Blogging highlights for 2021

Finally, the last of my traditional, self-indulgent year-end trifecta (which includes my Australian Women Writers’ Challenge wrap-up and Reading highlights posts).

But, like last year, before I launch into my usual analysis, I must send another big shout-out to Bill (The Australian Legend) who continued to curated his Bill curates series of reblogged posts from my blog’s early days to help me over the doldrums in the months after my father’s death. I know I didn’t have to keep posting during that time, but I so appreciated being able to keep up the continuity. Thanks a bunch Bill.

Top posts for 2021

Gradually over the last few years my top posts have shifted to include more posts on recent Australian books. However, a few “usual suspects” posts keep hanging around, and it’s still true that most of the posts are over 5 years old. Regardless of whatever the top posts are, though, they raise the question, why them? They are such a motley lot.

Here is my 2021 Top Ten, in popularity order:

Trent Dalton, Boy swallows universe

None of these, as usual, were actually published in the reporting year (2021). Other observations:

Book cover
  • Mark Twain’s “A presidential candidate” joined the Top Ten in 2018 and reached 2nd spot in 2020. This year it gained the Top Spot! Curious.
  • Three works made their Top Ten debut, and they are all Australian: Fergus W. Hume’s The mystery of a hansom cab, Tara June Winch’s The yield, and Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence.
  • Five of the Top Ten are for Australian works, one less than 2019’s record of 6.
  • Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to safety, a post from 2014, suddenly appeared in 2020’s Top Ten, and remained there? Why now?
  • Barbara Baynton, who has been in the Top Ten for as long as I have been doing this, has slipped out, with “The chosen vessel” slipping from 2020’s no. 5 to no. 15.
  • Red Dog (posted in 2011) was a Top Ten regular until last year when it moved to the Top Twenty, where it remained this year.
  • Seven of the top ten posts were published over 5 years ago.
  • Short stories and essays still feature strongly, but are decreasing – to just three this year.
  • My little post on English language usage in restaurant ordering keeps getting hits!

Five Australian posts appear in the next ten, one more than in 2019 and 2020, and are similar to last year’s: ABR’s Top Twenty Aussie Novels of the Twentieth Century (11) which was a Top Ten last year; Delicious descriptions: Clare Wright’s sources on the Australian landscape (12); Barbara Baynton’s “The chosen vessel” (15); Shaun Tan’s Eric (19); and Red dog (20).

As for posts actually written in 2021? Where did they fit? Well, as usually happens, they appear quite low in the list, with the first one ranking 32. Here are the Top Ten 2021-published review posts (excluding Monday Musings and meme posts):

Two from last year’s published-in-the-year Top Ten – Tara June Winch and Julia Baird – made it into the “real” Top Ten this year. Will any of these achieve the same in 2022?

My most popular Monday Musings posts were:

None of these were in the Top Three last year, except that the 2020 new releases post was. My Australian Gothic (19th century) post, which had been in the Top Three for a few years, wasn’t even in the Top Five this year. Maybe life has been too Gothic recently for people to want to read about it?

Random blogging stats

The searches

Help Books
(Courtesy OCAL, via

I love sharing some of the search terms used to reach my blog, even though changes to Google a few years ago dramatically reduced search term visibility. However, some still get through, and some find me despite some aberrant spelling at times.

  • there are always some searches that truly make me laugh, or mystify me: jane austen corner laughing; new panjabi sexy stories; chinese gym “guest post”
  • as last year, several searches seemed to be for a school or college assignment about Sherwood Anderson’s short story “Adventure”. Some hopefuls type in the whole question: explain the significance of the title ‘adventure’ by anderson; adventure by sherwood anderson 4. who should be blame for alice’s tragedy [I wonder what the previous three questions were?]
  • I have mentioned Austen scholar Gillian Russell, but my post wouldn’t have helped this searcher: “gillian russell” husband canberra
  • some searches are so general, I’m amazed they found my blog. I have no idea if they find what they want. Try this one: winner announced OR erotic story

Other stats

I wrote 154 posts, one more than in 2020, and just under my long term average of 158. This represents an average of nearly 13 posts per month..

Merlinda Bobis Fish-hair woman

Australia, the USA, Britain, in that order, continue to be the top three countries visiting my blog. The next three slots mirrored last year’s: India, the Philippines and Canada. The Philippines seems to be here primarily because of continued interest in my post on Philippine-born Merlinda Bobis’ Fish-hair woman. I think she’d be pleased. Anyhow, Germany, France, Mexico and China, in that order, round out the Top Ten.

Challenges, memes and other things

I only do one challenge, the AWW Challenge, which I wrapped up last week, and one regular meme, #sixdegreesofseparation run by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). I occasionally do others, which you can find on my “memes” category link.

I also took part in Lisa’s (ANZLitLovers) Indigenous Literature week, Bill’s (The Australian Legend) AWW Gen 3 Week Part 2, and Nonfiction November. More casually, I toyed with Novellas in November (Cathy of 746 books and Rebecca of Bookish Beck), the #YEAR Club (Karen of Kaggsy’s Bookish Rambling and Simon of Stuck in a Book), and Brona’s Aus Reading Month.

All of these align with my reading practice, and frequently give me a welcome opportunity to delve into the TBR.

Being blogging mentor for the New Territory program (2017-2019) was a highlight, until the pandemic struck. Now, online communications have moved on, and thus, I’d argue, also the original impetus for this program. However, I want to report on the activities of its “alumni”. Angharad continues to actively blog at Tinted Edges and has had some wins in short fiction competitions, while continuing to work on her novel. Emma Gibson is now based in Melbourne, and following her dual interests of playwriting and writing about place. Amy Walters is building her excellent criticism cv. You can find a list on her blog, including several published in 2021. This year I reviewed These strange outcrops, a special edition of Rosalind Moran’s Cicerone journal. Rosalind continues to write poetry and reviews from her current homebase in Cambridge, UK. Shelley Burr, as I reported last year, won a Debut Dagger for her Aussie noir unpublished manuscript, Wake. It is now set for publication this year with Hachette. I will be reading it. Watch this space.

And so, 2022 …

As I say every year, a big thanks to all of you who commented on my blog this year – the regulars who have hung in with me year in year out, and the newbies who have taken the time to visit and comment. I do hope you stay, because, for me, the conversations are one of blogging’s biggest delights. They help us, I think, grow as readers. Also, as I wrote last year, the friendly but fearless sharing of sometimes opposing ideas demonstrates that social media can be positive and respectful, that communications technology can be used for good. I love being part of proving that.

Beyond the commenters, though, I also want to thank all you wonderful bloggers out there. I apologise for not always managing to visit everyone as much as I’d like. I wish you all good reading and great book talk in 2022.

Finally, huge thanks to the authors, publishers and booksellers who make it all possible (and who have put up with my extreme tardiness this year, but I am catching up). Roll on 2022 …

43 thoughts on “Blogging highlights for 2021

  1. LOL Those searches are hilarious, you get much more interesting ones than I do!
    I wonder if ‘A Presidential Candidate’ is something that teachers use as a set text, to get students (in the era of Trump) to think about the qualities that a president should have?

    • They are, aren’t they, Lisa. Yes, I did think that the appearance of that piece on the top ten in 2018 had to be related to the Trump factor. Hard to think otherwise, isn’t it?

  2. Hi Sue, and a big thank you for your blogs. I love reading them, and always look forward in anticipation to your Monday blog. Keep up the good work! I have read many good books from your blogs.

  3. I wish I had more time to read your blog.
    And yes, our book blogging community is a warm and friendly place and we are all grateful for the technology that connects us all over the world.
    As we say in French, there aren’t any bad tools, only bad/poor workers/users. 🙂

  4. Pleased to see Mexico in the top 10!
    I know I rarely comment but I never miss a post.
    Best wishes for the new year and I hope to get back to Oz soon to see my 91 year old mother.

    • Ah, of course, you are an important part of that Glenda. I was intrigued, and had forgotten that you’d moved to Mexico! Thanks so much – for reading me, and more explaining that statistic. It’s always lovely hearing from you but it’s great to know you are still there, quietly reading along.

      I hope you get back to see your Mum – in Sydney? We are now hoping for that school reunion in Sydney in maybe April, but who knows!

      • Thank you for your kind words. Not Sydney Brisbane – they moved to Qld in ’73. Qld, supposedly, will lift quarantine restrictions on 19 Jan when they reach 90% fully vaccinated. So, it’s possible I’ll be in Oz in April if things have settled re Omicron. Please give my email to whoever is organising the reunion.

        • I’ll do so Glenda. It will probably be Kerrie who contacts you. Chances of coinciding, given all the vagaries of the pandemic, are slight but you never know. Stars might align.

          BTW I was born in QLD but left there when I was 14, which is when I ended up at Hornsby!

  5. I do hope you allow yourself the occasional bit of basking in the delight of having a blog that is so well followed as to provide the means to reach these stats, ST !! 😀

  6. You’re welcome of course, and anyway I enjoyed myself, and I think the last couple were just to help me out with AWW Gen 3 Week.

    I’m glad there’s still some interest in Jack London. He was a seaman who came to reading and writing late, and although writing ended up making him well off he took up Communism hence his books about poverty in London and a dystopian future of fascism in the US, The Iron Heel, which it is more than time that I reviewed.

    I’m pretty sure he also sailed around the Pacific including to Australia and met some writers here – a question for Trove some time in the future.

  7. Search terms are always a great source of amusement and the ways some readers found their way to your blog are certainly interesting!

    I reckon you can pick what texts are being done in schools by the flurry of activity at certain points in the year. I have reviewed a seldom-read book by a regional Victorian writer. Every few years, the local high school does it for Year 10s. As mine is the ONLY review online, I imagine the English teacher gets many similar book reports submitted.

    Thank you again for all of your informative posts and particularly your AWW work.

    • Thanks Kate … and yes, I think you can, and for me it’s usually soon after American schools go back that I have a flurry. And, I do know that one or two of my posts are on school lists because of the “referrer” information, though sometimes when I click in curiosity I find it’s paywalled – or, passworded to the school community more like.

      As for AWW, thanks for contributing reviews to it. It’s been a huge team effort and depended on readers sharing their reviews.

  8. Fascinating statistics. I’m still puzzling why a novel I thought was just barely above average has more views – by FAR – than any other of my individual posts – both on my old blog and my new one!

    • Because it’s a popular novel, Davida? Or, is it a set text, though I hope an average novel isn’t a set text! Most of my tops are decent works, or I know are currently popular and will fade from the stats. But top by far, that’s interesting. Has it been top like this for years? I’m guessing so.

      • Yes, it has, for YEARS – since 2013 when I published it on my old blog. It could be something to do with SEO – which I don’t do, but might have happened accidentally because the novel is entitled “The Wedding Gift” so…

  9. An excellent round-up! I have some really odd top reads on my blogs, again, I think for assignments. I haven’t looked at my searches for a while … oh, I have nothing funny, but this one on my work blog was so plaintive: “why is microsoft word not letting me put pictures where i want”.

    • Thanks, Liz. You’ve made me laugh because for some time I’ve been thinking I need to do a Microsoft Tutorial on anchoring images. I understand size, position, wrapping, alignment stuff, but just need to sit down and understand anchoring. I never needed it for work so never bothered too much. I’ve just Googled and see it shouldn’t be too hard. I just have to do it!

        • Haha … Liz! I have found your blog and will look. Of course the challenge is that computers and software keeps changing, and I’m a Mac user, but I just need to understand the principles and I can go from there. I see the little anchor sometimes and think I MUST understand that one day! I will do it now. I write weekly letters to a friend in California and include images. I’m never sure if they arrive in the same condition that I sent them!

  10. How curious that so many people are concerned about how to order food in a restaurant. You’ve certainly captured a niche market there.
    My stats post is due tomorrow, and naturally most of my numbers concerned 2021 posts. I’m keen which posts will have legs in the long term.

  11. Skimming through the comments it’s amazing to see how many people read your blog but don’t comment. I always wonder who is out there reading Grab the Lapels, but I have no idea that they do. It adds an element of mystery to blogging that I enjoy. I love that your stats included your top posts and search terms. People often find GTL by Googling something about sexy lesbians because I read a series called Lesbian Career Girls, which is satire set in the 1960s full of punchy puns and pulp goodness. I think my most visited posts are my comparison of the book and movie Hidden Figures (I changed the title and removed the word “comparison” so students would stop cheating) and Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which is an older novel.

    • Blog stats are fun and fascinating aren’t they, Melanie. Thanks for sharing some of yours. I love that you removed the word comparison from that post! I’ll remember that. I have sometimes wondered about even using words like “characterisation” and “narrative” but I don’t see them appear in the few search terms I see. I often wonder what teachers think about our blogs and rue the day we appeared on the scene! I also sometimes wonder how well they know some of our posts, disagree with what we say and catch out students who copy us without thinking the ideas through themselves. We’ll never know!

      Haha, re Lesbuan Career Girls.

  12. There are so many thoughtful comments that I would like to make about your thorough summary here, but I am just too preoccupied by giggling at your search questions (and Liz’s plaintive one above too!). It’s entertaining, but it also reminds us that we are not necessarily writing “to” the people that we imagine we are writing “to” (to Melanie’s point too)! You published quite a lot this year (13/month wow!): well done on keeping up with things during a rough year (with Bill’s help, too) which likely made it easier in some ways too, ways that are hard to quantify even one is most freshly suffering and tired out from all that. Here’s to a rewarding reading year ahead!

    • Thanks for ALL of this Marcie. It’s great being part of our supportive and committed community, isnt it? I love sharing the search questions, but yes, your comment is so right about our audience.

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