2021 | Bookish Highlights

I couldn’t let 2021 end without highlighting my bookish endeavors from the year, but it was a struggle to figure out how I wanted to present this post. In years past, I would share data: the number of books I read, a breakdown of their publication years, how many books featured diversity, etc. But I’ve stopped tracking all of that – even the total number of books for the year. And yes, Goodreads gave me that little stat at the end of 2021 and I was astonished by all that I’d accomplished; it was – by far – my best reading year ever. But I’m trying something different here today. Instead of focusing on quantity, I’d really like to focus on what I loved. If you’d like to see everything I read in 2021, here’s my Goodreads shelf for the year.

So the first part of this post will be about authors who were new to me in 2021 or that I rediscovered after seeing the world through a new lens. I’ll move on to the two books that made the largest impact on my Stillness journey in 2021, then a smattering of books that I really enjoyed, and will close with the books that I reread almost yearly to welcome the seasons. I’m trying to keep it simple; there are a lot of pictures and very few words. I’ve done my best to make sure all of the books are clickable and the links should take you to their Amazon page for more information about them. These are all affiliate links, so if you decide to buy a book then I’ll get a small profit from the sale at no extra cost to you.

DISCOVERED AUTHORS

Ruth Ozeki is a Zen Buddhist Priest and novelist and has become my favorite author this year after reading these two books. They both play with Buddhist ideas in ways that are fresh and interesting. These were my two favorite books of the year.

I hadn’t reading anything by Anthony Horowitz before 2021 but was completely hooked on this series. Clever, fun, and wonderfully British!

May Sarton’s journals were new to me this year. I was drawn to Journal of a Solitude simply because of the title and then just kept reading. I went into her journals not knowing that she lived in New Hampshire (where I live) and was such a nature and flower enthusiast. So much fun!

I dabbled with Mary Oliver last year, too. Can you believe that I’d never read any of her work previously? In fact, 2021 was the first year that I really tried to read poetry in earnest. I’d like to do the same in 2022. I’m in the middle of a Mary Oliver collection right now and have a winter one waiting in the wings. Her laid back earnestness is inspiring to me. I’d welcome suggestions for similar poets to sink into in 2022.

I became a Claire Fuller completist in 2021! I read three of her books last year and the fourth (Bitter Orange) in 2020. She is absolutely a must read author for me. Her stories are full of strange characters, a certain discomfort, and endings that must be discussed.

This Richard Osman series was a delightful find! An eccentric group of people in a retirement community start a Murder Club in which they discuss cold cases. Before you know it, they’re investigating actual active cases that have hit close to home! It is laugh out loud funny in the most unexpected places yet thoughtful about some big questions in life. When I grabbed the links for these books I discovered that a third novel is due to be released in September 2022 – that one is definitely going on my TBR!

I reread The Little House Series last year. I technically read Little House in the Big Woods in late 2020, but included it here anyway. I read several of these books as a child but it was an entirely new experience reading them as an adult. What a terrifying time to have children! My favorite books in the series were Farmer Boy and These Happy Golden Years – both of which were new to me!

I recommend listening to these books on audio as an adult. They’re written for children and it was a more pleasant experience to have someone read them aloud rather than with my eyes. I found myself very annoyed with the writing and story when I read from the pages but was perfectly content to have Cherry Jones perform in my earbuds!

These were the two most profound books that helped me along my Stillness journey last year. I still think of that snail munching its way around the plant and all of the wisdom the author gained from it. And The Miracle of Mindfulness is a must read for anyone interested in building a solid meditation practice.

BOOKS I SIMPLY ENJOYED

What a strange little group! I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed O Pioneers!. I’m always nervous about the “classics” and worry that I won’t be able to sink into the writing and will have a difficult time deciphering the author’s meaning. That absolutely hasn’t been the case with anything I’ve read by Willa Cather.

I can’t believe that I left The Murmur of Bees unread for so long – it was a beautiful story set in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution and the 1918 Spanish Flu. When writing this post, I was reminded that Sofia Segovia published another book last year that I must prioritize in 2022.

The other four books in this section were 2021 releases that I found profoundly touching. And now that I’m looking at them, I’m realizing they were written by a diverse group of authors and all taught me about the lives of people with experiences different from my own. I’m seeking more books like these in 2022.

SEASONAL REREADING

These are the books that I turn to time and again. As soon as the weather turns spring-like, I pick up The Hobbit. Visiting The Shire is the best way I know to welcome green grass, the warm sun, and hours spent barefoot in the garden.

I’ve read Thornyhold at least 5 times. I spend the summer waiting for September, which is when I settle in with this one and a warm cup of tea on the first cool nights of the year. Slightly witchy and full of plants and animals, it always gets me in the mood to tidy up my home and yard for the coming fall and winter. It’s like catching up with an old friend.

And Guernsey? I actually read this one twice in 2021! This is the book I turn to when I fall into any sort of reading rut. The characters’ love of reading and bookish discussion instantly reminds me why books are so powerful. And all of the letter writing? And flowers? The coziness knows no end, my friends. The movie on Netflix is a beautiful portrayal of this story and for the last several years I’ve watched it on Christmas Day after tucking the littles into bed. Perfection.


This was a lot – yikes! I have so many thoughts about how I want to focus my reading in 2022. I started thinking about this in November but would like to pull together something more formal for the new year.

But what do you think about my list? Have you read any of the books I shared? Do you have any recommendations for me in 2022? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

23 thoughts on “2021 | Bookish Highlights

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  1. Oh my, Katie, you prompted a small shopping spree! So many wonderful books out there to be reading. I’ve just now started Walking with Ghosts — Gabriel Byrne’s memoir about growing up in Dublin. So far am loving it and thinking about doing some better/more meaningful tracking of my reading this year. Your posts are inspiring, always!

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  2. I haven’t looked through your full list of books read in 2021, but even in the first few pages I see a lot of books that I also have read, which really doesn’t surprise me! I was looking for a new audiobook today, and the book I was planning to borrow suddenly had a wait, so thanks to your recommendation, I borrowed Magpie Murders.

    I definitely want to read more poetry this year, and Mary Oliver is high on my list. I also want to be a Louise Erdrich completist (though I doubt that will happen this year) and read more Indigenous authors as well.

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  3. Great list of books Katie and many of these books I’ve read. I love all of Willa Cather’s book, My Antonia is my favorite followed by O’Pioneers. I have the Guernsey book and want to read it this year and you never can go wrong with Mary Stewart, love her books!

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  4. Wow! I am really interested in all of these, your reading last year sounds really diverse and exciting! It’s great that you were able to move away from tracking details if that wasn’t working for you and focus just on what brings you joy about the books.

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  5. Some Good books. Lovely to see you reading Mary Stewart, have you tried Anya Seton? Think you might like her. I have still to read the second Richard Osman. I was convinced I’d be gifted it at Christmas but I wasn’t. Apparently he enables his own Mum to live in such a home and it became his inspiration for the books. I read O Pioneer this year too and really enjoyed it. Look forward to what you read this year.

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  6. I need to come back when I have more time and jot down some of the titles you have in this post. The May Sarton books sound wonderful! And thank you for sharing the books on mindfulness. I shared an instagram post awhile back about some of the mindfulness and meditation books that have helped me but I really should do a blog post for it too. I may do that soon. I am eager to read the Thich Nhat Hahn you mentioned as it’s not one I’ve read. The other book sounds good too and I would like to read it as well.

    I haven’t read Ishiguro’s book Klara and the Sun but I have read The Remains of the Day and Never Let You Go. I just started An Artist of the Floating World last night and am enjoying it so far.

    I LOVE The Hobbit and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The Guernsey book is also a go-to for me for comfort reading. I’ve read it 4 times now. I re-read The Hobbit in 2021 and am getting ready to start re-reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in the next couple of weeks. I love the whole series!

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  7. What an excellent and diverse selection of books! The only one I’ve read is Our Endless Numbered Days but a few of the others are on my ‘want to read’ list and the majority of the others will be going on it. You have solved the problem of my next audiobook: it’s going to be The Thursday Murder Club. Thank you for sharing this overview.

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  8. Really enjoyed your review of your 2021 reading. A nice way to look at things and I’ve made note of some books I really want to read now – thanks!

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  9. I love the spin on year-end summing up you’ve done. Great job!

    One poet I might compare to Mary Oliver is Ross Gay – specifically his book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. I don’t know if I’ve recommend that to you before but I’m pretty sure you’d like it.

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  10. I’ve been looking for more authors with a Buddhist flavor so I’m so glad I found your recommendation here for Ruth Ozeki! Gonna check out these two now. May Sarton has been coming onto my radar in several places now, so I need to check out her writings too. I love that Stillness was your One Little Word in 2021. My Word for 2022 is Release. Your books really appeal to me. I’ll also try to find The Miracle of Mindfulness because I love Thich Nhat Hanh.

    Thanks for the recommendations! Visiting from Modern Mrs Darcy.

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  11. You reminded me that I still have Claire Fuller’s Swimming Lessons on my shelf from way back when I picked it as my Book of the Month selection! I think it’s about time I read it… I really enjoyed The Murmur of Bees. Some of the other books you mentioned are already on my TBR to be read soon, especially The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois.

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  12. Great list! I have enjoyed Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing from time to time, but it works better for me in small doses than a whole book–wise statements begin to seem less wise every time they’re repeated/restated, and I just get annoyed.

    I love the earlier books of the Little House series but haven’t read the last three as an adult; I remember them being not as interesting. A lot of 21st-century parents think of this series as an example of outdated, racist books from which children should be protected, but here’s how I’ve used them with my children.

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  13. Lovely variety of books! I also stopped keeping track of my books by the end of the year, but I did recreate my stats with the help of my Kindle. I’ve been thinking of reading the Richard Osman mysteries – I know of him through his role on the UK quiz game Pointless. And you have reminded me that I need to put more poetry on my reading list!

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  14. I just found this blog and I already love it! I have had The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating on my Kindle for quite a while and intend to move it up on my TBR. I am currently reading Magpie Murders and loving it. I also want to read The Hobbit this year. So glad I found your blog,

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