It was difficult to narrow down my favourites out of a large list of 53 books read in 2021. There are still some I could add to the top 5 depending on my mood and day but I think I did an acceptable job of finalizing the top contenders. I ended up reading almost exactly half fiction and half non-fiction and I want to stress how I equally learned and grew from both types of books.
I hear this all the time: "I only read non-fiction because I like to learn." And I find that to be such a simplistic view on the power of a book, of a story. Often, I find I learn more from reading fiction, especially the types that I'm drawn to about the human condition, relationships, struggle, love: life. Especially if written by an insightful beautiful writer. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to try out fiction the next time you pick up a book, maybe you just might learn something.
Top 5 fiction:
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt: People seem to either love or hate this book, polarizing reviews seem to either give it 1 star or 5 stars. I found it to be one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read in my lifetime. The longest book I read this past year, I felt like I was transported into the vivid details of this story and I read it every second I had the chance to (while drinking my morning cappuccino, in the dentist waiting room, seated in my vehicle while waiting for the kids to hop in, late into the night while curled under by covers...). I was actually sad when it was finished. The Goldfinch can be dark and moody and it is highly descriptive so if you prefer simple fluffy quick reads this isn’t the book for you.
Once There Were Wolves - Charlotte McConaghy: I was emotionally captivated by this one. So many important relevant topics are covered from various perspectives and include: environmental issues, our connection to nature and animals, spousal abuse, trauma and human complexities. An absolutely stunning writing style that draws you in. This book was filled with suspense, was heartbreaking at times and yet somehow still hopeful and beautiful.
Magic Lessons - Alice Hoffman: Alice Hoffman is my favourite writer of all time. I have read almost every one of her books (and there are quite a few!). This is the first book in the 4 book Practical Magic series (though they were not written in order and not necessary to read each one) and my most favourite one out of the bunch. An extremely emotional book that touches on love, regret, betrayal and woman empowerment with a spark of magic intertwined.
Wish You Were Here - Jodi Picoult: This was the last book I read in 2021. Though a little slow to start off with, this is the first book I've read that discusses the magnitude of the effects of the global pandemic on our lives. Relatable on so many levels with what has transpired in the last 2 years, it touches on human resiliency, adaptability in the face of challenging circumstances, and love and the difficult and brave decisions that go along with it.
A Town Called Solace - Mary Lawson: A Canadian writer who tugs at your heartstrings in this book (especially as a parent) with beautiful storytelling. 3 different characters, 3 different points of views, a very character driven story, I loved the way they interwove and connected to each other.
Runner up: Migrations - Charlotte McConaghy: this is another darker book (I just can't help what I'm drawn to) but I first fell in love with Charlotte McConaghy with this one. Her writing is outstanding and clear and vivid and I just can't get enough of it.
Top 5 non-fiction:
Know My Name - Chanel Miller: An outstanding, extremely provocative book about sexual assault and the frustrating legal system from the perspective of the victim, Chanel, who reclaims her voice. Beautifully articulated, I felt like I was inside Chanel's head. Warning: the content can be hard to stomach at times, but this is also why it is such an important topic to digest.
Think Again - Adam Grant: I feel like every human on the planet should read this book. A psychology book with scientific examples and tools on how to better communicate with each other regardless of differing opinions or beliefs. This book couldn't be more imperative to read in our heated climate of polarizing views.
Why We Sleep - Matthew Walker: Crucial and fascinating. Sometimes even a little anxiety provoking when learning how utterly important sleep is and the ramifications when we don’t get enough. I learned so so much from this read. Another: every human should read this book, book!
Becoming - Michelle Obama: It may be cliche but I find Michelle truly inspirational. Extremely intelligent, I appreciated how she is honest and respectful in her discussion of relationships, especially with Barack. Although, she (obviously) touches on some politics, this isn't what this book is about (though, it is thought-provoking to grasp what actually goes on behind the scenes and not just what we hear in the media). What we can accomplish, even in the face of adversity has no bounds and Michelle shows us that. What a powerful, strong woman who truly cares about humanity.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed - Lori Gottlieb: I highly recommend digesting this book on audible as I am honestly not sure I would have it in my top 5 if I simply read it myself. About a therapist who realizes she needs therapy and the emotional stories of a few of her patients who she provides therapy to along the way. I laughed out loud and I cried out loud and I loved how insights can be gained simply from listening to another human's life story.
Runner up: Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson: I listened to this long biography on audible and it took me a couple of weeks to get through but I found his life to be extremely fascinating even though I would never want to be his friend.
What do you think of this list? Have you read any of these?