Saturday, January 1, 2022

2021 Reading Highlights

You know what they say about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

Prepare yourself for an imperfect look at my best reading experiences of 2021.  I can't promise to do these books justice.  I can't promise that you'll love the same books I love.  I can promise that if you're a middle-aged, Midwestern suburban mom, you'll be able to find at least one book you'll enjoy (and probably more).

 

2021 Fiction Highlights 

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason -- the torture of mental illness but with wit and humor and one beautiful moment of generosity

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell -- gorgeous writing, imagines the life of Shakespeare's beloved, deceased son Hamnet and his mother

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny -- community, an expansive view of family, the extraordinary ordinary

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan -- short Christmas book set in 1985 Ireland, hard but also beautiful

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson -- the lifts and limits of small town life

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout -- Strout is a genius.  Third book of a series that begins with My Name is Lucy Barton 

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles -- A Great American Story (caps necessary) of friendship and brotherhood, my heart swelled

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff -- British classic and the loveliest novel of an ordinary family on holiday

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty -- parents, siblings, spouses, tennis ... Moriarty at her (recent) best

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder -- if new motherhood was tough for you, this story of a mom who becomes (sort of) a dog may resonate with you, it won't be everyone's cup of tea but it worked for me

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle -- British setting, sometimes hard but a heartwarming story of community and connection

The Very Nice Box by Laura Blackett -- an IKEA-esque product designer reckons with her past, very unique 

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand -- Elin did it again!  Probably my favorite of her last five books.

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett -- woman struggles in life, love, parenthood ... really strong writing and scenes that have stuck with me ... another one that won't be everyone's cup of tea

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz -- literary mystery that is perfectly plotted!

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi -- baggage, sisterhood, NYC, Texas

The Push by Ashley Audrain -- read this book early in the year and am still thinking about it, guaranteed to shake you up

 

2021 Non-Fiction Highlights

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett -- perfect collection of essays by a national treasure ... it's the follow up to This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage so read that gem first

Boom Town:  The Fantasical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis by Sam Anderson -- everything you didn't know that you wanted and needed to know about OKC, you will be rapt, excellent storytelling

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith -- short book for anyone who needs a dose of inspiration and courage 

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell -- I wanted more but still enjoyed this look at various cultish groups, movements, companies, MLMs, etc.

Crying in the H Mart by Michelle Zauner -- beautiful memoir of a mother and daughter, music, persistence, food

The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport by Carl Hiaasen -- you may not know that I am obsessed with golf (despite being closer to terrible than decent at it) ... Hiaasen's memoir of his return to the game had me nodding my head like yeah

 

"Jump Right In" Reads 

I feel uncomfortable when someone recommends a book and says, "but it's just a fluffy beach book" since I'd cut off my big toe to be able to write a book that someone would be willing to read on her vacation.  So anyway, the books below are not "beach books" but books that would be easy to jump right into any time you need to be transported into a story that's satisfying but not too heavy.  They're in no particular order.

The G-Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Good Eggs by Rebecca Hardiman

Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane Rosen

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth (BTW, the most delightful author to follow on Instagram)

The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

Yoga Pant Nation by Laurie Gelman (read Class Mom and You've Been Volunteered first)

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

 

Final Thoughts

This booklist is not intended to be a flex.  Reading is my (unpaid) life's work.  A lot of my reading is via audiobook (and no, I'm not interested in discussions about whether audiobooks "count") and that has been especially true this past year, which has been frequently stressful and sometimes shitty and did not lend itself to as many cozy hours in a chair with a book as I'd have liked.  All of this is just to say if you read even one book you enjoyed this past year, that's enough. 

I find so many wonderful ebooks and audiobooks, including new releases, through the awesome Elmhurst Public Library.  If you haven't explored the digital options at your local library, make it a priority!!!  Also, I have been an Audible subscriber since 2003 and have been so pleased with the "bonus" content (more and more each month) that they offer in addition to monthly credits (which I use for new releases I don't want to wait to read).  

I couldn't make myself put together a collage of book covers so I hope you enjoy the beautiful scene from our mountain vacation.

I'm still thinking about my 2022 reading goals so stay tuned.

If you're waiting on my 2019 and 2020 Reading Highlights, please continue waiting until I find the notebooks where I collected my thoughts.

I hope to write more in 2022, but just in case I don't, you can more reliably find my bookish content on Instagram.  I'm @booksandcarbs and would love to connect with you there.

Please share your recent reading highlights in the comments!