Well, that was quite a year. Again. Kind of longing for a return to normality, but I can’t see it happening any time soon. Anyway, you’re hopefully here for the books and these are the favourites that I read during 2021. First up are some honourable mentions that I gave 4.5 stars to:
Fire, Storm & Flood – James Dyke
Fox Fires – Wyl Menmuir
Where – Simon Moreton
Thin Places – Kerri ní Dochartaigh
How To Be Sad – Helen Russell
Skylarks With Rosie – Stephen Moss
Shearwater – Roger Morgan-Grenville
Much Ado About Mothing – James Lowen
Light Rains Sometimes Fall – Lev Parikian
On Gallows Down – Nicola Chester
Springlines – Clare Best and Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis
The Heeding – Rob Cowen & Nick Hayes
Red Sands – Caroline Eden
Summer In The Islands – Matthew Fort
Slow Trains Around Spain – Tom Chesshyre
Water Ways – Jasper Winn
I can now reveal my books of 2021:
First are two books on books. The Book Collectors of Daraya is about people seeking out an existence in the war-torn country of Syria and how they collected books for others to read and find a little bit of inner peace. My second is White Spines; the story of Nicholas Royle and his obsession with collecting the Picador White spined books.
I finally finished the Discworld series this year. I had intended on doing it in 2020 but didn’t read these four. They are here because I think that he is a genius, his ability to shine a light on our world and the peculiarities of our society and make us laugh about it are unlikely to be equalled.
I read several books on London in 2021, but these two were outstanding. They are very different, but each has that special something that makes London such a different city compared to others in the UK. Budden captures the surreal nature of the place in his book and Chivers shows how the very bedrock the city is built on can be traced if you know where to look.
Two of my favourite natural history books this year were The Screaming Sky and the Circling Sky. Charles Foster is obsessed with the swift and he has distilled that into this short volume. Neil Ansell’s book is more wide ranging, but equally well written. He takes us on many journeys into the 1000-year-old landscape that is the New Forest, recalling past trips there when younger. I was lucky enough to spend some time with him there this year too.
We live in a biased world and that bias is particularly prevalent when you look at how men and women are treated. Most things are designed for the male mind and body, which means that when women come to use them they are often put into danger. Not only could they hurt themselves, but some of these examples that Criado-Perez uses show how these poorly made product have killed. Eye-opening stuff and an essential read.
My final two books are travel. You didn’t think that I would not have any travel books on this list, did you? First is a book on the extraordinary Island of Madagasgar, written by John Gimlette. It is lavishly illustrated and his prose is top-notch as ever.
My final travel book and my book of the year for 2021 is The Bells of Old Tokyo. Anna Sherman has captured a part of Japan that I knew nothing about and her prose is sublime. Just get a copy and read it. A friend call Jeremy who runs Travel Writing World has an interview with her here.
Thank you to those that have read, commented and shared my post all this year. I know that there are not that many of you reading this, but I appreciate every one of you.