This is usually one of my favourite posts of the year, but I haven’t done it since 2018, so I’m thrilled to return again this year! Almost the entire year of 2020 was a book slump for me and while I didn’t do much reading through summer of 2021, overall this was a much better year and I’m a lot more excited about the books I read.
As usual, I’ll be doing 2 posts that collectively feature my top 15 reads of the year. This post is dedicated to my favourite books of the year that were actually published in 2021 (because I read a lot of new releases) and the second post will feature my Top 7 Reads of 2021 that were published in other years. So without further ago, let’s get into it – these are intentionally ordered in terms of how much I loved them.
8. What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster
What’s Mine and Yours snuck on to my list this year. It was an impulse purchase on Audible that I ended up really enjoying. It has low ratings on goodreads, but I felt it was such a meaningful story that touched on huge number of social issues: race, class, status, family, grief, and of course, love. It features a large cast of characters and I liked how the author examines nature versus nurture and how blinding privilege can be to another’s experience.
7. Where Hope Comes From by Nikita Gill
Where Hope Comes From is a short poetry anthology by Nikita Gill that I cannot stop thinking about since I read it. I find her poetry a bit hit or miss, but picked it up when I saw it was about the pandemic. I wasn’t really looking forward to the pandemic starting to show up in books, but I couldn’t deny that it was exactly what I needed. Reflection is an important part of processing things that happen to you and it was cathartic to read about someone else’s experience with the pandemic and to feel solidarity and acknowledgement of some of the crap we’ve all been through in the last year.
6. If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur
I’m sensing a bit of a theme, but If I Tell You The Truth was another impulse buy from my local bookstore. Jasmin Kaur is a local author (to me) and this story is written in prose and set in the BC Lower Mainland. I ended up loving it. The writing is fantastic and features a young Indian girl who moves to Vancouver for university to find herself pregnant. The author explore a lot of themes, particularly family and gender dynamics in Indian culture and the struggles of immigration. The writing is incredibly honest and heartfelt and I felt so connected to the characters.
5. The Strangers by Katherena Vermette
The Strangers was my second read by Katherena Vermette and was nominated for the Giller Prize this year. This book gutted me within the first chapter and I couldn’t stop reading about the 4 female members of the Stranger family. It’s a multi-generational story that examines the circular nature of trauma and the racism that still exists in Canada’s family and social services. Vermette is an excellent writer and I connected deeply with each of her characters.
4. Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
This is book that I had no right to enjoy as much as I did! It’s a mystery/thriller about a crime writer who is mistaken for a hired killer when overheard talking about her latest book plot with her publicist. When she’s offered a huge sum of money to off a woman’s husband, things quickly get out of control and spiral into a fast paced train wreck of epic proportions. It’s an easy-to-read style that translated so well to audiobook. It’s not a literary masterpiece in any way, but I had a lot of fun with it and couldn’t put it down!
3. Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Infinite Country was yet another surprise read that I picked up on Audible and ended up loving. It’s a very short book, but succinct. It’s a beautifully written immigration story split between America and Colombia that captures the heartache of having your family separated and your kids growing up as part of two different cultures. The struggle to make a living in a hostile environment and the dream of one day reuniting your family. We all just long to be together.
2. Please Don’t Sit on my Bed in Your Outside Clothes by Phoebe Robinson
If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while you probably know I love Phoebe Robinson. She consistently gets better with every novel she publishes and this audiobook was easily my best of the year. It’s a collection of essays written for a large audience and I love how she seamlessly blends humour with her astute observations on social issues. She is so relatable and an important voice for black women. I still think about essays from her last novel and I loved her reflections on the pandemic, on her decision not to have children, and her thoughts on the white saviour complex.
1. Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Without a doubt this was my favourite book of the year. Once There Were Wolves is a haunting story about Inti Flynn and her determination to re-introduce wolves into the Scottish Highlands. The townspeople are vehemently opposed to the wolves out of fear and when one of the villagers go missing, Inti is worried her wolves will take the fall. It’s a wonderful blend of literary fiction and mystery and has the most lonesome atmosphere of grief and sadness that permeates the entire novel. Inti is trying to come to terms with the traumatic events of her shared past with her twin sister and McConaghy uses the loveliest prose to explore themes of loss, abuse, feeling, and sisterhood. Can’t recommend enough!