When I look back at the amount of books I read in 2021, I’m quite surprised. It felt like I had no spare time on multiple occasions, so how I managed to read a whopping 47 books is beyond me. According to Goodreads, that’s 14,411 pages read. Shiiiit. I’ve been covering my reads in the form of my monthly reading wrap ups, which I’ve really enjoyed writing, and they’ve also helped me to really connect with what I’ve been reading each month. I’m toying with the idea of whether or not to review books individually, or to stick with my monthly wrap up posts, so watch this space while I attempt to make up my mind. Another exciting thing on the books front is that I’ve started my own Bookstagram account – my friend Cheryl introduced me to the world of it and I’ve since become addicted! If you’d like to give it a follow, I’m @amesreadsstuff.
But out of those 47 books, which ones were the best? Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking back through my reads from 2021 and put together my top 10 for the year – here’s what I’ve come up with. Just a side note, as you’ll soon see, this list consists solely of books I’ve read in 2021 as opposed to books that were released in 2021 – just to clear that up!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
TW: Domestic abuse, suicide
One I was late to the party with was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and oh my god, it was fantastic, hence why it earned the title of my highest rated of 2021. When reclusive Hollywood actress Evelyn Hugo decides she’s ready to tell her story, it’s unknown magazine reporter Monique that she chooses. While Monique can’t fathom why Evelyn has picked her, she still agrees to write the story of her scandalous career and romances. Jenkins Reid paints two contrasting sides of Hollywood – the glitz and the glamour we all see on TV, but most importantly, the darker, twisted side.
There is so much that I loved about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but in particular, the foreshadowing, the plot twists and the beautiful imagery the author creates were the things I loved the most. It’s powerful, gripping, and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put it down.
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
TW: Suicide, depression
Beautifully written, The Midnight Library is a book that I loved every minute of. It tells the story of Nora who, on the night she decides to end her life, is transported to a library full of infinite choices on alternative lives she could live, presenting her with the chance to undo regrets and take roads not travelled. It’s this wonderfully unique story that brings with it some powerful life lessons when it comes to choices and living with regrets – something which, at the time, I needed to read.
While the main plot point could be triggering for some (while suicide isn’t discussed in too graphic terms, it’s clearly stated how Nora attempts to end her life), I would urge you to give this incredible novel a read if you can. It will stay with you well after you’ve reached the final page, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be wanting to read it again and again.
The Flat Share – Beth O’Leary
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
TW: Alcohol abuse, self harm, suicidal idealation, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse
Despite it coming out in 2018, I didn’t discover Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine until 2021, and I can see exactly why everyone fell in love with it. Eleanor Oliphant herself is a highly unique and complicated character with a troubled past (which is only revealed in small snippets throughout the novel), and while she can be difficult to like at first, as the story progresses, you can’t help but warm to her.
Her story is one of friendship, kindness and learning to forgive yourself, and while it can be a tough read with some heart-breaking moments, overall, it’s one that I enjoyed from start to finish. I’m just annoyed I didn’t read it sooner!
The Sight Of You – Holly Miller
Out of all the books I read in 2021, The Sight Of You is probably the one that put me through the emotional ringer the most. If you’re a fan of weepie love stories such as The Notebook, this is one you’ll be sure to love. It tells the story of Joel – who has visions about the future of the people loves, both good and bad – and Callie, who is feeling lost after the death of her best friend. Starting as your typical love story, things are soon compromised when Joel has a vision about Callie. I loved how clever the writing of the book is, because while you’re essentially told what’s going to happen halfway through the book, you’re still kept guessing when it comes to the finer details.
Alongside Joel and Callie’s love story, there’s also a long running theme of letting go of your past and living for today. It had me welling up on multiple occasions and I was so engrossed in the plot that I finished the book in under a week. I bloody loved it.
Shagged Married Annoyed – Chris & Rosie Ramsey
It’s rare that a book has me actually laughing out loud, but that’s exactly what Shagged Married Annoyed did, which is what’s earned it a place in my favourite reads from 2021. Based on their hit podcast, married couple Chris and Rosie Ramsey talk relationships, sex, dating, parenting and everything in between in this bloody hilarious book. It’s packed with anecdotes sent in from podcast listeners, as well as stories from Chris and Rosie’s relationship. No matter what stage in a relationship you’re at – whether you’re single or married with kids – you’re bound to find some of the stories relatable. From one night stands to awkward moments on your wedding day to brutally honest parenting tales, it covers all bases.
You don’t even have to be a fan of the podcast either – the book is still a fantastic read alone – although, podcast fans will find plenty of similarities including Chris and Rosie’s bickering (even in book form) and the ever-popular Let’s Talk About Shit section. Don’t ask. Just read the book.
No Such Thing As Normal: What My Mental Illness Has Taught Me About Mental Wellness – Bryony Gordon
I was loving the book to start with, but it was her Brief History of Worries section – where she details some of the irrational and often bizarre thoughts that OCD has caused her to have – that sealed the deal for me. It was honestly one of the most cathartic things I’ve ever read. Where we’re all affected by mental illness in some way or another, this is 100% a book that everyone should read.
The Audacity – Katherine Ryan
TW: Controlling behaviour, pregnancy loss
2021 was the year that pretty much every comedian released a book, and one of the ones I instantly pre-ordered was Katherine Ryan’s The Audacity. If you’re a fan of Katherine’s stand-up, or her podcast, Telling Everybody Everything, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll love her book. She has some fantastic stories to tell – such as the hilarious time she and her friend auditioned for a Sean Paul music video – from her early days growing up in Canada to her experiences of being a single mother to her daughter, Violet.
Alongside are stories from her career on the comedy circuit to how she reunited with, and subsequently married her high-school boyfriend, all of which are told with the brutal honesty she’s so well known for. What I love the most about The Audacity is that Katherine also gives some great life advice alongside her stories. Whether it’s dealing with toxic relationships or simply learning how to be yourself, she cuts the bullshit and gives it to you straight, and I think it’s a refreshing take on the lessons that young women are taught.
The Switch – Beth O’Leary
Ghosts – Dolly Alderton
Dolly Alderton’s debut novel Ghosts is the most recent read on this list, and I feel it was one I picked up at the right time. It follows Nina, a successful food writer in her early thirties, who has pretty much everything she could want – a new home, her dream job, great friends – but everyone in her life is moving on. Her ex is getting married, her friends are having kids and moving away, and her father is living with dementia while her mother is set on starting her life over. Ghosts explores how our relationships evolve over time, and I found Nina’s place within her friendship group highly relatable. At the same time, it had plenty of humour and heartwarming moments, and I loved the theme of friendship that ran throughout.
What were the best books you read in 2021? What are your suggestions for 2022? Let me know in the comments!