A Bookish Year in Review
What better way to put a period on 2021 than with A Bookish Year in Review?
If you have joined us at some point this year - THANK YOU for joining us!
We started 2021 with a list of 21 Books You Should Read in 2021. It is a book list that is very different from any other book list you've seen.
Exclusively for you.
And since its personalized, I can say with certainty that it is THE perfect list of books YOU should read. Don't worry. You can check out my evergreen list by clicking here.
Since that was my very first blog of 2021, I thought it would be fun to see how I did this year in following my own advice on my last blog of 2021 - you know, to bookend the year. 😉
1. A book chosen solely by its cover.
Lisa Wingate's novel Before We Were Yours was one of my favorites this year, chosen exclusively because I connected with the cover. Found in my local used bookstore's clearance section, Before We Were Yours spoke to me because the cover photo evoked sympathetic feelings for the girls sitting atop their suitcases, expectantly waiting for something. I had to read this one to uncover their story. In doing so, my eyes were opened to a world that I never knew existed, told through the heartbreaking story of these siblings. It's one of those novels that stuck with me because it was based on reality and once I glimpsed the truth, I could not unsee it.
2. Crowd source a new read.
This past Fall, I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I had just finished several books in a row that I absolutely LOVED, so much so that I could not engage with anything I started reading. I decided to entrust my next read to my Pretty Literate Peeps on Facebook, which is how I found myself reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. It was a book that I had intended to read - indeed, I had already started it twice before! - but just could not get into because of the writing style. Not being one to ask for help and then not take it, I made myself keep at it after it was voted my next read. And I am glad I did. I now see the charm. I ended up enjoying the story. Sometimes you just need your #PLeeps to help you. (Thank you!)
3. Engage your inner thespian with a play.
Did not finish. Honestly, I did not even start. And really, I don't think I have a good excuse because we have had J.K. Rawling's Harry Potter and The Cursed Child on a shelf somewhere in my house since the year it was published. (Embarrassed giggles)
4. Enjoy a book while you work/travel.
The husband and I got away for the weekend this past spring, a trip in which we visited a handful of the filming locations from our favorite post-apocalyptic television show. Knowing how long we'd be in the car, I downloaded a same-themed book to accompany us that weekend - Arena One by Morgan Rice. Matching your audiobook to what you're currently enjoying is THE BOMB. It ignites the imagination in the most pleasing ways and heightens both your current obsession and the audiobook experience.
5. Order a book mentioned on a podcast.
The Prayer Powered Entrepreneur: 31 Days to Building Your Business with Less Stress and More Joy by Kim Avery is a book I first heard about on the 48 Days to the Work You Love Podcast with Dan Miller. It was a fantastic month-long business coaching book that packed a much-needed perspective punch. It meant so much to me as a new business owner that I passed it along to my favorite I.T. guy (and husband) when I finished it.
6. Intentionally read a book from another point of view.
This was a hard one, I confess. I didn't go light here, either. I chose The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I'd heard about it for years. Never read it. Never saw the movie. I cringed a lot. I physically squirmed while I read it. I felt completely out of my comfort zone. And that's the beautiful part of reading something from a different point of view. It gives you a different perspective and this book delivered that in spades.
7. Become a connoisseur of the classics.
As a Founding Member of The Classics Community (Pretty Literate's monthly membership that provides a path for success in reading through the classics one book at a time within our private, online community), I have read more than a handful of awesome authors in 2021 who were the voice of their generation.
Edith Wharton. ✔️
Mark Twain. ✔️
Washington Irving. ✔️
Truman Capote. ✔️
Agatha Christie. ✔️
I enjoyed them all, but The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was my favorite classic that I read this year. It set the bar high for a handful of other depression-era novels that I quite enjoyed in 2021.
8. Pick the #1 book listed in an unfamiliar genre.
Horror. That was a completely unfamiliar genre to me before 2021. After several recommendations by my sister, I tried my first Stephen King novel. The Eyes of the Dragon was not at all what I expected a S.K. novel to be! Reading it was like watching the movie The Princess Bride! I was so enamored that I thought I would dive into my second S.K. novel, the much-heralded The Stand. I have to confess that The Stand was kind of what I thought S.K. novels would be like and because that is not really my jam, I am taking a break from Mr. King in 2022. Sorry, sis.
9. Help yourself.
Brant Hansen's Blessed are the Misfits: Great News for Believers Who Are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They're Missing Something was the book I didn't know I needed to read this year. The author's insight combined with his personal experiences really spoke to me as an Introvert and a Christian. And I loved the conversational tone in which he wrote.
10. Read what everyone else is reading.
Matt Haig's The Midnight Library was this book for me. I kept seeing all over social media. Everyone seemed into it. I loved the cover. I loved the "what if" premise. And, in the end, I loved the book! (Heavy subject matter warning, but great book.)
11. Enlist a librarian's help.
I told the librarian that I was interested in reading a Jack Ryan novel since I kept seeing commercials for a televised series. Eventually we tracked down the very first novel in which he appeared and I left the library with The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy - my FIRST Tom Clancy novel, I believe. While I am glad I read it, I cannot claim that I am eager to read another. I did not connect with the political intrigue of the book, so after I added it to my Goodreads "Read" pile, I moved on. They can't all be our favorites. And that's okay.
12. Try a read-alike.
I loved The Grapes of Wrath so much that when someone suggested I would probably like Kristin Hannah's The Four Winds, I promptly checked it out of the library and dove in. I. LOVED. IT. I mean, I really REALLY loved it. It was so much like Steinbeck's story of the Joad family, but totally different. I loved the female perspective. I loved seeing how women kept their families together when their men gave up hope. I loved that the setting was the Depression, but the story was not depressing. It was hopeful. Hope-filled. Best read-alike I could have chosen, bar none.
13. Go west.
I crowd sourced the BEST WESTERN because I had never read a Western before and I wanted to officially put an end to that nonsense. Over and over, Louis L'Amour's Sackett Series was recommended. I started at the beginning with Sackett's Land and I have to say, it did NOT disappoint! Truth bomb: It began in England hundreds of years ago and I was kind of wondering when the cowboying would begin even through the pure enjoyment of this first book in the series. It was the perfect cross between Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, and the tv show Naked & Afraid. I loved it so much that I am already several volumes into the series! Quick "popcorn" reads. And really, that's exactly what I was in the mood for when it came to a Western. Yippee-ki-yay! 🤠
14. Give true crime a chance.
When I gave true crime a chance, I went whole hog with Truman Capote's In Cold Blood - the original true crime novel. Listen. Once I started the book, I could not put it down. I read it like it was a paying job. I cannot recommend this book more. More than that, get someone to read it with you so that you have someone to obsess over it with, discussing all the intricate details and feelings and thoughts it will undoubtedly spur deep within your inmost being. It's that kind of book.
(If you are reading this as someone in my neighborhood book club, THANK YOU for reading and obsessing about In Cold Blood with me this summer! You're too good to me!)
15. Read a biography.
Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man by Mary Trump was...a lot. Informative. Biased. Cringey. Eye-opening. In short, it was not boring. The title is the most truthful advertising with what you're getting into when you read this book that I don't really need to say more. Love him, or hate him, this book was an interesting read.
16. A book chosen entirely by the title.
I usually choose what I read by recommendations, so reading one chosen entirely by the title was a big "trust fall" for me this year. The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker lived up to its intriguing title! As an on-again/off-again runner as well as a fan of post-apocalyptic novels (because of the huge "what if" aspect), this one was a no-brainer for me. Another bonus for me was that the setting was post-apocalyptic England, a place I hadn't read about in that setting. I was there for that!
17. Name of the month (or season) in the title.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim was my neighborhood book club pick this spring and it proved a popular pick with most of us. The hodgepodge of characters gave each of a chance to see ourselves in this fun vacation novel set in a villa in Italy. By the time I finished reading it, I felt like I'd enjoyed a weekend getaway.
18. Focus on friendship.
The first book I read by Fredrik Backman was A Man Called Ove and it gave me a book hangover that took days to get over before I could even think of starting another book. Since Ove, I have read three more Backman books and one theme that I discovered in all of his writings I've had the pleasure of reading this year is that of intergenerational relationships. Mr. Backman has converted me to a fan and it all began with A Man Called Ove. 🥰
19. Family bonding.
I know I am an anomaly, but I am just not into Brené Brown. Don't shoot me. I don't think I am her target demographic. That said, I did read through Daring Greatly with my friend, Anne. It was given to me by my oldest daughter, a mega-fan of Brené. I read it slowly, breaking it up into sections and met my friend early on Saturday mornings to discuss what we'd read that week. If you're like most of the population and love Brené, I would imagine you'd like this book on vulnerability because it is (she asserts) the way to transform the way you live, love, parent, and lead.
I'm an easy sell with speculative fiction, so when Watchers by Dean Koontz was repeatedly recommended, I checked it out from my library. Reader, I have been scouring the used book stores for a hardbound copy ever since! I had no idea that I had been missing out on an author that would quickly become a favorite, but Watchers did that for me. I am now such a Dean Koontz fan that we gifted three of his novels as Christmas gifts this year.
21. Read the firsts.
"I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm."
This is the first sentence of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler and the one that hooked me from the first sentence this year. And Reader, the subsequent sentences kept drawing me across the pages of this gem until, before I knew it, my adventure was over.
But what an adventure it was!
This is maybe one of the most unique books I've ever read because it combines history & slavery with an element of time travel that is not only believable, but an element so masterfully woven into the fabric of the story that it is not even questioned. If your TBR pile is already tall, do yourself a favor and add this title anyway. You won't be sorry.
And that, my friend, is MY Bookish Year in Review.
What about yours?
Please share YOUR Bookish Year in Review in the comments. I'd love to see how many of my 21 evergreen, personalized categories you explored this year, as well as the titles you chose.
If you thought this was fun, make sure to check back next week as we launch into a brand new year with the 22 in '22 Book Challenge.
Happy New Year!
*I linked the books mentioned above to Amazon for your convenience and, should you choose to make a purchase, Amazon will share a teeny-tiny portion of the sale with Pretty Literate. We are talking miniscule. Every penny counts. It does not affect your buying experience, but may one day allow me to buy a cup o' joe for my I.T. guy by way of thanks for all he does to support PL.