At around this point in winter, I like to round up my ten favourite books of the year, in no particular order (and with the caveat that the list refers to the year of reading – I often read books many years after publication). This year I read thirty-nine books in total, fewer than normal for me – but an average of a book approximately every nine days, which sounds about right. At the moment I’m reading my fortieth book of the year – A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, the sixth instalment in the Outlander series (and if you’ve read any of the Outlander books, you’ll know that Gabaldon’s penchant for penning 1000+ page epics means I’m unlikely to finish by the 31st December). So while I get on with that, here are my 2021 favourites.
Have any of your favourites made my list?
UNTAMED BY GLENNON DOYLE
A last minute entry to this year’s list was Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, which I read earlier in December. Part memoir, part manifesto for living, Untamed charts Glennon’s experience as a writer, mother, activist and humanitarian, and at its core, presents a call-to-action to live an authentic life. One of the most quotable books I’ve read in some time, Untamed rings with Glennon’s compassion, empathy and overriding self-awareness. A book that will speak to sensitive introverts everywhere, Untamed is a must-read for 2021 – and, in fact, any other year.
SHUGGIE BAIN BY DOUGLAS STUART
Douglas Stuart’s Booker-winning story of poverty, addiction, sexuality and childhood trauma in 1980’s – 1990’s Glasgow is simply one of the best books I’ve read – ever.
THE GREAT EDGE BY GEORGE GUNN
I loved this sweeping tale of archaeology, science, Christianity, Nordic myth and Celtic civilisation centred around my home county, Caithness.
RETURNING BY SHARON GUNASON POTTINGER
Another locally-themed book I enjoyed this year was Sharon Gunason Pottinger’s Returning, the story of a war correspondent returning to Caithness in the aftermath of tragedy.
WINTERING BY KATHERINE MAY
A wonderful read for the season, Wintering is a mixture of memoir and storytelling – and a reminder of the power of rest and restoration in the winter-like seasons of our lives.
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING BY DELIA OWENS
I adored this place-infused murder mystery/coming of age tale set in North Carolina.
SALT ON MY SKIN BY SARAH KENNEDY NORQUOY
Sarah’s account of her first year of wild swimming is a testament to the healing power of beloved activities in our lives.
THE WILD SILENCE BY RAYNOR WINN
Raynor’s second book is a wonderfully restorative read, and a lyrical account of illness, adversity and connection to nature.
THE WAY HOME BY MARK BOYLE
An honest and affirming account of the author’s first year living technology-free in rural Ireland.
THE GIVER OF STARS BY JOJO MOYES
A beautifully written tale inspired by Kentucky’s ‘horseback librarians’ – a tribute to female friendship and the might of the written word.
Of course, no bookish round up here would be complete without a plug for for my own novels, young adult folklore tales Castles of Steel and Thunder and Pieces of Sky and Stone, which at their roots are about the power of stories, and the role of beloved people and places in shaping us.
As we head towards 2022, then – Scotland’s themed ‘Year of Stories’ – I wish you a peaceful and healthy Christmas, and a season filled with the people, places and stories that you love.