TTT: Best Books of 2021


It's the last Top Ten Tuesday of the year (hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl) which means it's time for our best books of 2021! I've not read loads this year - I've hardly done any re-reading at all, which is very unlike me and I've been in a few slumps - but I've probably read more new authors than normal and a little bit more diversely I think. I've read a lot of good recommendations and a couple of fun book series' too. So it's not all bad! Also, in other milestones of the year, I got my own place and some freelance writing work, which is exciting! Anyway, back to the books. I made up my own categories because I couldn't find a tag that quite fit what I was after: 


Favourite Re-Read:
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen 



My relationship with Mansfield Park is kind of defensive, because I think it might be my second favourite Jane Austen after Pride and Prejudice, but I do also understand why other people don't rate it as much as the others. Still, every time I re-read it I enjoy it more. It's just really interesting and the characters feel so true to life. (For more thoughts, see here.) They need to make a decent adaptation one day - come on Andrew Davies! 


Best Impulse Read:
Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo


As a rule, I don't read graphic novels, but I spotted this at work and was intrigued. It's just a modern day Little Women but I really loved the illustrations and the way the author and illustrator characterised the girls. I'm not sure the whole Leukaemia thing quite worked but I liked the twist with Jo and Aunt March and I love this Amy! 


Favourite New Characters: 
The Crows - especially Kaz and Inej


I fought this for ages but eventually I capitulated and got to know Kaz Brekker and the Crows. I found the book a bit difficult to get into at first, but the characters are as great as everyone says. I love all six of them so much, and even though I don't normally like it when everyone couples up, all the ships feel so right. I read the whole of the Shadow and Bone trilogy (also watched the series, review here!) the Six of Crows Duology and King of Scars this year - just Rule of Wolves to go! 


Favourite Audiobook:
Watership Down by Richard Adams


I don't know why I never read Watership Down when I was younger  - although, to be fair it feels more like an adult book than a kid's book, so much threat! -  but I'd recommend it to anyone. The world building is so good and the characters feel so real. I listened to the audio-book read by Peter Capaldi and he's got a great voice for storytelling. I loved all the accents too. 


Made Me Laugh The Most: 
Chinglish by Sue Cheung


This is another work find, my whole family read this, basically because we all witnessed each other laughing at it and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. It's basically a YA novel, told in diary form, based on the author's teenage years as a British-Chinese girl in the eighties in Coventry, where her parents run a Chinese chip shop. It was very dark in places and I hope she writes a sequel because I really need to know that things turned out alright for certain characters. But, it just made me laugh loads. For tone, maybe think Georgia Nicholson style meets Jacqueline Wilson subject matter.


Made Me Cry The Most: 
 Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute or Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell



Both of these made me actually weep. I found the Nevil Shute one more upsetting overall, but with Hamnet (a great recommendation from someone at work) I was reading the worst bits on the train, which was a terrible choice as I cried basically the whole journey. Requiem for a Wren is probably the only book about suicide I've ever read and I knew it would be heartbreaking but I wanted to try it as I love A Town Like Alice. Shute writes some amazing, strong, female characters and this one was no different, which made the inevitable conclusion (they tell you the ending at the beginning, it's one of them) all the more affecting. 


Hamnet (not a spoiler, I think you're supposed to know going in) is about the death of Shakespeare's child and the effect it has on the family. Another very morbid subject and it took me a long time to get into because I'm not a big reader of literary fiction. (I usually hate it, to be honest. So much waffle.) But there was something really lovely about this book once I got used to the rhythm of it. The characters were really interesting and I got sucked right into the world. 


Biggest Surprise
Maurice by E.M Forster


I would definitely read more E.M Forster. I really enjoyed Howard's End and A Room With A View, but Maurice is less famous and was published after his death, so I assumed it wouldn't be as good. Still, my sister made me read it and I was glad I did. I thought it held up to the others. It was lovely actually, and really interesting. In some ways it was unlike any other book I've ever read, as it was a classic romance, with a gay protagonist, but I also feel like it would have been written differently if the author thought anyone would ever see it? I feel like it's one of the most honest books I've ever read, if that makes sense and doesn't sound too cheesy? 


Favourite Scene 
'Daine Loses Her Temper '


I started reading the rest of Tamora Pierce's Tortal series at the tail end of last year - I'd loved Alanna as a kid but somehow never got onto the others. Kel is my favourite (that's the Protector Of The Small books) but I read the Daine series this year and they're lovely too (I found the fourth book a bit of a slog, but the first three are brill and I do love Numair.) Anyway, anyone who's read The Immortals quartet will remember a particular scene at the end of Emperor Mage, involving dinosaur skeletons and gentle Daine completely blowing her top. I loved it!  


Favourite Non-Fiction 
The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters


I don't read a lot of non-fiction but I've decided I like books of letters (I skimmed a book of Tolkien's that were interesting, also on my list: Roald Dahl's letters to his mother and the John Lennon letters!) and after reading Pursuit of Love I needed to know more about the Mitfords and so I read this. It's fascinating, basically, because they're mixing with such a variety of people, good and bad (Maya Angelou, The Kennedys, Ivor Novello, Evelyn Waugh, Princess Diana, Hitler, Goebbels, Stephen Fry) people who feel like they belong to ancient history and also modern day figures. They sisters are all so different, but they love each other at the end of the day. The main takeaway from this book though, is that literally all rich people know each other. (Review here!)

Book of the Year
Watership Down 

This was just plain good - a proper epic adventure story, great world-building, likeable characters, exciting and dark. Yes, I know it;s about Rabbits.



Quotes of the year:

(I could make a whole list of quotes from Mansfield Park because, Jane Austen. But I won't.)

“My Chief Rabbit has told me to stay and defend this run, and until he says otherwise, I shall stay here."

-  Watership Down, Richard Adams


"I was yours once 'till death if you'd cared to keep me, but I'm someone else's now - I can't hang about whining forever - and he's mine in a way that shocks you, but why don't you stop being shocked, and attend to your own happiness?"

- Maurice, E.M Forster

"No Mourners. No Funerals." 

- Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo


“Life is sometimes sad and often dull, but there are currants in the cake, and here is one of them.”

- The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford


“By now it was clear that Howl was in a mood to produce green slime any second. Sophie hurriedly put her sewing away. "I'll make some hot buttered toast," she said. "Is that all you can do in the face of tragedy??" Howl asked. "Make toast!”

- Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne-Jones


“Even into this quiet place the war had reached like the tentacle of an octopus and had touched this girl and brought about her death. Like some infernal monster, still venomous in death, a war can go on killing people for a long time after it’s all over.”

- Requiem for a Wren, Nevil Shute


“There is so much to do in an family this size, so much to see, so many people needing so many different things. How easy is it, Agnes thinks, as she lifts the plates, to miss the pain and anguish of one person, if that person keeps quiet, if he keeps it all in, like a bottle stoppered too tightly, the pressure inside building and building, until - what? Agnes doesn't know.”

- Hamnet, Maggie O' Farrell


"For all my talk of vows and honour, what I really want is to put you up against that wall and kiss you until you forget you ever knew another man's name"

-Siege and Storm, Leigh Bardugo


“At that moment, in the sunset on Watership Down, there was offered to General Woundwort the opportunity to show whether he was really the leader of vision and genius which he believed himself to be, or whether he was no more than a tyrant with the courage and cunning of a pirate. For one beat of his pulse the lame rabbit's idea shone clearly before him. He grasped it and realized what it meant. The next, he had pushed it away from him.”

- Watership Down, Richard Adams


“Ruins stood for what was lost, and yet they were beautiful-peaceful, historic, intellectual. Not tragic or regrettable. Lena tried to keep hers that way too, and she succeeded to some extent. Why not celebrate what you had rather than spend your time mourning its passing? There could be joy in things that ended. ”

- Forever in Blue, Ann Brashares


“I am very strong. Nothing ever fatigues me, but doing what I do not like.”

- Mansfield Park, Jane Austen


What was your best book of the year? 



Comments

  1. I just added Chinglish to my TBR, because I need to know what's so funny!

    Pam @ Read! Bake! Create!
    https://readbakecreate.com/the-10-best-books-i-read-in-2021/

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    1. That's great! I feel like I do have a weird sense of humour though, so don't judge me if you don't laugh haha

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    2. https://usbookreviews.com is offering 100 reviews for $999 only. We would love to read your book and post a review on amazon. Visit our website to contact us.

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  2. I held off in the Grishaverse for so long because I didn't love the first book. But everyone kept raving about it so I gave it another chance and I love the world now. I thought the TV show was great as it felt less focused in the hits I didn't like in Shadow and Bone.

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    1. I thought the tv series did a great job too. I reckon the next season will be better too as hopefully will follow the Six of Crows story-line more!

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  3. I think I had a lot of rereading and a lot of fluff in the new category (like Georgette Heyer). The standouts in the new to me books would be the first Palliser novel of Trollope (still need to finish that series, my sisters, who I've recommended it to, are now ahead of me!), the 2nd of Gerald Durrell's Corfu trilogy, and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling (so basically mostly the only nonfiction I read this year).

    I can feel a bit defensive of Manfield Park, I think because people hate on it so much. However, I also have a bit of a like/dislike relationship with it. I want to strangle Edmund for much of it.

    I keep seeing Six of Crows pop up on my blog feed, might have to try it.

    Congratulations on getting your own place, I did as well this year, its such a wonderful feeling!

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    1. Thanks, congratulations to you too! It feels so weird, haha. I really need to read some Trollope I feel like it would be my kind of thing, and need to finish the other Corfu books too. I tried the first chapter of Six of Crows like three times and gave up but after you're past that bit, it's really worth it!

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  4. Hamnet and Watership Down are two of my favorites, and I loved Six of Crows. Mansfield Park is my least favorite Austen, though Emma is my favorite and I know a lot of people don't love that one. Of course we have so few and they're all good. I probably should reread this one and Persuasion. Thanks for the recommendations! My top reads are at https://thebookstop.wordpress.com/2021/12/28/best-books-i-read-in-2021/.

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    1. I really want to re-read Persuasion too, keep seeing pictures of the new adaptation and it looks like it'll be good!

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  5. Who cares Watership Down is about rabbits, world building is still world building! I believe I have seen it as an animated movie as a kid, very impressive. Didn't realize it was actually a book...

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    1. And the world building is so good! I saw bits of the film as a kid too (terrifying!) I think it sticks quite close, definitely worth a read anyway

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  6. I feel like Watership Down should be on my TBR list as I've not read it. It's one of those I want to read at some point.

    My list is here: https://nashvillebookworm.wordpress.com/2021/12/28/top-ten-tuesday-favorites-and-not-favorites-of-2021/

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    1. It's been on mine for years too, can definitely see why it's a classic now!

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  7. I haven't read Watership Down yet! Should get cracking on that. And your post also reminded me I should go re-read the Austen books; it's been so long. Thanks for a great list and Happy 2022!
    ~Lex (lexlingua.co)

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  8. Many of these are on my TBR. I haven't read Tamora Pierce in almost 15 years. I want to revisit her now.

    Kate @ bitchbookshelf.com

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    1. She holds up as an adult! I wish I'd read them all when I was a teen though, would have loved them so much

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  9. CHINGLISH sounds fun! I don't read enough funny books. I love that your whole family enjoyed it :)

    Happy TTT!

    Susan
    www.blogginboutbooks.com

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    1. I don't read enough funny books either, there need to be more out there!

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  10. Six of Crows is an amazing book. I'm glad you got to read it this year.

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  11. I am hoping to read some Jane Austin in 2022. https://cindysbookcorner.blogspot.com/2021/12/top-ten-tuesday-cover-love.html

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  12. I love the Crows, some of my favourite fictional characters ever!
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2021/12/28/top-ten-tuesday-348/

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  13. I didn't count rereads on my list, but if I had, the Immortals quartet would have been in my top 3 no question. I love them all like pie (the first is ever so slightly my favorite for overall plot, but its smaller than average amount of Numair is a drawback), and have since I was a young teen. I actually listened to the Full Cast Audiobook version, and the books are incredible that way -- highly recommend. (the Alanna books also have a full cast; I don't remember those as well but I'm going to listen to those next).

    I myself am partial to the bit of Emperor Mage that involves Daine being teased about blowing her top, but imagining the palace wreckage IS quite fun. And I really, really love the lil' Darkings in the last book (esp. Leaf! with his little leaf hat, I CANNOT). Everything they say is my favorite.

    And I haven't read Forever in Blue in over a decade, but you pulled a great quote that reminds me of one of the reasons I love those books.

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    1. I need to re-read all the Sisterhood books, haven't read the middle two in years. I love them teasing her too, and the Darkings! I still need to read the Bekka Cooper books, so might look out an audio-book for them

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  14. Mansfield Park sounds nice... I like it when a book is such a comforting re- read like that.

    I haven't read many books of letters but I'd like to. I think the right one would be fascinating! I like the quotes too, especially the Watership Down ones.

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    1. Thanks! I Books of letters give you a real insight into the person Ithink, and re-reads are always great

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  15. Adding "Chinglish" by Sue Cheung to my TBR list!

    My TTT list.

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