2021 hasn’t been the year during which I read the highest number of books by no stretch of the imagination, but I surely read some good ones. Picking up some massive books throughout the year didn’t help, particularly because I ended up not finishing three of them, so they didn’t count for my read books. So far, I’ve read in their entirety 22 books. Until the end of the year, I’m still hoping to finish the humongous The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb and to read another two much shorter books. None of these are likely to be good candidates for my favourite books of the year, though.
Throughout 2021, I read books from various genres and of several formats. Novels, novellas, short story and poetry collections were all part of my reading choices. They can be categorised as historical fiction, fantasy, dystopian and literary fiction. The majority of the books that I read were new to me, but I also reread two books. Livro by José Luís Peixoto I certainly enjoyed, although not as much as I remember doing the first time, and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell remains one of my favourite books of all time.
Only taking into consideration the books that I read for the first time in 2021, however, my favourites, in reverse order, are:
A book about the difference between duty and greed for power, Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb is the last instalment in The Farseer Trilogy. Readers continue to follow Fitz, a royal bastard whom we have known since his childhood, as he tries to overcome the perilous situation he is in. Although the pacing is not always perfect, this is overall an immersive and gripping read, which brings the series to a satisfying and exciting end.
Set in 1664, Girl with a Pearl Earring is a fictional story about the young woman whose face is the star of Johannes Vermeer’s most famous painting. Tracy Chevalier imagined a believable story for Griet, who is the narrator and main character in the novel. Readers learn how she became a maid at Vermeer’s household and how she came to sit for him.
Hannah Kent drew inspiration from a real-life event in order to write the novel Burial Rites. Set in Iceland in 1829, it tells the story of Agnes, who was sentenced to death after being accused of killing two men – Nathan, who was her lover, and Pétur. She is taken to the house of one of the officers in the district to wait for the date of her execution. While there, she receives the visit of Assistant Reverend Thorvardur. This historical fiction novel can be incredibly atmospheric, touching and poignant.
Despite being full of fantastical elements, Piranesi explores exceptionally human experiences in a remarkable way. Susanna Clarke penned a mysterious, eccentric and haunting book about memory and traumatic experiences. The subtlety of the emotions portrayed is exquisite. Piranesi lives in a vast house, which is surrounded by the sea. He gets together with the Other two times a week to discuss their efforts to discover some unknown knowledge.
The musicality of the prose, the detailed account of the actions and the tangibility of the emotions turn Hamnet into an outstanding book. Set in the 16th century, it is a fictional story about the death of the son of William Shakespeare, who is never mentioned by his name. The spotlight is mostly on Agnes, his wife, despite this being a family story. Themes of grief, parenthood and love are touchingly and poignantly explored.
Which are your favourite books from those you read in 2021? Tell me in the comments!