I know everyone else has already posted their best books of the year, but I wanted to wait until the very last moment to make sure that I was taking in all the books I read in 2021. I got more than 500 books under my belt this year, so I’m very pleased I managed to winnow this down to a top 20 with only a few hours’ tricky wrangling (with just a couple of series cheats). They’re in no particular order – I separated out the top five, but they’re not in any order amongst themselves, either.
So, do you want to see my very favourite books I read this year?
There was no December Decimation recap post on Monday for two reasons: firstly, I took a few days off blogging for Christmas, and secondly, I actually went an entire week without reading anything! I was very busy with writing and family, and I genuinely didn’t pick a book up for a week, which is very rare for me. It did leave me needing to pack the last nine books of the decimation challenge into this last week of the year, so here’s my final recap – I didn’t quite make it to the end of my thirty books, but I achieved a very respectable twenty-five (plus plenty of others that weren’t in the challenge)!
It’s the last Kitten Corner post before Christmas, so what better time to show you these lovely wintry reads for little ones?
All three of these were sent to me free of charge by Nosy Crow, but all opinions are my own!
Snow Still by Holly Surplice is a really beautiful book. The words are deceptively simple: three rhyming quartets with only two words on each page (“Snow white/snow slide/snow chase/snow hide”) mean that the focus stays firmly on the beautiful artwork, while creating a really gentle, calming poem. The illustration style is lovely, and really captures the soft crunch of snow underfoot – it’s cosy but also cold, and very pretty. I loved how plants were used to frame the animals in each scene, too – it gives a very woodsy feel to the whole book. This would be a nice bedtime read, as it’s very gentle.
Animal Families: Snow by Jane Ormes is a little more upbeat in its style, with bold, quirkily-drawn animals taking centre stage. Each spread gives you the names of a male, female, and baby animal from a snowy region – the baby is hidden behind a shaped flap for you to discover. The final spread has lovely big flaps that reveal the collective nouns for each animal. The flaps are just made of the same thin card as the pages, so this might be one better suited to older toddlers who can be gentle with them; equally, the language and concept will suit a slightly older kid. I will probably put this one away safely to be better appreciated next winter, but I really love it!
And finally, a bit of Christmas cheer with Sing Along With Me: Jingle Bells illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang! This is a sweet version of the well-known song: there are two lines of the chorus on each page and a nice big slider to play with. The art features very cute animals going about their Christmas business, and the whole thing feels very festive. My only complaint is that it’s a little impractical to actually use the book to sing-along, because you’d have to sing it impossibly slowly to keep pace with a kid who wants to look at all the details and slide the sliders! But if you just want to read it aloud, then that would work very well.
But Asha, I hear you say… didn’t you already review A Marvellous Light a while back? Yes, indeed I did – but I couldn’t resist another opportunity to shout about this fantastic book. As we’ve been coming to the end of the year, I’ve been reflecting on my favourite books I’ve read and although I normally can’t bring myself to narrow it down further than my top 20 reads, I think this is absolutely going to be in the top 5, if not the actual top spot.
Here’s the blurb:
Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.
Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.
Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.
Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.
For more detail, you should check out my existing review: key lines include “Ugh, I just loved everything about this book”, and I toss around adjectives like “masterful” and “delightful” like confetti. It got ten out of five cats, for goodness’ sake!
And if you’ve already read this fantastic book – come and yell with me about the best bits!
With Christmas looming, I thought it was a good time to show you some beautiful, large-format books that would make great gifts, if you’re still in need of last-minute ideas! All of these books were sent to me free of charge, but as always, my opinions are my own – and I recommend all three!