It’s that time of year again when I celebrate my love of reading by sharing the awesome books I’ve read in the last 12 months.
Back in 2019 I realised that I was focusing so much on work and the blog that I wasn’t giving myself enough ‘me time’. Books have always been my favourite way to escape and relax so I make sure to give myself more time to read.
Setting Myself A Reading Goal For 2021
When I first started setting myself reading goals in 2019 I set myself a small challenge of 12 books in 12 months. In 2020 I decided to up this to 30 books. This year I decided to increase my reading goal to 40 books in 12 months.
Even though I almost failed last year, I still wanted more of a challenge this year. I wanted to get into a good habit of reading regularly. Last year I had to read a couple of books in a day to reach my target! Ok, so I had to finish book 40 on the 31st December but I’m still happy to say I hit the target with little rushing.
Curious what books caught my fancy this year? Read on to find out what books I read in 2021…
The Books I Read in 2021
Non Fiction – Travel Memoirs
Being a lover of travel and books, it should be no surprise that I love reading travel memoirs. I love reading the true and usually entertaining stories of people who make big life decisions in a new country.
A Beer in the Loire by Tommy Barnes
France is known as being a wine making country so what happens when an English man decides he wants to produce beer in France? Oh and did I mention he has never brewed beer before? Sounds like a recipe for disaster! In this hilarious memoir, Tommy shares his adventures in trying to create his dream of brewing beer in a country known for wine.
READ ALSO: 35 Books Set in France
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
In 1996 three separate expeditions were caught in a storm on Everest. Dealing with hurricane force winds as well as the effects of the altitude, this led to the worst single season death toll in the peak’s history. Into Thin Air is the personal account of veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer, who was part of a group being led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. In his account, Jon recalls the facts as he remembers them leading up to that tragic event.
My Grape Quebec by Laura Bradbury
After falling in love with Laura in her first book The Grape Year, I was keen to continue the story. After taking a gap year in France and falling in love with local boy Franck, Laura had to return home for college. Nobody thinks the couple can survive with an ocean between them but the pair are determined. Can Franck get to Canada so the couple can reunite? And even if he can, that’s no guarantee their fairytale love story can survive Canadian life.
A Chip Shop in Poznan by Ben Aitken
Searching for an answer to why the Poles were leaving Poland, Ben flew to a place he had never heard of because the flights were cheap. He takes on various minimum wage jobs while exploring the country and learning more about the history and the people. A Chip Shop in Poznan is the hilarious tale of a British immigrant’s year in Poland.
My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh
Janine Marsh was on a trip to Northern France to pick up some cheap wine, however, she returned to England having put an offer on an old, rundown barn in the rural area of Calais. While unplanned, Janine eventually gave up her job in London and moved to France with her husband. This is the true story of Janine’s rollercoaster ride moving to France and adapting to a different way of life with new culture and etiquette than she is used to.
Non Fiction – Other
Over the last couple of years I’ve tried to expand on the types of books I read. That has meant reading a lot more non-fiction books. But there’s been a different variety of non-fiction books this year so here are all the others I’ve read.
Lightning Strikes Twice by Tom East
The incredible true story of one man’s experience surviving two brain haemorrhages and the strength and resilience needed for a recovery period lasting over twenty years. In this book Tom East shares his entertaining personal experiences as he patiently overcomes whatever life throws his way.
It’s Not Me, Its You by Jon Richardson
British comedian Jon Richardson is a control freak looking for love. He has spent his entire life getting things the way he wants them and all he wants now is someone to give that all up for. Jon’s obsessive compulsive order has seen him arrange the coins in his pocket in ascending size and colour code his bookshelves. But who exactly is Jon looking for and where does he start?
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
I’ve always been fascinated with Jack The Ripper and have read books about the unidentified serial killer but never much on the victims. In this book, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally gives these women back their stories and shows there is a lot more to their lives that led them to be murdered.
Death Row: The Final Minutes by Michelle Lyons
In 12 years, Michelle Lyons has witnessed nearly 300 executions. Starting as a reporter and then spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Michelle was a frequent visitor to Huntsville’s Walls Unit. Here she would record the final moments of death row inmates before being put to death by the state. Michelle witnesses some of the most notorious criminals speak their last words on earth.
100 Things They Don’t Want You To Know by Daniel Smith
If you’re curious about life’s mysteries and conspiracy theories, this book is a great introduction. With just a few pages on each subject, it gives you a brief overview on the mysteries and conspiracies that have got people asking questions. It’s a great book if you want a quick overview to see what you want to explore further.
Black Mirror and Philosophy by William Irwin
I love these TV/film and philosophy books and Black Mirror is the perfect show for thought provoking philosophical debates. The twisted, high-tech near-future series offers a glimpse into the dark reflections of the human condition in digital technology. Have we given social media too much power over our lives? Could heaven one day really be a place on earth? Should criminal justice and punishment be crowdsourced? What rights should a ‘cookie’ have?
Fiction – Thriller/Crime
As you can probably tell from the amount I read, thrillers and crime books are my favourite to read. There was a time when you wouldn’t catch me reading anything else! But as I got older I realised I needed to expand what I read, hence the diversity of books on this list. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t happily return to the books I love.
Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
The second book in the DC Grant series. As Peter is still coming to grips with his wizard apprenticeship, jazz saxophonist Cyrus Wilkinson is attacked and killed. Someone, or something, is stalking the streets of Soho, drawn to the gifts of great musicians. As Grant follows the evidence deep into the back streets of London, he soon realises the case is tangled with the brilliant trumpet player, Richard ‘Lord’ Grant, his father.
READ ALSO: 35 Books Set in London
The Dinner Guest by B.P Walter
Matthew was the perfect husband, Titus the perfect son and Rachel was the perfect stranger. Charlie didn’t want her to join their book club but Matthew wouldn’t listen. And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s dead body, with their son sitting silently at the dinner table. Meanwhile, Rachel is beside them calling 999 with the bloody knife still gripped in her hand. Is this as simple a murder as it looks?
She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Laureth’s father has taught her to look for recurring patterns and numbers, a skill she is remarkably talented at. So when her father goes missing while researching for his new book, Laureth, with her younger brother, heads from London to New York to find him. She has just one clue to follow; his notebook.
In The Woods by Tana French
When he was just twelve years old, Adam Ryan went playing in the woods with his two friends, who he never saw again. Their bodies were never found and Adam himself was discovered with his back pressed against an oak tree and his shoes filled with blood. He had no memory of what happened. Twenty years later he returns as a detective with a new name. A little girl’s body is found at the same site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. Knowing he’ll be thrown off the case if his history is revealed, Rob tries to keep everything quiet in the hope of solving the twenty-year-old mystery of the woods.
READ ALSO: 40 Books Set in Ireland
The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter
The latest book in the Will Trent series, possibly my favourite book series! Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) is back and confronted with some disturbing information. An inmate and prime suspect of a brutal attack is claiming to be innocent and insisting he was framed by a corrupt law enforcement team led by Jeffrey Tolliver, the dead ex-husband of Will’s girlfriend. Should Will reopen the case that implicates the dead police officer with a hero’s reputation of wrongdoings?
Ice Breakers by Heather C. Myers
The first book in the Mika Chalmers Hockey Mystery series. The last person private investigator Mia expected to walk into her office was her ex-boyfriend and NHL player, Eric. But this isn’t a social call. Eric has gotten himself into hot water. A woman has publicly accused Eric of rape and he needs Mia to prove his innocence. With pressure from her father, who just happens to be Eric’s coach, Mia has her work cut out for her. She must determine whether Eric is innocent or not before the court of public opinion finds him guilty and his entire life is ruined.
The Gift by Louise Jenson
Jenna is given another shot at life when she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie. Eternally grateful, Jenna gets close to Callie’s family but soon discovers that Callie’s perfect family is hiding some very dark secrets. Jenna knows they are only telling her half the story. When Jenna meets Callie’s boyfriend Nathan, she makes a shocking discovery.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
At 11:32am Ted and his sister Kat watch their cousin Salim get on board the London Eye. The pod rises from the ground, high above the city. Then at 12:02 the pod lands and the doors open. Everyone exists apart from Salim. Ted’s theory is he spontaneously combusted. Aunt Gloria worries he has been kidnapped. But is he even still alive? Even the police are baffled by the situation so it’s up to Ted, whose brain runs on its own unique operating system, to solve the mystery and find Salim.
READ ALSO: 35 Books Set in London
Death Is Not Enough by Karen Rose
Gwyn is a survivor of attempted murder who has rebuilt her life and reclaimed her dignity and strength. She has always known about her feelings for defence attorney Thomas Thorne but as a colleague and friend could there be a chance for anything more? Thorne has known pain all of this life but is now thinking of letting his guard down and let in the woman he has always admired from afar. But then Thorne’s world is turned upside down when he is found unconscious in his bed with a dead body next to him. His friends and colleagues know he could never have committed such a horrible crime and rally to clear his name. But this is just the start of a brutal campaign to destroy Thorne and everything he holds dear. Can he really let his friends get mixed up in his own troubles?
The Girls in The Water by Victoria Jenkins
One icy morning, detective Alex King is called to a murder scene at a local park. In the water lies the body of a woman. Her wrists are tied and her fingernails missing. The victim had a troubled past but Alex’s team can’t find a reason anyone would want to kill her. Then another body is found in the water. Just as Alex thinks she has cracked the case, she realises a member of her own team is in terrible danger. It’s a race against time to reach the next victim before it’s too late.
The Hit List by Holly Seddon
It’s the one year anniversary of her husband’s accidental death and Mariane seeks comfort in everything Greg left behind. She wears his shirt, cologne and reads their love letters and emails. Before she knows it she is following his footsteps across the web which leads her to the dark web. What she discovers is a hit list with her name on it. To try and save herself from Sam, the assassin hired to kill her, Marianne must figure out what Greg has been up to in those last months of his life. Was he trying to protect her or did he want her dead?
Fiction – Travel Fiction
Being a lover of travel and books, it’s not just travel memoirs that catch my attention. I also love books set in locations. As you can probably tell from this list, I have a soft spot for France.
The Paris Secret by Lily Graham
Valerie hadn’t been to Paris since she was three years old running from the Nazis. Now as a young woman, Valerie must return to Paris to the bookshop of her sole surviving relative. Her grandfather Vincent is the only person who knows the truth about what happened to her parents. As Valerie gets to know grumpy Vincent she learns about the tragic story of Nazi-occupied Paris and how her mother was willing to sacrifice everything for her daughter. But what is the one secret Vincent is determined to hide from her?
READ ALSO: 35 Books Set in France
Out of The Ice by Ann Turner
Laura Alvarado is an environmental scientist who has been sent to a remote Antarctic Island to report on an abandoned whaling station. This freezing and lonely landscape should be intubated but she quickly senses she is not alone. Slowly she begins to uncover more than she could ever have imagined as she comes face to face with the dark side of humanity.
A Vineyard for Two by Laura Bradbury
Grape Series writer Laura Bradbury also writes fiction and this is the first book in The Winemakers Trilogy. Up-and-coming winemaker Cerise is a young widow who has just inherited half a vineyard that she considers her own. But when flashy Clovis is revealed as the heir to the other half, her dreams of independence are dashed. Cerise and Clovis seem to be opposites in every way. Can their passion for winemaking unite them beyond their differences? Or will their clash ruin the vineyard?
My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith
Writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to escape the stressful city life so he can finish his already late book. However, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers his rental car is nowhere to be found and there is no record of any reservation. With no other cars available it looks like Paul is stuck at the airport. That is until a stranger offers him an unexpected alternative; a bulldozer. Paul accepts the bulldozer and heads for a hilarious adventure around the Italian countryside.
READ ALSO: 50 Books Set in Italy
A Very French Affair by Sue Roberts
Life just got more complicated for thirty-eight year old single mum Liv when her son Jake started asking some difficult questions. The answers lie in a holiday romance twenty years ago when Liv was staying with her aunt on the French Riviera. To give the answers that Jake needs, Liv must return to the Cote d’Azur and track down her first love.
A Lake in Switzerland by Sue Roberts
Emily can’t believe her luck when her best friend Emily invites her on a holiday to Switzerland. She arrives at the Lakeside Hotel with high hopes but the problems start straightaway. Not only is Emily’s recent injury slowing them down, but she wonders where the other hotel guests are. The owner seems bad tempered and her fiance back home is acting odd. By the end of the holiday Stacey knows her life will never be the same again.
Unfortunately this book doesn’t seem to be available on Amazon anymore
The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
When bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on the streets of Paris he is determined to return it to its owner. The bag contains no money or contact information, just a small red notebook with handwritten notes. These thoughts reveal a person that Laurent would actually like to meet. Now with just a few of her possessions, Laurent hopes to find one woman in a city of millions.
READ ALSO: 35 Books Set in France
Fiction – Movies That Were Books
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that someone who works in the TV industry has watched lots of films. But like a lot of book lovers, most of the time I’ll admit that the book is a lot better!
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Andrea is a budding journalist who knows nothing about fashion but somehow gets a ‘dream’ job at the world’s most fashionable magazine. She has never heard of Miranda Priestly but quickly learns she is a monster boss with impossibly high standards. If Andrea can last just a year as her assistant though, she can then get a job at any magazine or newspaper she desires. But is her big break worth the unreasonable demands and being on call 24/7?
READ ALSO: 40 Books Set in New York
Psycho by Robert Bloch
One of my favourite old movies, I was keen to read the book that inspired the film. Mary is a fugitive on the run and lost in a storm stops off at a motel to dry off and consider her options. After all, she never really planned to run off with all that money. Norman Bates lives with his mother and runs the quiet Bates Motel. Things take a dark turn when Norman and Mary meet in this psychological thriller, especially when a private detective starts snooping around.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of my absolute favourite films as a kid, I was keen to finally read the book this year. After the sudden death of her wealthy parents, spoiled Mary is sent from India to live with her uncle in his manor on the Yorkshire Moors. Used to having everything done for her, Mary is lonely and frustrated with her new life. Then one day she discovers a key to a garden that’s been kept hidden for years. Along with two unlikely companions, Mary and her friends get to work fixing up the garden. As it begins to bloom, Mary finds a new joy in life.
Fiction – Other
I’ve read so many more books this year that I struggled with these categories this year. So here are the remaining fiction books I read in 2021.
A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks
A Week in December is set in London a week before Christmas tracking the lives of seven characters, piecing together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. There’s a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a school boy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube drive whose Circle Line train joins these lives together on a daily loop. One by one, the group is forced to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.
READ ALSO: 35 Books Set in London
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Have you ever felt like you’ve lived another life? Midwinterblood is a cleverly crafted paranormal love story like no other. Beautifully told in seven parts, this is a love story that spans over ten centuries. A king is slain, tragically torn from his queen, their souls search to be reunited. The two souls appear as a mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire but can love last forever?
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The animals of Manor Farm have had enough of Farmer Jones. He’s drunk, reckless and cares little about their welfare. When the boar, Old Major, shares his revolutionary plans, the animals are convinced they can thrive on their own. But as the pigs take more power, they begin to bear an uncanny resemblance to the tyrants they had overthrown.
The Assistants by Camille Perri
If a mistake happened that meant you could pay off your student loans would you say something or keep quiet? Tina Fontana is the busy executive assistant to CEO Richard Barlow and excellent at her job but she is tired of being overworked and underpaid. A blip in the expenses system means a cheque has been sent to Tina. The amount is small to the company but could change Tina’s life. Is it stealing if it’s an administrative error?
READ ALSO: 40 Books Set in New York
Red Sky in the Morning by Elizabeth Laird
An incredibly moving book I read when I was a child, probably for school, that stuck with me so much I decided to read it again. Twelve year old Anna is looking forward to the birth of her baby brother. But when he arrives, Ben is disabled and will never be like other children. While Anna loves him with all her heart, she struggles to admit the truth of Ben’s condition to her school friends. Eventually the truth gets out but instead of the ridicule Anna expected, she receives sympathy and understanding.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
It’s August 1983 and the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu, especially being the offspring of legendary singer Mick Riva. By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of one family.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Ever since his mother first fell ill, Conor has had the same dream every night. But tonight is different. At his window is a visitor; an ancient, elemental force of nature. A visitor who wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick takes on the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd to create a heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and the courage it takes to survive.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Nora Seed’s life has been going from bad to worse. Then at the stroke of midnight she finds herself transported to a library. Here she can undo her regrets and try out each life as she might have lived. From following a different career to undoing an old breakup, Nora must search within the library to decide what is truly a fulfilling life.
Setting My 2022 Goal
Considering it took me to the last day of 2021 to complete my goal of 40 books, you’d think I wouldn’t want to set a harder challenge for myself next year but you’d be wrong!
I’m determined to get into a proper reading rhythm with books not being a second thought or a chore at the end of the year. So for 2022 I’m going to try to read 50 books a year. Come back next year to see if I manage it!
There you have it, the books I read in 2021. Do you have any recommendations for good books to read in 2022? Let me know in the comments below!
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