This website may be named Story Time Asia, but I did not share stories as much as I consumed them. In all, I finished reading 24 books which is a record for me, I think. I’ve never tracked my reading stats before, but the fact that I had more reading time this year (between the pandemic and my unemployed status in the first two quarters of 2021) makes it safe to say that 24 books in a year is a record for me–a pittance when compared to the kind of numbers churned out in the bookish realm of the interweb. Although, if you count my re-reading of Sandman, my count would be 34, but this isn’t a competition.HA

To wrap up the second year of this taxing pandemic, I decided to count down 12 highlights from my story-related activities this year. Most of these are book-related because, as the title states, this has been a bookish year for me.

#12 1st book

The first book I finished reading this year was Flights by Olga Tokarczuk for which I left a 4-star review on Goodreads (Follow me!). It’s my second Tokarczuk read, the first one being the deliciously entertaining and thought-provoking Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead which I finished at the tail-end of 2020. That one is a solid 5 stars for me.

#11 Last book

The last book I finished reading this year is Jenny Offill’s Weather. This one I gave a solid 4 stars. Then again, rating books is passe, I think. I mean, TJ Klune’s Under the Whispering Door is heartwarming but not particularly impressive, but it did make me cry. Ratings are highly objective and not very helpful for people looking for their next read. Did I enjoy Weather? Yes. Will I read it again? Probably not. At the time of writing, I still have a full day ahead of me and I’m well into High School, an autobiography by the musicians Tegan and Sara Quin. I’m enjoying it so far. Perhaps I’ll emerge from this year having read a solid 25 books. Cool.

#10 The true crime community

For some reason, whenever I’m feeling down and out, I watch or listen to true crime. The genre may be oddly comforting because it underscores the facts that A) I am not dead and B) I did not kill anybody. Therefore, I’m doing fine.HAHA This in fact started off my blogging just because of the bizarre world of true crime fans and the internet sleuthing it spawned.

#9 Reading slump

By mid-year, I was bingeing Booktube and buying books left and right that I experienced a bookish burnout. I contemplated the commodification of reading and how capitalism ruins everything, including my nerdy preoccupations.

#8 Self-help phase

The precursor to my reading slump is my foray into the self-help genre. 2021 is the year I discovered Edith Eger by way of TTFA (a podcast that’s anti-toxic positivity). The Gift, Eger’s book, introduced me to the non-pushy sub-genre of self-help. None of those regimented, structured solutions. It’s a softer, kinder approach to self-improvement. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, though fiction, is considered by some people as a self-help book masquerading as a novel. Given my mental state at the time, it was a perfect book for me.

#7 Book club

This is also the year I joined my very first book club. Admittedly, I have not been very active. And to date, I’ve only attended two book/story discussions: one on Dune and the other on What Remains of Edith Finch. Perhaps I’ll be more active next year.

#6 Monthly wrap-ups

In an attempt to document and share noteworthy content I consumed this year, I came up with Pika-Pika–a monthly selection of books, music, videos, and vibes. Unfortunately, once I started my new job in the third quarter of this year, my focus shifted on work. This monthly newsletter of sorts took a back seat.

#5 Last quarter rush

I still did read and listen to a lot of stories when I started working in earnest. Of course, the kind of stories I consumed (and still consuming) were news and non-fiction. Work is a good reality check and took up my waking hours and even invaded my dreams. As the saying goes: Truth is stranger than fiction.

#4 Back to the Dreaming

Since I couldn’t sink my teeth into fiction and full-length novels due to heavy readings for work, I decided to re-read the Sandman ahead of the release of the Netflix series. I have forgotten about Dream’s arc and was once again taken on a journey of epic proportions. Hob Gadling is still one of my favorite characters and The Kindly Ones still made me cry. I hope the series gives this masterpiece justice.

#3 Insta stories

I posted quite a bit on Instagram this year and followed some booksta accounts to fuel my reading habit. When I didn’t have time to write blogs, I posted on Instagram. Mostly it’s just to document the changing seasons and phases in my life. A reminder to appreciate the little things, whether it’s a sunrise or a laid-back trip to the beach.

#2 Favorite post

To keep anxiety at bay, I tried puzzling and finished my very first thousand-piece puzzle. And I wrote about it! It has since become my favorite blog post of this year, titled 10 lessons from a 1000-piece puzzle, because of how much I tried to make it sound I re-read the post today and laughed out loud at the lessons that apply to my work situation. Puzzling can’t be such a waste of time, can it? Read the lessons for yourself!

#1 My favorite books of 2021

Finally, of all the books I finished in 2021, two books moved me the most. And this is why I think book ratings are overrated. Because I don’t necessarily consider them as 5-star reads, but they’re the ones that resonated most with me, and those are The Midnight Library and The Gift. Those two books managed to pull me out of a dark place and that’s worth more than any critical acclaim or literary prize.

For the next year, I might make this blogging thing more simple. Perhaps less preoccupation on creating banners and focusing more on the words. I’ll pare down the monthly wrap-ups and do away with ratings altogether. Perhaps I can recommend books based on vibes and start telling more stories instead of merely consuming them. Perhaps.

It’s been an eventful year despite the continued isolation, but it helps to find kindred souls in this increasingly virtual world. On to the next!

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