2020 Reading Review & 2021 Reading Goals

It is officially 2021, so I’m back to take another look at what I read in 2020 and figure out what I want to focus on in 2021. Until 2020, I hadn’t really thought that much about what I read, beyond recognizing that I read a lot and the occasional passing personal thought, such as not being very familiar with first chapter books (something I noticed in January and was able to do something about in March). In July 2020, I decided to really look at what I was reading. I was confident that my nonfiction reading would be abysmal (it was) but equally confident that the amount of diverse books I read was high (it really wasn’t).

I looked at a lot of numbers in July and created the tables below to compare data now that the year is over.

For the first few tables below, “diverse” means the main character is diverse (in race, ethnicity, religion, ability, etc.). This also includes biographies about diverse people.

Later tables break down my reading with an eye for just having a diverse main character, a diverse author, and an own voices authors.

I read 1745 books this year, 720 from January-July, 1025 from July-December.

Format/Age + Diversity

Jan.-July 2020July-Dec. 2020ChangeJan.-Dec. 2020Change
Picture Books329 (46%)706 (69%)+23%1035 (59%)+13%
– % of PB, Diverse129 (39%)415 (59%)+20%544 (53%)+14%
Beginning Readers50 (7%)45 (4%)-3%95 (5%)-2%
– % of BR, Diverse20 (40%)21 (47%)+7%41 (43%)+3%
First Chapter Books80 (11%)76 (7%)-4%156 (9%)-2%
– % of FC, Diverse45 (56%)50 (66%)+5%95 (61%)+5%
Graphic Novels191 (27%)112 (11%)-16%303 (17%)-10%
– % of GN, Diverse44 (23%)51 (45%)+22%95 (31%)+8%
Kids Chapter Books34 (5%)37 (4%)-1%71 (4%)-1%
– % of KC, Diverse13 (35%)34 (92%)+58%47 (67%)+32%
Teen Chapter Books8 (1%)15 (1%)23 (1%)0
– % of Teen, Diverse4 (50%)12 (80%)+30%16 (70%)+20%
Adult Books4 (0.5%)0-0.5%4 (0.2%)-0.3%
– % of Adult, Diverse0 (0%)00

2020 Review: Format/Intended Audience

This was a fun category to track this year, as I’ve never looked at my reading in this kind of detail before. That said, I’m probably not going to do a full stats breakdown for this every year, as I don’t think these numbers are going to drastically affect my reading habits. My format preferences vary based on a lot of outside factors, mainly how much time I have for reading and my patience for longer books at that moment.

I sometimes feel like my reading numbers are “inflated” because I include picture books and readers, and it is cool to see that I still read 615 “longer” books (first chapter, graphic novels, kids chapter, teen chapter, adult books). That number isn’t going to impact how many picture books I read–books are books after all, and a picture book can hold just as much value as a teen novel–but it is still interesting to see the breakdown.

I am reading the least diversely in beginning readers and graphic novels. I think both of these reflect those formats: overall, they are some of the least diverse areas of children’s publishing, especially when looking for own voices titles. Next year, I’ll make more of an effort to do my small part in changing that by reading and promoting every own voices beginning reader book and graphic novel I can find.

Finally, when looking at this breakdown, I want to increase my number of teen chapter books next year. This is harder simply due to length (they take me longer to read). It is also harder because I more regularly provide reader’s advisory and book talks to ages 6-11, and I want to keep up with my knowledge for those ages. I read a lot of teen graphic novels–but not many chapter books, and I am missing a lot of great titles because of that. I need to be more familiar with titles for teens, so bring on #TeenReadingGoals2021.

2021 Reading Goals:

  • Actively look for more diverse beginning readers and graphic novels (carried over from 2020).
  • Read more teen chapter books in 2021 (at least 35 books).


Jan.-July 2020July-Dec. 2020ChangeJan.-Dec. 2020Change
Fiction653 (91%)807 (79%)-12%1460 (84%)-7%
– % of Fiction, Diverse231 (35%)466 (58%)23%697 (47%)12%
Nonfiction66 (9%)218 (21%)12%284 (16%)7%
– % of Nonfiction, Diverse29 (44%)130 (60%)16%159 (56%)12%
Biographies*19 (3%)125 (12%)9%144 (8%)5%
– % of Biographies, Diverse14 (74%)92 (74%)0%106 (74%)0%

*Biographies also included in nonficiton.

2020 Review: Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

This statement still holds true from my 2020 mid-year reading review: “I don’t like non-fiction. Sorry world. I never enjoyed reading non-fiction as a child, and I very, very rarely do as an adult.”

However, I am happy to see that, with some effort, my nonfiction reading did increase, with 16% of my total reading being nonfiction books. I made an effort to read more biographies, and while the percentages didn’t change drastically, I know I read more biographies than I would have if I hadn’t set this as a goal. I know this is a hard area for me. But, I don’t think my nonfiction/fiction balance is as important as diversity in my reading, so I’m not going to set any goals for 2021 related to these numbers, though I am going to continue to collect them.


Jan.-July 2020July-Dec. 2020ChangeJan.-Dec. 2020Change
Diverse Main Character260 (36%)595 (58%)22%855 (49%)13%
Diverse Authors153 (21%)354 (35%)14%507 (29%)8%
Own Voices Authors132 (18%)269 (26%) 8%401 (23%)5%
LGBTQIA+ Main Character28 (4%)49 (5%)1%77 (4%)0%

2020 Review: Diversity

Finally, onward toward the most important question: how diverse is my reading, really?

I set some goals for myself in July 2020:

  • Increase Own Voices reads to 25% of my total reading. = Not met. (23%, +5%)
  • Increase LGBTQIA+ main character reads to 8% of total reading = Not met. (4%, no change)

I made some growth, but I did not meet either of my goals.

I definitely read more diversely. Nearly half of the books I read in 2020 had a diverse main character. However, more than half of those diverse books were not by own voices authors. I want both of those numbers to be higher.

Between my job requirements, professional development commitments, the volume of my reading, and the need to keep reading everything I love during these stressful times, I know I won’t stay committed to a goal to read only own voices books in 2021. And I don’t want to create goals I know I won’t work toward (because then you start down the slippery slope where you wonder if you really need to work toward any of your goals).

I’m going to continue with both of these goals in 2021, with the new reminder that I need to make more of an effort to meet both of these goals. This is why I pull stats: I feel like I am reading more and looking harder, but the numbers show I am not where I would like to be.

One new addition: I want to start sorting my reading by diversity experience (Black experience, Indian American experience, Muslim experience, Autistic experience, etc.) instead of just generally categorizing these books as “diverse.” I’m going to start with a series of new Goodreads shelves to see what I tend to read (and, more importantly, what I’m missing). I pulled out LGBTQIA+ characters last year, and I set a goal for them in 2020 and 2021. What other types of experiences are missing from my reading?

2021 Reading Goals:

  • Sort my reading by diversity experience (type of diversity), and re-examine in mid-2021 what diverse experiences I read the most.
  • Increase the amount of books read by own voices authors to at least 30% (carried over from 2020, increased).
  • Increase the amount of books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters to at least 8% (carried over from 2020).

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to unpack here, but I’m glad to write out some reading goals for 2021. This is my first time starting a new year with clear, written reading goals–will this post keep me accountable? I think a lot of that answer will depend on what 2021 brings.

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