It’s that time of the year when I pick my top reads. From thrillers to non fiction , domestic noir to coming – of – age, romance to comedy, readers really have been spoilt for choice this year. This can only be a good thing as recent statistics show we are all reading more. Books have never been more important as an escape from the everyday, a means to travel the world and to share other people’s points of view. While I have predominantly read fiction this year, many by Australian authors, a non fiction book has crept onto my list towards the end of the year. Can you guess what it is?
1. The first book that blew me away in 2021 was the gritty Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. It was also the very first book I read this year and had been a Christmas gift. This book divided opinion when it was released, but ultimately won the Booker Prize for 2020. I found the story of Shuggie and his Mum beautiful, in spite of the difficult circumstances portrayed. The writing was powerful and raw, and the setting of working class Glasgow in the 1980’s really suited the novel and gave a picture of a time and a place so well.
2. My favourite book for 2021 was from debut author, Julietta Henderson. Julietta is an Australian author who wrote the beautiful story – The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman. You will fall in love with twelve year old, Norman and his single Mum, Sadie as they take a road trip from Cornwall to Scotland.They are hoping to fulfil Norman and his dead best friend Jax’s dream of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Along the way they meet some real characters who may or may not be Norman’s Dad. It is poignant and heartwarming , with unforgettable and beautifully drawn characters. A must read!
3. A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins was my favourite thriller of 2021. It tells the story of three very different women all tied together by one man. There is Laura who has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot tempered and even dangerous. There’s Miriam who witnesses a blood stained Laura leaving the scene of a crime. But life has taught Miriam that sometimes things are not as they seem. Then there’s Clara who is reeling from the murder of her nephew. She trusts no-one and is still hanging on to past hurts. This taut thriller is filled with memorable characters and a gritty setting on the canals of London.
4. My favourite romance read for 2021 was Magpie’s Bend from the pen of Victorian writer, Maya Linnell. This title is the third instalment in Maya’s rural romance series about the four McIntyre sisters. It tells the story of Lara McIntyre, a bush nurse, single mum and keen runner. When the town of Bridgefield’s general store and post office comes under threat, Lara and the townsfolk fight to save it. Rural journalist Toby Paxton is yet to show his allegiance, which results in Lara fighting her growing attraction to him. With a black tie ball, fun run and all the struggles of small town life this story is about family, love and letting go. Filled with Maya’s own loves of gardening , baking and animals you will love her honest portrayal of rural life and love.
5. Sally Hepworth is always a ‘ go to’ writer for me and her new work, The Younger Wife ticks all the boxes once again. When Tully and Rachel’s father finds a younger girlfriend the sisters are livid. Forget the fact that she is younger than them. Worse is that his wife is still alive and in a care facility battling dementia. As she tries to hide her own demons and find a bond with the sisters, Heather realises the family are all carrying their own secrets. It’s a smart and suspenseful domestic noir story that will have you racing through the pages to its surprising conclusion.This is Sally at her unputdownable best.
6. You guessed it! Trent Dalton’s Love Stories launched in November and became an instant success. Trent sat on the corner of Albert and Adelaide Streets here in Brisbane and invited people walking by to tell him a love story. In this book he shares these poignant stories, woven into an emotional whole with some of his own loves and memories. It’s a gem of a book that reminds us of what is important in life. It encourages readers to be honest, non judgemental and kind. It’s an antidote to a world weary of sadness. A great book for those who love and long to be loved and best of all it’s filled with real life love stories that will have you tearing up as you turn the pages.
These are just a few of my favourites that have lingered in my mind long after closing the pages. The holidays are a wonderful time to gift a book, to read by the beach or a great escape from the madness of the season. You can also visit your local bookshops which always have some terrific recommendations, no matter the style of reader. As the year draws to a close it’s fun to look back and reflect on the books that have made you who you are, made you laugh, think and question or that have surprised and delighted you during the year. So tell me did your favourites make my list? What have you enjoyed reading in 2021?
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).