Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Read-At-Home Mom's Top 21 Books of 2021

I just finished my 200th book of 2021, and I'm ready to share my favorites of the year. This year,  I chose 21 titles across 5 categories. All of these were rated 5 stars on my Goodreads, and all are books I read for the first time in 2021. 

Nonfiction (3)

  • Letters to Myself from the End of the World by Emily Stimpson Chapman is one of the few books I bought new this year. The author is one of my favorite Catholics to follow on Instagram, and this book explains church teaching in a really beautiful way, as she addresses letters to her younger self on issues related to femininity, motherhood, marriage, and other important topics for women.
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a classic guidebook for writers. I listened to the audio and found it inspiring on a practical level in a way that other books on writing are not. 
  • Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West  is a fascinating memoir of the White House's chief usher's relationship to first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Ladybird Johnson, and (briefly) Pat Nixon. Without dwelling on anything salacious or scandalous, the book gives an inside into the personal lives of these woman, and sometimes their husbands. 

Children's and YA (4)

  • A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan is a middle grade novel about a young girl doing community service at the public library to make up for a poor decision she made at school. The library in the story reminded me so much of my old library in New York, and reading it made me so nostalgic. It captures everything good about small-town libraries.
  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang is a YA graphic novel in which the author, a teacher at a Catholic school, follows the school basketball team over the course of the season while also grappling with personal decisions regarding his career. It touches on issues of race, culture, religion, art, truth, etc. without becoming preachy. 
  • Treasures: Visible and Invisible from Catholic Teen Books is a collection of short stories related in some way to St. Patrick. The stories are printed in chronological order based on setting, beginning in ancient times and ending in a futuristic society. 
  • Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt is another beautifully written middle grade novel by one of my favorite authors. It follows two kids: Meryl Lee, who flees to boarding school after the death of a classmate and Matt, who is on the run from dangerous figures from his past. I stayed up late into the night reading this book; it's so hard to put down. 

Romance (6)

  • Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey is the story of Teddy, who works in a toy store and Everett, the host of a children's TV show. It's the coziest, sweetest book I've read in years and I actually bought a copy so I can re-read it. 
  • The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon is set in the world of public radio. Two radio hosts pretend to be exes in order to give on-air advice to couples. As they pretend they dated in the past, they start wanting to date in the present. The writing is really strong, and I really loved the characters. 
  • All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese is a Christian romance novel about a YouTube influencer who wants to volunteer at a home for young adults aging out of foster care, but who doesn't realize the value of that work until she meets a man for whom it is a real passion. 
  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry is the story of two best friends who vacationed together every year of their lives until something happened to make things awkward. Then they go on vacation again, and fall in love. This book unexpectedly made me cry. 
  • Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk is the story of a relationship between Dan Malone, who has been recovering from some previous bad dating decisions and Emily, the sister of Dan's new friend, Robert. It follows the ups and downs of their friendship and eventual romantic relationship as they grapple with the serious consequences of Dan's bad choices.  
  • The Matzah Ball is about a Jewish woman who secretly writes Christmas books, but whose publisher now wants her to write a Hanukkah story. In trying to learn more about her own Jewish culture, she secures an invitation to the upcoming Matzah Ball from a former love interest from childhood. I loved the way this was written, especially the dialogue. 

Women's Fiction (3)

  • Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy is a lengthy story about the people who work at a heart clinic. It's a cozy feel-good read filled with memorable characters. 
  • The Chicken Sisters by K.J. Dell'Antonia follows two sisters and the rival chicken businesses at the heart of their family. It involves a reality show, hoarding, family dynamics, and a little romance. I've already got this author's second book from Netgalley.
  • A Place Like Home by Rosamunde Pilcher is a posthumous collection of Pilcher's short stories. These made me realize that it's possible to write short, feel-good pieces and feel like a real writer.  

Other Fiction 

  • The Professor's House by Willa Cather is a beautifully written character-driven novel that comments on wealth, friendship, regret, and home. I plan to read it again in 2022. 
  • Lonesome Dove is a Western about a group of men driving cattle to Montana. It's long, but it went by so quickly and I didn't want to put it down. 
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is a dark but beautiful science fiction novel about a Jesuit priest who travels to space to meet an alien race and endures brutal suffering as a result. 
  • The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge is the third book in the Eliots of Damerosehay trilogy, and it was the perfect ending to the series. 
  • Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier is a classic suspense novel. I loved the way it was written, as well as the open-ended conclusion to the story.
Have you read any of my favorites? Which books did you love in 2021? 

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