• NJ Holden

Book of The Year 2021

Goodreads have sent me a yearly update, so let’s take a moment to reflect.

That was a shitty year for reading. GR says I’ve read 49 “books”, but many of them are just short stories (and 10 are anthologies). The average book length is 116 pages, less than 6k pages overall. In 2019 I had over 9k and I started from bloody April. 2020 was over 15k! (Though I think that year I added a lot of books that I read in the past). 2021 sucked.


In my defense, I managed to write/edit/publish a lot. Finally got The Outworlder out. So it was a good year for writing, bad for reading. Overall, a so-so year.


Review-wise it’s better. The average rating is 4.2, compared to 3.8 for 2020 and 3.9 in 2019. The first rating of the year was 4*, compared to 1* in 2020, though 2019 was also 4*.

For most of the novels that I read, I couldn’t really get into them. If the premise was great, writing sucked. If writing was great, the story sucked. If writing and story were okay, the characters were insufferable. As for the anthologies, they were all mixed bags: some stories I loved, many I already forgot, and a handful I loathed.

Add to that that I was constantly tired, depressed, and burned out from constant work, and we have ourselves a shitty, shitty year.

But the worst thing is, my favorite book was the one I beta read (why, yes, there was only one). I can’t wait for it to be published so I can recommend it, but it may take a few years, and now I have nothing to put in my “books of the year”.

Well, okay, I have two.

The Linguist by C. F.Welburn – this book is dark as fuck, it has one of the best writings that I encountered in the last few years. It tells a story of a man obsessed with the knowledge that no mortals should possess and willing to sacrifice everything to acquire it.



The Price of Meat by KJ Charles – when I reach for KJ Charles's novels, I expect sweet historical gay romance with a bit of smut. This is... as far from that one could get. Maybe that's why it stayed with me.

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo – technically I read it in December 2020, but it was after the last “book of the year was posted”, so fuck it, I’m counting it. It was a really fascinating story about members of two very different populations recalling the story of their ancient heroines who met and fell in love and… Well, you have to decide for yourself what really happened. I loved it.


Remember, these are not the books that got the perfect rating from me, but the books that moved me and stayed with me, so that even months after I still think about them.

I have around 30 books lined up for the next year (including a few series starters, but shut up). Hopefully, I’ll be able to read them all. But also, a few of my friends are about to publish their books that I’m really waiting forward to reading, so we’ll see. With my executive dysfunction anything may happen.

Here’s to the better 2022!


What was the best book that you read in 2021?

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