how I read: 2021 edition


I read 59 books in 2020. I’ve read 41 so far this year, which means I’m pacing for 54 in 2021. People often ask how I read so much. 

  • I read most nights before bed. I try to not bring my phone into my bedroom, which helps. 
  • I barely watch tv! That’s honestly probably the biggest contributor.
  • I likely do read faster than average (not sure by how much). 
  • I tend to have 2-3 books going at once, so I can dip into whatever I’m in the mood for that day. 
  • I never set annual quantity goals. They’re way too easy to game!  
    • This also means I abandon with zeal books that aren’t doing it for me. Life is way too short to keep slogging. 
    • I noticed that when I subscribed to a weekly magazine as a pandemic treat, it noticeably cut into my book reading time. 
    • I also read tons on the internet. 
  • I started tracking % of books I read by women and BIPOC 5 years ago. A bunch of my friends have started doing the same, which I’m proud of 🙂 
  • One of my favorite treats is the Single Sitting Novel.

what I read  

  • Mostly literary fiction. The nonfiction I read tends to be about psychology, writing, or business. Books are overwhelmingly from the last few years. 
  • I discover books I want to read through podcasts, Twitter, and Metafilter. I also get book recs from close friends who work in media, though this is infuriating because they’re normally for books that won’t come out for another 6 months 🙃 
  • I find Goodreads useful for being able to see which of my friends have read a book and what they thought, but I hate giving Amazon even more data… I wish a critical mass of my friends used something else. 
  • I used to be in multiple monthly book clubs, which dictated a lot of my reading. 


  • More on book clubs:
    • I love times when I come in not liking the book and leave understanding its brilliance. 
    • I literally majored in History and Literature yet often feel insecure about how perceptively I’m reading. 
    • I did so much growing in book clubs (learning that my opinions could still be valid even if other disagreed. I was so uncomfortable with that in the beginning). A huge chunk of my old book club members are still my close friends, and I think that’s why ❤️
  • I’ve slowly grown okay with not retaining a lot of what I read. That’s thanks to this podcast episode, which argues that the experience of reading inevitably changes you, even if you don’t explicitly remember how.
  • I still do try to retain stuff, though. I wanted to do long writeups but never wrote any. How about pithy one line reviews? I also shirked those—too much pressure in the opposite direction. Now, I’ve started setting a timer for 5 minutes and just journaling. Stuff I liked, didn’t, stuff I want to remember. I’ve been really liking this habit and am cautiously optimistic it’ll stick!


  • I mostly read books from the library. Physical books if available – I find the time pressure helpful, though it does add a layer of logistics to remember. 
  • I often have a nonfiction audiobook going, good for walking around the city. (I find fiction audiobooks too hard to follow). 
  • Whenever I travel, I bring at least one physical book and a fully-loaded Kindle “just in case”. 
  • I feel conflicted about buying physical books. They’re beautiful, I want authors to get paid, indie bookstores are delightful, and houses just don’t feel right without loads of books hanging around. But I’ve moved cross-country twice, jettisoning books both times, and it feels really wasteful. 
  • Somewhat counterpoint: Whenever I host gatherings, I invite people to optionally bring a book to swap. This works great! 
  • I try not to buy new books until I’ve read the Kindle sample. (Quells the acquisitive urge surprisingly often.)
  • I own multiple cookbooks but finally realized I only ever cook from online recipes. 
  • Yes marginalia for any books I own. I often lend books to friends, forgetting I’d marked them up, sharing an inadvertently intimate peek into my brain. 

my current reading aspirations

  • Reread more. 
  • Read older books. 
  • Read books on mindfulness, aspirationally one a quarter? I’ve noticed religious friends are often reading something spiritual, which I admire. 
  • In this lifetime, read a novel in another language. I’m torn between Chinese (would be good for understanding my family/background better) or another language that would be less fiendishly difficult to work up to! 
  • Choose a lifetime novel, sometime to reread once a decade or so. 


  • I was on a podcast game show where hosts match guests up with their perfect books—using only dating app questions. 
  • Here are my 2016, 2018, and 2019 in books. 2020 was lower production value for global pandemic reasons.