My Books of the Year 2021

All year, I have shared my favourite books on the Books of the Week segment of my weekly Facebook Live show, Fab Night In Chatty Thing. 2021 has been a brilliant year for awesome books and I’ve discovered so many fantastic authors.

Here are the 16 books I have chosen for MY BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2021…

My Top Three Books of the Year are:

You, Me & The Sea by Elizabeth Haynes – quite simply, one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Hope, redemption, community, finding your place in the world, love and the wild beauty of a Scottish island in this beguiling, affecting, completely uplifting story. It’s a book I will return to often.

Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass – intrigue, thrills and a cracking whodunnit set against the backdrop of 1794 London, when fears of revolution fuelled by events in France and America create an atmosphere of suspicion and fear. I loved the setting, the characters and the thrill-ride of this story, so gorgeously captured by the author’s vivid storytelling.

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox – a total joy of a thriller with one of the best hooks I’ve seen in crime fiction. DI Joe Lazarus discovers he is dead, meets a superbly cool spirit guide Daisy May, and is tasked with solving his own murder to escape an eternity in purgatory. I adored this complete romp of a thriller, its breathtaking characterisation, devlishly devious twists and utter delight of the author skipping through every line.

I also loved these books…

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan – an evocative, richly imagined historical delight, following the lives of two very different women and their love of Edinburgh’s Botanical Garden that brings them together. I adored the cinematic breadth of the world Sara Sheridan creates – and the vivid opening chapter is one of the best I’ve ever read.

I Know What You’ve Done by Dorothy Koomson – a breathless, supremely twisty thriller that is as brilliantly conceived as it is devious, weaving the secrets and lies of a neighbourhood into a tense, page-turning thrill-ride of a story. I love Dorothy’s books and this is her best yet.

Asking for a Friend by Andi Osho – I loved this warm, wise and hilarious story of three women who decide to approach dating differently. It’s a celebration of life, love and female friendship, with three irresistible main characters and their fantastically observed worlds.

The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths – a tense, masterfully woven crime thriller that places forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway at the centre of a trail of bodies, Bronze Age burials and local superstition. From its wonderful cast of characters to its supremely spooky backdrop and stunning sense of danger and foreboding, this was a perfect thriller from one of my favourite authors.

The Single Dad’s Handbook by Lynsey James – a tender, heartbreaking, uplifting story of love after loss, as single dad Evan follows the advice of his late wife Claire through a book of letters she left for him to help him move on for his own sake and that of their five-year-old daughter Violet. I loved the gentle humour, wry observation and beautifully drawn relationship between Evan and Violet. A very special book.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint – 2021 was the year of classical tales reimagined and this gorgeously crafted novel was the best I read. Reimagining the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne, Princess of Crete, this is a story of love, sacrifice and the unique viewpoint of women from a time where society perceived them to have little power. What I loved most was the book’s lyrical beauty, a gorgeously written, hugely imaginative story quite unlike anything else I read this year.

One Ordinary Day at a Time by Sarah J. Harris – I adore stories about ordinary people daring to wish for extraordinary things and this story of burger restaurant worker Simon and single mum Jodie stole my heart. Moving, hugely uplifting and written with such warmth and humanity, this story is one to savour, treasure and return to when you want to be reminded that life can be wonderful.

Home by Penny Parkes – I read this later in the year after seeing so many readers falling in love with it and from the opening chapters I knew it was going to be a special book. Housesitter Anna’s longing to belong in a world where she gets to experience other people’s lives is a compelling hook for a story packed with wisdom, life and light. I loved this book so much!

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor – the second novel in Andrew Taylor’s gorgeous James Marwood and Cat Lovett series of historical crime thrillers set in Restoration era London (and the series that made me fall in love with historical fiction). The cast of characters, the evocative depiction of London in 1667 and the twists of political intrigue and devious plots are all wonderful, while the refreshingly contemporary, unlikely friendship of Marwood and Lovett sparkles from every page. I adored it!

I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood – I think I forgot to breathe for large sections of this thoroughly gripping thriller! A fantastic set-up with a crime witnessed by a man nobody wants to believe set against the harsh realities of life at the fringes of society and how our preconceptions can blind us to the real story. The writing is breathtaking and the deep questions raised by the story stayed with me. I read both the physical book and the audiobook and found both compelling and completely immersive.

Bad Apples by Will Dean – the fourth book in Will Dean’s fantastic Tuva Moodyson series of scandi-thrillers was the best yet, claustrophobic, supremely scary with fabulously weird settings. The tension in this book is off the chart and I haven’t yet recovered from the final, shattering conclusion! I read this book with a mixture of delight and total awe, rationing pages towards the end because I was so engrossed in the story. LOVED it!

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves – I fell in love with Ann Cleeves’ new Two Rivers series of crime thrillers starring Detective Matthew Venn with The Long Call, so couldn’t wait to read the second in the series. It is a rare thing – a breakneck-paced thriller that allows you time to be fully immersed in the world in which it is set. I love the character of Matthew Venn, so markedly different to any other crime thriller protagonist with the warmth and security of his home life and innate sense of justice set against the world he finds himself in. In this book, the things he loves the most are on the line as he investigates gruesome murders in a community of artists – it’s a heart-in-mouth, breath stealing gift of a book and I loved every page.

The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville – this is the kind of story I would normally shy away from reading, being as I am a self-confessed utter wuss when it comes to anything scary. But I adore Stuart Neville’s brilliant writing and that was enough to pull me into this haunting, terrifying book. I am so glad I dared to read it! One of the most profoundly affecting, compelling and viscerally emotive books I have read, it follows the story of a house with a terrible secret and the women whose lives become inextricably linked with it. It’s past ghost story, part horror, but also a story of belonging, life and identity – a total triumph of a book.

So there you go, my favourite reads of this year! Which books did you love in 2021? Join me when Fab Night In Chatty Thing resumes in the New Year, starting on Wednesday 5th January at 8pm on my Facebook Author page to find out which books will light up 2022! You can watch all this year’s shows here. Merry Christmas and see you all next year!

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