52 in 2021: My Year In Books

Last year, I posted about the 45 books I read in 2020. I didn’t mention, however, how disappointed I was with this number. Seems totally ridiculous, right? Right. I had set myself a Goodreads target of 52 books, so when I “only” read 45, I felt like I had failed. I was flooded with the desire, on New Year’s Eve, to read a stack of tiny books to reach the target, but I realised that this defeated the entire point of reading for joy. Why bother, if it’s just another source of deadlines and stress?

Perhaps a reasonable response to this would have been to just… not set a Goodreads deadline for 2021? But I also really love cataloging, and I think Goodreads is an excellent platform for this – especially when you’re following other readers whose tastes align with your own. I did, however, promise myself to not look at the numbers as much and rather as a virtual bookshelf, and I made an effort not to read anything purely because they were short. In the end, I’ve reached my target, which I’m obviously thrilled about, but I can’t express to you how much more pleasant an experience reading in 2021 was compared to 2020.

I’ve listed the 52 books I read in 2021 below, and have featured a snippet from my full reviews. If you want to read more, click on the hyperlinked titles.

Disclaimer: I earn a small commission if you buy through these links, at no extra cost to you. If you’re reading this from South Africa – Book Depository ships to you. If you’re reading this from the UK – you’ll know Waterstones and Foyles, but Book Depository also has some great deals. You know the drill with Amazon, I assume.

1. Little (Fiction – Historical)

By Edward Carey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “What casual monsters we are. What calamities we are capable of.”

Synopsis: A novel about Marie Grosholtz (AKA Madame Tussaud), the woman behind the scenes in a world of fame, infamy and wax, and about the remarkable, traumatic life she led during a tumultuous time in French revolutionary history. 

Watch my interview with Edward Carey on Babble:

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | FoylesAmazon

2. Noise Damage (Non-Fiction – Memoir)

By James Kennedy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “What follows is not another clichéd tale of rock ’n’ roll debauchery (sorry) or of triumph over adversity (you’re welcome) – you’ve heard all of that before. And you already know about ‘the other guys’ – that exalted one per cent who monopolise our airwaves, pages and screens; the guys who make the big bucks with big promo budgets. The guys who’ve been all the way to the top. Nope, this is the untold story about the rest of us.”

Synopsis: A memoir – or rather, an almanac of tips for aspiring rock stars – which covers the do’s, don’ts, and “if you can avoid its”, told through the structure of Kennedy’s experience of the music industry.

Read my review for Buzz Magazine here.

Watch my co-founder of Babble interview James Kennedy:

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

3. Uncoupling (Fiction – Romance)

By Lorraine Brown

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Could a split train change someone’s life forever?”

Synopsis: When the carriage Hannah is traveling in uncouples en route to Amsterdam and she ends up in Paris, she meets Léo, someone who’s made the same mistake, and who’s willing to show her what Paris has to offer in the time she has before the next train back to her boyfriend…

Watch my interrview with Lorraine Brown on Babble:

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Non-Fiction – Memoir)

By Mindy Kaling

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.”

Synopsis: Part memoir, part life-guide, Kaling has a lovely, funny view of the world and shares that through a series of personal essays and lists: From her views on one night stands to her childhood as an androgynous-looking child who loved comedy.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | FoylesAmazon

5. Girl (Fiction – Recent History)

By Edna O’Brien

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Darkness is drawn to light, but light does not know it; light must absorb the darkness and therefore meet its own extinguishment.”

Synopsis: A fictional reimagining of the 276 Boko Haram girls who were abducted in Nigeria in 2014: their journey, their plight, their terror.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

6. Life As A Unicorn (Non-Fiction – Memoir)

By Amrou Al-Kadhi

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “I believe almost dogmatically in difference, in the idea that every single person is unique, with their own innate sense of self, and that it is this difference which brings all of us together as one.”

Synopsis: A simultaneously gritty and glittery memoir about Amrou Al-Kadhi’s life: from a childhood in Dubai and Iraq, to an education at Eton and then Cambridge; from a young Muslim desperate to appease their family’s expectations, to the fabulous Glamrou, a beloved drag performer.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | FoylesAmazon

7. How To Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong (Non-Fiction – Memoir)

By Elizabeth Day

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Adventures do by definition involve risk, but not having an adventure means missing out on life, a far greater risk.”

Synopsis: The author’s podcast, the book’s namesake, is an interview show where she chats with successful people about what they consider to be their biggest failures: the book is broken down into Day’s key failures, varying in significance from her failure to be good at tennis, to the breakdown of her marriage. 

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

8. Kololo Hill (Fiction – Historical)

By Neema Shah

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Who would remember them once they’d gone?”

Synopsis: In 1972, Idi Amin expelled all Ugandan Asians from the country: a community was fractured, families were separated and spread across the world, and in this novel, we follow family’s journey to Britain, which is rooted in the author’s family history.

Watch my interview with Neema Shah on Babble:

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles Amazon

9. Acts of Desperation (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Megan Nolan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “You always think your pain is the most painful. You always think it’s uniquely awful.”

Synopsis: A striking, novelised exploration of the author’s toxic relationships – from her relationship with her body and disordered eating to her relationships with men and one in particular.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

10. The Tall Owl and Other Stories (Fiction – Short Stories)

By Colum Sanson Regan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis: This is a collection of 10 short stories covering themes of love, guilt, shame and the very notion of human existence.

Read my review for Buzz Magazine here.

Watch my co-founder of Babble interview Colum Sanson Regan:

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

11. How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? (Non-fiction – Personal Essays)

By Pandora Sykes

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “In an age when we are ever more targeted and profiled and mined for information, reading a book allows you to be, for so long as the covers hold you, truly quiet and undisturbed.”

Synopsis: This collection of essays covers really intriguing social experiences such as our quest for authenticity and how the branding of authenticity is ironically inauthentic, our approach to online shopping, the instant message as a form of communication, and much more.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

12. Inhale/Exile (Poetry – Political)

By Abeer Ameer

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis: This is Abeer Ameer’s debut poetry anthology: a selection of poems that tell the stories of her Iraqi forebears.

Watch my interview with Abeer Ameer on Babble:

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

13. Period. It’s About Bloody Time (Non-fiction – Personal Essays)

By Emma Barnett

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Periods run deep, and they can be powerful signifiers of health, fertility and identity.”

Synopsis: This collection of personal essays tries to unpack what it is that makes periods such a taboo, from childhood to religion, from advertising which prioritises discreetness over effectiveness to the fact that we’re more concerned about sending men to the moon than abolishing period tax.

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13. Your Story, My Story (Fiction – Historical, Translated)

By Connie Palmer

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “She wanted someone to test her strength against, she wanted to fight, and for that she sought out the biggest, strongest man she could find. Me.”

Synopsis: This book has a very striking premise: it’s the fictional reimagining of the love story and marriage between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, which has almost reached mythological status in literary lore. 

BUY THE BOOK: Amazon

14. Charity (Fiction – Historical)

By Madeline Dewhurst

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “It’s part of our litigious culture now, I suppose, to evade responsibility.”

Synopsis: A historical fiction retelling of the British occupation of Kenya, told through two stories: One, of a young woman called who is working as a live-in carer for a racist old woman in her palatial home in London. Two, of Charity, a young woman, imprisoned and tortured in a camp in British-occupied Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising.

Watch my interview with Madeline Dewhurst on Babble:

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15. Exciting Times (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Naoise Dolan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “I thought that if I let anyone in, they’d find out what was broken about me. And then not only would they know, I’d know too.”

Synopsis: An Irish graduate heads to Hong Kong to teach TEFL because she’s not sure what else to do but knows she needs to get away: She gets paid very little, half of which is sunk into rent, and she bares so much self-hate that making friends is not something she thinks she’s capable of (not that she tries). Then she meets Julian and Edith, and everything changes.

Read the other books shortlisted for the Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award:

Surge (Winner) | Inferno | Tongues of Fire | Nightingale

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16. The Jigsaw Man (Fiction – Crime)

By Nadine Matheson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “I always find it odd when people say that of the dead. They had their whole life ahead of them. Clearly, they didn’t because they’re dead. We may not like the method of disposal but when it’s your time to go, then it’s your time to go.”

Synopsis: The story follows DI Henley, who returns to the field after months on desk-duty after the arrest of Peter Olivier, AKA the Jigsaw Killer based on his stomach-churning methods for murder. Despite his arrest, and Olivier’s position behind bars, Henley suspects that he has something to do with the copycat murders which have resulted in dismembered bodies turning up across London.

Watch my interview with Nadine Matheson on Babble:

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

17. An American Marriage (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Tayari Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.”

Synopsis: When Roy is incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, yet another man in the wrong place with the wrong skin colour at the wrong time in Louisiana, his new marriage to Celestial enters a realm it was never intended to exist within. Roy, in prison longer than he has even been married to Celestial. Celestial, living half a life that she didn’t sign up for.

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18. Two Stories (Fiction – Short Stories)

By Sally Rooney

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “It was in my nature to absorb large volumes of information during times of distress, like I could master the distress through intellectual dominance.”

Synopsis: These two stories perfectly capture the momentary, often inappropriate, regularly awkward experiences of attraction between people, both of a sexual nature and just of human connection, which is arguably what Sally Rooney does best across her novels. 

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19. Because of You (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Dawn French

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters. Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl. Anna leaves with empty arms.”

Synopsis: Two women go into hospital expecting to leave with a child, but only one does – and it’s not theirs. While reading this summary might make you sick to your stomach, what is so brilliant about this story is how you are able to feel everyone’s heartbreak, even when it’s conflicting with your moral compass.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

20. Why Rebel (Non-Fiction – Environmental)

By Jay Griffiths

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Why rebel? Because our footprint on the Earth has never mattered more than now. How we treat it, in the spirit of gift or of theft, has never been more important.”

Synopsis: A book which emphasises not just the science, but the collective emotional grief and tragedy associated with the planet’s current environmental trajectory. Not how we should rebel, but why.

Read my review for Buzz Magazine here.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

21. How To Kidnap The Rich (Fiction – Crime/Satire)

By Rahul Raina

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “The first kidnapping wasn’t my fault. The others—those were definitely me.”

Synopsis: Growing up in Old Delhi, Ramesh is poor, abused by his father, and looking towards a rather hopeless future. He’s clever, though. So clever, that he starts preparing for the All India Examninations… Years later, he’s writing the exam for rich kids for a premium and when he accidentally scores the best mark in the country and everything gets a lot more complicated.

Watch my interview with Rahul Raina on Babble:

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22. The Kensington Kidnap (Fiction – Cozy Mystery)

By Katie Gayle

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Thank God she had a car. You couldn’t do a stakeout from the Tube.”

Synopsis: When a temp agency leads Pip into the position of lead private investigator on a case regarding a local celeb’s missing teenager, she’s determined not to mess it up (even if there appears to be some kind of colossal mess up with the job offer in the first place).

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23. The Left Hand of Darkness (Science Fiction)

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”

Synopsis: A human from Terra (aka earth) is a missionary sent to the planet Gethen to try to convince their leaders to join the Ekumen, a confederation of planets. The major issue, however, is the cultural barrier to which he struggles to assimilate.

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24. Be Your Own Best Friend (Non-Fiction – Memoir)

By Chessie King

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “This book is a celebration of… Your best friend. Your cheerleader. Your soulmate. YOU.”

Synopsis:  A retelling of the life experiences and insecurities which Chessie King ultimately triumphed over to be who she is today – it is authentic and while not necessarily always relatable, her messaging often rings universally true across a number of experiences that come with being – or growing into – a woman. I wish I’d read this at 14-15.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

25. Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Jane Riley

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Things that had previously consoled or even gladdened me were no longer doing the trick. I felt out of kilter, like a crooked painting on the wall, or a cheese straw without paprika.”

Synopsis: Geraldine Verne loses her husband, Jack, in their old age. After a life of adventure and butterfly collecting, Geri’s life seems suddenly empty. Her “crutch”, both metaphorically and literally, is a red suitcase. It’s Lottie, though, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, who will spark the change Geri needs to keep living.

BUY THE BOOK: Amazon

26. My Dark Vanessa (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Kate Elizabeth Russell

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “I can’t lose the thing I’ve held onto for so long, you know?” My face twists up from the pain of pushing it out. “I just really need it to be a love story, you know? I really, really need it to be that.”

Synopsis: We are offered a window into the life of Vanessa Wye, both as a 15-year-old and in her early 30s. When she was 15, she entered into a sexual relationship with her 45-year-old teacher, Jacob Strane… or at least, she believes it was a consenting, loving relationship into which she voluntarily entered.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

27. A Cursed Place (Fiction – Crime)

By Peter Hanington

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “You should be actively looking for things that challenge your existing opinion.”

Synopsis: The multi-pronged plot follows journalists reporting on uprisings in Hong Kong and the violent response from the Chinese State in its determination to maintain control, brainiacs in Silicon Valley paving the way forward using the bricks and mortar of personal data, and dealings in Chilean mines that surpass simply digging up raw materials. All these threads, connected by the powers that be… or rather, by big tech.

Read my review for Buzz Magazine here.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

28. Before My Actual Heart Breaks (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Tish Delaney

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “I’m not yours and you’re not mine. That’s what I say to his dreaming face as I watch the shadows of his dark eyelashes dance by the light of a Tilley lamp. It’s not the first lie I’ve told myself.”

Synopsis: Growing up during the Troubles on The Hill, Mary dreams of one thing only: the route out of Carncloon, away from her abusive mother and apathetic father, and over to America. Things don’t go to plan and young Mary ends up pregnant out of wedlock. Her mother has her married off before the bump can threaten to trip them up in the eye of the Catholic church.

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29. Hell of a Book (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Jason Mott

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “You have to believe you matter, whether someone else sees you or not.”

Synopsis: We follow the story of three: an author, a young Black boy (“The Kid”), and Soot. Initially, all these are individual characters living out their stories, navigating what it means to be a Black person in America across different geographies and time periods.

Read my review for Buzz Magazine here.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

30. Misogynation: The True Scale of Sexism (Non-Fiction – Essay Collection)

By Laura Bates

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Leaving women out of the story isn’t a simple slip-up. It is a consequence of a world that tells us they just aren’t quite as important.”

Synopsis: This non-fiction book of Laura Bates’ essays reminds us that sexism isn’t just discrimination against women by some omnipresent wicked individuals, but rather a series of micro aggressions, institutionalised discrimination and everyday behaviour which culminate and infect society at large, often by people who don’t acknowledge how their actions add to the problem and to some extent, by everyone. 

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

32. Ayoade on Top (Non-Fiction – Humorous / Film Analysis)

By Richard Ayoade

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Cinema helps us to remember that although we all have the right to shine, some of us must shine in the background, out of focus, and not too brightly.”

Synopsis: Richard Ayoade, who you may know from the IT Crowd and more, has written a book-length analysis of the 2003 dramedy View From The Top, interspersed with personal anecdotes. 

If you like the idea of a humorous, scene-by-scene film analysis, you’ll probably love How Love Actually Ruined Christmas – even if you do actually love Love Actually.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

33. The Burning (Fiction – Young Adult)

By Laura Bates

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “It’s worth knowing that sometimes people see you as a symbol of something instead of a person. And, when they do, it reflects on them, not you.”

Synopsis: The Burning tells the story of a teenaged girl called Anna who is forced (socially, but also with pressure from her school) to leave Birmingham and move to a small town outside St Andrew’s in Scotland after a social media inspired scandal takes place.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

34. The Trial (Fiction – Young Adult)

By Laura Bates

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “We should take the scars we don’t see as seriously as the ones we do”

Synopsis: After seven teens (a mix of basketball players and cheerleaders on their way back from a tour) are plane-wrecked on a desert island, left to fend for themselves and more importantly, find food and fresh water before the plane meals run out, things get rather intense.

Wondering why I’ve read so much Laura Bates this year? It’s because I interviewed her about this book at The Wigtown Book Festival. The interview was live, so is no longer available, but follow me on Instagram to keep on top of future events.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

35. Unapologetically Able (Non-Fiction – Essays/Memoir)

By Chaeli Mycroft

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “A story about not being sorry.”

Synopsis: Chaeli Mycroft’s debut is simultaneously: a memoir of the 25 years she’s spent living with her disability; a collection of essays about the trials, tribulations and laugh-out-loud moments of living with cerebral palsy; the ability activism that accompanies Chaeli through life (as well as its origins); and a catalogue of her adventures – of which there are many which showcase her bravery, endurance, athleticism and refusal to lead anything but a full and happy life. 

BUY THE BOOKS: In South Africa | On Amazon

36. Beautiful World, Where Are You? (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Sally Rooney

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “I was tired, it was late, I was sitting half-asleep in the back of a taxi, remembering strangely that wherever I go, you are with me, and so is he, and that as long as you both live the world will be beautiful to me.”

Synopsis: As with most Rooney, a “plot” summary can’t really be written, as there wasn’t a plot so to speak but rather a window into everyday life and the relationships within it. It is a novel about female friendship, socialism, and the arguably inescapable grip that class has on Ireland (which I think extends to Northern Ireland and the UK at large) even in supposedly non-political situations, which Rooney spoke in fascinating detail about during the launch event.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

37. Daisy Jones & The Six (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Passion is…it’s fire. And fire is great, man. But we’re made of water. Water is how we keep living. Water is what we need to survive.”

Synopsis: In retrospective interview style, we learn about a 70s rock band called The Six who team up with the effervescent singer-songwriter Daisy Jones to write an album that would make them one of the most adored rock groups of the era. With love, desire, drugs (so, so many drugs) and an unquestionable appreciation of music as the bedrock of the novel, an entire world is created and destroyed between bookends.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones Foyles |Book Depository | Amazon

38. Me Talk Pretty One Day (Non-Fiction – Essays/Memoir)

By David Sedaris

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “I find it ridiculous to assign a gender to an inanimate object incapable of disrobing and making an occasional fool of itself.”

Synopsis: Between hysterical tales of his cruel speech therapist, his pathologically unkind French teacher, his attempts to explain what the Easter Bunny is in French, his experience living in Paris and his brief stint trying to learn the guitar, David Sedaris also weaves in moments of intimacy and introspection in this laugh-out-loud essay collection.

I listened to this on audiobook: here are other books I loved to listen to rather than read.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

40. The Natural Health Service (Non-Fiction – Self-Help/Memoir)

By Isabel Hardman

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Universal access to healthcare is one of the shibboleths of British society: the Natural Health Service costs far less, saves the official NHS money, and should be seen as just as essential.” 

Synopsis: In 2016, Isabel Hardman had a breakdown, was diagnosed as PTSD, and has suffered with mental illness ever since. This book is her experience of how nature and exercise have helped her alongside medication, and a plea for everyone – but particularly the healthcare system – to acknowledge the importance of incorporating a natural health service into the healthcare system.

I interviewed Isabel at the Petworth Literary Festival, which is unavailable because it was in-person and the live stream was only available for a month afterward. Again, if you’re interested in seeing any of these live events, please follow me on Instagram. Here’s a pic, though:

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

41. Vox (Fiction – Feminist/Dystopian)

By Christina Dalcher

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.”

Synopsis: As speculative fiction which centres around the premise of a world where political conservatism leads to all women being fitted with electric shock devices, issued 100 words per day, and punished with the inevitable when that allocation is met, it’s not surprising the lines that are drawn between Vox and The Handmaid’s Tale.

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42. The Impossible Truths of Love (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Hannah Beckerman

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “You need to know that I’ve always loved you even though you were never really mine to love.”

Synopsis: This is a domestic drama which navigates the nature of relationships, family and the complex intricacies of loss of all its varying kinds – loss of innocence, of loved ones and of our sense of who we are. But mostly, as the name suggests, this is a tribute to love and the lengths human beings will go to for the people they love.

BUY THE BOOKS: Amazon

43. The Strangers of Braamfontein (Fiction – Crime)

By Onyeka Nwelue

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Like they say; if a person goes and gets one whole measure of oil to eat only one yam, does he think the yam farmer who owns the land would put aside a whole mortar of palm fruit for oil?”

Synopsis: Set on the streets of Braamfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg, strangers from African countries congregate in a city famed on the continent for its potential for employment and betterment – but they are not always welcome. In a country where so many fight against poverty, “eat or be eaten” trumps kindness every time.

Read my review for Buzz Magazine here.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

44. Wow, No Thank You (Non-Fiction – Essays/Memoir)

By Samantha Irby

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Hello, 911? I’ve been lying awake for an hour each night, reliving a two-second awkward experience I had in front of a casual acquaintance three years ago, for eight months.”

Synopsis: This collection of essays by Samantha Irby is a reflection on the modern world and all the things from which we are meant to find joy and meaning. That may sound somewhat macabre, but I assure you – it’s hilarious and brilliant.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

45. Hillbilly Elegy (Non-Fiction – Memoir/Politics)

By JD Vance

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “What separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault.”

Synopsis: Growing up in the hills of Kentucky in a family which many might call “redneck” or “white trash”, JD Vance’s graduation from Yale Law School defied the odds. Reading was a “slice of life”, and it was as entertaining as it was enlightening.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

46. American Dirt (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Jeanine Cummins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “That these people would leave their homes, their cultures, their families, even their languages, and venture into tremendous peril, risking their very lives, all for the chance to get to the dream of some faraway country that doesn’t even want them.”

Synopsis: This is a harrowing story that tells of the horrific ordeal that so many people endure fleeing Mexico to the US. From perilously riding on top of trains, eating when food is available, sleeping under the protection of strangers, and all that being preferable to the alternative of staying.

BUY THE BOOKS: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

47. The Thursday Muder Club (Fiction – Crime)

By Richard Osman

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “After a certain age, you can pretty much do whatever takes your fancy. No one tells you off, except for your doctors and your children.”

Synopsis: The premise is that a group of old people in a care village (a very, very posh one) start a club to solve a mysterious murder that has happened during the process of the landlord’s attempt to expand the village. When one murder leads to two, the fun really begins.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

48. The Weak Spot (Fiction – Contemporary)

By Lucie Elven

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “You couldn’t introduce her to a situation without her trying to convince you she had locked eyes with someone she recognised, trying to form a link, perhaps, to explain how she had gone from A to B in life.”

Synopsis: On a mountainside town somewhere unspecified in Europe, our unnamed protagonist begins an apprenticeship with the local pharmacist, a man who uses strange and manipulative techniques to get what he wants.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Amazon

49. The New Friends (Fiction – Thriller)

By Daniel Hurst

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “‘I wish we’d never met them.’
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said that since that damn holiday in Spain.”

Synopsis: Have you ever made friends on holiday? Did they buy you champagne and make you crave the luxurious lifestyle they lead? Convince you to invest your savings with them? Disappear? Well, that’s the turn Jamie and Becky’s holiday friendship with Phil and Mel took.

BUY THE BOOK: Amazon

50. A Christmas Carol (Fiction – Classic/Fable/Short Story)

By Charles Dickens

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

Synopsis: You can’t help but get into the Christmas spirit once the adventures of Scrooge come to an end. 

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles

51. The Thursday Murder Club (Fiction – Crime)

By Richard Osman

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “After a certain age, you can pretty much do whatever takes your fancy. No one tells you off, except for your doctors and your children.”

Synopsis: I’m not a big crime reader, but I adore Richard Osman as well as his House of Games. I think what I enjoyed most about it was that his sense of humour and tone of voice came through in his writing, more so than the story itself.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository Foyles | Amazon

52. Let Me Tell You What I Mean (Non-Fiction – Personal Essays)

By Joan Didion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memorable quote: “Make a place available to the eyes, and in certain ways it is no longer available to the imagination.”

Synopsis: My first Joan Didion – an anthology of her early writing. If the introduction which claimed these display the roots of how her writing developed over the course of her career is anything to go by, then I can’t wait to read more of her work.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository

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