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
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!