Between school, the gym, and work, finding time for your hobbies and small pleasures can be hard. At the start of the year, I set out an intention to get back into reading for fun- beyond the mandatory academic readings I had to do for my classes. Throughout 2021 I managed to read a whopping 22 books for myself. That number doesn’t include any books I’ve had to pick up for school, otherwise, I’d be in the 50s by now. Ah, the life of an English major.
So, I wanted to share my personal top 5 books I’ve read this year. These include all different genres from middle grade to adult. This is not an in-depth review or summary, but just some personal thoughts on them. In no particular order, here are my top reads of 2021.
1. Normal people by Sally Rooney
Normal People will tear you apart. It’s contemporary, romantic-yet-tragic and psychologically sharp. Rooney’s characters are extremely flawed, sometimes leaving you frustrated. There were times I wanted to scream at the characters, whereas other times my heart just broke for them. It’s not necessarily for everyone though, as the writing style is quite different- the author doesn’t include quotation marks when people speak, which can get confusing at first.
2. The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan
One of my all-time favourite middle-grade book series. The way Rick Riordan distinguishes each character perfectly, giving them thematic motivations and their own sense of self, is very refreshing. You’ll just want to keep on reading; it’s almost addictive. I got very attached to these characters. The series is gripping and funny and sad and genuinely good. There’s actual character growth throughout, alongside Riordan’s exciting take on Greek mythology and action.
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I got this novel recommended to me by my roommate who happens to be a Pride and Prejudice diehard fan. I thought to myself, surely it can’t be anything too great, right? Wrong. Elizabeth (aka “Lizzie”) is an absolute badass in her comebacks and remarks. She’s a strong female main character and found myself enjoying her quite a bit. Interestingly enough, the romance isn’t actually the ultimate plot for a majority of the book. You get proposals, scandals, shame, travel etc., so the romantic moments that you do read between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are treasured and looked forward to. Overall, this book had me hooked and wanting more.
4. Circe by Madeline Miller
I picked this book up as a way to get into Miller’s writing before taking on the Song of Achilles. It was terrific. It has Greek mythology, complex heroines, and a lot of adventure, bloodshed, betrayal, magic, and monsters. It is a beautiful piece of literary fiction. Miller tells the story of Circe in such a way you get enveloped in this story. She writes Greek mythology as if the reader has no prior information on the subject, but doesn’t just straight up give you exposition or a block of text for history or background. Can you tell I love Greek mythology yet?
5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Wow, just wow. The prose, the main character, the plot? Immaculate. This book is heavy, I’ll give you that. Don’t read it when all you want is a light, fluffy read. I laughed and cried so much while reading this book. The linguistic motif of light was woven beautifully throughout the text, intermingling with sight and sensation. I first picked this book up in 2017, but it was always just sitting on my shelf until this year. I was scrolling through Goodreads when I saw reviews on it and decided, eh why not. And I’m glad I did.
And there you have it, the top 5 books of some random English major! I’d recommend you give any one of these a try. Let’s see if I can get to 35 personal reads next year before I’m inevitably swamped with academic texts.