Well, that year went quickly. At the end of 2020, I set myself a Goodreads challenge: to read 25 books in 2021. I managed that target by the end of November – it was something that I never saw myself doing, but training to speed read, listening to audiobooks on 2.5-3x speed and a lockdown that led to a lot of daily walks went a long way to setting me on the path to getting there.
Now that I’ve shown that I am actually capable of reading so much, I’ve decided to up the ante: this year, my aim is to smash through 30 books. I think reading is such a lovely hobby, and there are so many stories that I feel I’m missing out on, that it’s only right that I try my best to increase how many pages I’m skimming through.
But still, 25 books. Wow. That’s a lot. There were some pretty great reads throughout 2021, but which were my favourites? More importantly, did I learn anything from them?
#5 Noughts and Crosses*
Malorie Blackman’s first novel in the seminal series. I first heard of Noughts and Crosses while using the school library computer, and a student mentioned it to our librarian. In this novel, segregation is still about – and in a major way. Except, in Blackman’s world, the roles are reversed: white people are treated like second-class citizens.
It’s a story of love, activism and is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. This book actually provided the inspiration that I needed to get started on my own novel. That’s a testament to how fleshed out and lived-in the world feels.
#4 The Rosie Project*
Graeme Simsion has crafted an unusual love story and explores how a man as seemingly odd as Don Tillman could possibly experience love through a series of checkboxes as he tries his best to find the woman of his dreams. As you’d expect, it’s not quite as easy as that.
I really enjoyed this one because it marked a departure from the same-old, same-old romances I’d been getting into. You know the type: cookie cutter stories where boy meets girl, boy falls out with girl, boy wins girl back. Yawn.
There are two sequels and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into them both.
#3 The Pianist*
A heartbreaking, true story of a Jewish man’s experience surviving the Nazi occupation of Poland. The book is incredibly well-written but equally harrowing. I read this one while on holiday and only put it down to cool off in the pool.
In a sentence: it’s the kind of story that everybody needs to read once in their lives.
#2 The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle*
This one took me ages to get through. Not because I didn’t enjoy it – I really liked it actually, hence why it’s in my number 2 spot – but because it was so long compared to the other relatively short reads I’d been chogging through. It was a really unusual take on the time travel trope, where Aidan Bishop has seven lives to understand how Evelyn Hardcastle was murdered.
If he solves the mystery, he can return to his life. While some parts were predictable, others had me flawed. I’ve not read many mysteries, but from my limited understanding, this is a real twist on the usual tropes of the genre.
Jupiter’s Legacy*: I’d not read a comic book in a good while, but this superhero series also turns the usual tropes of the series on its head. I got distinct The Boys vibes while reading this. The only let-down is that there are only two collected volumes, and I want more.
Brisingr*: I’ve read nearly all of the Eragon series this year. They’re beefy books set in a fantasy world that I’ve loved getting invested in. However, it’s both a compliment and a shame to say that the Lord of the Rings* tones that the novels all provide are very distinct, which sometimes makes it feel more like fan fiction. While I did enjoy these books, I couldn’t help but think they lived too much in Tolkien’s shadow.
Gotta Get Theroux This*: Lockdown at the start of 2021 gave me a real opportunity to binge through Louis Theroux’s documentaries. For the uninitiated, Louis is a documentary filmmaker who witnesses some of the most bizarre things on the planet. You get a real sense of a world that you’ve never before been exposed to and start to understand how the other half live – for better or for worse.
His book is essentially a behind-the-scenes look at his life and the process of filming each of these projects. He spends a substantial amount of time on his regrets over not seeing through Jimmy Saville’s guise, and you can tell that he has wondered whether he could have done more to intervene, making this a real eye-opener.
#1 Atomic Habits*
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I rave about this book. It is, essentially, the quintessential productivity self-help book, and anyone who is interested in upping their efficiency so that they can enjoy more of their lives should put this on their to-read list.
My key takeaway from this book is that you should try to be 1% better at something everyday because, in the long-run, this will lead to huge gains. I’ve imparted the same message onto the kids that I teach and it has been so effective. If you’re interested in more of these lessons, I’ve actually dedicated a whole post to this book already.
If you check my Goodreads account, you’ll see that there were some books that I didn’t dare touch in this roundup. This is because I’ve become a Teacher Judge for the UKLA book awards, where I get to read around 20 YA novels that have been shortlisted for the prize. I can’t show any favouritism at this stage (you’ll note that any of those books are rated 5 stars on my account for that reason), but stay tuned for my full thoughts on these books once judging finishes up!
Which of these books are you going to check out this year? Are there any that I should have mentioned? Let me know in the comments below.
*Any items marked with an asterisk are affiliate links, meaning that ordering through that link may give me a small kickback at no extra charge to you.
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