Reading has almost become like meditation for me. Losing myself within the pages of a great book allows me to wind down, calm my racing mind and relax. Nothing feels better than being swept away by a beautiful story and then there’s the bittersweet moment when you finish a book that you’ve loved, and you don’t want it to end.
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.
I am a sucker for a light-hearted romance but at the end of the day I enjoy any book with a great plot that practically turns the pages itself and leaves you wishing for more. I also like to throw in the odd non-fiction as well.
I’m often searching for my next page turner, so I’m sharing what I’m reading and loving in case anyone else is in need of a little inspiration. (This is all in the hope that you repay the favour of course, so please let me know what pages you’ve devoured and loved recently.) Here are the best books I’ve read in 2021 (so far). Take your pick and let me know what you think.
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING By Delia Owens – 2018
“His dad had told him many times that the definition of a real man is one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera in his soul, and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.” – Delia Owens | Where The Crawdads Sing
“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” WOW! This is a tender and beautiful depiction of the valiant survival of Kya Clark. Abandoned by her parents, her four siblings, the school system, her town and ultimately life itself. It is a story of survival, loneliness, hope, love, loss, prejudice, determination and strength.
Full of beautiful, vivid imagery, Delia Owens brings the lush marsh where Kya lives to life. The descriptions take you to another time and place. Original, imaginative, beautiful. This is firstly a coming-of-age story, a tale of love, a mystery and a book about the wonder of nature. I wholeheartedly loved this book.
THE FLATSHARE By Beth O’Leary – 2019
“I stop dead in my tracks. Someone behind me walks into me and swears (stopping abruptly in central London is a heinous crime, and immediately gives the people around you permission to kick you).” – Beth O’Leary | The Flatshare
This is the heart-warming and unusual story of Tiffy and Leon who share a flat (and a bed) and have never met. I adored this book and its characters. A strong, complex and quirky woman and a soft, caring, goofy man.
This isn’t just a light-hearted read like I was expecting. The story is rooted in some very serious topics (healing from an emotionally abusive relationship and dealing with a family member in prison) but the humour, wholesome romance and endearing characters really balance this out. With plenty of British humour I found myself reading this book and smiling.
THE GOOD SISTER By Sally Hepworth – 2020
There’s only been one time that Rose couldn’t stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.” Sally Hepworth | The Good Sister
Sisterly relationships are complicated, and fraternal twins, Fern and Rose, have a more complicated relationship than most.
Captivating from the first page, this book keeps you guessing. It is both a psychological thriller and family drama about twin sisters and the lengths one sister will go too to get what she wants.
BOY SWALLOWS UNIVERSE By Trent Dalton – 2018
“Australian shrimp barbecue, when the beers and the rums mix with the hard sun headaches and widespread Saturday night violence spreads across the country behind closed front doors.” Trent Dalton | Boy Swallows Universe
This very acclaimed Australian debut novel, is an unforgettable story that follows the coming of age of two brothers growing up in Brisbane in the 1980’s. My life couldn’t be more removed from this world of poverty, violence and crime, so on some level for me it was almost unbelievable. The novel is based on Dalton’s own childhood experiences, the people he knew and the journey he took to become an award-winning journalist. The story telling is at once beautiful, thought provoking, heart-warming, complex, tragic and disturbing.
For someone who grew up in Brisbane in the 80’s, ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ is full of familiar places and trips down memory lane which really bring it to life. The language is almost poetic, the characters compelling and the emotion, tragic. In the end, good triumphs over evil and this book had me totally absorbed.
EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU By Celest Ng – 2014
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast. – Celest Ng | Everything I Never Told You
This debut novel by Celeste Ng had me from the first line. This is a beautifully woven and moving story of mystery, family dynamics, secrets and longing. The characters are emotional, beautifully developed and intertwined. The novel explores the pressures put on children by parents, sibling jealousy and sympathy, infidelity and sacrifice in a world of intolerance and racism.
A warning though. This is a heart-breaking story and not a plot-based page turner, but rather a slow-paced character study. The invisibility of the children is painful to imagine, but in the end I was left with hope.
IF I HAD YOUR FACE By Frances Cha – 2020
“Even as a girl, I knew the only chance I had was to change my face … even before a fortune teller told me so.” – Frances Cha | If I Had Your Face
Set in contemporary Seoul, Korea this is the story of four women making their way in a world defined by impossibly high beauty standards, secret room salons catering to wealthy men, strict social hierarchy and K-pop mania.
I found this debut novel fascinating (and in some ways horrifying). It is an intimate and heartbreaking portrayal of four women living in the same apartment building, each struggling to navigate life in contemporary Seoul. This is a competitive world where beauty is everything and plastic surgery the norm. If I Had Your Face is honest and eye opening. It gave me a glimpse into a world and culture that I know very little about.
THE VANISHING HALF By Brit Bennett – 2020
“People thought that being one of a kind made you special. No, it just made you lonely. What was special was belonging with someone else.“ – Brit Bennett | The Vanishing Half
The Vanishing Half is the story of ‘coloured’ twin sisters on different paths. One chooses black, the other white. Their choices reflect the social norms and racial inequality in contemporary America. I found the book a little slow to start but soon became invested in each character’s individual journey as they grapple with race, identity, loneliness, class, abuse and acceptance.
It’s a thought-provoking story that takes you through several generations with empathy and hope. It is equal parts educational and entertaining and deserves all the praise it is getting. Completely absorbing.
GROWN UPS By Marion Keys – 2020
“Her outline kept slipping, like a wonky contact lens that wouldn’t sit on the iris … Now and again both her selves overlapped perfectly, clicked into place, and suddenly she was there, in the moment. Intense feelings would surge through her, both good and not-so-good, then her outline would detach again. She was living her life a short distance from herself.” – Marian Keyes | Grown Ups
This complex, dis-functional family saga took me a little while to get into. I found it slow to start (at page 100 I was thinking of giving up) but once you get a good grip on all the characters and how they fit together, the story becomes engaging.
The novel tackles some serious issues – eating disorders, divorce and fidelity – all amongst humour and an Irish setting.
Statista claims that on average Australians spend 1 hour and 39 minutes using social media each day! Can you believe it? If you spent just half that time reading you would plough through over 60 books per year.
Now, please don’t forget the most important part of a book club! Please, please let me know what you’re reading and loving. I can’t wait for all your tips. If you want to check out my favourite reads from last year, go to The Best Books I’ve Read in 2020.