2021 favourites

My top reads of the year

I had such a great reading year in 2021 that I really struggled to whittle my favourites down to just 12 books. I discovered wonderful new authors and returned to some old, comfortable reads. Choose any of these to add to your TBR and you are in for such a treat.

All the Feels by Olivia Dade is a glorious rom-com for those longing for a leading lady who isn’t stick thin. The fat rep in Dade’s books is phenomenal – the realities of living as a fat person aren’t shied away from but these women’s bodies are celebrated without reservation by their partners. And the love interest in this novel is also so real and flawed and loveable.

Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane is another intelligent rom-com – the characters are so well written and the friendships complex and messy. I went back and read McFarlane’s other books after picking this one up at Sainsburys and none of them disappoint – there is love, hurts, and humour by the bucket-load in all of them.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers is beautiful. I love Chambers (GO AND READ EVERYTHING SHE’S WRITTEN PLEASE) and this is a continuation of her wonderful ability to pull apart what makes us human. There is also a lot of tea drinking, which made me want to go out and conquer my apathy towards it (recommendations welcome!)

My Broken Vagina by Fran Bushe is one of the few non-fiction books I read this year – and it is a corker. I read it in a day (I always feel bad when I do this, since it takes authors such a long time to put their books together!) and was both smiling and cringing all the way through. This is a great read for anyone who has experienced discomfort during sex and wants to feel seen.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty is a mishmash of family drama, thriller, mystery, love story, and so much more. Somehow, she makes baking a batch of brownies into an incredibly gripping and tense moment. If you loved The Husband’s Secret and Nine Perfect Strangers, then you’ll enjoy this – I’d say it’s her best yet.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro is sad and hopeful in equal measure. Told from the point of view of an incredibly advanced robot, this novel delves into the wonderfulness and awfulness of what it means to be human. I really struggled to put this down, and recommend it to fans of Never Let Me Go who want something just as well written but a little lighter.

Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland was a reread of an old favourite and it was like walking down an old path you know and love. This book deals sensitively with the damaging after-effects of trauma and the complicatedness of loving our parents even when they make huge mistakes. Plus it’s set in a second-hand bookshop – always a win.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker gave me a genuine book hangover. I was thinking about this crime novel for weeks afterwards. I feel a little bit bad recommending it because it will stick with you for a long time and not let go. It’s beautifully written and compelling – great for anyone who loves getting stuck into a complex mystery without too much gore.

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley is phenomenal. A time-twisting love story that I was stressed to put down because I had to know what happened at the end. It’s full of such well written characters that it’s a struggle to let them go, and a snappy plot that will keep you guessing. Plus there’s a broken sailor that I defy you not to fall in love with.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam is a creepy story of what happens to a group of strangers at the end of the world. It’s tense and carefully described – flitting between the characters seamlessly and showing both their best and worst sides. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Strout or Ingrid Persaud.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is great – I have discovered a love of space fiction this year and this has to be the best I read. There’s a really relatable main character and (tiny spoiler but not really) a freaky looking alien who it’s impossible not to fall in love with. If you read The Martian and were sad it ended, then check this out.

And finally, The Comfort Book by Matt Haig is pure hug in book form. It’s not a book that has to be read in any specific way at all – so dip in and out, sit down with it for a day, just read the chapters that appeal to you – and you’ll come away feeling known. I loved Reasons to Stay Alive, and this is more of the same.

As always, read them all and we can be chums 😊

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