Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Best of 2021


In so many ways, 2021 has been an awful year--if only because of the ongoing pandemic and the refusal of others to do even the most basic things to protect themselves and others. But this is not the place for rants about things like that...This is a place to celebrate reading and to review my reading journey over the last year. And...when we look at that...2021 was a very good year, indeed. It's been a very long time since I managed to top 200 books read. And for the first time since I put the Mount TBR Challenge together, I finally managed to plant my flag atop Mount Olympus on Mars (and even keep reading). Olympus (read at least 150 books from my own TBR stacks) has always been my ultimate goal, even though my declared goal is Mount Everest (100 books). The one year I openly declared Olympus as my challenge goal, I failed miserably and I decided not to do that again. But this year, I loaded up the rocket ship back in September and headed to Mars. I had 100 books under my belt and needed a mere 50 more to plant my flag. I finished the Mount TBR challenge with 183 of my own books read and moved off of the mountain range. 

You'd think that would leave me with little to read in future. Ha! I need to clear about 15 more Mount Olympus-sized piles out of the TBR range (I'll let you do the math on that one...). I certainly can't complain that I have nothing left to read. 

Other victories include completing all of the challenge goals I set myself for 2021 (all 29 of them). The only challenge that didn't get marked complete is the Nancy Drew Challenge which is ongoing and for which I did not set a goal for 2021--I started too late in the year. Overall, a very satisfying year for this challenge-aholic. What do the rest of my reading stats look like?

Books Read: 244
Books Owned & Read: 183
Number of Rereads: 23%
Pages Read: 49,357
Percentage Mystery: 84%
Percentage Nonfiction: 4%
Percentage by Women: 48%
Percentage Written 2000+: 27%
Percentage Non-US/UK: 18%
Non-US/UK Countries represented: Africa (indeterminate), Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt,  France, Germany,  Greece, Iraq, Macao, Mexico, Middle East (indeterminate),  Netherlands, Spain, Syria, Russia...and Outer Space

Top Vintage Mysteries of 2021 (no rereads)
DeKok & Variations on Murder by A. C. Baantjer (Silver Age, 1984; 4 stars)
Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs (Golden Age, 1942; 4 stars)
The Bride of Newgate by John Dickson Carr (Golden Age, 1950; 4 stars)
Drink to Yesterday by Manning Coles (Golden Age, 1940; 4 stars)
Hang the Little Man by John Creasey (Silver Age, 1963; 4 stars)
The Christmas Card Crime by Martin Edwards, ed. (All but one of the short stories = Golden Age reprints; 4 stars)
Crimson Snow by Martin Edwards, ed. (Golden Age reprints; 4 stars)
Serpents in Eden by Martin Edwards, ed. (Golden Age reprints; 4 stars)
Silent Nights by Martin Edwards, ed. (Golden Age reprints; 4 stars)
A Surprise for Christmas by Martin Edwards, ed. (All but one of the short stories = Golden Age reprints; 4 stars)
Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon (Golden Age, 1939; 4 stars)
Hunt the Tortoise by E. X. Farrars (Golden Age, 1950; 4 stars)
The Conjure-Man Dies by Rudolph Fisher (Golden Age, 1932; 4 stars)
The Arsenal Stadium Mystery by Leonard R. Gribble (Golden Age, 1939; 4 stars)
The Five Assassins by Owen Fox Jerome (Golden Age, 1958; 4 stars)
Fire in the Thatch by E. C. R. Lorac (Golden Age, 1946; 4 stars)
Two-Way Murder by E. C. R. Lorac (Golden Age--but not printed till 2021; 4.5 stars)
Bodies from the Library by Tony Medawar, ed. (Golden Age reprints; 4 stars)
A Silver Spade by Louisa Revell (Golden Age, 1950; 4 stars)
Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? by Basil Thomson (Golden Age, 1936; 4 stars)
The Sands of Windee by Arthur W. Upfield (Golden Age, 1931; 4 stars)
The Kennel Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine (Golden Age, 1933; 4 stars)
Avon Giant Mystery Reader by various (Golden Age, 1951; 4 stars)
No Medals for the Major by Margaret Yorke (Silver Age, 1974; 4 stars)
The Perfect Crime (aka The Big Bow Mystery) by Israel Zangwill (Golden Age, 1892; 4 stars)

Top Modern Mysteries 2021 (no rereads)
A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch (2011; 4 stars)
Death in Daylesford by Kerry Greenwood (2020; 4 stars)
The Appeal by Janice Hallett (2021; 4.5 stars)
What the Devil Knows by C. S. Harris (2021; 4 stars)
When Falcons Fall by C. S. Harris (2016; 4.5 stars)
Where the Dead Lie by C. S. Harris (2017; 4.5 stars)
Who Buries the Dead by C. S. Harris (2015; 4.5 stars)
Who Slays the Wicked by C. S. Harris (2019; 4.5 stars)
Who Speaks for the Damned by C. S. Harris (2020; 4.5 stars)
Why Kill the Innocent by C. S. Harris (2018; 5 stars)
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (2019; 5 stars)
The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell (2021; 5 stars)
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman (2021; 4 stars)
Murder at Archly Manor by Sara Rosett (2018; 4 stars)
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Murder at Sorrow's Crown by Steven Savile & Robert Greenberger (2016; 4 stars)
Murder at Feathers & Flair by Lee Strauss (2017; 4 stars)
Murder on the S. S. Rosa by Lee Strauss (2017; 4 stars)
The Devil & Dark Water by Stuart Turton (2020; 4 stars)

Top Fiction 2021 (no rereads)
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (4 stars)
The 13th Warrior (aka Eaters of the Dead) by Michael Crichton (4 stars)
Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love & Reunion introduced by Kristin Hannah (4 stars)
The Bookwanderers by Anna James (5 stars)
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (4 stars)
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix (5 stars)

Top Nonfiction 2021 (no rereads)
Women Heroes of World War II by Kathryn J. Atwood (4 stars)
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogle (4 stars)
Taking Detective Fiction Seriously: The Collected Crime Reviews of Dorothy L. Sayers by Martin Edwards (5 stars)
My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (4 stars)
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (4 stars)

Monthly P.O.M. (Pick of the Month) Award Winners
January: Crimson Snow by Martin Edwards, ed.
  Special Non-Mystery P.O.M.: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
February: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
March: Bodies from the Library by Tony Medawar, ed.
  Special Nonfiction P.O.M.: Taking Detective Fictions Seriously by Martin Edwards
April: Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? by Basil Thomson
May: Who Buries the Dead by C. S. Harris
June: Why Kill the Innocent by C. S. Harris
July: Two-Way Murder by E. C. R. Lorac
August: The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell
September: The Appeal by Janice Hallett
October: The Five Assassins by Owen Fox Jerome
November: Murder at Feathers & Flair by Lee Strauss
December: Spare Time for Murder by John Gale

Now...before we move on to the big winner of 2021--the P.O.Y. (Pick of the Year) Award, I have a few other awards to hand out.

The "What the Heck Did I Just Read Award" goes to The Adventure of the Peerless Peer by Philip Jose Farmer (as by John Watson, M. D.). Previous to reading this, I thought The Veiled Detective by David Stuart Davies was the worst Holmes pastiche possible. I was wrong.

The "No, You're Not Anything Like Agatha Chrisite--Really Award" goes to In the Crypt with a Candlestick by Daisy Waugh. She's not much like P. G. Wodehouse, either.  She wins a special bonus award--the "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover Award"--as well and not in a good way. This is not a twenties-style mystery--art deco cover notwithstanding.

The "Why Weren't You Like the Other Books Award" goes to Death Among the Stars by Kenneth Giles. Up till DAtS, I was really enjoying the Inspector James and Sergeant Honeybody series. I'm not sure what happened here...

The "Hold My Beer Award" goes to Naked Came the Manatee by Carl Hiassen, Dave Barry, and a host of others. This was supposed to be a "deliciously twisted...wild romp." As I said in my review: Every time it seemed like one of the writers was trying to give us a mystery that had some sort of continuity to it, then the next writer would have to throw in something to throw the rhythm off. It seemed to me that most of the writers were playing a game of one-upmanship. "Oh, you introduced that character and that complication? Well...hold my beer and watch this!"

And, finally, the "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button Award" goes to Gertrude Stein's Blood on the Dining Room Floor. Only it's not a button that's's the plot. I don't know what Stein did with it, but I couldn't find it for love or money. Maybe she hid it under the dining room floor. The real mystery here is why on earth anyone thought this was a murder mystery.

And now (cue drum roll) it's time to declare this year's Mystery Pick of the Year. There weren't quite as many 4.5- and/or 5-star reads this year as has been the case in past years. But those that I did read were awfully good--from the unusual House on Vesper Sands to the Magpie Murders to several by C. S. Harris. It is a really big departure from the norm that there was only one vintage mystery to reach 4.5 status and none that garnered a full 5 stars. E. C. R. Lorac's newly published Two-Way Murder was a delight to read and I'm so glad that the British Library Crime Classics series brought this long-forgotten, unpublished work to us. But...given the the stats and the number of 4, 4.5. and 5 stars that C. S. Harris claimed from me this year and the fact that for the first time in a very long time I am on the edge of my seat waiting for an author to produce the next installment in a series (c'mon, Harris, I want to see When Blood Lies...pronto)...I absolutely have to give the Pick of the Year Award to Harris's 5-star winner: 


Robin M said...

Congratulations on making it to Mount Olympus. Fireworks are going off in celebration. I love you What the Heck Did read and other awards. I'll have to dive into C.S. Harris's Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries one of these days. Cheers!

Gretchen said...

It's so much fun to see yearly wrap up posts! Congratulations on finishing all your challenges and reading so many books from your shelves. I have C.S. Harris' series on my TBR. Maybe 2022 will be the year I get to it.

Happy New Year!