Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read In 2021

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

It’s that glorious time of year! A belly full of pudding. A table laden with far too much cake (both traditional fruit and chocolate yule log), and too many gingerbread men, chocolate cookies and mince pies. A television schedule filled with Christmas Specials. And a chance to look back on the year that is drawing to its end with a TTT focussed on the best books read this year.

Emotional Books

This is How You Lose The Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

A story of a war, of a love, of language. This was a stunning and gorgeous novel, with two vibrant scintillating central characters embodying themes of conflict and love in the most exquisite ways.

A real delight.

Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart

I cannot say that reading Shuggie Bain was a delight: the emotions it evokes in its tale of poverty, abandonment and alcoholism are painful, raw and visceral. Bleak barely scratches the surface. But it is a bleakness with does not descend into sentimentality, does not lose hope or love, is not without its quiet hopeless heroism…

Thought Provoking Books

Women of Troy, Pat Barker

The sequel to The Silence of the Girls was a wonderful depiction of life for the voiceless captured Trojan slave women, still encamped in the Greek war camps beneath the walls of fallen Troy.

There are so many Greek myth retellings at the moment, but Barker’s works are top notch!

Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro

Innocence. Loss. Hope.

Big questions and themes: what is it to be alive? to be conscious? But this was a novel that did not lose the characterisation or the voice of Klara in its dealing with those big issues.

Ishiguro made some fantastic world building – so quietly dystopian – in the background of this novel too.

This is tender, sweet and ever-so touching.

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke

A single voice narrating the events on a vast impossible House, filled with tides and birds and clouds, with halls that stretch on apparently infinitely…

This was a puzzle unfolding, a delicately structured and layered narrative that hinted at its symbolism and metaphor without ever labelling or reducing itself to symbol.

An outstanding novel, once you accept the impossibility of it all.

Snow, John Banville

The brutal murder of a priest in an aristocratic house in Ireland…. class, religion and gender conflicts flow through the pages with a deftness and assurance here that it gorgeous to read.

At one level, this is a mystery and an historical police procedural; but there are so many other deeper characters and thematic ideas gently ruminating through the pages as well. Wonderful.

Small Pleasures, Clare Chambers

This novel was all about the quiet dignity of those who are simply trying not to treat each other shabbily in incredibly difficult post-war, pre-equality times.

Oh, and there is an alleged virgin birth to investigate too.

Feel Good Books

Under the Whispering Door, T. J. Klune

What happens if our life only truly begins after we have died? And what happens if, in that afterlife, we find love in the arms of our ferryman, we find a found-family in a tea room, we find our selves?

This was a slow and gentle book about redemption and love and tenderness… It was a book about touch and the importance of touch when we cannot achieve it – perhaps something very pertinent in our fractured locked down world of Zoom calls and Teams conferences…

The Kingdoms, Natasha Pulley

In the ocean, there is a structure that allows you to slip through time; but as the past is changed, the future twists and you lose your memories becoming someone… else. But can love endure even if the memory of it is lost?

It is difficult with Pulley to wonder how a new novel can reach the heights of all that has gone before, but each time she manages it! This was a book with a full heart!

Chilling and Thrilling Books

Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This novel is what it says in the title: a deeply chilling and powerful Gothic novel – steeped in a sense of violation – and set in Mexico!

Strong female protagonists, sinister houses, creepy patriarchs. This was a deliciously chilling read!

Criminally Fun Reads

The Man Who Died Twice, Richard Osman

Geriatric cosy detectives with an edge as Osman brings Elizabeth and Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron back for a second investigation – and this one felt more confident than the first book in the series.

We abound in rogueish spies and gentlemanly mob bosses, stolen diamonds and clues – it is preposterous but absolute fun, with its fair share of pathos too.

Exit, Belinda Bauer

And this is the book that I am ending the year with: another septuagenarian whodunnit introducing the wonderfully sweet Felix Pink – widower and bereaved father, living alone with his dog and quiet routines, and a sideline as an exiteer, witnessing and easing the deaths of the terminally ill whilst treading the fine line between witness and assisting suicide.

But, when the wrong man ends up dead, Felix finds himself both on the run from the police and investigating the crime himself.

The Appeal, Janice Hallett

A smart thriller – although perhaps not quite as clever as Hallett thinks – presented through a selection of transcripts of emails and messages between various members of the Fairway Players who are simultaneously putting on a performance of All My Sons and raising money to pay for Poppy Reswick’s cancer treatment. In the course of all this, a newcomer to the Players and the community is found dead and we are invited to uncover her murderer…

And two of my best reads this year were actually re-reads so I am throwing these out as well. Re-reading is not something I often do – and these two were parallels: one I read in print form, having listened to it as an audiobook previously; the other, I listened to as an audiobook production, having read it in print before!

Dracula, Bram Stoker

Utterly familiar and iconic, but no less powerful and engaging for that!

Stoker’s Dracula stands the test of time so well, and the Audible adaptation giving voices to each character so you could hear them was fabulous. Seward’s regard for the oh so manly and dashing Quincey Morris went a little beyond simple bromance, if you ask me!

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

Thomas Cromwell may be one of the most obscure Tudor historical figures, but Mantel’s interpretation of him is so vibrant and potent and, well, alive!

Personally, I don’t think this is the strongest in the trilogy (there are structural issues with it in my humble opinion, particularly in choosing where to end it… Bring Up The Bodies was structurally much more satisfying) but the power of the novel lies in its characters and world building and Mantel’s masterful language.

Oh, that opening scene with the boot…

So, I am really looking forward to reading your top ten lists of the year… and no doubt adding an unreasonably high number of them to my wishlist…

And it is quite scary to think that our next Top Ten Tuesday will occur in 2022!

Enjoy the New Year in whatever way you choose to celebrate: for me, it will be by tucking my daughter up in bed, having a glass of wine and curling up on the sofa with my other and better half – and, of course, with a book.

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • January 4: Most Anticipated Books Releasing In the First Half of 2022
  • January 11: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection
  • January 18: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To
  • January 25: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

35 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read In 2021”

  1. We have so much in common, I loved Shuggie Bain, Piranesi, Klara and Whispering Door. Clare Chambers is an author I keep hearing good things about. I’ve enjoyed everything by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – this one isn’t my favorite by her but gothic horror isn’t a favorite genre of mine. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read any of these, but Under the Whispering Door keeps popping up everywhere I look lately. I keep hearing how fantastic it is, so I definitely want to check it out. Thanks for the recommendations! 🙂


  3. What a great list! Sadly, I have not read any of these yet, but I’m determined to finally read TJ Klune next year. I finally picked up The House on the Cerulean Sea. I’ve only heard great things about Under the Whispering Door, as well. I finally read Frankenstein this year. Maybe I can get to Dracula in 2022. 😉 Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

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