Each year I get to read many new book releases thanks to the wonderful publishers I work with, but I still try and make time for older titles because good books have no use-by date. So in this end of year wrap-up I am discussing my favourite reads of 2021, regardless of their official publication date.
My Best Books of 2021
I give out 5-Star ratings very sparingly, but two fiction titles made the grade for me this year.
Charlotte McConaghy’s highly anticipated Once There Were Wolves lived up to all expectations. It is one of those novels that almost defies genre classification – as artfully mesmerizing as it is thrilling, the work of an exceptionally talented author. Read more >>
And, my 5-Star review of TJ Newman’s debut Falling, proved contentious on Twitter (yes, I received feedback). But what can I say, I loved it! If all the ingredients, i.e. writing style, characterization, plotting and pace combine to form a novel that I cannot put down, it is a winner for me no matter the genre or sales count. Read more >>
Helen FitzGerald’s Ash Mountain (4.75 Stars) was another real standout. Sure, it’s a disaster thriller; an absolutely devastating one. But the authenticity of its characters is searing and FitzGerald delivers the darkest of humour with shocking aplomb. Read more >>
Treasure & Dirt (aka Opal Country) (4.6 Stars) is being marketed as a standalone thriller but keen-eyed book booklovers will note that one of its lead characters homicide detective Ivan Lucic was actually a tertiary character in the author’s much-loved, bestselling Martin Scarsden Series. Treasure & Dirt is another criminally good crime novel from Chris Hammer. Read more >>
Emma Young’s unassuming debut The Last Bookshop (4.5 Stars) is something special. Not slick and highly stylized; it has far more substance than that. From its beating heart shines a quiet perceptiveness, a gentle honesty and authenticity that really struck a chord with me. And, I suspect all book lovers will feel similarly. Read more >>
Pip William’s The Dictionary of Lost Words (4.5 Stars) is highly perceptive historical fiction based on fact. I found Esme’s reverence and love for words comparable to Liesel Meminger’s in The Book Thief and her vividly authentic mix of intellectual curiosity and quiet insecurities beguiling. Read more >>
It is hard to believe As Swallows Fly (4.5 Stars) is McMahon’s debut, such is the prose precision and patient character development. Even while depicting horrific events and deeply confronting subject matter, his narrative eschews ‘drama’ and zeroes in on the substance; the inner turmoil and insecurities of the perfectionist/high achiever, the outsider, the trauma survivor. The effect is haunting. Read more >>
The first of two nonfiction titles to earn a spot on this Best Books list, Michael Haag’s The Durrells of Corfu (4.5 Stars) is the fascinating story of the real people and events that inspired the much-loved fiction and TV series. An absorbing read, celebrating lives lived large and with passion and their lasting legacies. Read more >>
And, my only audiobook this year, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor proved to be a 4.5 Stars listen, earning it the last spot on my Best Books of 2021 list. It is a timely lesson in finding humour in dire situations and supporting those that care for us. But you must love dark humour and not be at all squeamish. You have been warned! Read more >>
Reading Challenge Completion
Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2021 – In a year when illness curtailed my reading, I am quite pleased that I still ‘almost’ achieved Emu Level, but not quite. I read 24 books written by Australian Authors but only 7 of those were by male authors (not the required 10 minimum), but 17 of the 24 titles were by authors that were new to me (killing the 10 minimum) and I well exceeded the minimum 4 genres required.
2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge – Having read 17 books by Australian female authors this year I swamped my Franklin reading level (10).
2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge – I met my target of 6 books for this challenge, and as you can see two of those ranked amongst my best books of 2021.
2022 Reading Resolutions
- Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2022 – Emu Level: Read and review 24 books written by Australian Authors of which at least 10 of those authors are female, at least 10 of those authors are male, and at least 10 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, at least 4 different genre.
- Read more international and translated fiction and listen to more audiobooks.
- Read (and draft reviews) ahead of publication date more often, so I have content prescheduled content in case life gets in the way like it did in 2021.