I’m a little later than usual pulling together my Books of the Year list this time round – I really was finding it a quite impossible task, and the end-of-year timing did feel right given that I’m about to begin a month-long blogging break. Once more, I’ve read more books this year than ever before – Goodreads tells me there were 164, but that’s not counting some of my book club reads or any of the audio books I’ve recently discovered. It’s really so difficult to pick out the particularly special ones – but it is something I always rather enjoy doing, looking back through the year’s posts, remembering the pleasure every single book has given me. Mind you, you’d never believe how many times I’ve said “this book might well be one of my books of the year” – and with 129 five star reviews this year on Amazon and Goodreads, I really did want to include every single one of them.
Last year, I produced a list of 36 – this year, I decided to make things even more difficult, and (gulp!) try to make it a list of 21. But I really couldn’t manage that – it turned into a list of 30 instead! I did give myself a few basic rules – no shorter reads, no more than one book per author, and the original publication date was immaterial if I read it in 2021. This year I’ve also excluded all the Christmas reads (but with massive apologies – their inclusion just made getting anywhere near my target entirely impossible!). But in some ways, a tighter list made my final choices a little easier – those really “stand-out” reads, rather than the many wonderful ones that might still have been jostling for their places by Easter.
So, here is my final list of 30, in groups of ten – they’re (more or less!) in the order I read them, I’ve made no attempt at ranking, and all links are to my reviews…
Beneath Cornish Skies – Kate Ryder
Saving Missy – Beth Morrey
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
This Is How We Are Human – Louise Beech
The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club – Faith Hogan
The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday – Kiley Dunbar
Emmet and Me – Sara Gethin
Unbreak Your Heart – Katie Marsh
A Family Affair – Julie Houston
A Song Unsung – Fiona Cane
This Much Huxley Knows – Gail Aldwin
Shame – Elizabeth Forbes
The Beach Reads Book Club – Kathryn Freeman
So Many Ways of Loving – Christine Webber
On The Bright Side – Nell Carter
The Hidden Child – Louise Fein
The Dating Game – Sandy Barker
Falling in Louvre – Fiona Leitch
The Collector’s Daughter – Gill Paul
A Woman Made of Snow – Elisabeth Gifford
A Village in the Country – Elaine Spires
The Girl in the Maze – Cathy Hayward
The Forgotten Maid – Jane Cable
The Visitors – Caroline Scott
The Woman in the Middle – Milly Johnson (perhaps the best of reasons for keeping my list open until the end of the year!)
An eclectic list and, as always, every book I’ve had to leave out has really hurt – particularly needing to omit a number of authors published by Boldwood Books, Bookouture and One More Chapter, whose books have brought me so much joy and pleasure throughout the year. I’m going to resist the temptation to list any of the individual authors I really regret having had to leave out (particularly the one that Milly supplanted – but you’ll never know if it was you!) – when I give a book a five star review, it really does mean that I loved it, and I’ve said that about far more books this year than I ever have before.
So, the end of another year – and, I’m only too aware, another difficult one for many. You might already know that it’s been a year of big changes here – out and about and (always carefully) spending time with friends again, turning my health around, discovering the joy of exercise and the outdoors, rediscovering why I have a kitchen, and a weight loss that’s exceeded my wildest dreams. And, through it all, there’s been the reading – my enjoyment of that will never diminish – and I’d like to thank every author whose books have brought me so much pleasure throughout the year. I’d also like to thank everyone who has provided such wonderful support – blogger friends, blog tour organisers, authors, publishers, readers and friends – and particularly for all those Twitter shares that mean so much to me and to the authors I feature.
I had planned a blogging break in January of last year – but my resolve faltered when I saw all the new releases and blog tours I’d be missing, and it just didn’t happen. But this year, I’ve managed to say “no” to every temptation – and my goodness, there were plenty, and I’m really sorry to be missing a good few blog tours where I’d usually be first in the queue! While I’m enjoying the reading as much as I ever did, there have been times when I’ve really over-committed myself recently and I’ll admit that the blog posts were beginning to feel like a bit of a chore (I do so hope no-one’s been able to tell!). I just feel the need to step back for a month, and hopefully get some of my “oomph” back.
I do promise I’ll be returning at the beginning of February – hey, I have to, I already have ten blog tour reviews in my diary that month (no, I never learn!). But through January I plan to read some of those books I’ve bought and just haven’t been able to fit into my schedule (although I’m sure I won’t be able to resist telling you about the ones I’ve enjoyed when the blog returns), spend rather little less time at the keyboard (I’ll still be around on Twitter and Facebook, though trying to cut back a little, and perhaps not sharing as much as I usually do), and just try to get a more comfortable balance between all the different activities that fill my days. And it will be rather good just to take time to breathe a little, and make some plans for the year ahead.
So I wish everyone a Happy New Year, hopefully one we can all look forward to… stay safe, enjoy your reading, and I’ll see you all again in February.