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2021 Year in Reading

Every year, I aim to read as much as I can. And though I haven’t read the 52 books in a year that I dream of, I am proud of the number I do complete each year. In 2021, I am not setting a reading goal. Instead, my goal is simply to make time for reading.

How is that different? Well, making time for reading means sitting down to read. It means giving myself permission to sit down to read. And I don’t mean at the end of the day when I am too tired to do so.

I want to read when it rains. I want to read when the sun is shining. I want to read whenever the mood strikes.

So off we go.

  1. The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White — Karen White’s Tradd Street series centers around a family with psychic abilities in Charleston, South Carolina, who use them to solve mysteries, helping spirits move on. It’s been several years since I read something by this author, but when I saw this novel I couldn’t resist. And though I read the first few chapters around Christmas, it wasn’t until New Year’s Day that I let myself be swept away. So yes, I finished this book mostly in a single day. And yes, I enjoyed the engrossing story immensely. And, if I am not mistaken, there are a few references to Hamilton in it as well, which gave me a chuckle. I love it too.
  2. Empire Falls by Richard Russo — This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about small-town life in Maine where the mills have stopped running rings true with the attitudes and relationships. The character development was what pulled me into the novel. But I was disappointed by the climax of the novel, which — while fitting for one character’s story arc — delivered a gut-punch of a scene without warning. As a mother of a school shooting survivor, I felt betrayed by the scene and the chapters that came after.
  3. Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand * — I am a sucker for books set by the beach. I am also a fan of Elin Hilderbrand, whose easy reading books often center around Nantucket and family dynamics. This book, her newest, though is a little different: Set on St. John, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, a woman and her adult sons have arrived for a fresh start after the patriarch of the family is killed in a helicopter crash. Come to find out he 1) had a second family; 2) owned a spawling villa; and 3) was in all sorts of legal trouble. The story is filled with the usual family dynamics and interpersonal drama, but it’s not quite what you’d expect after a family learns of the duplicity that’s been swirling around them. Honestly, while easy to listen to, this wasn’t my favorite of her books. It was a bit too sweet, too much, too understanding.
  4. City of Villains by Estelle Laure — I’ve always said the Disney Villains got a bad wrap. In this new, alternate telling, they are given fresh origin stories in a mixed-up story about a time without magic. It’s a gritty fairytale-inspired crime story where the main character finds herself caught between those who wish magic would come back and those who never had it in the first place.
  5. Fear Street: The Beginning by R.L. Stine — The first novels in the Fear Street series are bound together in this volume and let me tell you — they are every bit as good as I remember. I had a blast one weekend reading this.
  6. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathanial Hawthorne — I’ve wanted to reread some of the classics I’d delved into in college. So I picked this up. It was every bit as sad and hopeful as I remember.
  7. The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin — This comes out in June but I had a galley. And let me tell you: From the first page I was drawn in and enraptured with the story. If you are into witchy tales, you’ll want to read this. Highly recommended.
  8. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah — It was the Netflix series that first got me interested in this. But once I picked up the book, I was surprised to find how much I loved Kristin Hannah’s writing, world-building and character creation. I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone, but I will say that the series was good and the book was better — and a bit heartbreaking.
  9. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston * — Zora Neale Hurston has been in my literary vocab since college. But it was only a few years ago that I first read her writing in a lit class that I took for fun. This book, widely regarded as her best work, is something I knew I should read — and I finally found the time now. I am so glad I did. It’s rich with experience, imagery, friendship, love, and getting on with things.
  10. Marvelous Manhattan by Reggie Nadelson — Growing up in New York, I never thought I would leave. But eventually, I did — and I miss it almost always. This book was like an instant transport back to the city of my heart, taking me through the neighborhoods and customs of a place that formed me as a person. If you love New York, you will love this look at the restaurants, bars and shops that make it special.
  11. Fear Street: Secret Admirer by R.L. Stine — Have I mentioned that I love these books? This is a reprint of the 90s series.
  12. Fear Street: Runaway by R. L. Stine — Seriously, I love them. Another reprint.
  13. Fear Street: The Perfect Date by R.L. Stine — Another reprint. Such fun to read these again.
  14. The Missing House by Julia Dahl — (This comes out in September; I had a galley.) Julia Dahl is a former crime reporter who now writes crime fiction. In this novel, set at and around NYU, a rich, well-known freshman is raped one night that she can’t remember. The act was caught on camera and the revenge porn sent to a select few people. As she pieces together what happened and tries to make sense of it, she also pushes everyone away — except for the kind boy next door that she’d never given a thought to before. Power, money, social media, friendship and fear collide. This is a story that pulls you in and keeps you reading late into the night just to find out what happens next.
  15. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty — Nine people arrive at a pricey health retreat in a remote area of Australia. Some come together — a couple, a family — others come alone. Each comes with heavy emotional baggage. Together they begin a journey, trying to find the thing they are looking for. But this health retreat has secrets and the woman who runs it has bigger plans. I loved the wild ride of this book.
  16. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway — Lately, I’ve been digging into the books I’ve carried from place to place. I can’t remember where or when I picked up this book, though I suspect it was at a library book sale years ago. When I finally picked it up, I was surprised to find how humanizing it is. I didn’t know much about Hemingway’s life in France, or the time before he was the writer of classics. Now that I do, I see so much more in him. Also, I was enamored with the writer’s life shown in this — and how much room creatives had to be creative in the 1920s and 30s.
  17. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton — A memoir, this tale of a woman seeking purpose and meaning in her life — sometimes in all the wrong ways — was compelling and honest. Now a renowned chef with a New York restaurant and a column in the New York Times Magazine, she took a curious route to get there — and I loved following every minute.
  18. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner — Set in the same world as Big Summer, which I enjoyed.
  19. The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff — This was a story of family, friendship and survival.
  20. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  21. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  22. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
  23. Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand — I love Hilderbrand’s books set on the island of Nantucket. But this one may be her very best. It got me thinking a lot about the lives we leave, and who we leave behind.
  24. An Eggnog to Die For by Amy Pershing — As December neared, I wanted some easy to read, food-centric books. And this cozy Christmas mystery delivered. It was easy to enjoy. This is part of the Cape Cod Foodie Mystery series.
  25. Murder at the Mistletoe Ball by J. D. Griffo — Another cozy Christmas mystery. This one featured a lovable family from New Jersey that made me want to crowd around their loud, boisterous table.