I love reading and since you are here, I am guessing you enjoy the activity too. The biggest challenge with reading is finding good books to read. If I have a really good book in hand, I can always make the time for it. I also find it keeps me off the screen and mindless social media scrolling.
I look for good books to read through recommendations, Goodreads and browsing in the library. But I know how much I love a good recommendation. And that is why I put together a list of my favourite books each year. In the hope that you, my readers, find a book from this selection that matches your taste and provides you with a few hours of happiness.
While in the past I have always kept my annual post limited to the 10 best, this year I could not bring it down below 12. Maybe I’m getting better at picking good books? Anyway, getting to the point, here is the list of the twelve best books I read in 2021.
What an incredible read. I started the book with skepticism, thinking I would just read a few pages and see if it holds my interest. Ordinarily, that is a tall order. A book takes more than a few pages to hook you in. But The Summer Wives had me hooked by the end of the first chapter.
Beatriz Williams deftly handles 3 different timelines (1930, 1951 and 1969) with the same set of characters on an island. Beneath the parallel narratives, lies a mystery. Every character holds a clue and every page the reader flips reveals something new.
An innocent love between an 18-year old and a 20-year old struggles among the murky waters of lies, deceit, betrayals and a murder.
A fascinating read and a page-turner. If you enjoy a family saga or a mystery, pick this up and lose yourself in Williams’ beautiful craft.
A beautiful story describing a time in India soon after the British left. Lakshmi leaves an abusive husband and creates a life for herself in Jaipur as a Henna artist. Her profession gives her a glimpse into the personal lives of many upper-middle-class families.
As she grows in fame and builds her little empire, she comes to the realization that everything she has earned and created for herself is fragile. It takes the arrival of a sister she did not know she had to set in motion a series of events that threaten to destroy everything Lakshmi has built around her.
This book also comes recommended by Reese’s Book Club.
3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
What a fascinating book! It had me hooked. This one came as a recommendation from my local book club.
With Evelyn Hugo, fictional Hollywood star, what you see is not what you get. The story starts on an intriguing note where an elderly Evelyn calls journalist Monique home, and offers to give her the whole inside scoop of her life and her seven husbands. As we move from the story of one husband to another, the reader learns more and more about Evelyn. Even as you raise your eyebrows at some of her motivations and actions, you have to bow to her ingenuity, determination and grit that helped her become a world-famous actress. The story culminates in a nail-biting finale, when Evelyn finally reveals why she chose Monique to narrate her story to.
This book is a page-turner! Reid writes it in a fashion that makes Evelyn seem so real. I am not the first to Google and check if Evelyn was a real person. Enjoy this enrapturing ‘biography’ of a very convincing fictional character.
What an incredible book- I would rate this my favourite from 2021. Fredrik Backman is more famous for his A Man Called Ove, but I thought Anxious People was even better!
I confess that the book started out in a jumble with more characters than I could keep track of, and events being narrated in a jumbled order. But this technique is deliberately employed by Backman to show the chaos in the world we inhabit. The puzzle slowly starts to make sense, with truth emerging piece by piece from the jumbled narratives.
He makes a number of social statements through this book, but most of all he talks about mental health and anxiety – his tone is light and humorous but the underlying message is profound. I salute him for voicing social truths that will resonate with all of us, but no one will have the courage to speak.
This book is written by a genius. Read it! And stick through to the end.
What an impactful book with a beautiful story. The truly delicate issue of euthanasia has been handled with a perfect balance of humour and seriousness. At no point does the book become too heavy to read, and yet, the grave matter of life and death and choices is not lightly dealt with.
Will was an active and successful young man, who met with an accident and lost control over his body below his chest. Louisa lands up in a position of taking care of him, without having any prior experience. Their relationship begins with mutual irritation, turns to light sarcasm and evolves into a deep friendship. But even as Louisa grows closer to Will, she discovers his plans and sets out to change his mind.
I cried copiously in the end, my heart twisting in agony and yet, my mind accepted that the ending made sense. Beautiful read.
If you are looking for a light read, this one is sweet.
Eileen is 79, single and an important figure in Hamleigh’s little town. Leena, her granddaughter, is a consultant with a busy life in London. When Leena’s life comes to an abrupt halt in London, she offers to swap places with Eileen. Leena will get a peaceful vacation in Hamleigh, while Eileen can get a taste of the city life she has already craved and possibly find a love interest.
The swap turns interesting as each discovers that their new home city is more than they bargained for. Eileen finds herself on an online dating profile, choosing between three eligible seniors, while taking on a number of social projects in London. Meanwhile, Leena struggles to face her painful past and distrusting neighbours in little Hamleigh.
Each of these women go through a tumultuous journey of self-discovery, after which they find that they can possibly enjoy a better relationship with themselves and others around them. Budding romances in both of their lives makes the storyline even more intriguing and interesting.
If you enjoy fantasy, this one is for you.
It is a complete page-turner. I finished the book within 2 days, finding it hard to put down.
The story is the age-old one of Beauty and the Beast, but Spooner’s take on the story is different. The book begins with Beauty and Beast’s eerie first encounter leading to a mutual sense of dislike. However, once they are thrown together, the way both Beauty and the Beast slowly chip away at each other’s defenses, growing closer without wanting to accept it, is beautifully described. The gradual change in their relationship is so convincing and heart-touching. Lovely tale, captivating narrative.
Here’s another book by Beatriz Williams, a powerful author.
Her Last Flight is a spectacular narrative about one of the world’s first female aviators (Irene Foster in the book, but apparently, based on the life of Amelia Earhart who went missing on her round-the-world flight). What makes the narrative spectacular is that the story is being told in two timelines- one at the time Irene is becoming famous as an aviatrix and the other is nearly 10 years later, when she has already gone missing and a journalist, Janie is trying to find her.
The two differing timelines progress beautifully, offering one piece of the puzzle at a time. As the book progresses, with every chapter the reader discovers another critical piece to the puzzle. The narrative picks up pace rapidly and the book is hard to put down towards the end, when it leads to a dramatic finale with the most unexpected ending.
Highly recommend this book to any reader who likes drama, romance, mystery and intrigue, all rolled into one!
Jenny’s husband, Owen, leaves her and marries another woman. Yet the separation is apparently ‘amicable’ and Jenny finds herself socializing with her ex-husband and his new wife. She moves out of New York to a suburb where she spent her childhood and runs into Leo, a guy who tells her he is ‘gay’ as far as she is concerned. Yet, they can’t deny that they are attracted to each other. There is an air of deep mystery attached to Leo, and the reader learns of his history right at the end of the book.
Meanwhile, Rachel, Jenny’s sister, is only beginning to realize how not-so-ideal is her ideal marriage. Her journey from being a besotted wife and mother to self-realization is beautifully portrayed. Even as she fights to save her marriage, she learns more and more about herself and her husband and grows into an independent-minded woman.
I enjoyed the believable characters, the complex dynamics between relationships and the depiction of how love can co-exist with various other feelings- despair, hurt, fear and forgiveness.
Another book I discovered through Reese’s Book Club.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is an unusual story, but so touching. Eleanor is so different from your average heroine. She struggles with social skills that seem to come easily to other people around her. Avoiding any unnecessary contact with people, she gets about her day from home to work, living a spectacularly solitary life. Her life is thrown into tumult when she finds herself in the midst of circumstances that bring people and human connections into her life.
As the story unfolds, the reader learns about Eleanor’s twisted past, difficult present and uncertain future. As painful as it is, the reality of her life is so relatable. Her view of people and life is so literal, it makes one smile and re-look at usual customs society follows.
This is not a book to rush through. Spend a few chapters at a time with Eleanor and her story will touch your heart.
Many of you may know Cecelia Ahern for her book, “PS, I Love You.”
How to Fall in Love is another beautiful novel penned by the author.
After chancing upon a man poised on a bridge, ready to end his life, Christine manages to persuade him to give her two weeks. Two weeks to convince him that life is worth living.
The irony is that Christine is herself depressed. As she sets about helping Adam find meaning in his life, Adam discovers that Christine is herself struggling to understand her own life. Their relationship and emotions are described well, and one can’t help but see how right they are for each other. Unfortunately, among the many tasks Christine has taken upon herself, is the one to reunite Adam with his ex-girlfriend.
As the days pass by and Adam’s deadline looms ahead, the story moves towards its nail-biting end, when some crucial revelations are made about both Adam and Christine, putting them in a new light. Will they be able to save each other?
Another sweet romance by Higgins, with much depth added through her beautiful portrayal of the complexity of relationships.
Nora is a doctor in Boston with a past that she is trying to leave behind. When she is hit by a truck and teetering on the verge of death, she hears her boyfriend flirt with another woman in the same room where she is lying! After returning from the brink of death, she decides to return home to the little island which holds her history and her closest relationships. As she navigates through these relationships while trying to come to terms with her past and present, she blossoms into a person who knows her self-worth and invests in relationships that bring her a full circle to the happiness she has been seeking.
A very cute story, I enjoyed it. I like that the heroine is so brave, despite a past that haunts her. I like that the hero is not perfect. The relationships among various characters are complex, but convincingly portrayed. I adored the dog, Boomer. Made me want to get a Mountain Bernese for myself 😀
I truly enjoyed reading through 2021 and am already excited about my new reads in 2022. There are so many incredible books out there, waiting to be discovered. I hope you find something in this list that is of interest to you.
If you are looking for more book recommendations, you may like reading:
The Ten Best Books I Read in 2020
The Ten Best Books I Read in 2019
The Ten Best Books I Read in 2018
The Ten Best Books I Read in 2017
The Ten Best Books I Read in 2016
Happy New Year! And happy reading
Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.