Favorite Reads of 2021

I read 47 books this year–the most I have read in one year since I began logging my reading habit in 2004. If I wasn’t a cover-to-cover consumer of both The Atlantic and Vanity Fair (and The New Yorker in years past), I’d finish more books. Those subscriptions take hours per issue for me to read. I like to think I’m choosing quality over quantity.

There are other good books among the 47 I read, but five rose to the top–each for different reasons. I’m sharing titles, authors, and a few thoughts about each one. More reflection than report on why they stood out to me.

With this post, I am instituting a celery-themed rating system. Instead of starred reviews, books I read and comment on will receive celery sticks on a scale from one to five–the crunchiest score possible. Who knows maybe some will even get a cream cheese designation for being extra good!

Since these are my top reads of the year, each title is receiving five celery sticks.

In the order in which I read them:

Jane in Love by Rachel Givney

I call myself a Jane Austen-adjacent fan. I want to love reading her work, and have tried repeatedly, but I just can’t do it. I read Persuasion, and when I finished it, I had absolutely no idea what the story I’d just read was about. But I love when Emma Thompson writes an adapted screenplay or someone writes ABOUT Jane, her work, and her literary impact.

I had low expectations of this time travel book, but was in the mood to give it a try. I am so glad I did! It exceeded my expectations. The story was well paced and had just the right amount tension between Jane’s 1800s and our modern day. I enjoyed traveling to Bath and London too. Givney’s story has a lot of heart, depth, and a palpable affection for the real Jane Austen, which made me want to strive to read and love her work all over again.

The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger

This book is a harrowing account of Dr. Eger’s time at Auschwitz and coming to terms with the experience years and decades later. In middle-age, Dr. Eger returned to school to become a clinical psychologist. Her voice is warm and nurturing and she does not waste time with comparative suffering. She recognizes that the human experience is hard for everyone regardless of their personal experiences. She has dedicated her life to helping her patients and readers to live healthy, transformed lives. She is an inspiration, and this book should be required reading.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I knew about this book way back in the days when I wouldn’t have considered myself a writer, much less an artist. I asked for it for Christmas last year, and it set on my shelf for four months. In April, I opened it in earnest as a potential cure for what was ailing me in my day job. Through the readings and daily writings, I felt new shifts in my writing and my creativity in general. Reading this self-study helped me goal set and take seriously the launch of this very website. Reading this book was one of the smartest things I did in 2021, and I highly recommend it, no matter what your craft is.

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

I found this book on the Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room account on Instagram. It’s a slim volume translated from the French, and I was stunned by how well the English translation captured the feeling of Paris and French culture in general. Reading it reminded me why I loved all things French when I was young, and made me wish I’d stuck with my French language studies.

The main character finds a red notebook and is determined to find its owner with very few clues on which to rely. It’s engrossing and a definite page turner. Also, it really does feel like I took a trip to Paris, which is an added bonus during another year of pandemic living.

On Flowers by Amy Merrick

This coffee table book was an experience. I found it while googling another title, and reserved it at my library. I enjoyed her essays, stories about how her world became oriented around flowers and her how-tos on things topics like vases, scissors, scavenging, and arranging. When I made it through to the end I wasn’t ready to return it to the library, so I asked for it for Christmas. 🙂 It’s simply exquisite and inspiring as a writer and a gardener.

Reading has always been a source of comfort to me, and it certainly has been a steadying force in the past two years. I look forward to discovering what adventures will unfold through reading (and writing) in the New Year.

Happy Reading!

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