Best reads of the year

This year I read 41 books, with 19 of those being audio books, although this number doesn’t include read alouds to the kids. Seriously, my reading life would be so much less exciting without audiobooks! Here are my favorites of the year:

Best fiction reads:

  • “The Dutch House” by Anne Patchett
    • I listened to this on audio back in February, narrated by Tom Hanks, and he did a fantastic job. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed this one quite so much if I’d read it myself. This modern day fairy tale has characters that are still stuck in my mind, and even as I type this I can so easily revisit the mood and atmosphere created. I loved how much the house itself featured as a character as much as a place in this novel. This was my first Anne Patchett novel, and I loved it so much that I also read “State of Wonder” and “Commonwealth” this year.
  • “Once Upon a River” by Diane Setterfield
    • I purchased this one purely based on the beauty of it’s cover, but it delivered. The mystery drew me in, the characters kept me going, and similar to “The Dutch House”, this also featured a strong sense of place. The river itself, The Thames, features so heavily in this book its almost like a character itself. This was such a great literary page-turner, that I also sought out and read Setterfield’s “The Thirteenth Tale”, and loved just as much. What joy to discover two new-to-me authors to read this year!
  • “Hannah Coulter” by Wendell Berry
    • I love a book with a strong sense of place, and Hannah Coulter delivers this just like my previous two favorites. In fact, I loved this one so much I’m pretty sure its earned a place as one of my all-time-favorites. I loved Hannah and Nathan so much, how real their relationship was, and how much they loved and cared for their farm. What made this book so good in my eyes is that it showed how beautiful the every day is, how noteworthy the common life. I also really loved the way

Best Non-Fiction reads:

  • “Call the Midwife” by Jennifer Worth
    • I listened to all of these at the beginning of Covid, right when the world first shut down. They were just the escape I needed, and as much as its possible to binge an audiobook, I binge-listened to these. I love the BBC show, and of course the books are better. I loved hearing the stories of the real nurses, their patients, the births and deaths.
  • “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah
    • This was another audiobook, and was narrated by Trevor Noah himself. Trevor grew up in South Africa, born to a white father and black mother, during a time with inter-racial relations where illegal. It was so much funnier than I thought it would be, but his childhood and youth were absolutely fascinating.
  • “I am, I am I am” by Maggie O’Farrell
    • I’ve read a few of O’Farrells other books (“The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox” and “This Must be the Place”) and both were very memorable. I thought I’d listen to this one as I waited for her newest book to come in at the library, and I’m so glad I did. The premise is intriguing: in this memoir O’Farrel takes us through her several brushes with death throughout her life, by essay. She touches on both light and heavy topics through her experiences. I love the memoir-through-essay genre, and this one is probably one of the best.

Best Read Alouds:

I can’t remember how many read alouds I did with the kids because I can’t find my list of books from the first 6 months of the year. Oops! Read alouds featured heavily in our year, partly because other things we would do weren’t an option, and partly because finally Wyatt has the attention span for the type of books that both boys can enjoy listening to as much as I enjoy reading them. Here are our favorites:

  • “Matilda” by Roald Dahl
    • I picked this one out because one of the boy’s cousins was going to be in the play this year, and I thought it would be fun to read the book and then go see the play together. Well, Covid cancelled those plans. But the boys, and especially Porter, found this one absolutely delightful. So many giggles over the Trunchbull and Matilda’s parents, so much delight over Matilda’s powers. Even though we didn’t get to see the play, we did watch the movie, and they loved watching the characters come to life. Roald Dahl books are always a hit over here.
  • “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum
    • I had never read this before and had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised at how much the kids loved this one. They were delighted by the characters and the quest they went on. Especially Wyatt. He would bring up the story randomly throughout the day so I know he was thinking about it. We watched the movie when we finished, and then discussed the differences. Porter said he liked the movie better because “the characters were exactly how I imagined them!”, but Wyatt said he preferred the book because there were details in the book that weren’t in the movie.
  • “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by CS Lewis
    • I’ve been waiting for the right time to introduce my kids to Narnia, and happily that time was this year. Of course we all loved this classic. But what made it even better (and was totally unplanned) is that we were reading this book right before Easter. We read about Aslan’s sacrifice on Good Friday, right after we read and Christ’s crucifixion. It was so powerful. I may have… sobbed. I think we might read this one every year, but next year I’m playing an audiobook instead!
  • The Growly books, by Erin and Philip Ulrich
    • I picked these books out of a list from Read Aloud Revival, but I’ve never heard anyone else talk about them and its such a shame because these have probably been one of the best read alouds we’ve done to date. The story is adventurous enough to keep the kids asking for just one more chapter, but gentle enough that you won’t have to worry about sensitive kids. The characters are memorable and lovable, and the places- the Precipice, the Wave Crasher, Aventhistle perfectly capture little imaginations. From the website: “For centuries the bears of Haven have lived quiet lives, high in the mountains at the edge of the great Precipice. That all changes for a young cub named Growly when he receives a mysterious message. With just his backpack and glider, Growly sets out on a desperate journey to find his grandfather’s long lost friend … and to find a way back home.” I seriously cannot recommend these books highly enough.

And now, I’d love to know: what were some of your favourite reads of the year?

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