I love to hear about other’s favorite reads so I figure I should return the favor. I set out to read 50 books last year but only managed 32. Still, considering that the average number of books read per year by Americans is 12, I suppose that’s not too bad. Here are my favorite books of 2021.
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Favorite Books of 2021
The Woman Who Kept Everything
by Jane Gilley
This was a charming story with an unusual topic for a fiction book – hoarding. I fell in love with Gloria, the main character, and really appreciated her spunk and zest for life. I will say that hoarding is a serious mental issue and not likely to be dealt with as quickly and easily as this story implies. Still, it was an enjoyable read.
79-year-old Gloria Frensham is a hoarder. She lives amongst piles of magazines, cardboard boxes and endless knick-knacks that are stacked into every room of her home, and teeter in piles along the landing and up the stairs.
She hasn’t left the house in years, but when a sudden smell of burning signifies real danger, she is forced to make a sudden departure and leave behind her beloved possessions.
Determined she’s not ready for a care home, Gloria sets out to discover what life still has to offer her. It’s time to navigate the outside world on her own, one step at a time, with just one very small suitcase in tow…
The Enchanted April
by Elizabeth von Armin
I can’t imagine why I’d never read this before. A holiday spent in a castle in Italy? Right up my alley! I enjoyed the evolving relationships between the four women as well as their personal growth. And at a time when it seems society has devolved into mannerless chaos, several hours spent in a more genteel time and place was most welcome.
Four women, with very different backgrounds and characters – the artless Lottie Wilkins, the pious Rose Arbuthnot, the cantankerous Mrs Fisher and the haughty Lady Caroline Dester – respond to an advertisement in The Times offering a medieval castle to rent in Italy that April. As their joint holiday begins, tensions flare up between them, but they soon bond over their past misfortunes and rediscover hope and the pleasures of life in their tranquil surroundings.
West With Giraffes: A Novel
by Lynda Rutledge
I’ve loved giraffes ever since I first read about them in Animals Do the Strangest Things as a very young girl. Something about their quiet nature resonates with me. But never underestimate a giraffe for they can be fierce, as well.
My son bought me this book for my birthday and I absolutely loved the story of Woody and Mr. Jones making a dangerous cross-country trip with two giraffes during the Dust Bowl era. I would have preferred a straight telling of the story rather than the literary device used, but it was still well worth overlooking that aspect of the book.
Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he finds himself recalling the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave.
It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a twelve-day road trip in a custom truck to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo. Behind the wheel is the young Dust Bowl rowdy Woodrow. Inspired by true events, the tale weaves real-life figures with fictional ones, including the world’s first female zoo director, a crusty old man with a past, a young female photographer with a secret, and assorted reprobates as spotty as the giraffes.
Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, West with Giraffes explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late.
The Midnight Library: A Novel
by Matt Haig
A friend recommended this one. I must admit I found it a little slow at first and it was fairly predictable. Still, I found the premise intriguing and a good reminder that each life has value. It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite Christmas movie and the theme of this book is similar. Our lives are interconnected and in ways both large and small, we have an impact on those around us.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting blockbuster novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
What were your favorite books of 2021? I’d love to know.
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