Reading round up 2021

One of my favourite things to do in December is to check out all the lists of the best books of the year. There’s always a title I’ve missed in my never-ending quest for a great read. It’s good to be reminded about books that have come out during the year, so that I can keep an eye out for them at the library. They sometimes take a while to show up on the shelf.

I’m hesitant to compile my own list of best books, because everyone has different tastes, but I’d like to share some titles I’ve enjoyed in case you are looking for something new to read over the holidays.

This task is usually easy for me because I normally keep a spreadsheet of books I’ve read, but this year I was very lackadaisical with my record keeping, so I’m not sure how many books I got through (and nor does it really matter) but I think it was around fifty. My list peters out in August, so I had to go back over all the issues of my newsletter to find out what I’d read, and when.

When I look back over my reading year, I can see that my concentration dropped a bit in the second half of the year, for reasons that are perfectly understandable, given the strange year that we’ve all had. Sometimes I find it hard to start new books. I wrote about that here.

I read a few romantic comedies (no shame in that) and some books that were definitely a little sweeter than my usual fare. I also gave up on a lot of books because they were not what I was in the mood for. No shame in that either. Life is too short to keep ploughing through a book you aren’t enjoying.

Overall, I think I’ve been a lot more fussy about my reading. I’m less inclined to read what I call ‘worthy’ books (they’re the books people tell you must read) and more inclined to read books that engage me with vivid stories and characters. I’d also like to note that my best reads were all recommended by reading friends or family. It’s good to have friends who know what you like and can recommend accordingly.

Here are my top ten picks for 2021, listed in the order I read them.

  1. Bruny, by Heather Rose
  2. Sorrow and Bliss, by Meg Mason
  3. Heft, by Liz Moore
  4. The Good Sister, by Sally Hepworth
  5. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  6. The Covered Wife, Lisa Emanuel
  7. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
  8. Love Objects, by Emily Maguire
  9. Once There Were Wolves, by Charlotte McConaghy
  10. The Last Woman in the World, by Inga Simpson

What was your favourite book in 2021?

8 thoughts on “Reading round up 2021

  1. I adored Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason! I just finished Once There Were Wolves – perhaps I picked it up from a recommendation in your newsletter – and really enjoyed it. Like you, I found it an odd year for reading: so much less patience for what doesn’t serve and all the (locked down) time in the world for something that suits. If you haven’t read it, I think The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller might be my favourite book of 2021, and I also loved The Husbands by Chandler Baker, Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, and Love & Virtue by Diana Reid.

    1. I haven’t read any of these, so I’ll check them out. I downloaded a sample of The Paper Palace but for some reason didn’t read it, so I’ll go back and have another look. The Husbands also sounds great. I’m planning to read The Secret History this year, as people keep mentioning it and I feel like I should read it. I’m assuming you’ve read it because it’s quite old – any thoughts?

      1. Yes, I have read The Secret History and I was a fan. Last month I read an article in Vanity Fair about the “Literary Jonathans” (Safran Foer, Franzen etc.) and it mentioned how, in the context of what these male authors were doing, Donna Tartt was a timely disruption. That makes me wonder if now I would feel differently reading The Secret History, as my days of (and patience for) reading the Jonathans are behind me. Nonetheless, it is still a recommendation!

  2. I’ve read 5 of the 10 and probably recommended some of them because they were also my favourites.
    I read a bit less this year – we weren’t locked down much at all as you were. My top read for the year was Shuggie Bain (Douglas Stuart) and I also liked Sofie Laguna’s Infinite Splendours. Oddly, they cover similar subjects and are quite heartbreaking but the quality of the writing is wonderful. My other top reads – We are not ourselves (gifted from you) and The Children’s Crusade (library board sale for 20cents) also had very similar subject matter being family sagas. They were not newly published books so my resolution this year is to add the year of publication to my records.

    1. You definitely recommended several of my favourite books. I would like to read Shuggie Bain, so I might put in on my list for next year. I didn’t feel quite up to it last year.
      I think it’s a good idea to add the year of publication. Like many people, I sometimes get obsessed with getting my hands on the shiny new releases and forget to read books I’ve had on my TBR for years. A good example is The Secret History, which people seem to love. Have you read it?

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