Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read In 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is Best Books I Read In 2021. I’ve read 18 books this year that I’ve rated 5* on Goodreads, so it’s difficult to choose the 10 ‘best ‘ books, but these are the ones that I enjoyed the most, in the order I read them:

The One I Was by Eliza Graham – historical fiction split between the present and the past following the lives of Benny Gault and Rosamund Hunter. Benny first came to Fairfleet in 1939, having fled Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport train. As an adult he bought the house and now he is dying of cancer. Rosamund returns to Fairfleet, her childhood home, to nurse Benny. I was totally engrossed in both their life stories as the various strands of the story eventually combined. 

English Pastoral by James Rebanks – nonfiction, inspirational as well as informative and it is beautifully written. I enjoyed his account of his childhood and his nostalgia at looking back at how his grandfather farmed the land. And I was enlightened about current farming practices and the effects they have on the land, depleting the soil of nutrients.

Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen – nonfiction – Dr Jerri Nielsen was a forty-six year old doctor, who took a year’s sabbatical to work at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station in Antarctica, the most remote and perilous place on earth. In the dark Antarctic winter of 1999 she discovered a lump in her breast. Whilst the Pole was cut off from the rest of the world in total darkness she treated herself, taking biopsies and having chemotherapy, until she was rescued by the Air National Guard in October 1999. 

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson – a novel focused on three main characters, Elizabeth, Liam and Clara, each perfectly distinct and finely described. The setting in a small town in North Ontario in 1972 is excellent. It looks back to events thirty years earlier when Elizabeth Orchard first met Liam who was then a small boy of 3 when he and his family lived in the house next door and the events that followed.

The Killing Kind by Jane Casey, a police procedural and a psychological thriller. It’s a mix of courtroom scenes, police interviews and terrifying action-packed scenes. I was totally engrossed in it right from its opening page all the way through to the end. 

Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger – a beautiful novel, a story of three people living in different countries and in different times. How their stories connect is gradually revealed as the novel progresses. As the author explains at the end of the novel it is a mix of fact and fiction and has its basis in truth.

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris – historical fiction about the Dreyfus affair in 1890s France. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island. It’s narrated by Colonel George Picquart, who became convinced that Dreyfus was innocent. Harris goes into meticulous detail in staying accurate to the actual events, but even so this is a gripping book and I was completely absorbed by it from start to finish.

A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry – a combination of historical fact and fiction, a tale of murder and medical matters, with the social scene, historical and medical facts slotting perfectly into an intricate murder mystery. It’s an exceptionally excellent murder mystery and an informative historical novel, with great period detail and convincing characters.

Fludd by Hilary Mantel – a dark fable of lost faith and awakening love amidst the moors.The story centres on Fludd, a young priest who comes to the Church of St Thomas Aquinas to help Father Angwin, a cynical priest who has lost his faith. I enjoyed it all immensely – partly about religion and superstition, but also a fantasy, a fairy tale, told with wit and humour with brilliant characterisation.

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – the story of a party of nineteen girls accompanied by two schoolmistresses who set off from the elite Appleyard College for Young Ladies, for a day’s outing at the spectacular volcanic mass called Hanging Rock. The picnic, which begins innocently and happily, ends in explicable terror, and some of the party never returned. I loved the detailed descriptions of the Australian countryside and the picture it paints of society in 1900, with the snobbery and class divisions of the period.

Have you read any of these books? What books have you enjoyed the most this year?

17 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read In 2021

  1. It looks as though you had some great reading selections this year — congrats! I think I’ve only read Fludd from your list (many years ago & I remember only that I enjoyed it) although I’m familiar with Robert Harris, whose work I’ve also enjoyed. Your list remains me that I’ve been meaning to read Picnic at Hanging Rock for years and years — must move it up the list!

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  2. What a great list, Margaret! I think Jane Casey is really talented, and I’m very happy to see one of her books here. And you’ve reminded me that I want to read English Pastoral; I’ve been wanting to since I read your review. And Picnic at Hanging Rock is a well-done, eerie story; I’m not surprised to see it here.

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  3. I’m pleased to see An Officer and a Spy on your list – it’s one of my favourite Robert Harris books. I enjoyed A Corruption of Blood this year too, although it didn’t quite make my top ten.

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  4. Wow, so many things to unpack here! I watched the Australian TV version of Picnic at Hanging Rock, a very different twist on the tale but very dark and fascinating. And is Fludd a new book by Mantel? Somehow I hadn’t heard of it before, and I consider her one of my favorite authors. I’m also picking up English Pastoral from your list, which sounds like a charming comfort read.

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  5. A Town called Solace is one I am hoping to read. I am glad to see it on your list! I have been wanting to read something by Jane Casey. Her books always sound so good. I hope you have a great New Year!

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