My Books of the Year for 2021
That was the year that was. We are still living in uncertain and strange times, but you can always guarantee that books will be there and get us through and they have again this year.
So as the old year draws to a close, I want to share some of the books that I have read and reviewed here on my blog, or through my book reviews for Word Gets Around magazine or via radio during the past year.
This year I have selected my ten fiction titles and ten non-fiction titles without actually picking just one from each to be my best book of the year. There have been so many great books through 2021 and it was incredibly hard to keep it down to just ten.
My ten fiction books of 2021
My ten favourite fiction reads for 2021:
The Night Gate by Peter May (riverrun)
Set in France in the autumn of 2020, Enzo Macleod is asked to investigate the discovery of the remains of a man found beneath a tree. He has been shot through the head. There is another murder and the two are seventy years apart. To uncover the whole story, you must go back to the fall of France in 1940.
A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy jago (Bloomsbury)
This is a fabulous novel based on the true story that rocked the court of James I. If you love historical novels then this sumptuous novel with vivid characters is just waiting to be read. So much detail of the seventeenth century court life.
While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart (Headline)
Paris in 1944 a young woman is hoarded onto a train that is bound for a concentration camp and in an act of desperation she passes her baby to a complete stranger. Fast forward to Santa Cruz in 1953 and the past is about to return. I absolutely loved this novel.
No Honour by Awais Khan (orenda Books)
A story based in a small Pakistani village and sixteen-year-old Abida there are age old rules to abide by and consequences if you don’t. She wants a life with the young man she loves. She has no choice but to leave her village and head to Lahore. But this is where the story really begins. Powerful and heart wrenching.
Still Life by Sarah Winman (Fourth Estate)
Brilliant does not do justice to Still Life. I know this is many readers favourite of 2021 and it is not hard to see why. I just love Sarah’s writing. The story moves between London and Florence in a sweeping novel of love and fate. Simply gorgeous.
The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex (Picador)
Cornwall 1972 and three lighthouse keepers have simply vanished from the lighthouse, but what did really happen to the three men? Surely, they could not have just simply vanished? Based on real events.
On Hampstead Heath by Marika Cobbold (Arcadia Books)
Thorn Marsh writes for the London Journal but now it has been bought out Thorn finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement and fabricates a good news story. So why has she done this? You could easily overlook this novel. But don’t it is just wonderful.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (Wildfire)
Shortlisted for Waterstones book of the year. A stunning retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and Minotaur. A wonderful debut novel. Jennifer Saint writes so beautifully. Cannot wait to see what comes next.
The Beresford by Will Carver (Orenda Books)
The Beresford is an apartment building where the rates are cheap but ring the doorbell if you dare. No-one seems to stay for very long, but they never seem to leave if you know what I mean. This is a dark and creepy story with some humour added. A master storyteller.
Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks (Hutchinson)
Set across three time periods, beginning in 1914 and WWI and as we move through the years WWII is looming. This is a sweeping love story that begins in Austria. A tale of love lost and found.
My ten non-fiction books of 2021
Power and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (Head of Zeus)
Dan Jones does not write short history books, at 720 pages but what Dan does is write gripping history books. This account covers the period from AD 410 to AD 1527. It is a compelling read that you just cannot put down. There is so much contained in over 700 pages. Through this period, we see empires built and destroyed. Easily in my top ten of the year.
The Reacher Guy: The Authorised Biography of Lee Child by Heather Martin (Constable)
Think of Lee Child and you automatically know him from the huge bestselling books, over 100 million of them, but do you know Lee Child the man? How did it all begin? Heather Martin has spent time with great man himself and it is all here. There is so much in this biography. Heather Martin is a wonderful writer and if you are a fan of Lee Child, this is a must read.
Mozart: The Reign of Love by Jan Swafford (Faber & Faber)
I have been fascinated by the great composers for many years and really wanted to get to know more about who they really were. Well look no further, this is a stunning book that covers the life of the genius composer. Mozart was not like the other composers. Different is an understatement but what genius as a composer. This book covers his life in over 800 pages.
Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan (Allen Lane)
We can be so guilty of overlooking the humble index, so how did it all begin and were did they begin. The answer is here in one of my non-fiction books of the year. This could be so easily overlooked but it should not as we use indexes more than you think. Next time you Google, think of this. Duncan brings wit into his account of the index which spans over 800 years.
The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster (Little Toller Books)
Writing this on a dull last day of the year, I miss the Swift, the scream as they fly low of the house. But it won’t be long I tell myself. In the meantime, here is an account of Charles Foster’s as he follows the Swift from its wintering home and waits patiently for the return to the UK. It is poetic and thoughtful with beautiful illustrations. Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize in 2021.
The Making of Oliver Cromwell by Ronald Hutton (Yale University Press)
This is a new and fascinating history of Oliver Cromwell. The only English commoner to become head of state. Ronald Hutton gets to the facts of a man that really has his place in history of this country. I am really hoping there is a part two to this outstanding book.
A Poet for Every day of the Year by Allie Esiri (Macmillan)
I have had a love of poetry since I was very young and have many of the collections put together by Allie Esiri and here are 366 poems for each and every day of the year. From Shakespeare to Wordsworth to Christina Rossetti and many more. Many of the poets and the poems may be familiar but many will be new to you. This book is never far away from me every day.
The White Ship by Charles Spencer (William Collins)
One of the great disasters of this country happened was the sinking of the White Ship in 1120. Many drowned including the King’s heir. But what really happened that night. It was the fastest ship afloat. Charles Spencer writes an historical account, and it reads like a bestselling thriller.
Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden (John Murray)
A 3,000-year history of the destruction of knowledge. We all know of the burning of the books in Germany in 1933, but books have been under attack since the clay tablets. This is a really important book about knowledge, and it is very thought-provoking.
The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds by Jon Dunn (Bloomsbury)
Having been to the Caribbean and seen Hummingbirds up close, they are just so alluring. Jon Dunn takes us on a journey to discover some of the great Hummingbirds with great stories of his encounters with the birds and the people he meets on his travels.
So, there we are another year in books comes to a close. I will keep saying this, but writers and books are so important, especially during uncertain times when we can escape into a book be it a novel or a book on history. This year I have started my journey with the Open University studying English Literature and Creative Writing and it has already given me a new perspective on how I read as well as writing.
I have really sharing some great books over the last year and I am so grateful for all the kind comments that many have taken to the time to add. Sat on my desk among the pile of study material are some great books for 2022 just waiting to be read and it already looks like being another great year.
This is also my opportunity to thank all the authors and publishers and the many people who work in PR who have trusted me with their books. To each one of you all I can do is thank you. It is also a chance to mention bookshops and the incredible booksellers who again have been working so hard in these difficult times and yet just look at the book sales over the past year.
I hope the New Year is a better year for us all. Here’s to more great books in 2022.
2 thoughts on “The Books That Made My Year: 2021”
So many of those are calling to me! Happy New Year John.
Some really lovely books there. I read Index and Burning the Books but they didn’t make it into my top 11 nonfiction, which had some just amazing books in them. Of yours, I really want to read The Screaming Sky. Happy New Year and hope it’s a good one for reading!