All the Books I Read in 2021

Well, it was another year full of chaos, which may or may not have stifled my reading from time to time. I actually started 2021 off with a bang, finishing a book every couple weeks or so. Thankfully, my corner of the world managed to get through the year without another lockdown, so things remained mostly normal for me. But again, I’m a mom with a kid in school and a really shitty routine that consists of very little time to myself.

My Complete 2021 Reading List

I did better than last year and read a total of 18 books, which still falls well short of my list from 2019. Here’s the full list of books completed in order:

  1. Into the Darkness – V.C. Andrews
  2. Hausfrau – Jill Alexander Essbaum
  3. Divided Politics, Divided Nation – Darrell M. West
  4. Ruby – V.C. Andrews
  5. Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough
  6. If I Was Your Girl – Meredith Russo
  7. The Knife – R.L. Stine
  8. The House of Fand – Anne Maybury
  9. Let Love Come Last – Taylor Caldwell
  10. My Sweet Audrina – V.C. Andrews
  11. The Devil’s Mirror – Miriam Lynch
  12. Party Summer – R.L. Stine
  13. Whitefern – V.C. Andrews
  14. The Clock Winder – Anne Tyler
  15. My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones
  16. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty – Anne Rice
  17. Castle on the Loch – Caroline Farr
  18. Anomalies & Curiosities: An Anthology of Gothic Medical Horror – Various Authors

My Favourite 2021 Reads

Hausfrau – Jill Alexander Essbaum – I’d meant to read this one several years ago and never got around to it. But I found a copy at a thrift store and eagerly dove in at the beginning of the year. And my gosh, it was both sexy and so entirely sad. The prose, however, was just so absolutely up my alley. The book proved just a tad bit into the literary realm but this is honestly the kind of novel that I enjoy most of all. I mean, it’s depressing AF but the great sex scenes helped, so yeah. I highly recommend it.

Let Love Come Last – Taylor Caldwell – I mentioned this book in my moodboard for my short story “Little Black Death”. I found this book in early summer and devoured most of it during that horrendous heat dome that B.C. suffered through in the early days of July. And honestly, as horrible as that time was for me and my climate anxiety, this book cemented a few decent memories I have of the summer. Sitting outside in a paddling pool with the kids while sweating my ass off? Heck yes. This book isn’t my normal fare but I DEVOURED the total non-romance of the couple centred in the book. It was so real and so complex and so utterly gripping. It motivated my gothic heart to write more, and really proved a pivotal read for me this year.

The Clock Winder – Anne Tyler – This was yet another random find, which kind of goes to show that I should just trust my got instant when picking out books. I plot of this one wasn’t without a few flaws, but I really enjoyed the hell out of Anne Tyler’s writing style and it really inspired me to branch away from some of my own writing crutches. This book is essentially a family drama, but focuses on a girl who ends up becoming the repairman and finds herself tangled inside of all the dramzzzzzz. It was so odd but gripping and proved a very quick read for me. I’ll definitely be picking up more Anne Tyler books in the future.

2021 Goals Achieved?

My favourite part of these posts is seeing whether or not I achieved all my reading goals, so here’s what I planned on doing.

  • Read more small press / friends’ books! – I did read Anomalies & Curiosites from Quill & Crow Publishing House and I’ve befriended all the authors within the pages, but like, that was my only small press book and I WAS IN IT, so I refuse to accept this single read as acceptable. I know I need to do better. My main issue is that I didn’t wanna pay for American shipping and I ended up at too many local used bookstores, so I read locally, which isn’t essentially a problem. But small presses ain’t gonna get no love if I don’t play a few mail workers to ship the dang books to me, so imma gonna go better next year, I swear.
  • Read at least TWO non-fiction books. – Kinda accepted that podcasts are more my way of getting enlightened about how shitty the world is.
  • Read more diverse voices. I read If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, a trans author, as well as My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, who is native. I feel a bit guilty using two books to cross this off, because I could always be seeking out more,
  • Reread a book! Any book! I reread Ruby and My Sweet Audrina from my teenage days and it was wonderful to reflect back on how adult me resonated with those books. I know I still have to do my Ruby review but the Lifetime movies of the Landry series really burnt me out from that saga.

2021 Reading Takeaways

I started off with a lot of hope, honestly, but reading is all about enjoyment, and here are some of the lessons that I’ll take into 2022.

I don’t have time for non-fiction.

I realized that I could read a couple books at a time, usually reading one at night as I usually do, and reading a non-fiction book like Darrell West’s Divided Politics, Divided Nation at work and while cooking during the day. I enjoyed the break between fiction and non-fiction, but then when those chaotic school days started to drain me, I was unable to keep up the non-fiction daytime reading, and I sadly only read one non-fiction book this year. *sigh* I mean, part of my problem was trading the reading to just keep up on current events via Kyle Kulinski, who I maybe might have this weird nerdy crush on, but I’m a horny housewife now and I’ve accepted this reality for myself.

I’ll never finish my TBR pile, but I am honoring it in other ways.

On the other hand, I DID find a new joy in genre horror, particularly gothic horror. While I did originally start buying the shit out of gothic paperbacks just for the covers, I did enjoy the small thrills in Anne Maybury’s The House of Fand. However, what really got me was some of the more “literary” books kind of rebranded as gothic horrors like Let Love Come Last by Taylor Caldwell and The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler. I quite enjoyed both these books and was really happy to find new writers whose works I can devour.

Another genre I collected was 90s pre-teen horror:

The Netflix Fear Street movies got me into reading a couple of R.L. Stine’s classics. Didn’t end up finding the desire to dive into the Christopher Pike books, as my literary tastes went everywhere this year, but I’ve got quite the TBR pile now taking space on literal walls of my house now. Most of these books will just be wall art, but I like the idea of featuring books around the house this way and I do plan on doing the same little showcase for my gothic paperbacks.

I need to read *smarter* because I’m a mom.

This year my biggest realization was that I’ve definitely hit that exhausted mom stage of life. Some books just proved a slog to read, quite honestly. I really, really hoped to enjoy My Heart is a Chainsaw but I could barely read two pages before nodding off each night, and the prose style was IMPOSSIBLE for my depleted-ass mom brain to process. I actually had to stop reading it in the fall just because I couldn’t remember what I’d read the night before, and so I went back to reading Castle on the Loch, which was a pretty bad mainstream gothic tale that I’m sure moms in the 70s likely devoured. Its story wasn’t great, but the simple prose made for an easy read in my sleep-deprived state.

I also read Anne Rice’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (which was a reread from my high school days!) and I finally realized exactly why so many middle-aged women enjoy reading really shitty erotica, is because it provides escapist reading in consumable doses. I can feel like I’ve “lived a life” and also “read a book” at the same damn time?! I get it now! I get it, horny moms! Like, I ain’t gonna start picking up any Sylvia Day books (because billionaires aren’t fucking sexy), but I plan on selectively filling next year’s TBR pile with some good gothic romance tales.

I STILL didn’t read enough V.C. Andrews.

Once again, beloved readers of the Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews Reviews, I did let you down. Next year I hope to read more of the Neiderman-penned books, as they’re much easier to scathingly review. I know that you all want me to get into the Dollanganger series but the books penned by Andrews herself are SO MUCH HARDER to critique because they’re much more complex and I really just enjoy hating on Neiderman.

Goals for 2022

Learning all that I did last year, I’m going to be even more realistic.

  • Read 15 books.
  • Read EVEN MORE small press and friends.
  • Read EVEN MORE diverse voices.
  • Read an entire V.C. Andrews series.

How much did you read in 2021?

Let me know in the comments. I’m glad I didn’t completely bail on this year. There were patches where I had no desire to read at all but I plugged away at my books and picked what made me happy.