Okay so this post might actually contain more than 10 books to read in 2021, don’t hate me, I just couldn’t pick a final ten and when I asked on Instagram for a good book I got inundated.
Reading, for me, is the ultimate in escapism and if ever a year called for more escapism then it has to be 2021. No longer am I craving a new boxset to disappear into, I spend too long looking at screens during the day and no matter how hard I try I still get annoying pop ups and alerts interrupting me. No, I need to put all the electronics down and pick up more books. By doing so we can instantly be transported to the 1800s or a far flung isle we have only ever dreamt of visiting (and at the moment can only dream of visiting). We can shut off the outside the world instantly and curl up with a heroine we have only just discovered or try and work out the twist that is bound to come in the final chapter.
Whodunnits, why would she’s, how dare he’s, where is this going, what just happeneds. We need more of all that please.
I recently read a really short but spot on article entitled Read a Real Book (to read it, click here) and it reminded me that I am not alone in my love of a real book over a Kindle. Yes, a Kindle allows you to carry thousands of books in your pocket or to download a new one because you have seen the author talk about their latest novel on The One Show, but there is something about holding a physical book that always excites me. If ever I was early for a train it would always be Waterstones at Waterloo that I would head for, staring at the rows of books, looking for the next one to grab for the journey. I even factored in time to choose a new book before boarding a flight. Not for me the idea that you go through check in, security and straight to the gate without breaking pace. No, no no, there has to be time to stop and buy a few books on the way.
As much as I love books though, you won’t find me joining with any of the online reading challenges that seem to spring up at this time of year, or joining a book club. Both of these things seem to put too much pressure on the reading for me, there’s a deadline, a race to tick another one off, a feeling that you have to be able to dissect a plot or a character with a depth or understanding that I really don’t have. I don’t want to read because somebody says this is the book we are all reading this month, or because I have to keep up with one a week for a week. I want to read because switching off and escaping is on my to do list. I should caveat that by saying that a few years ago I did challenge myself to read the Booker Prize shortlist of six books and whilst I didnt read them all before the winner was announced it was lovely to have a reading pile of great books to chug through that winter.
For Christmas this year I asked for books. I gave no hints or clues but simply said I hadn’t read any in 2020 and so it was unlikely anybody would give me something I had read before. If they thought I might like it then, I would love to receive it. Also because I read something when lockdown started that said “Stay home. Read books. Save lives” and I thought “now that’s a campaign I can get behind”.
Here then, is my It’s-Actually-More-That-Ten-Top-Ten list of books to read in 2021
- So Lucky — Dawn O’Porter. I have got to admit that I have found Dawn’s writing a bit hit and miss, having not really enjoyed a couple of her earlier novels. Lots of people have said this one is a cracker though so its on the list.
- Wintering — Katherine May. This should probably be prescribed text at the moment. It is a work of non-fiction and is more a memoir of how to survive winter. You could very easily change the title to Coviding. Katherine explores how the seasons matter and mean different things, and remind us that eventually, after the darkest of winters, spring arrives. I think we all need to hear this
- The Giver of Stars — JoJo Moyes. I was thrilled to get this because JoJo is an extraordinary author and knows how to tell a wonderful story. It is my current read and so many people said it was their book of the year in 2020.
- All the light we cannot see — Antony Doerr. A New York Times bestseller and winner of several prestigious awards and recommended by about 8 people.
- Where the Crawdads sing — Delia Owens. This is the ultimate escapism back in time to the 50s and 60s because Delia goes into minute detail about how the characters dress, eat and live. It is also heartbreakingly sad and going to make the most amazing film I am sure of it.
- The Beekeeper of Aleppo — Christy Lefteri. This was the first of the Christmas books that I read and I couldn’t put it down. Beautifully told and reminded me of some of the stories I heard when I visited Syrian refugees in Jordan five years ago.
- Three things about Elsie — Joanna Cannon (you can read what my friend Penny thought of this book by clicking this link)
- Mum and Dad — Joanna Trollope. This is a book my parents bought for me because it tells the story of a family buying a vineyard to fulfil a lifelong dream. Which regular readers will know is exactly what my parents did when I was a similar age to the older children of the main characters in this book.
- How to stop time — Matt Haig. Matt Haig can do no wrong, all of his books are perfect and whilst not necessarily about escapism they are tantamount to a hug and in the absence of any real ones these work just as well.
- Midnight Library — Matt Haig. As I said above, Matt can do no wrong.
- Thursday Murder Club — Richard Osman. Everyone is raving about this and Stephen Spielberg has already bought the film rights. In fact, every other message I got on Instagram asking about books mentioned this one.
- Hearts invisible Furies — John Boyne. My friend Alice said this was a beautiful story and a book I should definitely read so its firmly on the list. It was also mentioned by half a dozen other people too.
- The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls — Anissa Gray. A troubled family go from your typical pillar of the community to disgraced overnight. Ultimately it is a story about forgiveness and a page turning read.
- The Last Thing To Burn — Will Dean. This only came out this week but it sounds right up my street. Thriller, tension, and what sounds like, in places, a harrowing read.
- Shuggie Bain. This is the current holder of the Booker Prize so that tells me all I need to know and I am slightly embarrassed I haven’t read it yet.
- Pull of the Stars — Emma Donoghue. My friend Helen said this is an incredible read and very apt with the current news.
- All Board, Notice Boards. This is one of my favourite Instagram accounts, they really do seem to get the tone just right with their posts and always make me think.
- The Book of Longings — Sue Monk Kidd. This story is one that I can absolutely say I would have not picked up but a few people said it was a lovely read. It is set in the first century. It tells the story of Ana, Jesus’s wife. And yep, I am just going to leave that there. Sue’s first book spent over two years on the New York Times Bestseller list so she clearly knows how to tell a good story.
- Life After Life — Kate Atkinson. Kate is just the most wonderful author, I have loved every book she has ever done and love when I see she has something new in the works.
- Human Voices — Penelope Fitzgerald. Telling the stories of the BBC during the war you might think this would be a hard read but actually it is really funny and one to definitely read slowly to make sure you don’t miss anything.
- Nothing to See Here — Kevin Wilson. This has been likened to a love letter to childhood and parenting but one that has children with super powers. Definitely one to curl up with for a some easy escapism that makes you smile.
- After the End — Clare Mackintosh. I love Clare and actually won an auction bid to have a character in Clare’s book coming out this year named after us. We actually gave the gift to my mum in law for her birthday last year, so look out for Lady Barrow who is sipping a cold G&T in first class when “Hostage: comes out this summer. After The End actually made cry, such a stunning book.
- Anxious People — Frederik Backman. This is actually a great book to escape into during a pandemic. I think we can all relate to the title, can’t we? His debut novel is going to be a film staring Tom Hanks so you proof he can write a good story!
- No way out — Cara Hunter. A crime novel set in Oxford you might be forgiven for thinking this was a story for Morse but this is much grittier with a cracking final chapter.
My friend Lara is an avid reader and always shares books she has enjoyed (or actually not really enjoyed so much) so asked for a list of things she had loved:
- Grown Ups by Marion Keyes (I’ve read everything she’s written);
- The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell
- Knife Edge by Simon Mayo
- The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray;
- Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah;
- Finding Henry Appleby by Celia Reynolds;
- The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell;
- Dear Edward by Ann Napolotano (Amazing);
- Daisy Jones and the Six;
- The Guest List by Lucy Foley;
- All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle;
- Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell (I’ve read everything she’s written too);
- The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley (fab);
- Come Again by Robert Webb – another time travelling type thing with a fun ending;
Well that should all keep you going, do let me know if you pick any of them what you think. Or if you have any others to add.