have added a new goal along with this one, though, which is to read more about Black history and rights. I would have said read more racistly, but that just sounds like the opposite to what I want to achieve.

For that I read Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and How To Argue With a Racist by Adam Rutherford.

Read more non-fiction

Obviously the above books on feminism and race are non-fiction but I think reading some of those last year reminded me that I should be reading more non-fiction in general.

I didn’t do a fiction vs non fiction count last year, but this year it was 22 non fiction to 99 fiction, which isn’t bad at all. A few of the non fiction were short photo-histories with descriptive captions, but most were of a decent length.

A few of my favourites from this year were The Radium Girls from above, a book that has really, really stuck with me, but also The Butchering Art – the story of how Joseph Lister revolutionised surgery (after a whole lot of fighting back from other surgeons) by introducing asepsis.

I also enjoyed some books about books – The Book Lovers’ Miscellany and The Library Book.

I am not a huge memoir reader (with the exception of historical nurses/midwives) but now and again I like to read more recent ones. This year I enjoyed Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher and Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills.

How did the pandemic affect my reading?

Last year it affected me more, I think, in that it gave me more reading time, but deprived me of my usual source of books – the library.

This year I was busier, and had access to the library again, but I think I’ve just gotten very tired of the strain and stress of living in a pandemic and so I went through several phases of not even picking up a book because I couldn’t be bothered.

Last year I read 73 ebooks, 51 physical books and 42 audiobooks.

This year it was 27 ebooks, 66 physical books and 28 audiobooks. Audiobooks take a lot longer to get through than reading the equivalent in text so with less time this year it’s not surprising those have taken a big hit. I also read less ebooks as I was able to borrow from the library again.

(As an aside I don’t think that the format matters, they all count equally, I just like to see the numbers!)

And finally, my Blytons

Well, this is what you’re here for, isn’t it?

As with last year I read embarrassingly few Blytons for someone who blogs about her every single week.

I was carrying on my reviews of the Famous Five books of which I managed four:

Five Go to Mystery Moor
Five Have Plenty of Fun
Five on a Secret Trail 
Five Go to Billycock Hill

I also read two new (to me) Blytons:

The Big Noddy Book #6
Chimney Corner Stories

I did read some things that are Blyton-related, or Blyton-adjacent, if you like.

Such as the excellent biography of her writing career – Enid Blyton the Untold Story by Brian Carter.

I also read a couple of continuation books, though all from quite different perspectives.

Well Done the Naughtiest Girl by Anne Fine
Five Go Parenting by Bruno Vincent
Return to Kirrin by Neil and Suzy Howlett

The unofficial one – Return to Kirrin – is the only one worth reading out of those three by the way.

There was also the truly awful Island of Adventure based on the also terrible tv episode, but the less said about that the better.

And then there are few of the if you like Blyton type of books.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Mystery of Tully Hall by Zoe Billings

Did you hit your reading goals last year?

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1 Response to My 2021 in books and Blyton

  1. chrissie777 says:

    I wish I could read more new books, however, over the past 15+ years I’ve noticed a decline in newly published fascinating books (which might be partly to be blamed on e-books).
    Thanks to, and I am aware of new novels and check them out online, but most of the time the plot is not very interesting.

    I don’t think my literary taste has changed, but the literary landscape has changed. There are too many books about fantasy/SciFi, books by Asian authors, Indian authors etc which all really don’t interest me. And at the same time there are less books by British, American and Canadian authors than ever before.

    The few highlights over the past 5 years were “Tunnel 29” by Helena Merriman, “The Ride of her Life” by Elizabeth Letts, the Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy, the Dan Brown books, the Marseille trilogy by Jean-Claude Izzo and everything that Charlotte Link (a German author whose crime novels also get translated into English) and Mary Higgins Clark published.
    Unfortunately MHC died a year ago which leaves me with one less favorite author. So this year I’ll re-read her 45+ books that I collected since the early 1980’s.

    As my other favorite authors Douglas Kennedy, Peter Robinson, Nelson DeMille, Carlene Thompson and Nancy Thayer only publish one book per year, there is not much for me left to catch up with.
    So I read more and more novels which were published in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s (I request them at the local library). Some of them are pretty suspenseful and the outcome of their plots is not as easy to guess as with many new crime novels today.
    Sometimes I think that maybe all possible criminal situations in a crime/mystery novel have already been described over the past 90 years (since Agatha Christie started writing) and that’s why nothing really new is being published in the mystery/crime area?

    This year I’ll re-read Patricia Highsmith, Camilla Laeckberg, Victoria Holt, Colette Davenat and also lots of WW II non-fiction books. And of course EB, probably the Mystery series as I haven’t re-read it in years.


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