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Favourite Reads of 2021

How to start this article? Here are some of my attempts: 

2021 has been a year … 

2021 was a difficult year for everyone … 

2021 was my worst reading year yet … 

2021 … was … 

hard. 

I am in the midst of a literary shift – an awkward in-between literary growing out my bangs stage. My tastes are changing. Stress? Aging?? Ongoing pandemic hell uncertainty living??? A combo of all of it? I’ve taken a step back from instagram and site posting for most of December as I figure out again where I am as a reader. What genres do I enjoy? Because reading should be about enjoyment first and foremost. 

In that positive vein, of the 110 books I read last year, here are the ones that brought me the greatest enjoyment. I did try to do a “ranked” order, but depending on the day, most of these will shift position so do take this “ranking” with a grain of salt. 

I’ve awarded 4 distinctions: favourite audiobook, favourite feel good story, favourite middle grade, and favourite backlist read. Enjoy!

10. These Precious Days

Written by Ann Patchett

Published by Harper

Discovering at the end of 2021 that I actually do enjoy short story and essay collections – who knew! – this collection from one of my favourite authors really moved me. While the majority of this collection is threaded together with a conversation and look at death, and could at times lean depressing, the essays built upon each other getting stronger and stronger. What stood out for me was how unflinchingly honest Ann is, exposing hard thoughts/truths about herself, but never coming across sanctimonious or preachy. A collection of stories that preoccupies a central topic of death, but is hopeful and introspective none the same, truly a special book.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

9. A Psalm for the Wild Built

Written by Becky Chambers

Published by Tordotcom

Another introspective story, this uplifting little novella focuses on the beautiful friendship between a sentient robot and a tea monk grasping with his purpose in this life. Charming, hopeful, and warm, with great life insights, this is a completely approachable itty bitty science fiction story with a thundering big heart.

Full review HERE.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

8. Last Summer at the Golden Hotel

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel***Favourite Feel Good Story***

Written by Elyssa Friedland

Published by Berkley Books

If you liked the setting of Dirty Dancing, then you need to read this hilarious summer story centring at the crumbling Golden Hotel in the Catskills – a once pristine, five star resort for the affluent Jewish families of New York. Large family dynamics, a great conversation of old generation versus new generation learning from each other, and just an all around easy, comforting read. It’s hilarious, warm, and a great escape for some pages of levity.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

7. The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

The Final Revival of Opal and NevWritten by Dawnie Walton

Published by 37 Ink

While the comparison to Daisy Jones is obvious and if you are a fan of stories centred around music scenes this will deliver, but that is all Opal & Nev shares with the popular TJR novel. Opal & Nev takes us on a deeper and, oftentimes, uncomfortable journey as Walton expertly navigates a story exposing systemic racism in North America – paralleling the problems of the past and the almost unchanged same discriminations and inequalities of today. But while the pulse of this story is angering and upsetting at the injustice of it all – I came away with a feeling of hope. As long as women of colour continue to be given the microphone and pen their stories we can continue the fight towards racial equality.

Full review HERE.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

6. Early Morning Riser

Written by Katherine Heiny

Published by Knopf Publishing Group

While the pastel cover and blurb might lead you to believe this is a contemporary romance – it isn’t. Not really. Instead the heart of this novel is about relationships in general – friendship, mothers, daughters, spouse, neighbour – and the peril and beauty within them. Not a lot happens in Early Morning Riser, there is no immediacy or push, and yet it is completely unputdownable. This is a simple, escapist, intelligent read that is as comforting as a bubble bath and chocolate. While there are many opportunities that Katherine Heiny could’ve packed in the “gotcha” moment and made this a weep-fest, I appreciate it all the more that she didn’t. Rather, she focuses on the beauty in the quiet life, the little joys that make it spectacular. Read this one when you need a comfort and escape to the small town we all wish we lived in.

Full review HERE.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

5. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

***Favourite Audiobook***

Written by Julie Berry

Published by Square Fish

Is it middle grade? YA? I still can’t tell, but this murder mystery boarding school whodunnit is the absolute perfect recommendation for the next time you need a compulsively listenable, escapist, hilarious, incredibly performed audiobook. The story surrounds a group of girls at St. Elthreda’s School for Girls and the hilarious shenanigans that follow the poisoning of their awful headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her equally awful brother, Mr. Godding. Highly recommend.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

4. The Witch’s Heart

The Witch's Heart book coverWritten by Genevieve Gornichec

Published by Ace Books

Proof that my love for fantasy isn’t completely dead, although 2021 pushed it to the breaking point, Genevieve Gornichec came through with this gorgeous retelling. Norse mythology meets folk-lore in this feminist fantasy tale of Angrboda (wife of Loki). With its beautiful imagery and characterization, gods and monsters, this story rises far above any Marvel superhero preconceptions you may have.

Full review HERE.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

3. The Dreamers

The Dreamers book cover***Favourite Backlist Read***

Written by Karen Thompson Walker

Published by Random House

Whilst strange to read a pandemic novel while living in an ongoing pandemic isn’t necessarily the equation for happiness, but I thoroughly enjoyed this “sleeping pandemic” story, thus earning my favourite backlist read of the year slot. A California college town is hit with a sleeping sickness in which people cannot wake. While written before our current pandemic, the similarities are eery. Engrossing, heart pounding, and all too real.

Full review HERE.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

2. The In-Between

The In-Between book cover***Favourite Middle Grade***

Written by Rebecca K.S. Ansari

Published by Walden Pond Press

Of course you know I love middle grade and will be sharing a whole favourite middle grade list soon, but this year my favourite middle grade damn near got my favourite read of the year spot! I love magical realism, but rarely is it balanced so well with a contemporary plot line. The In-Between is a simple story about a boy dealing with conflicting emotions after his father abandons the family working with his sister to solve a 100 year old mystery, but this book rises so far above with its strong emotional pull and how deeply Ansari made me care for her characters. Yeah, I cried …

Full review HERE.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

1. The Lincoln Highway

Written by Amor Towles

Published by Viking Books

So the favourite is always the hardest to articulate … an almost 600 page novel spanning only a few days shouldn’t have been so compelling, but Amor Towles (who I will now be devouring all his past works) has such an incredibly easy way of writing – quiet, intelligent, thought provoking, and comforting. I’m alway game for a good historical fiction (especially one not centred around a war! I mean, there are other time periods amiright?). Here we follow a group of young boys (and one girl) on that precarious place between teen and adulthood as they journey across the country – on the Lincoln Highway – in the early 1950s. A master study in characters, development and connection, I dare you to read this and not fall in love with Billy. A story to be enjoyed on many levels and to be read over and over again – a Steinback meets Faulkner, but all Amor – simply, a classic.

Full review HERE.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

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Cherylhttps://www.aotales.com
Welcome to And other tales. The little corner of the interweb where we don’t count cups of coffee, believe cancelling plans to stay home & read is just good life advice, refuse to acknowledge the calories in baked goods and will never judge you on the number of marshmallows in your hot chocolate or the size of your TBR piles. Curl up, get comfy and click through for book reviews, life chats, playlists, vegan & gluten free baking recipes, gift guides and more.
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