A collection of 2021 books.
Hi, all! Long time, no post. I don’t have a particular reason for my 13-month absence other than 2021 was filled with life stuff and lots of work!
However, I did take notes on the books that really impacted me throughout last year, and I’d love to share with anyone who cares to read.
Mexican Gothic—Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This. Book. Was amazing. It was easily one of the best novels I’ve EVER read. The writing blew me away. I want to be able to craft a sentence like Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Her word choice was impeccable, and the main character’s thoughts and what she said were hilarious. I’m just rambling because I need to read this book a second time before I can form more coherent thoughts than “omg that was SO good!” The plot was also wicked crazy; it all made sense, but wow, you don’t really see it coming. 15/10
Life and Other Inconveniences—Kristan Higgins
I love reading Kristan Higgins’ novels, and this one didn’t disappoint. The story is told through various characters’ perspectives (each one getting their own chapters). Some heavy topics are tackled, but Higgins maneuvers it all skillfully. I did cry (which isn't surprising), and the ending is lovely.
Faithful Place—Tana French
I'll be honest: The length and level of detail that Tana French pours into her novels...can be too much for me, but oh man, this novel is super good. The plot is addicting. I loved the characters in this novel; they were all so different (which always makes me think of the art of actually writing a novel and what skills French has). Plot twist: I actually wasn’t bothered by the extreme detail in this one.
Alright, alright, alright, who knew that Matthew McConaughey had a book in him? Within the first section, I had added this book to my library want list. I need a permanent copy of this book in my life. Beyond the wild and crazy life that McConaughey has lead, this book is full of insight into the way in which his brain works, how he sees the world—and honestly, it was enlightening. 10/10 recommend for readers looking for some laughs and opportunities to change their perspective about things/their life.
The Vanishing Half—Brit Bennett
This one was fantastic and amazing and absolutely worth the wait (I put it on hold at the library and it took about two months to reach me). Such an interesting story, and I can now see why it was on the best-seller list. It’s a story about relationships (because aren’t they all?), race and racism, and identity. Another must-buy book.
Invisible Girl—Lisa Jewell
This wasn’t a good one. I've included it to warn others. I think Jewell had the right plot and characters and chance to make this a really spooky, hair-stands-on-end thriller, but it’s just...not. The writing isn’t the best, and she missed a lot of opportunity to make it a good thriller. (Yes, I still read the whole thing because it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read; it just wasn’t necessarily good.) 3/10
Ford County Stories —John Grisham
For the longest time, I didn’t like short stories. Just as you get invested in the story, it ends. But in college, as an English major, I read a lot of short stories, and my prejudice against their length has since changed. The stories in this collection by John Grisham are so wonderfully told, they make me want to try my hand at writing some.
The Lies that Bind—Emily Giffin
I read this book in a single day—partly because I was on my winter break and had nothing else to do (re: I wanted to read instead of doing other, more productive tasks on my to-do list). This book is a wild ride. The writing wasn’t fantastic, much like the other novel of Giffin’s that I’ve read, but the plot was intense. Set right before and after 9/11, this story is one about trust and the things that we tell ourselves and others, whether that’s the truth or a lie. 8/10 recommend.
Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking—Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell is an excellent writer, and this was a fascinating read. I think we all know that our brain is this powerful, amazing thing, but do we ever think about the importance of split-second decisions, gut feelings, or how our memory really works in an instant? Filled with both the science of studies and examples to help illustrate his point, this book is a fun read where you’ll finish and realize you learned a lot about how the mind works when you aren’t paying attention.
State of Wonder—Ann Patchett
I actually read about the basis of this novel in another work (of nonfiction) by a different author, Elizabeth Gilbert. This novel is well-written, interesting, and makes you want to jump into the pages and yell, “WTF, Get out of the jungle!” (You’ll understand when you read it). 9/10
Normal People—Sally Rooney
This was…a really good book. Unrelated to the actual plot or characters: I loved the way that Rooney writes without quotes. It’s so unique and gives the reader a different kind of experience. As for the story itself, I loved it. I loved the characters while I also loathed them for how frustrated they made me feel. But it’s relatable. I could understand them, which made me love the book even more. 10/10 recommend. (BRB while I search for other novels written by Rooney.)
What now? – Ann Patchett
This small book is actually a college graduation speech Patchett gave at her alma mater. I read it in a matter of minutes, really. I think all of us come to crossroads or major decisions in our lives, and sometimes it’s helpful to remember that no matter what outcome we chose, it was the one we were meant to take. And that these decisions (big or small) are what our lives are made of, so it might behoove us to stop fretting so over all the choices and follow what makes our hearts sing.
The Four Winds—Kristin Hannah
There’s a reason that this book has been on my library’s best-seller list for months. The ending was wrecking to read – I sobbed. Although it’s a book set during the Dust Bowl of the early 1900’s, I think it’s more a tale about the fierceness of a mother’s love. A truly wonderful read. (And I got to learn a bit more about the albeit-fictionalized experiences of the farmers living through this horrible time.)
Italian Wife—Ann Hood
Sometimes I fall into my own trap of reading strictly romance or murder-mystery novels. Italian Wife was a beautiful break from that routine. Keeping the characters straight was a bit tricky, although Hood provides us with a character map in the beginning of the book. This novel was a beautiful, heartbreaking story about one woman’s journey to America and the interwoven stories of the family that she created there, spanning all the way to her great-grandchildren. It’s a great example of the things we don’t know about our loved ones. It’s easy to judge when you don’t have any insight. It also made me want to make more of an effort to hear all of my grandmother’s stories, as my other three grandparents can no longer tell theirs.
Somebody’s Daughter—Ashley Ford
This book is the perfect example of what I hope to write one day. Ford does a tremendous job of somehow walking us through her entire life and all the major moments that shaped her without being tedious. It’s also a wonderful example of the power of self-love and strength, perseverance and the influence of family/environment on our growth (or hinderance of that growth). It’s an example of how we are simultaneously our family and not our family. 20/10 recommend.