Best Books of 2021

For the third year in a row, I met my goal of reading 50 books in a year. These are the five best ones of the year for me:

The first book that I want to tell you about is a book called The Storm Keeper’s Island. It is written by Irish writer Catherine Doyle and is it is the first of a trilogy. This book is so beautifully written; the writer’s use of simile and metaphor, in particular, is wonderful as she paints a vivid picture of the magical, mysterious (and fictional) island of Arranmore off the coast of Ireland. The characters have so much feeling and emotion and seem so realistic and yet there are also fantastical elements that make this a wonderful chapter book for children. 

I read it on my own first and was so enamoured with it, I told my daughter she must read it straight away. For some reason though, it just didn’t seem to grab her attention and in the end, I managed to convince her to let me read it to her as a bedtime story; this was a lovely experience in itself as it’s been some time since I’ve read her at night now that she’s such a proficient and prolific reader. It gave us that special time together enjoying a story and feeling it together. 

I really can’t wait now to get on with reading the second book which I had to hold off until I re-read the first one.  It is called The Lost Tide Warriors.

Another of my top five books for 2021 was Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, an imagined telling of Shakespeare’s family‘s life, set in Stratford-upon-Avon during Shakespeare’s lifetime although with him very much an absent figure as he spent his time in London, leaving his wife and the children behind in Stratford. I found the book utterly fascinating but also very emotional as it tells the story of Hamnet’s tragically short life.  As it is based on real events, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it follows Shakespeare’s children, one of whom, Hamnet, died in childhood. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet quite soon after. 

O’Farrell did a remarkable job of making this world of Stratford-upon-Avon in the late 1500s come to life including details of daily life that I hadn’t really considered before. It help me to really imagine the lives of these people who lived just 15 miles down the road but centuries away in time.

Another book in my top five last year was a fun read by Jojo Moyes called The Giver of Stars. Another book inspired by real events although this time very much fictionalised in the actual storytelling, it tells the story of a group of women in Kentucky who provided a library service in very isolated rural communities in the mountain there. It was so enjoyable reading about these strong women who braved discrimination as well as natural perils to ensure that everyone had a chance to read. You can see why I was so taken with it! 

Along with beautiful descriptions of landscape, compelling human stories are happening with strong, interesting, complex characters who kept me gripped right until the very end.

A book I was very thankful for 2021 was Laura Tremaine’s Share Your Stuff I’ll Go First. This book was illuminating and thought-provoking in that it asked a series of searching questions about life. By pre-ordering the book, I was included in an exclusive Facebook book club group; this led me to meet some amazing women who were in a similar position to me: unable to join in with Laura‘s book club discussions as they took place in the evening US Pacific time. As we were all based in the UK or Europe, we decided to set up our own monthly online club to discuss each chapter of the book. Laura even managed to make it to one of our meetings which was a blast. When we had finished, we continued with the conversation and we are still in touch today. I’m sure we’ll have a meeting soon to discuss whatever we are reading, watching, listening to next.

Laura has just announced that her 10 Things to Tell You podcast is coming to an end with the last episode just released this week. I look forward to what comes next.

The last book I read in 2021 was actually a Christmas gift from my mum and dad. It’s called The Cat Who Saved Books by Japanese writer Sosuke Natsukawa, translated into English by Louise Heal Kawai. This is a philosophical book that explores what the love of books means, challenging us to think about why we really like them. Through an original narrative, it highlights the different ways that we as humans supposedly treasure books, for example locking them away to keep them safe. Although it took me a few pages to get my head around the concept, I was so pleased that this is the last book I read of 2021 because it really made me think about my own reading and made me reflect on what’s important.  In truth, I had picked up the book so that I could complete my 50 book challenge (I finished this 50th book at 1am on 31st December!) – just the kind of thing that seems to be in some ways judged in this book: reading just a tick off a list. 

However, this book did make me think about how I read and made me want to read in a more meaningful, purposeful way which is why one of my reading resolutions for this year is to annotate my books more, something I very much enjoy doing for work but rarely do when reading for pleasure. And I’m still going to participate in my usual 50 book challenge in 2022, as I find it a very useful way to track my reading; the goal helps me keep focused and encourages me off my phone when I have the time to read. It’s all too easy to fritter away any spare minutes that we do have on this tyrannical device in our hand.  

My reading resolutions for 2022 are as follows:

  • no new books before March – I have so many books to read already I don’t need any new ones so I am not buying any more before March. Wish me luck with this!
  • read beloved by Toni Morrison– this was one of my items for 21 things for 2021 which I didn’t manage to do – I’ve been wanting to read this book for years so this year is the year!
  • use the library more – I really love visiting the library.
  • start a new book series – any ideas anyone?
  • annote and highlight more.
  • keep a reading journal.

Tell me, what you’re reading at the moment or what you would like to be this year? Do you have any reading resolutions?

Happy reading!

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