My top reads of 2021

So, 2021 is nearly over, and good riddance say I. I spent most of the year in a depressed and anxious fog and it’s only in the past month or so that I’ve really started to come back to myself (hooray for Big Pharma!). I still read a lot of books and participated in plenty of blog tours, but there were some months when I read way less than is ‘normal’ for me.

Some positives: I went to a couple of Essex Book Festival writing workshops; I was part of the Snapping the Stiletto/British Science Festival Diary of the Pandemic Year project; I was published in the Colchester WriteNight Anthology; and I got into board games (making some fab new friends in the process).

Before we get properly started with the best books I read in 2021, an honourable mention to The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki. I’m highly unlikely to finish it before 2022 because it’s huge and one of those books that demand you savour rather than skim, but if I’d read it earlier, it would totally be part of this post!

New books from old favourites

Exit, Notebook, The Night Hawks

Some of my favourite authors published 5* books this year. Exit, by Belinda Baur, Notebook, by Tom Cox, The Night Hawks, by Elly Griffiths, Mr Wilder and Me, by Jonathan Coe, The Great Silence, by Doug Johnstone, and The Shape of Darkness, by Laura Purcell were all standout titles for me.

I can’t wait for Tom Cox’s first novel, Villager, to come out in April 2022 and I love how I’ve managed to get my parents hooked on Belinda Bauer and Elly Griffiths as well!

Mr Wilder and Me, The Great Silence, The Shape of Darkness

My new favourite authors

The Beresford, The Republic of Love, The Handover, The Quiet People

You know when you read a book from a new-to-you author and you get really excited to read everything else they’ve ever written? I love it when that happens. This year, I entered the off-beat world of Will Carver with the blog tour for The Beresford, and went on to read a few of his other books, including Psychopaths Anonymous for another tour. I’d already read one David M. Barnett book before I reviewed The Handover, but those two titles led me to buy other books of his too.

My first Carol Shields book was The Stone Diaries for a blog tour in late 2020, but I enjoyed it so much that in 2021 I read three other reissues from her, including The Republic of Love, which also went out on tour. I discovered Paul Cleave in the same way with The Quiet People and have been working my way through his back catalogue since!

Stunning standalones

Mary Jane, Skin, The Twenty Seven Club

I also read a lot of exciting non-series books from authors I’d never come across before. I have blog tours to thank for Mary Jane, by Jessica Anya Blau, The Twenty Seven Club, by Lucy Nichol Charity, by Madeline Dewhurst, and A Song Unsung, by Fiona Cane, which I absolutely whizzed through last spring.

Skin, by E. M. Reapy, came to me through a subscription box, and with its message not to be so hard on yourself, was the right book at the right time for me. I believe I heard about Molly Gartland’s The Girl from the Hermitage through Twitter, and I loved how it packed in so much Russian history through one woman’s experiences.

A Song Unsung, Charity, The Girl from the Hermitage


The Body Keeps the Score, The Dark Side of the Mind, A Wild and Precious Life, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, This Book will Change your Mind about Mental Health

With my brain doing all sorts of illogical electrified piece of meat things, it does make a lot of sense that all my favourite non-fiction reads centred around minds going wrong! What I particularly liked about The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk, The Dark Side of the Mind and What Lies Buried, by Kerry Daynes, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks, and This Book will Change your Mind about Mental Health, by Nathan Filer was the humanity, sensitivity and, surprisingly often, humour they bring to some heavy topics.

A Wild and Precious Life: A Recovery Anthology, edited by Lily Dunn and Zoe Gilbert, as an eclectic collection of poems and short stories about recovering from a variety of circumstances, tells the other side of the story. Moving, powerful, and also very human, it demonstrates the role writing can play in helping people process and make sense of their experiences while building a new skill.

This is just a selection of the many books I enjoyed this year. Having acquired 12 books over three days (three books for Christmas, six eBooks in the Kindle sale, then another three books in the Waterstones sale), a few blog tours already in the diary, lots of new releases to look forward to, and my reading mojo back, I’m certainly in no danger of running out of things to read in 2022!

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About Alice Violett

Reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK