Books to Read in 2021
It’s been a while since I’ve shared a proper book review with y’all, but I’ve made it a goal of mine to try and read a book every week for 2021. I am a bit under my goal but with the help of Audible (not sponsored, though I wish it was) here’s what I’ve been reading, and listening, to.
I have two books that were so outstanding they made it to my favorites list. I’m going to structure this in order of most to least loved.
At first I was just going to share my most recent reads, but I will be updating this post throughout the year with my favorite books! Since I read about one a week, this will be updated often!
Update August 2021: I have just added 7 new books to the list!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This is one of those stories I will read again and again. I often think about how life would turn out if I changed my mind about one tiny decision, what course life might lead me on. This book explores just that in an absolutely beautiful story that I voraciously read in a few days. The book can summed up in one quote: “Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
Well, Nora is about to get that chance. The Midnight Library is that place between life and death that gives you an infinite number of possibilities for life. Nora inhabits the bodies of a number of different versions of herself, all living lives that could potentially have been hers.
I often wrestle with choices that I’ve made – was it the right one? Should I take this path? This book is so well written and good. 5 full stars!
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
I quite literally gasped out loud reading this book. It was so expertly written, the twists and turns kept me guessing, and I often felt creeped out. In a good way. This isn’t a psychological thriller, because a murder has already taken place, it’s more suspenseful and interesting.
The timeline is an interesting one, and I think worked very well. We jump between Alice Berenson’s life, a famous painter married to a well-known photographer, who she has killed. Now, in a psych ward, she refuses to talk. But her therapist, Theo Faber, is obsessed with helping her. Why did she kill her husband? And why is he determined to help her? I don’t want to give too much away because this is just so good!
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Maybe I just have a thing for books that contain the word “Midnight”? This is an older book, from the early 90s, but it is so well written and interesting. This book is the longest-standing New York Times Best-Seller- so there’s a reason for its praise. After we visited Savannah, so many tours mentioned the book.
Essentially, this book is what really spawned tourism in Savannah. It’s part love letter to the city, and part about the real life, true story of Jim Williams murdering his young lover, Danny. The characters are so well described and come to life on the page. I kept pausing to write down quotes because this book was just exactly how to describe Savannah. But even more, the characters jump out at you. And they’re all real! The way this was written reminded me of one of my favorite books of all time, All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren.
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Michael and I are road tripping and looking for something to listen to while driving. We just finished 1984 (reviewed below) and wanted something a little lighter. I'm obsessed with Jim Dale as a narrator (he narrated all of Harry Potter) and thought about reading traditional Peter Pan, when I stumbled on this. The story is what happened before Peter Pan became Peter Pan and before Neverland and the Lost boys, Hook, and more. It's incredibly inventive, wonderfully narrated, and just such a fun read!
The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
I've read all of Liane Moriarty's books and now I'm in the process of re-reading. This is one of my favorites of hers. Moriarty does an incredible job of weaving different stories together that impact one another. It's why she remains one of my most turned to authors. Ellen is a hypnotist that has an uncanny ability of understanding her patients and helping them with their struggles. After years of not finding love she finally finds it with Patrick. And she even loves his young son Jack. But there's one problem: he has a stalker. Throughout the book, you go on the journey with the three main characters, seeing how their interactions go as each is put under the various stresses each causes the others.
The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard
Another great psychological thriller, in the truest sense, that left me on the edge of my seat. The ending shocked me, which I find often doesn’t happen with thrillers. After killing 5 women at the elite St. John’s college in Dublin, Will Hurley, a student at the time, has been locked up in a psychiatric hospital for the past 10 years. His girlfriend at the time, Alison Smith, is just trying to forget her past. But when another death occurs, it’s Will who comes forward to say he has more information. But he will only speak to one person, Alison. Will confesses he’s been innocent this whole time.
1984 by George Orwell
This is a classic book that I have yet to read. Michael and I listened to it on a road trip and we kept being shocked by some of the similarities to real life and the powers that be that try and control you. A dystopian, totalitarian world controlled by Big Brother and the thought police. Thinking or doing anything not in line with society could mean death, or worse, evaporation. The book follows Winston Smith as he navigates this world and his re-awakening to denounce this government.
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
This is a powerful book that helps put things into perspective in a big way. The author, Frankl, was in a concentration camp during WWII and describes the horrors of life there. But how, after all of this, do we have hope? As a psychologist he explains how we can find hope even in the darkest places and find meaning in our lives.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware is known for her psychological thrillers but lately I’ve been disappointed. Not in this case. The red herrings and twist and turns of this book were so spot on. Hal works in Brighton, England as a tarot card reader that’s really down on her luck and out of money. But when she gets a letter telling her of an inheritance she knew nothing about, she heads to the funeral to meet her “family.” Hal embarks on a quest for the truth about her background, her deceased mother, and a deceased grandmother she didn’t know she had. I liked the characters and couldn’t quite figure out how everything fit together. Sometimes, even, it was a bit confusing. But I’d say definitely worth the read. I love the use of the rhyme, a la Agatha Christie!
The Way I Used to Be Amber Smith
It’s always difficult to read a tragic story of rape. But this story was told so well, and I felt like so many women can relate with the message. It made me cry but it also made me think. We truly don’t know what someone else is going through. The plot follows Eden, a young girl about to start her freshmen year of high school, when her brother’s best friend rapes her. In fear, she tells no one, and the story goes through freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior year, trying to bury her past self. This was a poignant, hard to read, heartbreaking, and moving story. Eden did not seem like a fictional character, but a real person who went through a real trauma.
One by One by Ruth Ware
Taking place in the French Alps already wins bonus points for me. I did kind of figure out the plot on this psychological thriller pretty fast, but, I still loved the story and thought it was a quick read. I will read any book by Ruth Ware, just because she seems like the Agatha Christie of our day. A start-up company takes their small group of employees to a luxurious resort in the French Alps, but when they get snowed in and one of the group is missing, it doesn’t seem like it’s an accident.
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
I had such high hopes and anticipation for Alex Michaelides second book! IT followed the same formula, weaving in classic british literature with Greek tragedy. But man, this missed the mark. I will admit, I wasn't expecting the ending, but the book felt sloppy and not as well written. The story takes place at Cambridge University. Mariana, a therapist, comes after the murder of one of the students who happens to be her niece's best friend. Mariana is certain the murdered is professor Edward Fosca, who teaches Greek Tragedy at the school and has a bevy of students that follow him around called “The Maidens.” When another murder happens and Fosca gets off the hook, again, Mariana is obsessed about proving his guilt.
Northern Spy by Flynn Berry
This book has super high ratings and is part of Reese Witherspoon's book club but, n my opinion, missed the mark. This historical drama and thriller takes place during the Troubles in Ireland. It did a horrible job of covering WHY Northern Ireland is fighting England and the origins of the conflict between the Catholic and Protestants. It's an interesting read, and well written, but important to understand that this is more fiction than fact.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Starting out so strong – I was laughing out loud! But I kept waiting for it to just end. I was getting confused by all the different characters and just wanted the author to tie up loose ends and move on. I did think the writing was descriptive and enjoyable, and I’d still say it’s worth the read. This is the author’s first book, so I’ll give him a pass. The book centers on a group of English septuagenarians in a luxury nursing home every Thursday to try and solve murders. But murder comes to their door when someone on the property is killed.
Tell Me Lies by J.P. Pomare
This is a short and fast read that I enjoyed. Margot is a psychologist who, at times, crosses the line on being a professional. Things start to unfold in her life that echo back from her past. I was hooked as soon as the book opened. And although it wasn't the most compelling read, it was worth my time.
The Witness by Nora Roberts
Apparently this is a very forgettable story because I had to look up the plot of this book while writing this review. The character, Elizabeth, is unlikeable, robot-like but somehow immediately entranced local police chief Brooks Gleason in small town Ozarks? Just didn’t seem to work. The story follows goody-two-shoes, and mother controlled, Elizabeth who decides to let loose one night. Well, it was the wrong night because she gets caught up in the Russian mafia. She escapes to the Ozarks to be in hiding. See! Super plausible.
Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
Howard also wrote Liar's Girl and I was hoping for just as an exciting read. I really didn't like any of the characters and the story itself was so convoluted and over the top. I love psychological thrillers but this one is just something to skip. When Adam's girlfriend Sarah fails to come home after a Barcelona beach trip he goes to search for her. The cruise ship she was on claims that she left on her own accord, but he doesn't believe it. The motives here were just not compelling and the protagonist seemed like a fool.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
I just don’t think I’m a Colleen Hoover fan. Plenty of people read her stuff and love it, but it never sits right with me. While this story was well written and impactful: it deals with abuse in relationships. I just didn’t like the characters, plot, or the flow. The book opens with Lily’s father’s death. But it’s not sad, in fact, she’s happy. Because her Father was abusive to her mother. Now, Lily lives in Boston and one night, while contemplating on a balcony, she meets the perfect Ryle Kincaid. But she can’t forget her past and her first love, Atlas Corrigan, who represents everything from her past, including her father. When he suddenly reappears it makes her question everything. I personally didn’t like this book but I understand that many felt it was important for the subject matter.
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
I read this because I love scents (heck, I sell candles) and the meaning behind them. Essentially, that’s the premise of this book. While the writing is beautiful and lyrical, the plot just didn’t hook me. Emmeline lives on a remote island with her father where he keeps scents in magical little bottles and has seemingly no contact with the outside world. One day, that begins to unravel and so does their life on the island. As she gets older she starts to question her life and why she ended up here. I wanted to love this, but the book was all lyrical prose, and no real substance.
His Burial Too by Catherine Aird
I used all my Audible credits so had to delve into the Audible Plus Catalog which is full of free books. Liar's Girl was so good, I was hoping I could find something else as noteworthy. I couldn't even finish this book it was just too wordy. It takes place in a beautiful setting, the Cotswolds in England, when a man is crushed to death in a church in a suspicious way. But I just had trouble keeping track of all the characters.
Sleeping Dogs Lie by Samantha Downing
A short story (about two hours long to listen to) that was intended for dog lovers. Well, maybe if a dog lover was a sociopath. There wasn’t a compelling enough reason for me to vote for the heroine in the book. But it was a fun listen. I was burning through so many Audible credits so I needed something free and this popped up. Shelby works as a dog worker in California when she brings back the dog, Pluto, but the owner, she’s found, is dead. Detective Grady comes to interview her and find out much more under the surface about the owners. I would say this book is a hard pass.
The Unhoneymooners By Christina Lauren
Rivals turned lovers. That's it. That's all you need to know. The characters are one dimensional and the book is boring. I choose this when watching a TikTok on “BookTok” and I think her tastes might be for preteens. Please skip. The book follows two sworn enemies, the sister and brother of a bride and groom who don't get sick at the wedding because they skip the buffet. They take the couple's honeymoon. Chaos ensues.
So there you have it! Tons of books for 2021 to add to your reading list. What should I read next?