My 2021 reading year was brightened by the  discovery of three new authors, who illuminated my year in bursts of glory. 

Novelist Nicola Barker –  endlessly inventive, wildly creative, completely original. Thus far I’ve read and loved: 5 Miles from Outer Hope, I am Sovereign and The Cauliflower. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Humorist Ben Schott – who has written two brilliant homages to the Master of British humour: P G Wodehouse. I own Jeeves and the King of Clubs and Jeeves Takes a Chance. Schott has channelled  The Master’s style, frothy plots and witless characters; and of course featuring  the brainy Jeeves. Both books were a tonic in a difficult year.

SF Writer Becky Chambers –  her Wayfarer series has provided hours of entertainment, plus intriguing ideas, fresh possibilities, with  future scenarios peopled by vivid characters. Her series has a strong feminine slant, and not a raygun in sight. This is thoughtful, philosophical young writer with a fresh take on the Universe. She has taken SF writing into a  fresh dimension.

On the Non Fiction side, I discovered Robert MacFarlane, via his wide ranging  book, Underland, which is a rich and varied reading experience. I  knew RMF was a Nature writer, but I had no idea that his approach was so eclectic,  including  elements of History, Myth, the Anthropocene, and  Travel, to mention but a few. His book is both literary and scholarly (it took ten years to write) but the writing is lyrical,  vivid, thrilling ….  I shall treasure and re-read the book.

And the Misses? I decided to let them sink quietly into the depths of my hard-drive. Of course I had Did Not Finish and Definitely Not for Me reads during the year, but after a hard year I’ve no wish to re-visit past disappointments.

 Ten Terrific Reads 

  • Motion of the Body Through Space – Lionel Shriver (novel) #1
  • Little Family – Ishmail Beah  (African novel)
  • Hum if you Don’t Know the Words – Bianca Marais (South African  novel)
  • The 100 Years of Lenni and Margo – Marianne Cronin (novel)
  • Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett  (novel)
  • Word Freaks – Stefan Fatsis (Non-Fic) Scrabble
  • The Salt Path – Raynor Winn (NF) memoir
  • Look at Me – Nataniel (NF) memoir
  • Vesper Flights – Helen MacDonald (NF) nature writing
  • The Library Book – Susan Orlean (NF) Libraries!

My book of the year. After some agonising I am nominating the novel Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke. Apart from the strange and wildly original story, the book itself is a thing of beauty with the  metallic copper lettering on the black cover, plus a dust-jacket executed in the same black/copper theme, plus an elegant faun playing his Pan Pipe, atop a slender classical column.

The book offered a missing person mystery as a sub-theme, but the major theme was : the existence of a different corporeal reality, into which people from our world are inserted. Followed by another theme: what is personal identity ? and another question: what constitutes mental derangement? A haunting read. .

Wishing my readers an enormous pile of gift wrapped books during the Festive Season, and another splendid reading year ahead in 2022. May we all be safe, and be well.



Could you sum up your nomination for your  Most Memorable  Book of the Year in a brief, 60 second voice note? If you could, then perhaps you entered Cape Talk Radio’s Book Club competition which announced the winning entries yesterday. Dictating a brief summary put readers in the running for a 15 book hamper to the winning entry. 

I listened to the selection of entries which revealed a mainly female readership, only three men entered  their choicess. Perhaps Cape Talk edited the entries, but I would guess that  women form the bulk of our national readership.  I’ve noticed the same phenomenon on Facebook reading group pages, nearly all the posts are from women.

The winning entry came from a  woman who  nominated Rise, by  Siya Kolisi ( the Springbok rugby captain). No surprise, because South Africa is sports mad, and rugby mad in particular.  Categories  were limited to kids’ books, Sports Books, non-fiction, fiction .   

Sports: that’s one of the genres I never read: I read widely, but I do exclude Romance and  Horror,  plus I tend to avoid historicals, and I seldom read crime.

At this time of year there are lists galore and posts by the dozen on the theme: Best Book/s of 2021. I read many of them, always interested in other people’s choices and  reviews . In fact, I post my own annual Best Books of the Year on my blog.  

I keep a running list of Best Reads throughout the year, but its difficult to cut it down to the best Ten Books.  Many readers opt for this number, which is illogical, given our 12 month calendar system. Maybe December is a bad month, too much shopping and partying,  and perhaps  in  the height of summer, even  dedicated readers go outdoors.

I refuse to set annual Reading Target.  Reading is not a competitive sport, for goodness sake!  According to my Book Journal I read 103 books in 2021. Consulting my tatty Journal, via Stone Age technology, i.e. pen and paper – Excel spreadsheets continue to elude me – I totted up the totals and carried out a rough (very rough!) survey. 

My reading was predominantly Fiction, with a small non-Fiction component, consisting mainly of Memoir and Nature writing. Otherwise it was Fiction all the way. Horror, Sport and  Romance didn’t get a look in, but General novels and Literary novels featured large.

I read far too many cozy mysteries, plus more SF than in previous years, and I lay the blame squarely on the pandemic. 

Because I read for pleasure and entertainment, this earnest analysis doesn’t matter one little bit. I read some spectacular books this year, which will be listed in my next post. Watch this space.