Happy New Year (and Best Books I Read in 2021)!

happy new year 2021

So, first off, happy new year, and I hope everyone out there had a festive and safe holiday season!

Last year, I wanted to do a Year-in-Review post, but I was busy apartment hunting and getting stuff ready to move so I ran out of time. This year, I was really determined to do it, but my sister and mom decided to come stay with me for a while over Christmas, and then I came down with a cold (not COVID, just a run-of-the-mill but still annoying common cold).

As a result, I’m still sort of going to try to do one. However, it’ll be briefer than I was intending before, so let’s just call it a mini-Year-in-Review! It also includes a list of the Best Books I Read in 2021 at the end of the post).

How’d The Bibliofile Do in 2021?

2021 was a big year for the website. The site’s receiving over 3x the traffic now than it was this time last year, and it seems to have gained nearly 5,000 followers/subscribers across various platforms over the course of the year. Really exciting!

In terms of reading, I felt like I read all the new releases that I’d been really eager to read, though I didn’t chip away at as much of my TBR as I hoped I would. The backlist books that I did read were great though — I’ve noted some of my favorites at the end of this post.

I definitely hope to continue growing the site, and I know I haven’t really been great about keeping up with the social media channels (not my favorite part of running a website quite frankly), but overall I’m really pleased with now the year went, both in terms of the site’s performance and the books I read.

New Stuff in 2021

New Reviews, New Posts. I added around 50 new book reviews this year and even more than that in other types of posts. I’m pretty happy with this, though I’m hoping to do even more reviews in 2022! Also, thanks to some comments and feedback I got, I started writing up book discussion questions for more books. I really value feedback on how to make the site more useful, so if you ever have any thoughts, feel free to contact me directly (at jenn@the-bibliofile.com or drop a comment!

Ad-Free Subscriptions. I started a Patreon towards the end of 2020, but this was the first year it really got underway. It’s also the first year I started offering ad-free subscriptions. I’ve been amazed and appreciative at the many people who have taken the opportunity to support the site. It really motivates me to make the site better and to read and review more books!

Behind-the-Scenes Updates. A lot of the work I’ve done on this site in the past year isn’t really viewable, but I’ve worked hard on things like cutting out a lot of unneeded script and trying to make the code more efficient. As a user, this means faster load times and a better experience in general.

Home Office Set-up. Like many others this year, one way I helped get more productive this year was to get a proper home office setup going. The most essential parts of my new setup are probably the ergonomic stuff. I love my Steelcase Gesture office chair, which my back seems to appreciate, haha.

I also got a fancy Ergodox split mechanical keyboard. However, its ortholinear format (versus the standard staggered key format) and custom-mapped keys meant that I had to basically spend a whole month relearning how to type. I went from around 90 WPM to less than 30 WPM when I initially switched over. Ouch. That was a frustrating month, haha. But I strongly prefer the ergonomics of the split keyboard, and I think the custom-mapping has helped with my productivity.

Stuff I Hope to Work on in 2022

Most Read Books Podcast. The number one thing I wanted to get to this year, but didn’t was the podcast, Most Read Books. I made the first episode in 2019 and got everything set up for it, but I’ve been putting off investing time in it since there’s other aspects of the site I’ve been busy with.

That said, I definitely haven’t given up on this. I’ve been putting it off until I feel more confident that I’ll be able to post with some consistency, but it’s something I’m eager to get up and running. So, if you’ve noticed it and were hoping to give it a listen, I’m thinking sometime in 2022 this will really get underway.

The Instagram Account. The Bibliofile Instagram account has been somewhat neglected, but yeah I’m going to start updating that with the Book Club picks. I really stand by my book club picks and truly believe they represent some of the best new releases, so be sure to check them out if you’re looking for some book recommendations!

The Bibliofile Newsletter. This is less of a priority for me, but I’ve been meaning to sit down and figure out a format that will work for me (in terms of not being time-consuming) and will still be substantial enough to be worth sending out. I’ve considered automating parts of it (e.g. typing up some code to automatically generate a newsletter with new posts, etc.) but we’ll see. Not sure what my plan is on this end yet.

The TBR. Beyond the plans listed above, I’m hoping to chip away more at some older titles on my TBR (in addition to keeping up with new releases of course). Wish me luck!

Anyway, those are my plans for this year. I wish everyone a great 2022. I’ll close out this post with a list of the Best Books I Read in 2021!

Best Books I Read in 2021

Of the books I read this year, many of my favorite ones weren’t new releases, but rather stuff that I finally got checked off my TBR. So, this is a mixture of new and older books.

If I had to pick a Top 5 — it’d be (in no particular order) Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, The Push by Ashley Audrain, Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, and The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman.

Isabel Wilkerson

What It's About: The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.

“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance...

Publication Date: August 4, 2020
non fiction history race

The Push
Ashley Audrain

What It's About: An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had...

Publication Date: January 5, 2021
thriller mystery mystery thriller

Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller

What It's About: An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.

A thrilling, profoundly moving, and utterly unique retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War from the bestselling author of Circe.

A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad...

Publication Date: September 20, 2011
fantasy historical fiction romance

The Wonder
Emma Donoghue

What It's About: The Irish Midlands, 1859. An English nurse, Lib Wright, is summoned to a tiny village to observe what some are claiming as a medical anomaly or a miracle - a girl said to have survived without food for months. Tourists have flocked to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, and a journalist has come down to cover the sensation...

Publication Date: September 20, 2016
historical fiction mystery book club

The Thursday Murder Club
Richard Osman

What It's About: In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves...

Publication Date: September 3, 2020
mystery physical tbr dnf

Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr

What It's About: When everything is lost, it’s our stories that survive.

How do we weather the end of things? Cloud Cuckoo Land brings together an unforgettable cast of dreamers and outsiders from past, present and future to offer a vision of survival against all odds.

Constantinople, 1453:
An orphaned seamstress and a cursed boy with a love for animals risk everything on opposite sides of a city wall to protect the people they love...

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
historical fiction fantasy dnf

Project Hail Mary
Andy Weir

What It's About: Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time...

Publication Date: May 4, 2021
sci fi science fiction audiobook

The Last Graduate
Naomi Novik

What It's About: A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake...

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
young adult physical tbr dark academia

The Rose Code
Kate Quinn

What It's About: The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes...

Publication Date: March 9, 2021
historical fiction book club audiobook

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