Bonjour! Welcome to my reading list for the year 2021!
This now the fourth year in a row that I will be tracking my reading in a blog post. If you are the type of person who is curious about such things, you can see everything I've read the last three years in these posts from 2018, 2019, and 2020.
This year my goal is to read/re-read 21 classic novels in addition to any other reading I do for fun or for work. I will keep track of everything that I read here throughout the year, so be sure to check back often!
My Book List for 2021:
1. The Witch Elm by Tana French
I started this book last year but I just finished it in January so it officially counts as my first book of 2020! I found it hard to get into, but once I finally did it was compelling enough to finish. The characters were interesting and the writing had an interesting flow, very distinctive to the character who was narrating. If you like a slow burn mystery this could be a good read!
2. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
This was a re-read for me, as I read it at least once in college. Frankl is a renowned psychologist and Holocaust survivor who uses the observations he made in a concentration camp to form his view on human psychology. The resulting logotherapy is a therapeutic technique that is still used today. The first part of the book recounts his time during the war, while the second half explores his scholarship and methods.
3. Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
Despite my love for reading I only buy books very, very rarely - I think I'm at the rate of about 1 per year right now, and usually only if I have some personal connection to the author. However, I made an expectation for this book, the second one from the author of blog (and title of her first book) Hyperbole and a Half. This book is worth purchasing because it isn't just writing, there are also hilarious pictures that Brosh draws on her computer. This book is a bit more serious than her first one, exploring themes of depression and loss and the seeming meaninglessness of life. It was especially interesting to read in contrast to Frankl's book, and I devoured it in just 24 hours. I highly recommend this one and her first book!
4. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
A friend on Instagram recommended this one and I immediately pulled it from the library onto my kindle as I was in the mood for a good mystery. Bonus, it's set in London and France! I was drawn into the characters and the overarching story and enjoyed the way it was told from different points of view. I devoured it in just a couple of days!
5. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
This book has come highly recommended by several friends and now I know why! It follows a story through time - bouncing between one young woman working during World War I and another young woman searching for a lost loved one in the aftermath of World War II. It is a fascinating look at women in those time periods, the challenges they faced, and the ways they rise above.
6. The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice
I was hooked from the first line of this novel and barely put it down until I finished it 24 hours later. The story is written from many different viewpoints which makes it a little hard to keep track of, especially at the beginning, but it's worth it to see the story unfold from so many angles.
7. One by One by Ruth Ware
In this mystery thriller, a small start-up company that has become an internet sensation goes to a ski retreat in the Alps to discuss whether or not they should accept a buyout. An avalanche occurs, people start dying, and the culprit might be in their midst! It was fairly predictable but a fun ski-filled mystery adventure nonetheless. Mostly it made me miss skiing, but also made me realize I don't really want to go ski anywhere there is an avalanche risk!
8. The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
It's funny that this book became available off my hold list right after the above, because it is such a similar story. A group of friends goes to celebrate New Year's Eve at a remote Scottish estate, they get snowed in, someone dies, and the culprit must be among them! Again, fun, but nothing mind-blowing or out of the ordinary. And yes, now I want to spend NYE at a remote Scottish estate sometime. But with people I trust not to kill me.
9. Final Girls by Riley Sager
Can you tell I'm in a mystery reading mood? This one follows three "final girls" - girls who were the sole survivors of brutal massacres. When something brings them back together, danger lurks and long-held secrets are revealed. I enjoyed it!
10. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Last year the only classic novel I managed to read was A Handmaid's Tale. I quite enjoyed it so I was keen to read this follow-up novel that explores how Gilead is doing some years into the future. It also calls back to the beginning of Gilead in some of the memories of a significant character. It was fascinating to delve into this world once again!
11. Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
This sweet love story follows artist Meg Mackworth - who has become a sensation in NYC for her bespoke planners and wedding accoutrement made with gorgeous calligraphy. The tale follows her connection with a former client who comes to ask about something he found in the wedding program she made for him and his fiance. The writing was flower but the story was interesting enough and kept my attention. I found myself ready to get back to my murder mysteries though, for some reason I am just in that kind of mood!
12. The Guest List by Lucy Foley
A fancy wedding on a remote Irish island...multiple motives for murder...this story is told through the eyes of several characters as more and more gradually gets revealed about the connections and interconnections. I enjoyed it!
13. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Part mystery, part ghost story, this tale had me racing through it to find out what was really going on. The story is told through the main character's point of view and by reading portions of a book her father wrote about her childhood. I had a bit of trouble tying up all the loose ends at the end but it was a fun ride!
14. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
What would happen if the world stopped spinning like it was supposed to and both our days and nights grew longer? This novel explores that idea, as told through the eyes of Julia, looking back on her late childhood when all the changes began. It was a compelling story, I found myself eager to know what would happen to each of the characters as well as the wider world. I highly recommend!
15. Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos
This was a heartfelt story about three college best friends who drifted a part after graduation. When one of them goes missing it brings the trio back together, as they navigate how their new lives intertwine with each other. A fun beach read!
16. Still Lives by Maria Hummel
An artist who paints portraits of women whose murders made them famous disappears. What has happened to her? Can our heroine figure it out in time? This was a good mystery set in LA in the early 2000's.
17. A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight
A murder mystery set in Park Slope, characters with shady backgrounds, others who seem pristine but there are cracks below the surface. The story was told from the point of view of a lawyer hired to defend the husband and the story of the woman who died, sharing her last week before she was killed. A fun read!
18. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
A mother is left broken-hearted when her daughter disappears at age 15. A decade later the mystery finally starts to get solved in ways she does not expect. I really enjoyed this one.
19. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
This British author was a police officer for ten years before beginning her writing career, so I feel like she really knows her stuff when it comes to police procedures. That adds an air of realism to this story about the investigation of a hit and run in which a small child was killed.
20. I See You by Clare Mackintosh
When I find an author I like, I tend to read all of their stuff! This Mackintosh mystery follows a central character who finds her picture in the paper one day...leading to a deep case that endangers multiple women. The story is also told from the viewpoint of one of the female police officers involved in the case.
21. Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
Anna lost both of her parents within six months, both to suicide. ....Or was it? A note comes through her door on the anniversary of her mother's death, which leads to an unraveling mystery that upends a lot of what Anna thought she knew about her life. I enjoyed this one.
22. The Next Wife by Kaira Rouda
The writing style was a bit choppy on this one, it felt like it could have used a few more passes from an editor. However, I found the story intriguing enough to keep me reading. The ex Mrs. Nelson and the current Mrs. Nelson are locked in a battle for one man's affections and control of the company the original couple started together. It is told from multiple points of view and is well-paced!
23. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
This was a fun read by a Swedish author that included my home state, Iowa! I was impressed with the way she fairly accurately represented the culture and people of small-town Iowa. It was a fun read and would be delightful for anyone who loves reading.
24. The Rumor by Elin Hilderband
I've enjoyed books by this author before, they aren't deep or life-changing but they are a fun read! This one focused on several families on Nantucket Island and the ways they intersect and interact over the course of a summer, especially as rumors amongst the town begin to take on a life of their own!
25. Just My Luck by Adele Parks
I highly enjoyed this tale about a family that wins the lottery and all of the highs and lows that follow. I am excited to read my by this author when I can get my hands on it.
26. Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
I've enjoyed books by this author before and while I got through this one quickly (less than 2 days) I wasn't really impressed by it. I kept reading faster thinking something more was going to happen...and then it never did. It also jumped around the timeline in confusing ways and many of the characters felt underdeveloped.
27. Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
This historical fiction novel set in World War II is a fun ride, despite the dark setting of the London Blitz. It follows Emmeline Lake as she accepts a job at a women's magazine, working for the advice column. Her boss refused to answer "inappropriate" questions so she goes behind her back to start offering advice to readers.
28. The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
It might be a bit weird to read a book about a pandemic whilst in the middle of a pandemic, but I absolutely loved this book and devoured it quickly! It is a beautiful character study of a small town as it is hit with a highly contagious sleeping sickness. I cannot recommend it enough.
29. Invitation Only Murder by Leslie Meier
Perhaps the definition of a "beach read" this book took me only a few hours to get through. The mystery was simple but kept my attention, and it was a good way to get back into reading after a few weeks of failed attempts on other novels!
30. The End of October by Lawrence Wright
In another case of reading a book about a pandemic while in the middle of a pandemic...I loved this one! Great characters and a chilling storyline about a world much more devastated by a virus than ours currently is. It's good to know things could be worse!
31. The Wild by Owen Laukkanen
I enjoyed this story about a teenage girl sent to a camp for rebellious teens set in the Pacific northwest wilderness.
32. Mrs. Rochester's Ghost by Lindsay Marcott
This is apparently a modern retelling of Jane Eyre (which I am ashamed to say I have never read...) and I LOVED it. Mystery, intrigue, romance, it has it all!
33. The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
This tale is set in London in a private city garden oasis surrounded by a variety of buildings. A new family moves into the area and it changes the dynamics of the children who play in the park, and in some ways, history starts to repeat itself... I enjoyed this one.
34. A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite
The description of this book was more exciting than I found it to be. They build you up for the shocking things she finds out about her husband...and then I'm just like...that's not all that shocking. The writing felt a bit stilted. There are much better memoirs out there, this one is skippable.
35. Vox by Christina Dalcher
I love reading on my Kindle, and I get very annoyed when books are only available on my library app instead of the Kindle, meaning I have to read them on my phone. In the past, I always returned those books without reading them, but the premise of this one intrigued me enough I decided to give it a go. Not only was the book excellent, but I found that I didn't mind reading on my phone as much as I thought I would! It actually made it easier to switch from social media to a book because I didn't have to changed devices. All that said, the book itself was very good. It is the tale of a dystopian future, similar to The Handmaid's Tale in that a patriarchal religious faction has taken over the US. This organization however controls women in a different way, they are no longer allowed to work, and they are limited to only 100 words a day. They wear a counter on their wrist that delivers electric shocks if they exceed 100 words. It is a fascinating world to be dropped into and I enjoyed learning about it from the perspective of the main character, a mother of two boys and a girl, who used to be a scientist researching the language areas in the brain.
36. At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
This tale of historical fiction follows a young couple during the height of World War II when the husband and his best friend decide to go chase for proof of the Loch Ness monster. I really enjoyed this story and it reminded me how much I love historical fiction! Strangely, I have not liked books from this author in the past, but I loved this one.
37. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
This story is sad but touching - a young girl dies and we follow her mother as she tries to reconstruct her daughter's life through her emails, text messages, and social media posts. The story alternates between the mother's perspective after her death and the daughter's perspective leading up to her death. There were times when I could not put it down!
38. The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
I picked this one because I enjoyed the previous book so much I thought I would check out more from the same author. I got all the way to the end just to find out this is a trilogy! And it ended on a cliffhanger! And the other two books are not available from my library on my Kindle! ARGH!
39. The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson
This crime procedural is set in London and follows Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley as she faces off against a serial killer and his copycat. It was okay but nothing spectacular.
40. Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell
This book intertwines two stories, one about Arlette in the 1921 London jazz age, and one in 1995 as Arlette's grandaughter sets out to find a mystery woman named in Arlette's will. This beautiful story made me cry, in a good way.
41. Falling by T.J. Newman
This thriller from first time author took me a while to get into, but once it got going I couldn't put it down! A pilot is put in a dilemma by terrorists - save his family or save the plane he is flying with 140 souls on board?
42. The Quantum Spy by David Ignatius
I was looking for a random thriller and this was the first one I found that didn't have a waiting list. It was okay, nothing spectacular. I'd watch the movie if they made one!
43. Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone
It took me a while to get into this story...the storytelling style was a bit quirky, with flashbacks intertwined with the present-day so that you have to really pay attention to realize which is which. Once it going though, about halfway through, I was gripped and stayed up late into the night to get to the end!
44. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Hannah is newly married to Owen and step-mom to his daughter Bailey. One day Owen disappears leaving behind only a cryptic note and a bag of money. It's an interesting mystery that takes some turns I didn't expect!
Classics Read in 2021:
Whoops! I didn't get around to reading any classics in 2021, either. I think it's time to recognize that I just wanna read what I wanna read!
Stopped Reading List:
I used to be one of those people who had to finish every book I started. Even if I didn't like it, I just couldn't leave something unfinished. This year, I've decided I don't want to do that anymore. There are too many good books in this world to force myself to read something I'm not enjoying! So I thought I'd keep track of my stopped reading list, too, mostly just for my own record.
1. I've Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark
As I'm sure you can tell from my reading list, I love a good mystery, and Mary Higgins Clark used to be one of my favorite mystery authors when I was younger. I don't know if her writing has just gone downhill or what but this one published in 2018 was not good. I was uncomfortable with her portrayal of a young man with disabilities, though I was willing to fight through that. What finally made me stop reading was the many instances of editorial mistakes - in one scene the voice would switch from first person to third person even when referencing the same person. It was very distracting and finally made me put the book down for good.
2. After the End by Clare Mackintosh
I loved all of the other books I read by this author this year, but this one I couldn't get through. I think I found the topic (a terminally ill child) just too difficult, and not what I want to be reading about in my spare time. (At the moment, at least, sometimes I do want/need difficult books, but I found myself avoiding this one so decided it was time to move on.)
3. The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
This one came highly recommended from many sources but I just could not get into it. I might return to it one day (another reason to keep this list!)
4. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
I am usually a huge Jodi Picoult fan and I sat on the waiting list for this book for months. However, I got about 80 pages into this one and just could not stand the main character. Her poor husband had a coworker come onto him, he rejected her (like literally nothing happened between them), he then told his wife about it, and she flipped the F out acting like it was some huge betrayal. Like, this was a major plot point. And she used that to justify lying to her husband about where she was going and visiting an ex-boyfriend she clearly still had feelings for. And then she had the gall to act like she was the one being betrayed. No, just no. I don't know if the story was going to redeem this character of that hypocrisy but it sure didn't seem like it, it seemed like we were supposed to agree that she was betrayed by her husband and therefore able to do whatever she wanted. But in my book, what happened was not a betrayal, especially since he told her about it. I apparently have a lot of feelings about this and I just could not keep reading the book after that.