One of my goals for this blog in 2021 was to publish at least one reading experiment each month (starting in February, because I got a late start). And I actually ended up publishing twelve reading experiments this year, which is kind of awesome. Honestly, I did have a lot of fun putting these together. I really enjoyed the posts, and it was really cool to engage with all of you on the comments for these. But doing all this reading was not the most enjoyable experience. In fact, seven out of my ten least favorite books of the year were thanks to these reading experiments. But I also found some favorites I wouldn’t have read otherwise. So they weren’t all total fails.

Still, I am definitely rethinking my reading experiments going into a new year. There were a few goals I didn’t meet because the vast majority of my reading was for these posts, which was kind of a bummer. Just about seventy percent of my total reading in 2021 was done specifically for a blog post. So twelve of these experiments in one year will definitely be a one-time thing. I don’t want to cut them out entirely, but I will definitely be taking a break for the first few months of 2022.

But for now, I thought it might be fun to look back at all of the posts I did this year. If you missed any of them, the original posts are all linked below. Here they are in the order I published them:

I Read 7 Romance Novels by Black Authors in 7 Days

I had been wanting to do a post like this for a while. I originally attempted it last October, but with thrillers instead of romances novels. That post did not work out, so I was excited to attempt it again. And I figured what better to read in February – the month that is supposed to be for romance – than romance novels. (Note: I think Valentine’s Day is dumb, but whatever.) This post was fun, but kind of a rollercoaster. It is a lot of work to read seven books in seven days, but I was glad I managed to pull it off.

However, two of the seven books I read were some of my least favorite of the year. One of them had very uncomfortable stalker-vibes that I couldn’t get past (to be fair, I might have overlooked them or not even noticed them had I read it when I was younger, but as a thirty-something adult, it was a massive red flag). And the other one was honestly kind of gross. Like epic levels of cringey and also involved the rich love interest duke calling his servants minions and we all know where my mind went with that. Still, I did discover a new romance author I loved and want to read more of, so it didn’t totally suck. And it was a really fun post to write.

Reading the Highest Rated Books on My TBR

I actually started this one back in 2020 and finished the final two books early this year. One of them was a thousand-plus-page biography, so I was being a little overambitious trying to cram it into 2020. Honestly, out of all my reading experiments this year, this one was probably the most boring. I gave all five books five stars. I was kind of expecting to have at least one I didn’t totally love, but the results were not that exciting. Still, I can’t be too mad about reading five great books.

I Read 5 Japanese Bestsellers… About Cats

This was probably my most loved experiment of the entire year. For obvious reasons – we all love cats. I was also pretty excited about this one, not only because cat books, but because I got to read more books in translation, which was kind of an unofficial goal for me. I did actually end up reading fifteen translated books this year, and all of them except for one were for reading experiments, so that’s kind of fun.

What I did not anticipate getting into this one was that the books would be so depressing. I think there’s only one book out of the five where all of the characters survive and/or don’t get cancer. I don’t do too well with animals suffering. So this wasn’t my personal favorite reading experiment to do, but I liked the post and still think it’s the most fun concept I’ve come up with.

I Let Buzzfeed Decide Which Books I Read (Again)

Last year, I did a reading experiment based on Buzzfeed quizzes. And it turned out amazing! I read some really great books for that post (including a few favorites). To say this one did not turn out as well was an understatement. I did enjoy one of the books I read – The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue – but it was one I was planning one reading anyway and just didn’t get around to last year. But this post also turned out two of my least favorite books of the year.

One of them was a beloved modern classic that involved the graphic death of an animal, which I kind of hated. And the other was literally Sherlock wing-fic. Which is fan fiction, but with wings, apparently. I didn’t know what that was before I did this post, and I honestly didn’t need to. I kind of blocked that post from my brain until I looked back through my reading year to put together my end of the year posts. The other two books weren’t my favorite, either. I probably could have just read Addie La Rue and been done, but at least we got a fun post out of it. This one surprisingly got the most views this year, and was the only one to surpass the cats. Not sure what that says.

I Read 5 Books Based on My Zodiac Sign

May was my birthday month, so I decided to read a bunch of books based on my zodiac sign, which is Gemini. So I found a bunch of posts online with book recommendations based on your zodiac sign and came up with five books I was interested in reading. This was such a wide variety of books – there was a classic, a true crime memoir, and a classic book of short stories. Weirdly, most of the covers were very pink.

There actually wasn’t anything in this bunch I didn’t like. Maybe some surprises – I actually read Charles Dickens for the first time since high school and didn’t hate it. But I did discover a favorite. You can read the full post to find out which one it is – I don’t want to spoil it here because it’s going to be on my favorites lists for the year. Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It maybe wasn’t the most interesting, but I enjoyed the books as a whole much more than most of the other experiments on this list, so it was a success for me as a reader.

I Read Drew Barrymore’s Favorite Classic Novels

Now this one did not go well at all. I won’t go into my whole though process for why I decided to do this post – you can read the post itself if you’re curious – but I did discover Drew and I have very different tastes in books. In fact, one book ended up on my most disappointing books of the year list, another I gave two stars, and a third ended up being my absolute least favorite of the entire year. And probably of all time. I usually like to say books just aren’t for me – because I don’t think me not liking them means they’re bad, necessarily – but this book was bad.

I think this was probably the least fun I’ve had doing one of these experiments. It was not at all fun, and I don’t really think you guys enjoyed it all that much. Really not worth it.

I Read 5 Books the Goodreads Algorithm Thinks I’ll Love

Every once in a while, I’ve ended up on the Goodreads recommendation page. But I’ve never actually taken one of their recommendations and read it. I thought this might be a fun way to see how reliable their recommendations are. Verdict: not very. What was interesting though was that my favorite books from this experiment were the ones that weren’t on my radar at all prior to this post: The Huntress by Kate Quinn and In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado – both authors I hadn’t read before, and now want to read more of.

The other three books on this list, I didn’t love. And it was kind of disappointing, especially since they were the books I would have read even if I hadn’t done this post. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend using Goodreads recommendations to find your next book to read.

I Read All 11 Books on Harvard’s 2021 Summer Reading List

I planned out most of my reading experiments ahead of time, but this was one even I didn’t know I would be doing. But every summer, I like to look at various university reading lists (yes, I am that much of a nerd). I’m mostly just curious because I have a masters in English and kind of like seeing which books are being taught/recommended. But for some reason, this one stuck in my head. It was mainly medieval literature. And even though I had taken two courses in medieval lit (in college and grad school), I hadn’t read most of these. So I decided to read all of them.

And it was honestly kind of fun. Made me miss being in school. Just a little bit. I found a new favorite translation of Beowulf, and finally got through The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales. But there was also a modern classic on this list… and I absolutely hated it. I know The Once and Future King is beloved, but it was in the top two books I disliked most this year. So this experiment wasn’t all fun. Still, it was kind of cool to be able to say I read the entire Harvard summer reading list. If there was some sort of nerd scouts, I feel like that would earn me a badge.

I Read 5 Books Other People Lost on Vacation

Earlier this year, I discovered Unclaimed Baggage, which is an online store that actually sells the items from baggage that goes unclaimed in airports (don’t worry, they try to contact the owners first before it ends up here). The do have a big warehouse that is nowhere near me, but luckily, they also have online shopping. So I purchased five books that other people lost while traveling.

Which I thought was kind of a fun idea. But I didn’t enjoy almost any of the books I read for this. Including the one that was already on my personal TBR. But I did find one book I literally hadn’t heard of until this experiment and really enjoyed: Black, White, and The Grey which is a dual memoir by a White entrepreneur and a Black chef who come together to open a restaurant. Definitely a cool read (and new release!) that should be getting more hype.

For October, I went a little ambitious and published my reading experiment very early on in the month. I was thinking of doing something Halloween/spooky themed, until I came up with this idea and knew I had to do it. Plus, Indigenous Peoples’ Day coincided with one of my posting days, so it was perfect… except that I had like a week and a half to put it all together.

But this was still a pretty cool post. I hadn’t read very many books by Indigenous authors going into this, so I was really happy to have a good reason to force myself to read more. There were a couple that didn’t work for me – actually, my two least favorite books of this experiment were the two I think are talked about the most. But I did find a new favorite! Tanya Tagaq’s Split Tooth kind of blew my mind. It was beautiful and really weird, and I loved it. I wish she had more books I could read, but I do plan on continuing to seek out Indigenous authors to try (recommendations welcome!)

I Read 5 of Jameela Jamil’s Favorite Nonfiction Books

After the Drew Barrymore disaster, I was looking for some more celebrity readers for future experiments. And I love Jameela Jamil, so was super excited to come across her list. And when I saw that her list was primarily nonfiction, I knew it would make the perfect Nonfiction November experiment. And I was so glad I ended up going this one, because it was probably my second most successful (right behind the highest rated books on my TBR, so that kind of feels like cheating).

I really enjoyed all of the books on her list. Not all of them were favorites, but I did give three of them five-stars, and the other two four-stars. I’d also read a couple more on her list before this experiment, and also enjoyed those. So I think it’s safe to say Jameela Jamil has amazing taste in books, and I will be continuing to look out for her recommendations.

I Read All of Obama’s Favorite Books of 2020

Finally, the post that took me all year to finish and was finally published yesterday. I read nineteen books for this experiment – so even more ambitious than the Harvard one. I literally just published this one, so anything I have to say feels repetitive. So go read it.

But really, this one was kind of interesting. I was a little surprised by the ones that ended up being my favorites, because they were not books I think I would have picked up just on my own. And books I’d heard a lot of hype about going into weren’t my favorites. So it was kind of an interesting mix. I did learn that Obama does have great book recommendations, but that doesn’t mean all of them are for me. Which is absolutely fine. Probably won’t do this one again, but I enjoyed it.

And that is it for this year’s reading experiments! I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in the comments: which of my 2021 reading experiment posts was your favorite? I definitely won’t be doing this many next year, but are there any you’d really like to see?

And check out my bookshop, where you can buy books and also shop my curated collections of my personal favorites AND all of the books I’ve read for my reading experiments. Or you can just buy whatever books you want to. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you get to support your choice of indie bookstores – it’s a win all around! 

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15 thoughts

  1. Wow, you got so much reading done this year! We listed some of our top reads of 2021 on our site, too, but it’s a much shorter list — just five. Merry Xmas and here’s to another year of voracious reading!

  2. I loved every second of this year, but I’m also very excited for you to get to read something you actually picked yourself and will hopefully enjoy on your own next year haha

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