This past year, I read 61 books. In comparison to the average American, that’s pretty good. In comparison to the past couple years, it is fewer than I’m used to, but the number of books isn’t the best indicator of a rich reading life. My goal is always to consistently read, and I do read everyday.
In this post, I’ll share my top books that I read this year. These were all fantastic reads for me. Then, I’ll share a few books I’m looking forward to reading in 2022!
Top 8 Books of 2021
1. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
This book follows Alice Wright who leaves England to marry a wealthy and handsome man in small town Kentucky. Looking for a bit of an escape, she signs up to deliver books into the countryside. She is joined by Margery, an unflinchingly brave woman. They build friendships with a few others in town who become known as the Packhorse Librarians. There is quite a bit of drama throughout the novel, and I was completely drawn in by the sweeping narrative. It is historical fiction since the traveling library is a real historical thing, and I found that pretty cool.
My original review: I loved this book: the fierce independence of women, the power or love, the overwhelming effect of deep, meaningful friendship, the beauty of nature, teh love of books, the gratification of hard work and job well done, charity with significance and relationships, and more! I loved the mix of everyday problems with the grand conflict of justice. The flow of the plot was perfect. I rarely read a book with a pace that pleases me so much. I highly recommend this one. Beautiful story.
2. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
This realistic fiction novel highlights a group of people who become hostages during an open house showing for an apartment. A failed bank robber comes in and tries to figure out how to get some money. The way stories intertwine and overlap makes for an interesting (and hilarious and heartfelt) read.
My original review: This is now one of my all time favorite reads. I loved it! This book has the pleasure of being a fast paced read with one long scene as well as clear (not super confusing) flashbacks and vignettes throughout the book. It has bits and pieces of every motif you can imagine. It’s hilarious and heartwarming but at the same tme sad – in all the right, real world ways. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Also, I recently have seen the Netflix miniseries based on the book, and that is fantastic! It is arranged differently than the book but definitely stays true to the story. Check it out.
3. Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri
I love memoirs, and this one is definitely in the Top 5 I’ve read. The author was born in Iran, spent a couple years as a refugee in a camp, them immigrated to Oklahoma. This book is full of vignettes about his life that makes you feel like you’re living it with him. There also are these tales woven into the story that provide family history and folklore. This book was a refreshing take on how to write a memoir; it’s not like others I’ve read. It also would be great for middle grade aged kids all the way through adults.
My original review: This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The organization of it is strange so that takes some getting used to. He constantly refers to things out of a solid timeline, but it’s exactly like real memories are – the back and forth and intertwining and connecting ideas. I loved all of the stories, the myths, the legends. The storytelling is so good. Also, there are all these hidden gems of wisdom and advice that shine through. All of the characters come to life, even those only present for a short bit. I can imagine many people being able to relate to so many aspects of this book. I am blown away by how much I feel able to empathize with this story even when my personal story is so different. I think middle schoolers and high schoolers would enjoy this book, especially any English learners who would really connect with it. It would be great for others to read to gain different perspectives, too. As an adult, I loved it, though, for the way the memories are shared – so honestly. I did not expect to love this book so much. It’s on my special books list, and I will now be incredibly protective if anyone speaks against it!
4. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
I would be surprised if you have not heard anything about this book. I read several anti-racist reads over 2020 and 2021. This was towards the end of my reading list simply due to backlog at the library. The book is structured as personal narratives that move through Kendi’s life in chronological order. He also embeds tons of academic ideas so it’s not a surface level reflection at all. I appreciated how self-reflective and honest this book was because that is what made me want to be self-reflective and honest.
My original review: I wish someone had told me this book had memoir tendencies. I love the personal stories and reflective nature of the book. Unlike some of the antiracist books out there that were merged blog posts or Instagram challenges or something else, Kendi has done a great job of developing this as a book that progressively deepens and synthesizes across chapters. It’s thoroughly researched, well organized, interesting, and insightful. I loved this book. I can’t recommend it enough. If youonly read one book about racism and intersectionality, let this be it.
5. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
The Court of Thrones and Roses series has gotten a lot of hype. I had seen it on display in bookstores for a few years. I thought it was more of a YA Fantasy, but I think it’s far more adult than young adult due to the intensity of the romance scenes. These books are pretty long, and I wasn’t sure there would be enough plot movement to keep me reading. I have now just about finished A Court of Silver Flames, the most recent in the series, and I’d highly recommend all of it if you like fantasy and/or romance. There are battle scenes, political machinations, betrayals, emotional turmoil, magic, powerful creatures, plot twists…all of it. I enjoyed the first book but found it somewhat predictable until the end. A Court of Mist and Fury is the second, and it was better than the first.
My original review: Really loved this sequel; I think more than the first! The plot is spun together quite nicely.
6. Birds of a Feather: A Maisie Dobbs Mystery by Jacqueline Winspear
My dad almost exclusively reads murder mysteries. I heard about this series and it reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman. That is part of the Sally Lockhart series. Maisie Dobbs is a similar protagonist in a slightly later era in Britain. Birds of a Feather is actually the second Maisie Dobbs book, and I liked it more than the first. The first in the series for me felt a bit confusing because I wasn’t expecting a flashback to be half the book. It was more that I wasn’t prepared for exactly what it was. The book is set after the Great War (WWI) in the 1930s. Maisie was a nurse in WWI and sympathizes greatly with war efforts and the loss of life. The books are not all murder mysteries; some of the plot centers around conundrums. Maisie is an investigator, but she’s also a psychologist. That character information comes through strongly throughout the series. I have now read 4 in the series and plan to finish it over time.
My original review: I think I liked this better than the first in the series. I love being able to sense bits and pieces adn put together clues, and this book had a lot of little clues. I also enjoyed the multiple side plots going on in the lives of characters.
7. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I adore memoirs. This story of justice is absolutely heartbreaking in the best way. Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer who sought out how to use his talents to help others. He founded the Equal Justice Iniative, which has done so much of which I was completely unaware. The movie is also well done and worth watching, whether or not you have time for the book…but make time for the book!
My original review: This book made me cry at several points so I had to take breaks, but it was so meaningful and enlightening. Somehow Bryan Stevenson is so generous in spirit in the way he talks about everyone. It’s remarkable. I am amazed at the work he and his team have done amidst so much heartache and against such difficulties. A truly amazing read. I’ve seen the film adaptation which I do think does an honest portrayal of this book, but I’m glad I read the book – it’s a much deeper, richer experience.
8. The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
This is the sequel to One and Only Ivan. Bob is a little, feisty dog with tons of personality. This makes for a hilarious book because he’s always fighting the idea of being “owned” and being too attached to anyone. He’s incredibly brave and loyal, though. The central conflict is a hurricane that’s threatening to destroy the safety of the wildlife preserve where beloved characters Ivan and Ruby live. You would not have to read One and Only Ivan before this book. The author does a great job filling you in with necessary details. Since it’s a novel in verse, it’s a pretty quick.
My original review: I might like this more than the One and Only Ivan. Bob is such a fun character – charming and hilarious. The dog brain is a joy to dive into. The heroism and bravery of the animals is heartwarming. Great read!
Books I Want to Read in 2022
1. Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
For those who have read The Giver of Stars, I have not met anyone who hasn’t loved it; however, multiple people have told me they liked Book Woman of Troublesome Creek better. The main character is Cussy Mary, also a Kentucky Pack Horse Librarian of the 1930s, and I’m thrilled to read it! I’m hoping I love it becaue there will even be a sequel in May 2022- The Book Woman’s Daughter.
2. All The Young Dudes by MsKingBean89
This is a piece of Harry Potter Fan Fiction that has a huge following. I’m reading it in a book group online one chapter a day until we finish mid-July. So far, I love it. It’s so fun. This is a HUGE book that spans all 7 years of Harry’s parents and their generation. It starts with Remus Lupin being invited to Hogwarts by Dumbledore. From there, you get to know James, Sirius, Peter, Lily, Severus, and you get reacquainted with professors and so on. I’m enjoying this book that’s not a published book.
3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
I am also doing this as a slow but steady buddy read, and I’m hoping 1. I stick with it. 2. I actually like the book. I think I will be good if I can just get into it.
4. Dune by Frank Herbert
I started this book last year and didn’t finish it before seeing the movie. I want to finish it especially since the third part is supposed to be the most exciting.
5. Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis
I’ve read most of the Narnia series before, but I haven’t finished the last couple. This is disappointing because I often claim C.S. Lewis as my favorite author. Oops! I have read several of his works, fiction and nonfiction, but not everything. I’ve decided I need to finish up Narnia first. Also, this past year I’ve enjoyed the C.S. Lewis Podcast with Alistair McGrath; he did a series on each of the books, so I want to catch up to those!
Okay, so this isn’t a specific book. I have loved podcasts for several years, but I have found over this past year that my love for some is fading. I’ve narrowed down my listening habits to a select few. I also have always avoided audiobooks. I never wanted to listen to a fictional story; I like rereading and moving around in a book. I realized, though, that I’m likely to enjoy nonfiction audiobooks. I tried one this year: Stamped for Kids. I have a couple others queued in my Libby app: The Body by Bill Bryson and Taste by Stanley Tucci. I like podcast interviews about books, but I often think, “I’d rather just hear the book.” So I decided I’m going to try to do that this year.
7. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
This book has been leant to me, and I always love their recommendations. The main character is a less than charismatic concierge, Renee. She observes a 12 yr old girl, Paloma, who is living the precarious life of an almost teenager. Their relationship and how it expands is supposed to be pretty heartwarming. I don’t remember much of what they told me other than it was a sweet story. I’m excited for the feeling of wanting to give a character a hug; I think I’ll get that with this one.
8. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This book has gotten a decent amount of hype, and I’m excited to read it! It’s a fantasy novel about an enchanted library withb books that tell the stories of different realities, different lives. The main character, Nora, has to decide whether she will change her life and embrace a new one. It’s a fascinating premise.
One of the best ways to keep reading and to read more is to always have a ready list or stack of books. When I have lots of things that are teasing me towards completion, I read more. It’s one of the great joys of my life. Another great joy is reading and listening about reading! Goodreads and my Libby app get a good chunk of my screen time. Hopefully this list inspires you to read this coming year!