It was my goal in 2021 to read 26 books. I ended falling short by four, but can’t complain seeing as I had such a good time reading all that I did. I read a wide range of genres, from splatterpunk horror to essential Irish coming of age to Grecian mythological romance. There were one or two books I didn’t finish, but hey, I tried! And I was really happy to have gotten a few advance copies of books to review. It was a fun year for reading, and it pulled me firmly back into the habit of reading at home, on the bus, at cafes, and a lot of other places. So, now I’m looking forward to devouring more books in 2022! Still, I wasn’t able to meet my target in 2021, so I’m going to shoot for 26 books this year as well – roughly one every two weeks.
It was agonising, but I was able to wrangle six books together for my favourites of 2021. Below you will find the books I found most difficult to put down, that in my time reading, I became the most obsessed with; the ones I whole-heartedly recommend to someone looking for their next read.
Note: accompanying each mini review is a link to buy each book from Bookshop.org. Buying books from this website helps support local bookshops near you, and your local blogger (me 🙂 ) also earns a little bit of commission from these purchases!
Where the Crawdads Sing
By Delia Owens
One of my first reads of the year, Where the Crawdads Sing was gorgeous, and well worth the hype. Owens’ debut tells the story of adventurous Kya who, despite the prejudice she is brought up with and her complete abandonment by her family, grows into an independent, intelligent, and insightful young woman. She makes her own decisions, her process hinged on her survival, and she is driven by kindness and curiosity. She is wiley and scrappy, and makes for a fantastic heroine to spend a whole narrative with. Pick up this book if you’re looking for a peaceful, description heavy read.
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
By Eimear McBride
I feel it’s fair to name this book the opposite of Where the Crawdads Sing. It is not peaceful. It is not relaxing. It is difficult in every way, shape, and form. But still, this will remain with you like a phantom. Holy shit.
This book takes us through the life of an unnamed Irish girl, from before birth to her end. She struggles through life and, wow, please look at content warnings before picking this up. It is bleak and terrible, but a classic in the making.
Tender is the Flesh
By Agustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses
This book is not without its faults, but it is still enthralling and entertaining. I’ve already written about this book twice for this blog, and some friends and I even put together a book club where this was our first shared read. I can’t recommend this enough to fans of horror, to dystopia, to those who relish in some sexy, sexy world building. It is immersive and horrifying, and would probably top my list if you made me choose.
By Ravel Leilani
I was really excited to read this book after hearing such fabulous reviews for it, and wasn’t let down. It was lyrical and astonishing, heartfelt and funny, and tonally impressive. The characters and their behaviours, habits, insecurities, and red flags were believable, and our main character Edie was a really fun train wreck to see through the eyes of. I loved her journey, her artistic process, and her deeply flawed decision making processes. I actually think Luster has a bit of something for everyone – it’s very literary, and generally it’s a really pretty book.
By Jarred McGinnes
I came across debut author as MF Books in the South Side of Glasgow was hosting his book launch. Jarred was funny AND cool, and displayed a lot of love for his work, and I ended up feeling so happy to have been a part of the launch, and to have my own (signed!) copy of his book. I ended up engulfing it – it’s not very long, but is certainly effective, so does a whole lot of storytelling in a short amount of pages. I think it is largely a book about relationships, and the relationships presented in the narrative were all so affective and genuine, and just really enjoyable to read. The main character, Jarred, named for author Jarred McGinnes, is a classic Bad Decision Maker, and he gets away with being a massive asshole and Frustrating Person by also being witty, gratifyingly cheeky, and occasionally sincere and honest with himself and those around him.
Full review to come!
My Dark Vanessa
By Kate Elizabeth Russell
Ah, now onto what is absolutely the saddest book I read all year. There would be times I’d be reading this book and I’d just be feeing a knot of absolute dread in my stomach. Going into this book, I knew it would be a very dark story, but I had no idea about the plot; I had just finished gnarly splatterpunk the Troop and decided that I wanted something a little lighter. And I fucked up. This book is not light. It is not for the faint of heart. Sad is the first word that comes into my head thinking about it as it tells the story of a young girl being screwed over so relentlessly that it stunts her as she enters adulthood. While I walked in with no expectations, I didn’t expect this either.
That all being said, Russell is a terrific writer, and within the pages of this book you will find beautiful, poetic language and a lot of literary canon references. It’s definitely a writerly book. I’d recommend this to anyone who feels numb in the heart and in need of feeling something, anything. Be sure to check in on content warnings before picking this up because I cannot emphasize enough: it is so upsetting. But, it is also gripping, and very capable of clutching you at your neck and pulling you along for the ride.