Welcome to a round-up of all the books I read in the first half of 2021! After a monster of a post rounding up all the books I read in 2020 last December, this year I have decided to split it into two more manageable chunks, with the first half published now in June, and the second half at the end of the year. I’ll be giving mini reviews of all the books I have read thus far this year, which are almost a fifty-fifty split of fiction and non-fiction; this year I have been trying to alternate between the two to keep myself interested and ensure I am reading a variety of different books. I have also been documenting all my reads on my Instagram stories this year, so head to the ‘2021 books’ highlight reel @everythingxerin to see what I thought of them in an even shorter format!
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton – 4.5 stars
I started off the year with Dolly Alderton’s debut novel. Because I didn’t love her memoir, I was pleasantly surprised to absolutely love this. Set around many different interpretations of ‘ghosts’, from the modern-day internet term of ghosting, to feeling like you are losing friends as they move on with their lives, or close relatives to illness, Dolly created a very intriguing novel with a likeable protagonist. Read my full review here.
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham – 4 stars
Taking us from the original Gilmore Girls series to the ‘A Year In The Life’ revival and everything in between, Lauren Graham’s memoir was everything as chatty and witty as you would expect from the fast-talking protagonist of my favourite ever TV series. I especially loved her diary on the set of the revival, although I would have enjoyed more insights into the original series.
Practically Perfect: Life Lessons from Mary Poppins by Katy Brand – 3.5 stars
As a huge fan of Mary Poppins this book certainly intrigued me, as a bunch of lessons that we can learn from everyone’s favourite nanny. I felt some of the lessons were a bit too personal to the author to be relatable, and would have appreciated a nod to the stage musical adaptation, but all in all it is a fun read for any Poppins fan.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans – 3.5 stars
Ordinary People explores the lives of two couples living in London at a crucial point in their lives. While it was well-written, this one didn’t stand out to me; although the characters were very three-dimensional and flawed to make the novel realistic, they were simply too dislikeable to root for.
On The Frontline with the Women who Fight Back by Stacey Dooley – 4.5 stars
After going to her talk at the Barbican last year, I bought Stacey Dooley’s book exploring how she got into investigative journalism, and the harrowing stories of different women along the way. Stacey recalls being in a war zone and meeting women whose lives are a constant battle for survival in the most dangerous countries in the world, but despite the difficult subject matter, her original and relatable voice shines through on the page; the key to her documentary success.
Us Three by Ruth Jones – 4.5 stars
For Ruth Jones’ second novel, she returned to her Welsh roots and told the story of three wonderful female protagonists: Lana, Judith and Catrin. The three best friends made a pact as children to be friends forever, but following an exciting pre-uni holiday, revelations shake the core of this promise. I absolutely loved Us Three, I was captivated by the storyline and both the three girls and their close families were all very likeable. As this novel has been recently released on paperback, I recommend you all pick up a copy; it’s the sort of book which feels like a warm hug, and I don’t think you can ever get enough of those!
You’re The One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher – 3 stars
I read Giovanna Fletcher’s first novel Billy & Me towards the end of 2020, so had to follow it up with her next one, You’re The One That I Want, centered around Maddy and two best friends who both love her, Robert and Ben. Taking us through their lives as children, at high school, at university and finally as adults, this one was unfortunately quite underwhelming! The main character Maddy moans through all the chapters from her perspective about the woes of two brilliant men loving her… if she’d have opened her eyes to how lucky she was, it might have been more enjoyable!
Classic Scrapes by James Acaster – 4.5 stars
A book by my favourite comedian compiling the most outlandish stories from throughout his life, from trying something new every day for a week and the unexpected consequences of it to writing off a car on three different occasions. James Acaster’s wit transfers with ease from stage and screen to paper, making me laugh-out-loud many times during a point of lockdown when I really needed it.
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfield – 5 stars
The headline: this is the best book I have read so far this year! An incredible novel posing the question: what if Hillary didn’t marry Bill Clinton? Once the romantic, younger section of the story was out of the way, the career-heavy second half really blew me away. Sittenfield’s writing feels so real that I constantly had to put the book down and remind myself that it is only a novel, that these are characters who are only based on real people!
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – 4.5 stars
As I was reading this, I thought about how much I was enjoying it despite it not being my usual kind of read… but is a bunch of octogenarians solving a murder that took place in their retirement village really anyone’s usual kind of read?! Richard Osman’s debut novel obviously became a quick bestseller because we all know him off Pointless, but it stayed up there because of its witty British humour and incredibly loveable main characters. I’ve grown quite fond of a quirky murder mystery; this novel really has you suspecting everyone!
The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris – 3.5 stars
A political memoir by the current Vice President of the United States, each chapter focusing on a different socio-political issue that she tackled during her illustrious career ranging from District Attorney of San Francisco to State Senator of California. Some of the chapters required a little background knowledge, leaving me a little out of my depth but I can’t wait to watch her future work in action.
The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary – 4 stars
Five people with a whole lot of history find themselves stuck in the same car for an eight hour road trip from the south of England to the depths of Scotland – what could possibly go wrong? Having loved Beth O’Leary’s first two novels and very excited by the concept of her new novel, I could not wait to read The Road Trip straight away. The book alternates between two protagonists, as her previous two did, but also flips between the past and the present to slowly reveal what happened between them over the course of the book. I preferred the sections set in the ‘now’, on the road trip where the antics were absolutely hilarious! It lacked some of the warmth of her previous two novels, but was nonetheless a great read.
Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner – 4.5 stars
What an extraordinary life Anne Glenconner has led! From being a Maid of Honour at the Queen’s Coronation to a Lady In Waiting for Princess Margaret for almost thirty years, to having a tumultuous marriage and tragically losing her two adult sons, this memoir is both glamorous and heartbreaking. There are moments that will shock, make you laugh and even cry; a whole range of emotions in this one!
How Do We Know If We’re Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes – 4 stars
My final read of this blog post is a collection of essays by Pandora Sykes, exploring different aspects of modern life, from wellness to binge-watching and everything in between, wondering if there is any right way to approach them. This book is very well-researched, quoting a very wide range of sources and raises some very thought-provoking points.
There you have it – the first fourteen books I have read during 2021! There have been barely any reads so far that I haven’t enjoyed that much, so I would recommend most of them, but thinking about the ones that stood out to me… if you’re after a novel like no other, I really recommend Rodham, especially as it has just come out on paperback, or if you’d prefer a captivating real life story, I still can’t get over the glamorously tragic tale of Anne Glenconner, another incredible read.
What have been your favourite reads in the first half of this year? I would love some recommendations to keep me going through the second half!