Favourite books of 2021 📚

Properly in awe of people hitting more than a book a week!


fiction, not from 2021: Paul Takes The Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor, also enjoyed a lot of Shirley Jackson’s short stories
non-fiction from 2021: What Artists Wear by Charlie Porter
non-fiction, not from 2021: Dear Friend and Gardener by Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto
too many gardening books and cookbooks to list tbh


Ah, this is good… cos I enjoy reading the Books thread but always forget to post what I’m reading in it.

All my favourite books I read this year came out this year, which is weird and would suggest that I have completed the history of literature (this is clearly not the case)

Fiction #1 - Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett
(sprawling fiction / memoir / essay thing that plays by its own rules, lots about reading in it and there’s a Borges-esque story at the centre of it which is a re-telling of a story the author previously wrote, about a man named Tarquin Superbus. I think it could be possible to read this and find it completely self-indulgent but I just found it really engrossing, read it twice)

Fiction #2 - Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor

Fiction/Non-fiction choice - A Swim In A Pond In The Rain by George Saunders (book about fiction with examples of fiction included so…)

Also weird that my favourite reads were all by writers I already knew and loved. Usually find someone I’ve never heard of comes in and wows me (e.g. @Squandered last year my #1 was Hurricane Season - that book has such incredible momentum. Think she has another one published, which I think I saw somewhere is coming out in English next year)

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Pleasing to see Detransition Baby on the lists, I have learnt a lot, laughed a fair bit, and been genuinely moved…and it’s extremely readable.

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if I read any books which came out this year I don’t know what they are, but they will have been non-fiction read for ‘work’

favourite fiction book I read this year was The Image of a Drawn Sword by Jocelyn Brook, a very atmospheric and strange book from 1950 where the narrator is drawn into secret military preparations for an ‘Emergency’; partly ‘about’ the author’s homosexuality, gets called Kafkaesque too often, might appeal to people who like English landscape stuff and folk horror too

A close second was Accident by Nicholas Mosley (after watching the film adapted by Pinter and directed by Joseph Losey)…Oxford academic, infidelity, sort of anglicised existentialist musing but written in a fairly striking way

Also liked Hotel Splendid by Marie Redonnet, where the narrator lives with her two sisters in a decaying hotel in a swamp

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I read the whole thing in one day. It was my ‘re-entry’ into book reading after a a fairly long break, trying to read stuff that I’m sure is good, but just wasn’t feeling, or just felt like a struggle on a balmy summer afternoon.

Usually I go for a Stephen King for this. Not high hard, not challenging, but really well told genre stuff. I really appreciated this recommendation.

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I forgot to mention anything about non-fiction.

I’ve only read a few non-fiction books this year: Nomadland, like a lot of people, I’m sure. I read a couple of oral histories: that ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’ book about New York music and one about The Office. Both served as excellent examples of oral histories, in that I had a lower opinion of almost everybody involved, and the subject matter to boot.

The other non fiction I read this year were all books about films. Disney War, about Michael Eisner’s tenure as head of Disney pictures, which was a bit long, Shock Treatment, about horror movies in the new Hollywood era, and a crappy little book about Marvel Studios.

I was listening to a podcast made by the TLS a couple of weeks ago, and the author of this book was being interviewed. This book sounds exactly like my sort of thing, but I can’t any way to buy it for less than the equivalent of £25. This is one of the times where I wish I could just nip round to a book store and have a look at it, to see if it justifies the price. It’s also the kind of book that I think won’t have the same impact as an ebook.

The subject - the feeling you get when you’re out walking and walk past some houses and the lights are on, and you just imagine who lives behind the curtains, and the specific atmosphere, especially in Autumn, is something I totally relate to.

Long shot, but if anyone has read this, or has bought it as a present (seems like a good Chirstmas gift) then please let me know. It has 0 reviews on Goodreads.

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Tiffany McDaniel - Betty
This was released last year, but maybe the paperback is this year, so maybe that can kind of count as a 2021 release. Absolutely beautiful, funny, heartbreaking, devastating book. Lovely characters. Will definitely re-read it again some day.

Ada Palmer - Too Like the Lightning (and the sequels, but this was my favourite)
The first book was near perfect, with the second one close behind, and the final two slightly less perfect, but still enjoyable. The last book, Perhaps The Stars, was released this year, so by default is high in my 2021 list. Big giant sci-fi future world building, with a hundred and one things happening at once.

Ann Leckie - Ancillary Justice (and the sequels, but this was my favourite)
More sci-fi. Loved this book. The next two got progressively less good, but enjoyable enough.

Lawrence M. Schoen - Barsk - The Elephants’ Graveyard
Humanoid elephant planet, very nice easy read and quite engaging.

Hannah Kent - Burian Rites
Based on a true story of the last woman sentenced to death in Iceland in the 19th century. quite bleak, but lovely book that transports you to that time and place.

Maylis De Kerangal - Mend The Living
An intriguing book detailing a body parts donor process from someone involved in an accident.

Fredrik Backman - A Man Called Ove
Enjoyable amusing book, sort of like the 100 year old man who climbed out of a window…

Clarice Lispector - Hour Of The Star
Absolutely loved this book and its beautiful language and imagery. Her other books I’ve read since haven’t clicked with me as much unfortunately.

and some others:

Octavia Butler - Wild Seed (and the sequels, but this was my favourite)
Delia Owens - Where The Crawdads Sing
Tiffany McDaniel - The Summer That Melted Everything
Margo Lanagon - Tender Morsels

(Incidentally, if anyone has any book recommendations that are available on Kindle Unlimited, then I’d gratefully have them so I can give them a go!)

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I enjoyed The Mermaid of Black Conch

I read 30 this year which I’m happy with. I used to be terrible for reading at home, and could only ever read on my commute. Obviously that’s been knocked on the head a bit, which is great!

  1. No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood - clear winner of the year for me. It made me laugh and cry a lot. Acts of Desperation would be a close second @shrewbie , I loved that too.

  2. Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon - finally read after many years of owning and yeah it’s brilliant. Such a mastery of language, and it really is an engulfing narrative that feels like a HBO mini-series.

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I love this, and it’s quite quite a few fans on here too.

I’ve heard a lot about No One… and it sounds intriguing so might check it out.

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It looks like a pretty cool idea for a book and certainly seems to get a decent write up from the places that are aware it exists

Fave book of 2021 - Detransition Baby (published in Jan, so only just)
Fave book I read in 2021 - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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Yep, I think it’s likely one I bought because of everyone here showing so much love for it. Need to get Yiddish Policeman’s Union.

I think K&C is probably a better novel but I think I’ve reread YPU every two years or so because it is great.

My county library (Kent) has it in their system so I have placed a reservation on it. The write ups do make it sound like my sort of thing. The FT article mentions an Alan Hollingsworth book that The Lighted Window refers back to so I am going to try to read that before the reservation comes in.

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I’m also a Kent library user! Maybe I’ll give it a go, could even end up reading the same copy :grinning:

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