Six of The Best Books I Read Last Year, That I Can’t Stop Recommending
Last year I read a whopping (for me anyway…) 33 books and although there were actually only a couple of duds, the five-star reads were few and far between too. So I wanted to share my top recommendations of all the best books I read in 2021. This round-up of top shelf picks really sums up my reading preferences perfectly – a couple of clever murder mysteries, some contemporary fiction, and a scattering of autobiographical picks written by exceptionally interesting people.
The Dry by Jane Harper
There’s a certain desperation that comes along with the wicked dry heat of the Australian drought. So when Luke, his wife and their son are found shot the local police are quick to wrap up this murder-suicide investigation as a frenzied, domestic attack. But when Luke’s childhood best friend teams up with the local sergeant they soon realise that all is not quite as it seems. A wonderfully written book that glides seamlessly between the family’s murder and an interwoven crime from twenty years earlier that has plagued the small town of Kiewarra ever since. I’ve read a few murder mysteries set against a similar backdrop, but its clever writing, plausible criminality and fast pace is what pushes this one onto my best books list.
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This is a prime example of an ‘Instagram-made-me-do-it’ book. Not only does it have the most gorgeous blush and navy cover, but it also was a pick for Beth’s Book Club. The story follows Kya throughout her childhood and early adulthood living in the swamps of North Carolina in the 1950s-1970s. The quiet, small town is rocked by a locals’ murder and the story begins there, but moves back in time to share the history of the characters. It’s incredibly well written, uber descriptive (I think it helps to know that the author is a wildlife scientist and has previously written wildlife literature – because otherwise, it can read a little pretentious, but the love for a long and wordy description comes from passion). Part coming of age, part romance and part mystery, I think this book is an Instagram must-read for a reason.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This is probably the book I’m most likely to pick up again this year. The audiobook is read by the magical Carey Mulligan and explores that ‘what could have been if…’ daydream that we all fall victim to. What if we’d taken that job, made that move, stayed with that person, or made a million other different decisions. This book explores that idea, and in a weird way takes the shine off the notion that things could always be better and it’s that reason that I think it’s one of the best books I’ve read. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, although it does deal with some serious and potentially triggering topics, so if those aren’t for you probably best to skip this book. TW: themes of suicide and death.
Of Gold and Dust by Samantha Wills
I’ve been familiar with Samantha Wills for a long time, but when I heard her speak on the Life Uncut podcast I was completely enamoured and dutifully bought the book immediately. I devoured it in just a few days, for someone who is so creatively talented and business savvy it hardly seems fair that she’s such a gifted writer too. Samantha tells of how it took her ’12 years to become an ‘overnight success” and that’s what I adore about this book. It doesn’t gloss over the obstacles and difficulties of running a creative business but instead, Samantha devotes whole chapters to her missteps. A truly incredible book that I can foresee myself reaching to reread again soon, which is something I rarely do. High praise for this book.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
I’m a big fan of the Obamas, and an avid White House snoop – From The Corner of The Oval Office by Beck Dorey-Stein was one of my favourite books of 2020, but this isn’t a political read. It gives insights into Michelle and Barack before they were the First Family, and even before they were involved in politics. I loved Michelle’s honest and frank style of storytelling, and how she wrote of the moment, and not with the benefit of hindsight – in fact, she mentions several times about how she didn’t want Barack to get into politics and how she didn’t think he’d get very far with it. Her authenticity and humour ooze from every page of this book. I typically prefer to listen to autobiographies than read them and this was no exception, but I have a hard copy of the book too.
Plus an honourable mention goes to Able by Dylan Alcott which I don’t have a photo of because I listened to it as an audiobook from the library. It was a fantastic listen and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. This has to be the book I’ve recommended the most – written by our newly appointed Australian of The Year for 2022, it’s the story (so far anyway) of tennis great, disability education advocate and the down-right hysterical Dylan Alcott. Not only is this one of the most interesting and best books I’ve ever listened to, but it’s also an invaluable starting point for better understanding disability advocacy and seeing usability issues in the community. I would love to see this book feature on the high school curriculum because I feel so strongly that everyone should get this book in their hands/ears.
Have you read any of these? What were your favourite books from last year?? If you’re after even more book recommendations, then this blogpost on all the books I read in 2021 lists them all with ratings and mini-reviews.