In year’s past I have posted my favorite books lists closer to the new year, but some readers have requested I offer my list earlier as an aid to holiday shopping. I am more than happy to oblige, if it means more books in readers’ hands.
I know I say this every year, but what a great reading year it has been, and a month of reading remains. Who knows what great titles await! First, however, are my treasures from the past eleven months.
My Top Three Favorites
- Fresh Water for Flowers by Valerie Perrin. This novel, translated from the French, was the first book I read in 2021 and I still think about it. Perhaps I will start 2022 re-reading this book. (I wrote about this book in my previous blog http://clearingthespace.blogspot.com) Violette is a cemetery caretaker and the story is hers, along with her unfaithful husband and the tragic loss of their daughter, but also the stories of those buried at the cemetery and those who work there. All the stories are woven together masterfully.
- This Is Happiness by Niall Williams. I not only loved the setting of this book–an Irish village on the brink of getting electricity–but I loved the descriptive, immersive writing. I kept re-reading passages, not because I was confused by them, but because of their beauty. Not much happens in this book and yet it does, as we get to know the narrator, a young man who promised his dying mother he would become a priest and then leaves the seminary; his grandparents Ganga and Doady, and their boarder, Christy, who wants to be forgiven by the woman he left at the altar. I will read Williams’ earlier books.
- The Seed Keepers by Diane Wilson. This book rates right up there with Louise Erdrich’s stories of indigenous people. The books spans many years from the 1860s and the hangings of native people to the 1920s when native children were kidnapped and taken to boarding schools to current times of farming in the age of chemicals. The sacredness of seeds and all of nature is an ongoing theme.
Other Favorites–No Particular Order
- The Huntress, The Alice Network, and The Rose Code –all three by Kate Quinn. Books to sink into.
- The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu. The story of an immigrant from Ethiopia who owns a small convenience store in Washington DC.
- One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen Cooney. A little gem. The main character is a hospital chaplain and the plot focuses on one night in that hospital.
- The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. Based on a true story. Set in the American Library in Paris during the Nazi occupation.
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. The plot of Shakespeare’s young son dying of the plague did not appeal to me when I heard about this book, but I read it and was swept away by it.
- The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris. Nella works for a publisher and when another black woman (OBG) is hired, the intrigue begins.
- The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. The main plot is the establishment of a Jane Austen Foundation. Although a light read, I gained new insights about Austen’s books, especially about grief and loss.
- The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. Based on a true story about J. P.Morgan’s collection of rare manuscripts and the woman who developed the collection. Belle daCosta Green is an African American woman who passes as white and kept that secret her entire life, even from her lover Bernard Berenson.
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. I wondered why I had never read this book before, published in 2002, even though I had heard about it. Parents in a small farming community die in a car crash leaving four children–two teenage boys and two younger girls. The boys decide to raise their sisters and keep the family together.
- The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer. I remember reading her earlier book, The Dive at Clausen’s Pier, and enjoying it, and am glad I finally read this one. A dysfunctional family story. The father is a much loved doctor and his wife is an artist who is undone when she has their fourth child.
- Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. A coming of age novel about a teenage girl very attached to her uncle who has AIDS. He is an artist and paints a portrait of her and her sister.
- Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger. This is the prequel to his Cork O’Connor mystery series. I have enjoyed each of those books, but this book not only explains so much about Cork and his world, but also shows what a good writer Krueger has become. This ranks with his nonCork Books, This Tender Land and Ordinary Grace –two all-time favorites.
- ShadowTag by Louise Erdrich. An earlier book of hers, which I somehow missed. Story of an abusive marriage. The wife keeps two diaries–one locked in a safety deposit box and the other she knows her husband reads. The key question? What is truth?
- State of Terror by Louise Penney and Hillary Clinton. A political thriller and a page turner, for sure, and now I hope for a sequel. Part of the appeal is the friendship and the collaboration of the authors, but the book is a good read.
- Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. A plane crash with one survivor, a twelve year old boy. The story moves back and forth between the boy’s life after the crash and the scene inside the plane before the crash.
I also recommend the mysteries by Mark Pryor, set primarily in Paris. His main character is Hugo Marston, a former FBI agent now head of security at the American Embassy. I only have one more book left in the series and hope there will be more to come.
Books I Re-Read in 2021
- All of Louise Penney books. Perfect books for winter (and pandemic) days. I loved them all just as much as the first time. I do admit, however, that the most recent one, published this past August, The Madness of Crowds, was not my favorite, but still worth reading.
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Love, love this book, as I do all of her books.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I read this so many years ago and felt it was time to bring more mature eyes to this amazing book.
- Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I read and loved Pigs in Heaven this year and wanted more Kingsolver. I am tempted to do a Kingsolver marathon this year.
- I also re-read two books by Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping and Gilead. I remember loving them, but this time was not as enamored. Once was enough for me.
I wrote about a number of the books on these lists in my previous blog and invite you to browse there. http://clearingthespace.blogspot.com
I will list my favorite nonfiction books in my post on Thursday, December 2.
Ok, get shopping–and reading!!!!
An Invitation: What are your favorite novels of 2021? I would love to know.