The 19 Books I’ve Read So Far This Year | Reviews, Ratings and Recommendations
At the beginning of 2021, I had this really good feeling that this year would be great and exciting and full of promise. I bought a new diary, optimistically hoping that I would be filling it with dinners out and cinema dates and food festival visits, and I resisted restocking the To Be Read shelf after Christmas because I, very inaccurately, assumed I’d be far too busy this year with exciting things to be reading nearly as much as I did last year. Well, fast forward to now, and my diary holds more dust than it does exciting plans, and I’m flying through books like never before. I thought I was giving myself a realistic but motivational push when I made my 2021 goal to read twenty books, but as we just passed the halfway point I have just finished book number nineteen… so I think even the most sceptical part of me can say that I’ll probably achieve that twelve-month goal a little early.
So I thought what better time than now to go through all the books I’ve read so far this year and tell you which ones I rate, which I think you can skip, and which are absolute must-reads.
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – 5 / 5
Written by an incredibly passionate and knowledgeable wildlife scientist, this fictional story follows local ‘marsh girl’ Kya throughout her childhood and early adulthood living in the swamps of North Carolina in the 1950s-1970s. The small town is rocked by a locals’ murder, making it part mystery, but it’s equally a story of love, life and coming of age. It’s astoundingly well written with the most beautifully descriptive tone. This book is an Instagram must-read for a reason, plus the cover is just divine!
Me by Elton John – 5 / 5
Everyone knows the hit songs, but the incredible life that Elton John has lived really makes me wonder why it’s taken this long for him to write a book. A great story for fans of his music, but also anyone interested in fashion, pop culture or who just loves great stories about really interesting people (so basically everyone should read this?!). The audiobook is mostly read by Taron Egerton, who does a fab job, with small snippets read by Elton himself, highly recommend listening to this one.
Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay – 4 / 5
Short, sharp and wildly entertaining. This mini-book of diary entries from Adam’s seven Christmases working in hospitals is hysterically funny, super witty and sometimes heartbreakingly sad (but those come with a very considerate trigger warning if you’d like to skip them). Kinda like a book version of all the funniest bits of a hospital behind the scenes television show.
Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living by Glennon Doyle – 4 / 5
A collection of short chapters that focus on different themes and teach different lessons through stories of Glennon’s own experiences. I’d say about 80% of this book really resonated with me (my copy has been dog-eared like no tomorrow) but the other 20% wasn’t for me. I feel like this is still a ‘self-improvement’ book, but because it’s told through stories of life experiences it makes it like hearing wisdom from a friend, rather than a preachy life coach with steps and bullet points. Really enjoyed!
The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson – 2 / 5
This entire book (all 511 pages of it) is set over just a few days, where US President Duncan must foil an imminent terrorist attack that he has been cryptically warned of but has no details about. I struggled to get into the first half, but by the second half, I was slightly more interested. This is the second book by James Paterson that hasn’t grabbed me so I don’t think his writing is for me, but overall, an interesting read and I’m glad I finally ticked it off because it’s been sitting on my shelf for ages.
Challenge Accepted! by Celeste Barber – 4 / 5
I really enjoyed this, it’s mostly light and upbeat, and tells stories about Celeste Barber’s life as an actor and comedian. She also speaks about harder topics too, which I wasn’t really expecting from her, but honestly, it’s made me appreciate her sense of humour all the more, and see her with more dimension than just ‘the funny woman from Instagram’.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid – 4 / 5
An extremely well-written book about racism that doesn’t *feel* like a book on racism. Kiley Reid alternates her narrative from the perspective of Alix Chamberlain, a Caucasian blogger/parent of two, and Emira, the Black babysitter she employees. The book begins with Emira being stopped by grocery store security because she is alone with a white toddler and she is suspected of something sinister. I love the way the author offers two very different perspectives on the exact same events, she shows perfectly how unintentional racism can stem from minor ignorances and from just not understanding someone else’s reality.
The Woman In The Window by A.J. Finn – 5 / 5
I loved this book! It’s pacey, detailed, complex but easy to read. The premise is so basic, you’re at home alone and you witness a crime in your neighbour’s house through their window only to have the police not believe you. Can’t recommend this book enough, just whatever you do, don’t watch the film adaptation. It’s not even close to being as good as the book.
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan – 1 / 5
I haven’t struggled with a book so much in a long time. I stuck with it because the plot sounded great, and it had rave reviews, but I found it oddly written, anti-climatic and thought it missed opportunities. Wouldn’t recommend it.
I Heart Hollywood by Lindsey Kelk – 3 / 5
Perfect light and fluffy read in between mystery books. This is the second book in the I Heart Series, which I began and loved last year. An easy and entertaining book, I feel like this series is the grown-up version of the Princess Diaries series. And I definitely mean that as a compliment, I loved those books as a teen!
Becoming by Michelle Obama – 5 / 5
I much prefer to listen to autobiographies than read them and this was no exception, Michelle Obama’s voice is incredible. I’ve been a big fan of hers for a long time and I think her authenticity and personality as a ‘non-traditional’ First Lady oozes from this book. For example, she mentions several times how she didn’t want Barack to venture into politics and how she didn’t think he’d get very far with it, she is also quick to note all the sacrifices and hardships of being the Presidential family and she doesn’t just focus on the glossy and lovely bits. Loved it!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – 5 / 5
TW: themes of suicide and death. This book is incredible. We all daydream about ‘what could have been if…’ we’d taken that job, made that move or acted differently on a million other decisions. This book explores that idea, and in a weird way takes the shine off the idea that things could always be better. I highly recommend this book. I listened to the audiobook read by the remarkable Carey Mulligan which was pure magic (what a voice!) but I’m sure the physical copy would be just as good.
Of Gold and Dust: A Memoir of a Creative Life – 5 / 5
I’ve been familiar with Samantha Wills for a while, but when I heard her on the Life Uncut podcast I was enamored with her story. 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, it would be easy to avoid talking about times that she made the wrong call but instead Samantha devotes whole chapters to it. A truly incredible book that I can foresee myself reaching to reread in the future, which is something I never do. High praise for this book and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Samantha Wills.
The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter – 4 / 5
I love a crime book, but typically I go for the more psychological thriller type than the graphic and violent murder type of books. This is definitely one of the most descriptive and disturbing crime thrillers I’ve read, and I’m not sure I’d race back for more like it, but having said that I thought the plot was quite good. The narrative jumped between victims and the main Detectives working the case and kept me really engaged right up to the end. Even if you get an inkling on ‘who done it’ it doesn’t quite come together until right at the end. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but if you like your crime books with more of a violent flavour this could be for you.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – 3 / 5
I love a contemporary romance book; this one is set in an office with two competing staff members who work opposite each other. I thought the plot was clever, and there were a few turns I didn’t see coming which made it all the more enjoyable. The ending was a bit ridiculous if I’m honest, but in keeping with the romantic theme I suppose. There were also a few things that I think could have been written better and certain descriptors that I think were in poor taste, but overall it’s an enjoyable read and I liked the premise so I’ve just picked up the author’s latest book, hoping that it’s a little more ‘sophisticated’ and mature in its tone.
The Dry by Jane Harper – 5 / 5
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 to death at their home the local police are quick to wrap up this murder-suicide investigation. 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 a crime from twenty years earlier that has plagued the small town of Kiewarra ever since.
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan – 4 / 5
Another detective-crime novel, this time set against the cold and dreary backdrop of Ireland. A young and new police officer Cormac Reilly is called to a house and finds a young boy and his teenage sister with their deceased mother upstairs from an apparent overdose. Fast forward twenty years and the same police officer, now DS Cormac, is called when the once young boy is found dead after jumping from a bridge in town. So many twists and turns, a really enjoyable read!
The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan – 4 / 5
This is the second book in the DS Cormac trilogy, I jumped straight into this sequel and have already got the third book lined up and ready. There is something so mysterious about a murder in frosty and foggy Ireland, and this book has not one but two homicides. Thoroughly enjoyed it, this is a great sequel but could definitely be read as a stand-alone book too.
Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane – 4 / 5
Surprising and unexpected. The ‘one night that changes everything…’ that the cover refers to is of the devastating kind, and not so much the salacious evening that I was anticipating (without spoiling anything I just have to advise you to have tissues handy towards the start of the book) but it’s an incredible read. It explores grief, love and friendship in a way I haven’t read about before and I really enjoyed it. Certain books should come with a trigger warning, and this is one of them. TW: sudden death.
Have you read anything lately that you’ve really enjoyed? I’ve forever got a shelf full of books I’m looking forward to starting, but I’m always on the lookout for a good recommendation! But if you’re struggling with picking up books at the moment I have a whole blog post here dedicated to how to read more by making it part of your daily routine and get back to enjoying books. Hope it helps!