First blog post of 2022!! I thought what better way to start than with a little recap post from last year. A goal of mine for 2021 was to read more and to read outside of my usual genres, and I think I accomplished that goal, so I wanted to share all the things I read (and re-read) last year. I hope you can make use of this list by either reading a new point of view on your favorite book or finding a brand new favorite to try out this year 🙂
These books are in the order that I read them, and I also included some stats about each book just to get an idea of the expanse of my reading this year. Let’s get into it!
The Secret History– Donna Tartt
Finished: January 9
Genre: literary fiction, gothic, modern classic, mystery
Goodreads Synopsis: Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last—inexorably— into evil.
My Take: This book is for sure on my favorites list. The imagery and aesthetics are so vivid (Donna Tartt’s writing is just *chef’s kiss*). The plot is so intriguing and keeps you guessing until everything is finally unraveled. I had such a love/hate relationship with the characters in this book, which really made it all the more interesting. It’s important to pay attention to every minor detail in this book because a lot of them come back to tie into the plot. I went back and revisited this book several times this year to reread and annotate certain parts. It really sticks with you and leaves you with so much to think about. Highly highly recommend to anyone who loves the dark academia aesthetic and mystery/murder/crime novels.
Film For Her– Orion Carloto
Finished: January 10
Goodreads Synopsis: With both pen and camera lens, Orion Carloto captures the dreamlike beauty of memory. Film For Her is a story book of people, places, and memories, captured on film.
My Take: I was always really drawn to this book when I would see it in Barnes & Noble, but since I’m not usually into modern poetry, it took me a long time to actually pick it up. However, I am sooo glad I did. Orion has become one of my biggest writing inspirations, even inspiring me to try out poetry (which was not something I ever attempted to write before). This book is so comfy and personal, like talking to a friend or reading a journal. The film photography accompanies the writing perfectly and makes this book one of my favorite things to turn to when I’m not sure what I want to read. I love love love this book and would love to write something like it one day.
The Catcher In The Rye- J. D. Salinger
Finished: January 31
Genre: classic, coming of age
Google Synopsis: Two days in the life of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield after he has been expelled from prep school. Confused and disillusioned, Holden searches for truth and rails against the “phoniness” of the adult world. He ends up exhausted and emotionally unstable.
My Take: I think this book is really important to read while you’re young. It made me think a lot about the fear of growing up and being an adult and losing what it means to be a kid. In my opinion the main character is really relatable for any young people that suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. There are a lot of themes of escapism and wanting to be anywhere you’re not, which I think are really relatable themes in your youth. I think this book gets a bad rap but I actually really enjoyed it and felt like I took a lot away from it.
Educated- Tara Westover
Finished: February 7
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Google Synopsis: Westover recounts overcoming her survivalist Mormon family in order to go to college, and emphasizes the importance of education in enlarging her world. She details her journey from her isolated life in the mountains of Idaho to completing a PhD program in history at Cambridge University.
My Take: I confess that I’m not usually one for a nonfiction book, but this book was recommended to me so many times (especially after I read and enjoyed The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls) so I gave in and gave it a shot. I surprised myself by really enjoying this book and speeding through it. Educated is such a powerful story and I think there’s something in it for everyone, even people who have lived vastly different lives from Tara. I think this book does a great job confronting the difficult truth that sometimes family is not the best thing for every person. If you’re looking to get into nonfiction, I highly recommend Educated because it does not read like a typical memoir.
If We Were Villains– M. L. Rio
Finished: March 5
Genre: fiction, thriller, mystery
Goodreads Synopsis: On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it. A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at the Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invaded the students’ world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves they are innocent.
My Take: Ugh, this book is SO GOOD. It’s written so well, and the slow decent into madness while you’re reading it is so unique. It has similar vibes to The Secret History, with academics, murder, and the arts all wrapped into one story. I loved everything about this book, including all of the characters and their archetypes and all the literary references. It is definitely one of those “I have to know what happens!” books and ends on such a good cliffhanger! I can see this book being a re-read very very soon.
Girl In Pieces- Kathleen Glasgow
Finished: May 15
Genre: fiction, contemporary, coming of age
Goodreads Synopsis: Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lost in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washed away the sorrow until there is nothing left but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.
My Take: First off, there are definitely some very heavy themes covered in this book, and some pretty graphic imagery. This book is written kind of like a journal, so it feels very personal to read. There’s a lot of pain in the book, but it actually deals with these topics well and offers up a lot of hope too. Not everything is tied up perfectly in the end, which feels more accurate and realistic. Not my favorite read of the year, but I enjoyed it and liked reading something a little outside of my usual.
Wink Poppy Midnight- April Genevieve Tucholke
Finished: May 18
Goodreads Synopsis: Every story needs a hero. Every story needs a villain. Every story needs a secret. Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blonde bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous. What really happened? Someone knows. Someone is lying.
My Take: This book was definitely short and sweet. I sped through it in a single day; the writing is really fast-paced and intriguing. There are lots of good twists and turns and unexpected points. The ending does feel a little unfinished to me, but it didn’t ruin the book for me. Overall I think it was a pretty fun and interesting read!
Circe- Madeline Miller
Finished: June 30
Google Synopsis: Circe is the daughter of Helios, God of the Sun, and Perse, an Oceanid nymph. Despite her divinity, she is less beautiful and lacks the skills of her siblings, so she is largely shunned and ridiculed among the godly. When she falls in love with a mortal who, of course, is fated to age and die, she is desperate enough to experiment with a different and illicit type of power — potions and witchcraft, and with it she discovers her own ability to bend the world to her will.
My Take: Yes I re-read this book already. This book will always hold such a special place in my heart. Madeline Miller is my author hero and I think she writes some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read. Every time I read this book I just fall completely into it, all the details and imagery are so vivid. There are so many important themes covered in this novel, from motherhood to feminism to liberation and beyond. It’s such an incredible retelling and highlights some topics that were never touched on in the original myths. I am now not-so-patiently awaiting Madeline Miller’s Hades & Persephone retelling.
The Girls- Emma Cline
Finished: July 8
Genre: thriller, coming of age, historical fiction
Goodreads Synopsis: Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be-infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, and charged— a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything goes horribly wrong.
My Take: I heard a lot of hype about this book, so I was really excited to check it out. It fell a little short of my expectations, but I don’t think it’s a bad book. If I was more into true crime or that kind of thing, I might have found it a little more interesting, but for me it kind of fell flat. I do think it was a unique take on a coming of age story and I enjoyed the historical and cultural references from the time period. It was inspired by and loosely based on the Manson cult and murders, so if you’re interested in that case I would suggest it as a good fictional read for you.
Daisy Jones & The Six- Taylor Jenkins–Reid
Finished: July 19th
Genre: historical fiction, romance-ish
Google Synopsis: In Daisy Jones & the Six, Daisy Jones is young, beautiful, talented and just beginning her ascent into music stardom when a producer pairs her up with The Six, an up-and-coming blues-rock band. Daisy Jones & the Six tells their story in all its unruly, sex-crazed, drug-fueled glory. Daisy is blessed in every way — looks, money, talent — but is also wild, reckless and filled with hubris. Meanwhile, Billy, the de facto leader of The Six, is capable but controlling and struggling to manage the temptations of the rock and roll lifestyle. When they meet, stars align and legends are born.
My Take: Don’t even get me STARTED on this book. It made me want to rip my heart out and stomp on it, I love it so much. This book is told through interviews with different characters, which is such a unique way of telling the story and totally new to me. TJR’s writing is incredible, and everything feels so real. I genuinely couldn’t get over the fact that it was completely fictional and that I couldn’t go listen to any of Daisy Jones’ songs. If you’re a fan of classic rock and the 60s and 70s, you HAVE to read this book. The story it tells reminds me a lot of the Stevie Nicks/ Lindsey Buckingham dynamic and all the drama of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album. After finishing the book, I had to go listen to “Silver Springs” on repeat. (Bonus: there’s a tv series based on Daisy Jones coming out on Amazon soon and I already know I will be completely obsessed with it and make it my entire personality)
Mary Jane– Jessica Anya Blau
Finished: July 22
Genre: historical fiction, coming of age, humor
Google Synopsis: A fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her straight-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for—who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer.
My Take: This book is just so precious. I never really read feel-good books and this one was so comforting and I just wanted to live in it. It would make an amazing coming of age movie, and I definitely hope to see an adaption in the near future. It contains so many great references to music and pop culture of the time period and I genuinely just loved reading it. If you’re looking for something light and easy to read that’ll make you feel some hope, I highly recommend this one!
Well there we have it, 2021 in the books! I enjoyed looking back on the books I read this past year, and I hope to find some new favorites this year to share with you all. Thanks for reading, and as always, stay tuned!
Stay sweet, Sophia ❤