Year in Review

Reading Goals: 2021 in Review, 2022 in Preview

I hit another personal record this year, although my first year of keeping a robust reading spreadsheet showed me that some of my goals were ill-formed. After reading 70 books last year, my spreadsheet shows 86 novels and novellas attempted this year and 80 finished, totaling a little under 32,000 pages read (average novel/novella page count: 384). Yay progress! But my goals said nothing about collections or anthologies, which I tracked alongside the longer works and not alongside short fiction. And short novellas in online magazines were tracked alongside short stories and not on my tab for extended work. So how many did I really read? I’m not sure. 90ish? Anyways, lesson learned, I’ll specify this year. But for now, let’s get to my goal categories, how I did, and how I’d like to do in 2022.

Backlist

2020: 37 traditionally published standalone/series-starting novels and novellas published before 2019.

2021 Goal: 10 traditionally published standalone/series-starting novels and novellas published before 2020 (at least five from my already-owned shelf).

2021 Stretch Goal: 20.

2021 Result: 22 (five from my already-owned shelf).

DNF Rate: 14%.

Mean Rating (Excluding DNFs): 14.6.

Liked It Rate (Scores of 14+, Excluding DNFs): 84%.

Loved It Rate (Scores of 17+, Excluding DNFs): 5% (It was The Poppy WarThat’s it.).

Analysis: After setting an aggressive goal for keeping up with new releases, I expected my backlist reading to take a step back. I still hit my stretch goal, so I can’t say that I got so distracted by the buzzy new books that I ignored the backlist entirely. But the mean rating of 14.6 is noticeably below my overall average of 15.2, because while I found a lot of books that I liked, having a DNF rate higher than my Loved It rate is. . . bad. There are so many books I’ve heard great things about that came out last decade, or even last century, and I’m sure there are gems to be found. Hopefully next year I can do a better job of finding them.

I think that my minimum goal was too easy and my stretch goal might’ve been a hair more aggressive than I’d prefer (I hit it, but in 2022 I want to actively avoid setting goals that are going to cause me stress when I’m not quite there in December–this is still just a hobby), so I’m going to split the difference. And I’m including collections with novels and novellas because it’ll simplify my book tracking.

2022 Goal: 15 traditionally published standalone/series-starting novels/novellas/collections published before 2021. Hopefully with more than one that I can fall in love with.

New Releases

2020: 6 traditionally published standalone/series-starting novels and novellas published in 2019 or 2020.

2021 Goal: 10 traditionally published standalone/series-starting novels and novellas published in 2020 or 2021.

2021 Stretch Goal: 20.

2021 Result: 30.

DNF Rate: 3%.

Mean Rating (Excluding DNFs): 15.0.

Liked It Rate (Excluding DNFs): 79%.

Loved It Rate (Excluding DNFs): 28%.

Analysis: With the Hugo Award voting delayed until November, I tried every book in six categories, easily exceeding the stretch goal. And I found a lot of books that I really loved here, although there were certainly quite a few that I found mediocre. But a lot of those were novellas, as I was vocal about disliking the Hugo Finalists for Best Novella in 2021, and having three three-star books (that were short enough that DNFing seemed pointless) in that category is largely responsible for dropping my Liked It rate under 80%. I’ll probably be more aggressive with the DNFs if the Hugo voting window shrinks back to normal size, but apart from that, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Oh, and because I’m signed up for NetGalley now, I’m going to include ARCs with the New Releases, for obvious reasons.

2022 Goal: 20 traditionally published standalone/series-starting novels/novellas/collections published in 2021, 2022, or 2023.

Self-Published

2020: 12 self-published standalone/series-started novels or novellas.

2021 Goal: 5.

2021 Stretch Goal: 10.

2021 Result: 14.

DNF Rate: 14%.

Mean Rating (Excluding DNFs): 14.1.

Liked It Rate (Excluding DNFs): 86%.

Loved It Rate (Excluding DNFs): 17%.

Analysis: I set these goals before I became a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, which took over a little bit. Having books assigned to me instead of choosing them myself is naturally going to decrease my enjoyment rate, which probably contributes to a mean rating well below my overall average of 15.2. But I still found a couple true gems, which strikes me as a win (note: I separate previews and extended previews from DNFs, so if I didn’t hit 25%, it’s not including in these numbers. That includes a lot from my first round SPSFC group, because our first pass consisted entirely of extended previews). At any rate, with SPSFC still in progress, there doesn’t seem to be much point in setting general self-published reading goals this year, so I’ll set a small goal for non-SPSFC self-published books.

2022 Goal: 3 self-published standalone/series-starting novels/novellas/collections that are not read as part of my role as an SPSFC judge.

Sequels

2020: 15 sequel novels and novellas.

2021 Goal: 10.

2021 Stretch Goal: 20.

2021 Result: 20.

DNF Rate: 0%.

Mean Rating: 16.3.

Liked It Rate: 85%.

Loved It Rate: 45%.

Analysis: My four favorite novels this year were sequels, and this category has by far my highest mean rating and highest rate of books that I loved. Is it any surprise? If I liked the first book enough to pick up the sequel, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to like the sequel. Anyways, I’m going to set a little bit less aggressive of a goal in 2022, because I only hit my 2021 goal by shamelessly counting the Stories of the Raksura collections (which admittedly each included at least one novella), but I should keep reading sequels, because for all that I get distracted by shiny new objects, I tend to enjoy myself when I’m continuing a series I like.

2022 Goal: 15 sequel novels/novellas/collections.

Diversity

2020: 53 distinct authors read, of which 33 were women and 11 were authors of color.

2021 Goal (Gender): 20 novels and novellas by distinct female authors.

2021 Result (Gender): 48 novels and novellas by women (42 distinct authors), 55 by authors who do not identify as men.

DNF Rate: 14% (for books by women).

Mean Rating (Excluding DNFs): 15.3.

Liked It Rate (Excluding DNFs): 86%.

Loved It Rate (Excluding DNFs): 27%.

Analysis: I’m not really comfortable just declaring that I’ve arrived on gender diversity in my reading, but for the second year in a row, I’ve read significantly more women than men, and I’ve generally liked them. I’ll keep tracking gender moving forward, but I’m not sure I really need a specific goal for next year. The sources I’ve found to feed my TBR are reliably giving me excellent female-authored books, and I expect they’ll continue. If that changes, I’ll reevaluate my goals for 2023.

2021 Goal (Race): 12 distinct authors of color, at least four of which are black or indigenous men.

2021 Stretch Goal (Race): 25 books by authors of color.

2021 Results: 28 books by authors of color (25 distinct authors, including six Black men).

DNF Rate: 11%.

Mean Rating (Excluding DNFs): 15.4.

Liked It Rate (Excluding DNFs): 92%.

Loved It Rate (Excluding DNFs): 32%.

Analysis: I more than doubled the number of authors of color I read this year, and they were apparently all great. I exaggerate a little, but that Loved It rate of 32% is the highest of any category but sequels (and I only read two sequels by authors of color this year, so it’s not like I stacked the deck). The mean rating of 15.4 isn’t otherworldly, but it’s still higher than any other category but sequels. I’ve just read a lot of good books by authors of color this year. I also spread the love, avoiding the pitfall of just binging genre titans like N.K. Jemisin or Octavia Butler and calling it diversification. At any rate, pushing myself to read more authors of color has been great for my reading, and I want to ensure I keep that up in 2022. Because I don’t get to pick my books for SPSFC, keeping the same goal as last year is pretty aggressive, but I think if I’m going to be aggressive in any category, this is the one to pick.

2022 Goal: 25 novels/novellas/collections by authors of color.

Competitions and Challenges

2020: Completed one themed Bingo card (all women), started a second card that would be completed by the March 31, 2021 deadline.

2021 Goal: Complete a Bingo card by March 31, 2022, cast informed Hugo votes for Best Novel, Best Novelette, and Best Short Story.

2021 Stretch Goal: Complete an all-sequel Bingo card by March 31, 2022, cast informed Hugo votes for Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, and Best YA Novel.

2021 Results: I’m well on my way to completing an all-hard mode and an all-sequel Bingo card, and I cast informed Hugo votes for Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best New Writer, and Best YA Novel.

Analysis: This has been a success, but I feel like way too much of my reading time has been spent trying to hit these goals. With a shorter Hugo reading window next year, there’s no way I’ll be able to vote in as many categories as I did this year, and I am absolutely not trying two themed Bingo cards next year.

2022 Goal: Complete one regular and one themed Bingo card by March 31, 2023, cast informed Hugo votes for Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, and Best Short Story.

Short Fiction

2020: Roughly 25 short stories.

2021 Goal: 75 short stories and novelettes.

2021 Stretch Goal: 150 short stories and novelettes.

2021 Result: 142* short stories and novelettes.

Mean Rating: 15.2.

Liked It Rate: 86%.

Loved It Rate: 26%.

Analysis: So the asterisk is because I didn’t track short stories within collections as part of my short fiction reading, and I did track short novellas in web magazines as part of my short fiction reading. I think it’s safe to say that I was over 150, although I didn’t record ratings for the ones in collections. Still, it’s interesting to see that my mean short fiction rating is exactly identical to my mean novel/novella rating. At any rate, my goal next year will be explicitly for stories that aren’t part of collections, so I’ll dial it back a hair.

2022 Goal: 100 short stories and novelettes (and short novellas in web magazines) that are not read as part of a collection.

Miscellaneous

2021 Goals: A solo reread, a middle-grade novel, and more DNFs than ratings under 13.

2021 Results: No solo reread, two middle-grade novels, six DNFs, and eight ratings under 13.

Analysis: The TBR is so long and distracting that I couldn’t force myself into a reread, even though there are several books that I’d theoretically like to reread. I liked both middle grade novels I read, and one was a true gem. Seven of my eight ratings under 13 were books I read for either SPSFC (2) or the Hugos (5), so I don’t really feel that bad about coming short on that goal.

2022 Goals: I’d definitely like to repeat my Read a Middle-Grade Novel goal–it went well. I’d also like to Read a Horror Novel. I actually did that once in 2021 and enjoyed it, though it’s far out of my wheelhouse. And there are so many horror classics that I haven’t read that the options are wide open. I’ve also begun to notice that my bookish social media is somewhat bifurcated between the Hugo crowd and other SFF fans whose tastes may fit more firmly within established tropes. Obviously, I’ve gone all in on the Hugo reading and have enjoyed myself quite a bit, but surely that group isn’t the only one making good suggestions. So I’d like to Read a Favorite of the Other Side of My Social Circles. Neither The Shadow of the Gods nor The Blacktongue Thief–a couple of this year’s favorites–really pique my interest, but Miles Camerson’s Artifact Space looks pretty intriguing, as does Brian Naslund’s Blood of an Exile (which I had initially dismissed entirely based on the title and cover), and Robert V. S. Reddick’s Master Assassins has a tremendous hype train coming out of the same corners that brought Senlin Ascends to my attention. For this category, I’m excluding self-published and formerly self-published books, because that side of my social feed is heavily involved in SPFBO and tends to contribute most of my self-published recommendations already.

After the 2021 Hugo Award Finalists for Best Novella were all published by Tordotcom, I’m also making it a point to Read Two Novellas That Aren’t Published by Tordotcom (I say two because I’ve already been waiting months for my library hold on Adrian Tchaikovsky’s One Day All This Will Be Yours to come in, so one should be a gimme). And I’m also committing myself to Track Kindle Locations in Addition to Page Counts (when applicable) because it’s driving me crazy not having a good idea of how those correlate.

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