Favourite Books of 2021

I’m aware that the number of books I read pales in comparison to most, but I read more in 2021 than I did in 2020 so that’s a win. I’ve chosen 9 favourite books and 4 of them were re-reads for me. Because I enjoy re-reading and also because it’s just been that type of year. So without further ado, here are the books I enjoyed the most in 2021.


Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 
I first read Rebecca about 10 years ago, so I was moderately apprehensive that it would not live up to the memory that I had of it. Thankfully, it was still filled with the tension, darkness, and stunning prose that I remembered. This time I also noticed the implied queerness of Rebecca that I had never picked up on before, which added a layer that I had not been expecting. The edition I read had an afterword by Sally Beauman that was fascinating. The real question: why had no one had previously informed me that du Maurier was bi?

Memorial: An Excavation of the Iliad by Alice Oswald
The Iliad is, quite simply put, the most important tale of all of human history. Alice Oswald strips back the poem, leaving behind only the skeletons of its characters. Every death is recounted. And, like in Homer, the lives that they led before the war are spilled on to the page. I will never tire of this poem.

The Paths of Survival by Josephine Balmer 
More poetry! Balmer traces back Aeschylus’ Myrmidons from the fragments left to us today, to when Aeschylus first wrote it. It’s about loss and memory and life and death. To me, it is also about queer love persisting through the ages, despite destruction. It ends with Balmer’s translation of Aeschylus’ Myrmidons , which is sublime.  
Fun fact: I attended a talk about this book by Josephine Balmer herself where she also read some of the poems. It was wonderful.

Now Is the Hour by Tom Spanbauer 
My eternal gratitude to Bert, who introduced me to Spanbauer back when I worked in Waterstones many moons ago. A queer coming-of-age story about escaping the confines of a conservative, strict, Christian household. Spanbauer’s writing is at times short, abrasive, and crass; at others it flows with poetry and sadness. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me.

New to me

Country by Michael Hughes 
Thank you, Rachel, for always having the best Iliad re-telling recommendations. Who knew that picking up Homer’s poem and putting it down in Northern Ireland during The Troubles would work? Well, Michael Hughes knew. Not just a favourite of 2021, but a favourite of all time.

The Dumb House by John Burnside 
I remember this book doing the rounds on BookTube several years ago, but I do like to be late to the party. Our narrator carries out his own version of the experiment of Akbar the Great to determine whether language is learned or innate, and how it relates to the human soul. This was utterly twisted and disturbing, all while being told in a calm and beautiful manner. I was hooked and had such a fun time.

An Oresteia by Anne Carson 
This is not Aeschylus’ Oresteia (as might be suspected from the Goodreads entry), but a collection of three plays that follow similar events: Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Sophocles’ Electra, and Euripides’ Orestes. Carson breathes such life into the characters of these plays and I devoured it. The plays themselves are outstanding and, let’s face it, it’s the events of the aftermath of the Trojan War so it is entirely my jam. The combination of such tragic tales with Carson’s sublime translation is a match made in heaven.

The Rules of Revelation by Lisa McInerney 
The third and final book in the trilogy that began with The Glorious Heresies. Where the second book, Blood Miracles, focused solely on Ryan Cusack, The Rules of Revelation brings back the characters that we got to know in the first book, along with a couple of newbies. I’d been long awaiting this book and the darkness, humour, pessimism, and grief that I loved so much in the first book were still there. There were also themes of gender identity that affected me deeply, but I don’t have the words to explain it. Nothing could live up to how much I adored The Glorious Heresies, but this came close.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Wayfarers, #4) by Becky Chambers
These books are so much fun and so soothing and just like being offered a hot mug of tea and being given a reassuring hug by a close friend. It was lovely in every way. A comfort series for sure.