Did you notice I’ve been missing? Or that Sunday Inspiration posts are the only ones on Southern Exposure since early fall?
Okay, so you didn’t notice, and frankly neither did I. In fact, when I began to think about this, I couldn’t remember when my new aversion to deadlines began to infect my blogging, too. I had to page back and see when I last wrote a general post.
There’s a problem with deadlines.
Since the mid-1980s, I’ve paid close attention to writing deadlines, and those deadlines helped me survive and thrive as a novelist. But 2021 was the year I realized I’d had my fill. Team that with the pandemic, and somehow I just stopped blogging, too.
Today marks my return but with a different approach. In honor of the new year, I plan to blog when and if I have something I want to say. Since I don’t know how often that will happen, I hope you’ll pop in from time to time to see.
Back in March 2021, I blogged about all the books I read in 2020, and listed my favorites. As hard as it is for me to believe, I’ve kept a list this year, too, more than a list really. I rate each book and always add a few lines to remind myself of the story, because titles rarely stick with me. That’s funny, of course, since finding the right title for my own books is front and central to my writing process.
Since I’m not much of a list keeper, I’m delighted I can be this organized. But what a pleasure it’s been to look back over my lists this month and recall the books I loved most.
Before you read my list? How about yours?
I’d love to know what books you loved in 2021, so if you comment here, and list some of your favorites (you must list at least three), I’ll enter you in a randomly drawn giveaway for a copy of The House Guests, my own 2021 book. The winner must have a North American address for mailing and you must comment here by January 28th.
By the way, don’t confuse this giveaway with the January giveaway for my newsletter readers. This is a different one entirely. You can enter both.
My list for 2021 has–and I didn’t plan this–21 “best” books, as opposed to 14 last year. 10 are historicals–depending on how you define that term. 6 are women’s fiction, 1 is fantasy, 1 a thriller, 2 suspense/mystery. Several were feel-good, laugh aloud, books with great author voices. Some stories were painful to think about and difficult to finish. What they had in common? Wonderful writing, characters I wanted to know more about, and stories with something to say. Since I love audiobooks, I listened to 3 of these on Audible.com as I walked in the mornings.
Without further introduction, here’s a list of all the books that received either a 4.5 or 5 star review from me. They’re listed in no particular order, but once you’re read my list, I’ll tell you which book got an immediate 5, a story I won’t soon forget.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns–Khalid Hosseini
- The Last Days of Night–Graham Moore
- The Splendid and the Vile–Erik Larson
- The Book of Lost Friends–Lisa Wingate
- The Searcher–Tana French
- Writers and Lovers–Lily King
- Big Summer–Jennifer Weiner
- We Were the Lucky Ones–Georgia Hunter
- The Newcomer–Mary Kay Andrews
- New York–Edward Rutherfurd
- The Silence of the Girls–Pat Barker
- Natchez Burning–Greg Iles
- Pack Up the Moon–Kristan Higgins
- Nine Women, One Dress–Jane L. Rosen
- The Huntress–Kate Quinn
- The Four Winds–Kristin Hannah
- The Last Train to London–Meg Waite Clayton
- The Thursday Murder Club–Richard Osman
- Mutts and Mistletoe–Natalie Cox
- Churchill’s Secret Messenger–Alan Hlad
- Turn Coat (Dresden Files) Jim Butcher
The book that most stood out for me? The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. While the novel is heart wrenching, I think Kristin Hannah recreated a moment in history that transformed our society, and she recreated it beautifully. It didn’t hurt that I was an American Studies major in college, either. We bring ourselves to what we read, and that influences us, doesn’t it?
Now, it’s your turn. What were your favorite books in 2021? Let us know.
***Because I can only link to one store at a time, the books on this list are linked to Amazon, where I am an Amazon Associate. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. That said, please buy or borrow them at the store or library that’s easiest for you.