I’m kicking off another year of my annual reading list — it’s a running list of every book I’ve read with a brief recap and mini-book review. Last year I didn’t meet the goal I set, I fell short because I had a hard time focusing at night and was juggling a lot during the end of the year (weren’t we all?!). I’m just starting to get back into the reading groove and it’s such a good way for me to escape and power down at the end of the day (and fingers crossed that later in 2021 I’ll get to do some vacation reading if we ever get to travel again!). One of my goals this year is to focus on diversity over quantity. Instead of setting a goal for the number of books I want to read, I’m challenging myself instead to read from diverse authors, perspectives, and genres. See everything I read in year’s past on 2018’s list, 2019’s list and 2020’s list for more book inspiration and scroll down for my current reading queue:The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans. This was a Book of the Month pick and I’m always so grateful for this service pushing my outside my comfort zone to try different writing styles and authors. Whenever I’m in a reading rut I find that short stories help reel me back in (there’s something very satisfying about finishing a story in one sitting). The stories cover a wide range of moments in the characters’ lives that speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. A few of the stories are still really sticking with me, highly recommend this one!
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. I just read that HBO acquired the rights to produce this book as a limited series and I’m SO excited for it. The book follows two identical twins that grow up in a southern town and run away from home. Their paths separate and go on to leave two very different lives, one of the twins passes as white and the story looks at how those choices impact not just their own stories, but each of their daughters as well. I love books that are told from multiple character perspectives, and Britt Bennett knocked it out of the park with these characters and their intertwined stories.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. One of my favorite books that I read last year was Lucy Foley’s The Guest List, and I was excited to dig into another one of her stories. The Hunting Party had an equal level of page-turning, on the edge-of-your-seat suspense. I love a book that makes me lose track of time, sneaking a look at my watch to see I’ve been reading well past midnight. This story is about a group of old college friends who convene every year for a holiday trip to reconnect. This trip, to a remote lodge in the Scottish Highlands, doesn’t go as planned when one member of the party is killed (or murdered?). One of the things I love about Lucy Foley’s writing style are her short chapters that jump from perspective to perspective, helping the reader build a full view of what happened from each suspect/character’s point of view — it makes for a quick, engaging read through a mystery you can’t wait to solve!
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood. This book follows the story of 3 older women who meet to clean out their best friend’s beach house that recently died. Through this premise it takes a raw look at the complexities of aging, friendships, and relationships. I appreciated both the story and the character work, but the darker side of aging and loneliness hang heavy on me as I read it — a tough topic to get through.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. I adored Emily Henry’s first book — Beach Read — that I devoured last summer and had pre-ordered this second novel as soon as it became available. I have a soft spot for stories about best friends who might be falling in love, since my husband I were friends before we dated, so I loved this storyline. It’s a great summer read, light and quick and full of summer-travel back drops, highly recommend!
We Run The Tides by Vendela Vida. This book felt like nothing I have read before, it follows two girls on the cusp of their teenage years through their neighborhood in San Francisco in the mid-80’s. One of the girls disappears and the story is way less about about her disappearance and much more about lies, trust, and the excruciating experience of being a pre-teen. I loved this book and thought the writer’s voice was so unique.
Love Like That: Stories by Emma Duffy-Comparone. I totally picked this collection of short stories for the cover, and because I saw that the author was based locally. All of the stories took place in New England and centered around female main characters who were complicated, broken, and dealing with complicated relationships. This book was not an uplifting beach read to say the least, but I did appreciate the author’s depth and development in dealing with complex, imperfect characters.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’m such a huge fan of this author, so I was so eager to dig into this new, summery story that takes place in Malibu in the mid-eighties, and follows four famous siblings over the course of a single day and ending in an epic end of summer party. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a master of developing an intriguing cast of characters, and I love her multi-perspective storytelling styles that makes for such page turners.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. I snagged this from my Book of the Month subscription and can always rely on them for page-turning drama. This book followed a woman whose husband disappears, and she’s left to look after his teenager daughter from a previous marriage while trying to uncover what exactly happened to her husband, the man she thought she knew. The ending was surprising, not at all what I expected, but my only complaint was that it all unfurled rather quickly in the last few pages – I would have loved more depth in the ending to close out a few unanswered questions.
The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther. This was the *perfect* summer read, it felt like wrapping yourself in a warm towel after a dip in the cold ocean. It takes place around a big family wedding, a weekend-long game of assassin, the most perfect Martha’s Vineyard backdrop, and a sweet story about young summer love. I wish I could read it again for the first time!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Another TJR book that didn’t disappoint, this one follows an old Hollywood actress’ life through the lens of a young journalist she’s sharing a tell-all with at the end of her life. The characters are glamorous and gritty and lovable and flawed, and the ending gave me an audible “ah!!” when I got to it.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I had heard so many great things about this book, and I really liked the concept but didn’t quite connect with the main character. The idea is that in between life and death, there is a library; in that library are all the variations of your life if you had made different choices and taken different paths. The main character, stuck in between, gets the chance to try some of these lives out. Conceptually, it was a very cool book. The main character made me frustrated and sad though, which left me liking the book but not loving it.
Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena. Another suspenseful pick from my Book of the Month (they do such a good job of finding the best suspense/thriller/drama content!). This one follows three adult children and the aftermath of their (very wealthy) parents murder after a tumultuous and heated family dinner. It’s one of those everyone-is-a-suspect books that has you flipping pages as fast you can to try and solve the crime.
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. I love a Cape Cod backdrop and family drama, so this book jumped off the shelf at me. The writing was absolutely beautiful, but full of a lot of gritty, heavy issues that included adultery and sexual assault. I would love to read more from this author and her peaceful, purposeful writing style.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. This book was epic. The story bounced back and forth between prohibition era Montanta where a young female aviator goes through countless struggles to follow her dreams, and modern-day LA where a young starlet is going through her own struggles as she tries to take on the role that will tell the story of this brave young pilot. Maggie Shipstead is such a master of characters and painting a rich storyline – I loved this book, probably one of my favorites of the year.
Anxious People by Frederik Backman. This book takes place an an open house for an apartment, where all of the apartment viewers are somewhat accidentally taken hostage by a bank robber. The book is very quick-witted, funny, and full of zany characters – and I loved the little twists in the plot line that defy norms and had be second guessing my predictions.
Normal People by Sally Rooney. This wasn’t my favorite read of the year – I found the characters a bit unlikeable and while I rooted for them, I felt like it dragged on a bit. Some people LOVE Sally Rooney’s style but I don’t know if this one was for me.
The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox. Such a fun, junky, chick-lit read that was perfect to end the year with at the holidays. It follows a set of twins that swap places (one runs the family bakery, the other hosts a tv cooking show) to try and help the other fix some problems in their lives. Things take an expected but still satisfying turn when both of the twins find love interests while they’re playing the part other twin.