I shared my reads of 2020 here on my blog, but this year, I decided to share them as I go. So as you read on, you will find a list of my reads and just my brief thoughts on each book. Why am I sharing this? Because I am inspired by other peoples book lists, but also, I find when I share what I read, I often get recommendations from those of you who read my blog. Which for me, is wonderful! Remember, these are just my views, just because I really loved a book, or really didn’t, doesn’t mean you will feel the same. Read the ones I don’t even enjoy, you might be surprised. Feel free to use the comments section to let me know what you think, or maybe share your recommendations.
Currently Reading: The Next Right Thing by Emily P Freeman and The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
On the bedside table: Oswald Chambers Abandoned to God by David McCasland & Oswald Chambers,
On the back burner: Knowing God by J I Packer, Lead by Paul David Tripp
If you are on GoodReads, join me there.
Books read in 2021 … to be updated!
Marrying Off Mother and Other Stories by Gerald Durrell. November. What a much-needed laugh, this book had me in stitches. We have recently finished watching a series called The Durrells of Corfu, so it was fantastic to picture the characters as I have grown to love them in the show. A quick read and I will definitely be adding another Durrell book to my list soon.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. November. This just popped up on my Kindle recommendations. I enjoyed the story line, very different. A girl grows up, motherless, with her father who worked on the first publication of the dictionary. She develops an interesting relationship with words, and this is the story of lost words, and how she gathered them. Romance, friendship, war, history, heartache and grief. Some crude language.
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile. October. The enneagram; something I have brushed aside as absolute codswallop. Until I eventually did three online tests, very skeptically, only to have them all come out with the exact same result. When I then read the description of my core character type, it was like someone was describing me to my very core. This book talks through each character type, and how each type behaves in both their healthy (growth) and unhealthy (stress) stages. It also talks about each type in the workplace, in relationships and in children. I am yet to meet someone who has done their enneagram and it not be absolutely spot on. Knowing your character type, but also understanding the different types is a game change on how we can love each other well, and bring each ourselves and others into our healthy spaces, with simple alterations to our words and actions. Read this book!
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. October. This was a beautiful story, based on the life of Shakespeare, his wife and the special relationship between his twin children, Hamnet and Judith. When I read a novel, I want to feel as if I am on the set, and this certainly delivered. It is a tragic, yet beautiful story.
Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang. October. This was a rather eye-opening story. Having grown up in South Africa I am very familiar with the time period, as I think the author is only a few years older than me. She was born in Zambia, as her father Walter Msimang, who was a South African freedom fighter was exiled there. They then went on to Kenya and Canada. This book shares her story of grappling with her place in the world, and coming to terms with her race, racism and the fact that she was fighting something she hadn’t quite figured out herself. I don’t generally read books about politics, but this story was more than that. I would actually recommend this book, as I think there are parts that are good to acknowledge and reflect on. I found her siblings and parents outlooks and lives the most interesting to be honest. Sadly her mother had passed away, but she sounded like an incredible woman and I would have loved to know more about her life.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. September. A nice story, mostly because I used to live not too far from this area and have been to the house before. Always nice to have a connection to the geography of a story. I was in need of a bit of Britain, so this did the job. You don’t need to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy this book. The story is about an unlikely bunch forming a society to honour the life and home of Jane Austen.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. September. A light YA novel. A story of two families; one is a perfect, successful family and the other broken. It doesn’t take many pages to figure out it’s not what you think. This book was alright, but I would not necessarily recommend it. It didn’t leave me with anything. I preferred her other novel, Everything I Never Told You.
The Choice by Dr Edith Eger. August. Absolutely fantastic book. This is not another Auschwitz story. This is a book about how we deal with our circumstances, a reminder that we do in fact have a choice on how we deal with our traumas. That is not to say it is done easily; the choice is often very hard work, but the choice remains. Dr Eger was in Auschitz as a teenager, and later in life, in America, studied psychology and became a specialist in dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. Her message is empowering. Parts of the book, where she shares her experiences in Auschwitz are hard to read, but sensitive readers can easily skip over those parts without losing the message. “Our painful experiences aren’t a liability—they’re a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and our strength.”. Read this book!
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo. August. This was good. I struggled a bit in the beginning as I am not familiar with the accent, so it was tricky. I almost gave up, but then just skipped over those bits and persevered. a group of Nigerians with different backgrounds and circumstances cross paths as they are headed to the city in hope of better things. Nothing goes quite as they would expect and they find themselves rallying together as an unlikely family. Corruption, politics, homeless street life. Worryingly, a quite believable story!
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. August. This was a brilliant story. A real reminder that people’s lives are seldom what we think, and it takes true boldness to be authentic, not just with others, but ourselves. I would definitely recommend this one. Bit of bad language in this one, just so you know.
West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge. July. This book was both heartbreaking and warming. Incredible to think this is based on a true story from 1938 in America. Woody Nickely by chance ends up driving two giraffes across America, after they survived a hurricane out at sea. What a dramatic adventure; a story of survival, love, dreams, and determination.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. July. This book has been mentioned so often, I thought I needed to give it a read. I took a lot of encouragement from this book, about persevering, about the troubles with perfectionism. A quote: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
The Boy, the Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy. July. This is such a lovely uplifting book, every home should have one. A lovely book to pick up every now and then to read a few pages and reflect.
In Borrowed Light by Barbara & Stephanie Keating. July. A few years ago now, I read the first two books in this trilogy, so was great to read this last leg of the story. I enjoyed the mix of Kenya and England in this story, and the diversity of characters and story lines. All the characters lead such different lives, yet the authors manage to weave them together so cleverly. Romance, action, travel, farm life, orphans, poaching, war history. So many lives all rolled together.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. June. I absolutely adored this book, the writing style and plot completely drew me in. I did not see the twists coming and I struggled to put this book down. The author describes the scenes and sounds so beautifully, you could almost smell the river. I highly recommend this book.
Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior. June. This was a quick read, which I chewed through, it was lovely! The whole way I kept wanting to throttle one of the main characters as she snowballed herself into one self-inflicted disaster after another! This story is set in Somerset, where I lived for a short while, so it was lovely to really picture the scenery. In a nutshell, this is a reminder to not lie and to communicate! Quite simple really?!
Adventures of a Young Naturalist by David Attenborough. June. I confess I have abandoned it halfway. This book is made up of story after story from his early career (1950’s) where he travelled the world catching wild animals for the London Zoo. Whilst it is well written, I don’t like zoos, I don’t like wild animal interactions, so this was not really for me. I think I would like to read one of his later books.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. June. I enjoyed this, also a quick read. Story about Chinese/Caucasian-American cross-cultural marriage, families and broken pasts. The story traces the life of a girl who is found drowned in a lake near their home. When we put our identity in anything other than Christ, we are setting ourselves and our loved ones up for failure. Heartbreaking story that was a reminder of the need to heal from our pasts and brokenness so we don’t project that onto our loved ones.
The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve. June. This was a quick, light read. Quite a sad story of grief, loss of identity and freedom. All I kept thinking was, we need God. This life is hard and broken, without God we have nothing to hold onto, nothing to anchor us.
Beatrix Potter: A life in Nature by Linda Lear. June. This was nothing like I expected it to be, but what an interesting and inspiring women. There is a lot more to Beatrix Potter than her famous children’s stories! For me, the book started off rather slow, and I found it dragged in places. I skimmed a lot of it as some of it felt a little drawn out. I would still recommend it though. She is an example of what can be achieved when one puts their mind to something. Although, family money was rather helpful in her case!
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce. April. This is the same author as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and also of Perfect. All her books seem to be about out-the-box characters who feature along varied stages of the crazy scale! This book was about loneliness, lost love, post traumatic stress, heartache, fear, lost identity and opening yourself up to be vulnerable to allow unlikely friendships to form; to allow your self to love, and be loved. I was so sad this ended. I fell in love with these characters.
Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. April. Pretty much the whole way through this book I kept thinking “But I do that”, “That is EXACTLY how I feel”. This book went down like a cold G&T on a hot Zambian Saturday afternoon … delicious and soothing with a sigh of contentment. If you love food, simple living and meaningful conversations at your table, this is a book you should read.
Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior. April. This was hilarious and in a way it reminded me, in style, to A Man Called Ove. Grumpy, lost and heartbroken old lady finds happiness through crazy antics. Another reminder that this life here on earth is pointless without our eyes fixed on Jesus. We have choices to make; how we use our words, to build up or break down, both ourselves and those around us.
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. April. I am totally perplexed as to how this book has such good ratings. I got almost half way and had to ditch it. It is poles apart from The Nightingale. I can only describe this book and it’s characters as absolutely childish. I rolled my eyes on nearly every page. I love a light read, but this was pushing things for me.
The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen. March. My mother recommended this book to me, and apparently there is a great tv series. I must say it sounds a series worth watching! Amanda writes about her journey and her life with such honesty and openness. Her memoirs had me laughing my head off, gritting my teeth, clenching my toes and dreaming of the British countryside. She grew up in the city, became a shepherdess, married a farmer and had 9 kids. Just read the book!
Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris. March. If you read the Tattooist of Auschwitz, then I think you will really enjoy this. Absolutely heartbreaking that people lived through these atrocities. These stories always make me take a long look at my own life; my grumbles and my complete lack of perspective at times. Cilka was the friend of Lale & Gita in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. An incredible story depicting the strength and lengths people went to survive.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. March. This book had me laughing and almost in tears with heartache. Such life lessons about needing to put our hope and security in Jesus, and such a reminder of Mark 12:31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This was not a Christian book, but the whole way through it had me thinking of how we are called to live; with our identity fulfilled in Jesus, and to love one another, with the love of Jesus.
Arabella by Georgette Heyer. February. This novel was hilarious and I really did laugh out loud many times. First published in 1949, and I must admit there were quite a few words that left me reaching for the dictionary. Daughter of a poor clergymen attends her first London season in search of a husband, a wealthy one so as not to let the family down you see. Laugh a minute!
The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith. January. Mma Ramotswe makes me want to sit in the sun and sip tea and enjoy the simplicities of life. These definitely fall into the easy to read category, and sometimes that is just what I need! This particular one involves Mma Ramotswe & Mma Makutsi setting off on a trip to the Delta, with some new shoes, and leaving behind a drama with Phuti Radiphuti, the fiance of Mma Makutsi. All the usual antics!
The Four Swans by Winston Graham. January. There are 12 Poldark novels, and I must admit I am nibbling my way through them these last years; for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t want them to ever end. Secondly, I start thinking in Cornish, dreaming of Cornwall and how we should relocate to the Cornish seaside. Romance, drama, politics, comedy; it’s all in there. Graham has a way of writing that transports you to the Poldark world, you feel like you know the characters personally. I can almost feel that bracing wind blowing off the sea and up along the cliffs.
I entered 2021 reading Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Starting a new year, I had a famous quote on my mind “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” So it is with 2021; a whole new year with no mistakes in it yet! I know some think I am “sweet” to read the Green Gables series at the age of 38, but I challenge you to pick one up. They make such a refreshing change to so many of the best seller novels out there. This world really is a wonderful place, we just have to open our eyes and our hearts.