You know the old adage “you are what you eat?”, right? Well, books are food for the mind, so they shape the way you think. They allow you to live vicariously through the good and bad experiences of the characters, they present you with places and ideas new to you, and they broaden your horizons. This year, my thoughts were shaped by 66 books, most of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
(PS: If any of these books interest you, please consider using my affiliate links. They won’t cost you any extra, but I will get a small commission to fuel my book-reading habit. Thanks!)
Books on Writing and Marketing
This year I decided I needed to read less about writing and actually write more instead, so there aren’t many books in this category. The two craft books were tremendously insightful: Fight Write is a great resource for anyone writing fight scenes, and I cannot recommend Creating Character Arcs enough for any budding writers out there.
Other Non-Fiction Books
I set myself the challenge to read 12 non-fiction books again this year, and I managed to squeeze 15 in. The idea behind this challenge is that non-fiction inspires me and broadens my mind. Unfortunately, I fell into a bit of a self-help trench which, although interesting and useful, didn’t really do much for kick-starting story ideas. Nevertheless, there were some fantastic reads this year.
I read Always Italy during the week after my birthday, when I was stuck in a room on my own isolating after a bout of Covid-19, and it was just the most wonderful way of escaping (read my review here). I also really enjoyed Walking the Nile for its insights into the history of the more war-torn parts of my home continent. In the self-help section, honourable mention goes to both Atomic Habits and Twelve Rules for Life, the one tremendously applicable and the other thought-provoking.
Books I read for Nostalgia
The Lennet series of books were childhood favourites of mine and I have been buying their first (and only) editions from bidding websites as they become available. These two are pretty rare, so I was very chuffed to find them. Only one more to go to have the complete collection!
Books that were Okay
I’m a huge fan of Joanna Penn, but I am not her target audience. I keep reading her books because I like to support her, and because she loves to travel as much as I do, and her books are all deeply inspired by archaeological relics that fascinate me, but I am just not in love with her characters or writing style, sad to say. The other books in this list all fell short of my expectations in one way or another. I’m sure there are people who loved them, but they just weren’t for me.
Books that I Liked
Unsurprisingly, this category has the most entries and they are all books that I would recommend one way or another. Firm favourites were the King of Scars duology, as well as The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. If you enjoy gaslamp urban fantasy then you’ll love Suzannah Rowntree’s Miss Sharp’s Monsters series, or if you prefer historically accurate drama with a dash of the supernatural, then her Watchers of Outremer books will also delight. Surprisingly enjoyable indie author contributions include Nils Odlund’s Emma’s Story, Once Upon a Short Story by AG Marshall and the Mapweaver Chronicles by Kaitlin Bellamy.
Books that I Loved
I recommend every book in this list! Lore was a fabulously fun take on the Greek myths, The Once and Future Witches is a feminist triumph, and The Ten Thousand Doors of January a delightfully unusual portal fantasy. I devoured P Djeli Clark’s urban fantasy detective series set in 1920s Cairo, starting with the short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo and culminating in the full-length novel, A Master of Djinn. But my absolute favourite series this year was Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series – go read it!
You can also have a look at 2020’s books here.
Which book did you enjoy the most in 2021? Which of the books I’ve read have you also read – and what did you think of them? Do you have any recommendations that I have to add to my TBR pile for 2022?
3 comments / Add your comment below
Wow, that’s quite a diverse list. And it must’ve taken you a while to lay out this post. Well done! 🙂
I would say that if you don’t gel with Joanna’s stories or writing style, you should probably stop reading them. Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. You can have immense respect for someone without actually enjoying their art. I don’t think she would mind at all.
I also have quite the soft spot for her. She was one of my very first role models when I started on my own self-publishing journey, and I read her story on her blog and in many ways drew parallels to mine. Her career in IT started very similar to mine. The only difference being that I actually enjoy my job, but I still have mad respect for that woman. What she’s done, and what she continues to achieve, is just incredible.
I like her business philosophy too, and (of course) the fact that she’s a successful wide author.
Another one I really respect is Rachel Morgan, who has a very similar outlook on life to me. Oddly, I also recently read one of her books just out of respect… but in that case, I ended up thoroughly enjoying it, when I never thought I would, and I’m actually quite deep into the Creepy Hollow series (I don’t know I’d enjoy any of her OTHER series, though)! 😉
Thanks Graham! I do like to read broadly, although as you can see, I have a very particular preference for fantasy books.
I’m a big fan of Joanna’s and I think we would genuinely have been friends, because we have so much in common. In my case, I feel pretty much the same as her about my IT job 🙂 Agreed, she’s fantastic and such an inspiration for authors everywhere.
I’ve also read the first Creepy Hollow book a few years back and enjoyed that too, but I’m a little over the tropes of young adult paranormal romance at the moment. Still highly recommended though, for anyone who enjoys that genre!
One of the cool things about Joanna is that she makes you feel like you CAN be friends.
Over the years I’ve popped her emails here and there and commented on the occasional blog post. And I can tell you that not once has she ever failed to respond to me. And they’re not form-letter, “Thanks for your email. It’s good to hear from a fan. Blah blah blah.” responses, either. They’re personal, thoughtful, individually crafted responses that make mention of the things I’ve said and ask me probing questions. Much like Rachel, in fact… although not to take anything away from Rachel, but her and I are *already* acquaintances by virtue of being on various writing groups together and we’re Facebook friends. 😉
What I enjoy about Creepy Hollow is that it’s specifically NOT your average young adult paranormal romance (because I don’t generally like those either). Yes, some books are more romancy and angsty than others, and some parts of the story are more romancy and angsty than others, but at its core, I think it’s just a really cool adventure story. 🙂