Books

I read 50 books in 2021 | Here’s my Top 5 and why

Yes, I read 50 books in 2021, which is an average of 4 books per month and 1 book per week.

To be honest, I was actively reading way more up till September, and in the final quarter, work got overwhelming and reading took a backseat. In 2022, I resolve to get back on this horse!

Non-Fiction:

Fiction

Overall, I preferred reading non-fiction books. I enjoy learning a different point of view, understanding more on a subject. I found myself being more drawn towards neuroscience/psychology books and memoirs. So spoiler alert : My top 5 books are all non-fiction.

But I do enjoy fiction books as well! Some just really tug on your heartstrings like no other – honourable mentions include The Traveling Cat Chronicles, A Man Called Ove, The Rosie Project and On Love.

In 2021, I did set out to read more. But instead of setting resolutions to complete eg. 1 book a week or 1 book a month, I simply told myself to stick to these 3 golden rules:

1. Read everyday, even if it’s just one chapter
2. Preferably, I can only read 2 books at a time
3. I can alternate between reading Non-Fiction and Fiction
(eg. If I’m reading a Non-Fiction book now, I can choose to read a Fictional book next, and then back to another Non-Fiction book).

The benefits of not pinning a goal to my resolution, I remove that element of ‘chase’ in my reading journey. Instead, I’m motivated to continue reading until I can move on to the next. By allowing myself to read a fictional book in between non-fictional books, I’m allowing my brain to rest and reading to be a source of entertainment (not just a source of knowledge).

At the start of my reading journey, I’ve used Notion to document my book reading journey so that I can remember more of what I read and train my critical thinking skills. Many times in the past, I would just read something and it would strike me as profound there and then but I couldn’t recall much beyond the main concepts after a while. Eventually admittedly, I got busier (and maybe lazier) so I stopped. So thankfully I have this blog! where I review books that I read on a monthly basis.

Do note that a 5 star book to me may not be a 5 star book to you. So, in terms of my own personal grading system, i usually rate based on:

  • The premise of the book itself – the novelty and robustness of the idea/plot
  • The storytelling style – on the flow and how engaging the writer is

So, out of all of the books I’ve read, here are my top 5 favourites and why :

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear

Genre : Self – Help

This was one of the first books I read in 2021 that had a huge impact of me forming better habits. From reading, to cooking and cleaning, I owe it to James Clear.

Most self help productivity books have some central idea and it expands on it, filled with many motivational/ hype type of content but this book is jam packed with useful tips and it’s so structured. Habit making tips are not novel but what makes this book stands out is his writing style. If there is an expansion to the point, it feels purposeful and truly drives it home. The book focuses on systems (ie. trust the process),and the 4 laws to make habits more sustainable.

I recently started browsing through this book again, and just flipping through it, I find new insights that I may not have picked up the first time round. One particular area was on how we can find and fix the cause of our bad habits – we see a cue, we categorize it based on our past experience and determine the appropriate response. It happens in an instant but it plays a crucial role in our habits because every action is preceded by a prediction. So this means our behaviours are heavily dependent on these predictions, so to break bad habits – we have to proactively change these predictions. It has motivated me to try out two new habits this year but stay tuned for my experience, a month from now.

Here are my key takeaways from when I first read it.

Since reading this book, I have also subscribed to his newsletter and he shares 3 ideas from him, 2 quotes from others, and 1 question for you. He is definitely an author I’ll be looking out for in the future and this is a book I will definitely be re-reading.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Genre: Memoir

Chanel was sexually assaulted on Stanford University campus and this is her side of the story. Through her experience, we learn about the heart-wrenching and traumatic feeling of coming to terms with what had happened to her, how sexual assault trials can be incredibly difficult for victims. From the gaslighting from the public, to the way society often victim blames and how vicitims are expected to remember their traumatic ordeal with incredible detail or they might risk coming across less credible. And yet, we barely even remember the lunch we had.

This was a really difficult and impactful read and I had cried many times just reading about it. Chanel manages to tie in so many of the stigmas that society has on women, and aptly describes the fear of being a woman in an unsafe environment. Perhaps because I am a woman myself, I can particularly relate but I think this is an eye-opening read for both genders nonetheless. If you aren’t compelled to read the book, at least read her impactful victim statement here.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Genre: Memoir

This memoir is not just one of my top 5 books of 2021 but hands down probably the best memoir I have read to-date. Trevor Noah grew up under the Apartheid regime. His very existence itself defied the law.

Through his life, we not only get an inside view of the experiences that makes him the man he is today but we get a social commentary on poverty and race in South Africa, one that resonates across all nations.

I think this book was more about how much his mum influenced his character – she was ahead of her time; she was always reading to him, teaching him english. She essentially gave him the tools to break the cycle of poverty.

I highly recommend the Audiobook version because he is really such a masterful storyteller. Being able to hear him tell his life story makes it all the more interesting. This memoir will make you think, it will make you cry, it will make you laugh and most of all make you understand.

Comfort Book by Matt Haig

Genre: Self Help

This book really struck a chord with me.

I picked it up at a time of the year when I felt extremely overwhelmed; when the weight of change, uncertainty and when self doubt hit me like a rock. Matt Haig has such a way with words that is almost poetic. The way he packages cliched and timeless advice, makes it such a compelling read. It’s one of those books that you can pick up at any point at your life and be comforted by his words.

There is a certain power that comes with quotes. It’s like finding the words to feelings we can’t describe; it serves as a good reminder when we find that we’ve lost our way. If you intend to write affirmations but don’t know where to start, I suggest just reading this book daily. It’s definitely a read that I’ll revisit frequently too 🙂

Here are my favourite quotes from the book.

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

Genre: Science

My fifth choice was a tough one.

I was contemplating between this book vs Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Both covering really interesting topics. I eventually chose this book because I think this book was a gateway book into the world of Neuroscience. I eventually also read Remember by Lisa Genova which is another book which unpacks the science of how our brain processes memories, Moonwalking with Einstein, on the science of memorisation.

Why we sleep is such an eye-opening read about the power of sleep in making us smarter and healthier. My favourite part is actually understanding how our brain works, and how different stages of sleep serves different functions. From consolidating all of the information we have collected in the day, to making connections between two separate ideas. Though admittedly, having to practice good sleep hygiene is still a real struggle – to no fault of Matthew Walker. He drove home the importance of sleep really well but it has more to do with the tendency to prioritise the things that are visible to us – this assignment is important now – sleep can wait. I often self justify my behaviours with this quote I once read ‘It’s okay to drop some balls when you are juggling many, just know which ones are glass balls and rubber balls at that point in time’.

Nevertheless, an informative read. I wish more sciencey books were written this way. It’d make the topic a lot more accessible to the masses. I devoured this book in a couple of days. The more we understand how our brain works, the more we understand ourselves.

Here’s to good reading habits in 2022 ! xx

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