The best books I read in 2021

As a child, I always had my nose buried in a book. My mind flew to far-off lands, I surrounded myself with stories of wizards and witches, of animals that could talk, and as I grew up, of the adventures of The Secret Seven and Famous Five. No matter where I would go, I would always have a book in my bag; ready and waiting to be pulled out at any opportunity, whether it was a 30 second wait for the light to turn green so I could cross the road, or for a longer period sat in the back of the car on our way to a family dinner.

I loved reading. I loved the escape that it offered. I loved the way it filled me with inspiration. I loved that I could turn the final page of a book and feel like I truly knew the characters I had just spent the past few hours with.

I loved it so much that I went to university to study English Literature, where I discovered an array of authors both modern and classical.

But after graduating I found myself both burned out and strapped for time. Long gone were the weeks when I only had four hours of contact time that required me to be in university, instead I found myself thrust straight into a 9-5 that I somehow had to fit caring for Beano in around too. I was left with little motivation or time to read and it stayed that way for a few years. I am glad to say that my love for reading has slowly crept back into my life, one incredible book at a time, and last year I read more than I have read since I was a student. 

A round up of the books I read in 2021:

The top five fiction books I read in 2021

I read a good number of amazing books in 2021, but there were five fiction books that stood out amongst them all. 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner

I kicked off my year with The Kite Runner, and it really set the bar for the rest of the books I had lined up to read in the coming months. Powerful and emotional, it was like nothing I had ever read before and I quickly fell in love with Khaled Hosseini’s raw and poetic style of writing. 

Read my full review of The Kite Runner

From the blurb: Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.


And the Mountains Echoed

Having become a big fan of Hosseini’s writing after reading The Kite Runner, I was so happy to find another of his books on a visit to a local charity shop. And The Mountains Echoed actually topped The Kite Runner for me, something that I didn’t feel was going to be possible. It follows the heartbreaking story of brother and sister Abdullah and Pari. Exploring love in its many forms, at times it felt as though it had torn my heart into a million pieces. 

From the blurb: Ten-year-old Abdullah would do anything for his younger sister. In a life of poverty and struggle, with no mother to care for them, Pari is the only person who brings Abdullah happiness. For her, he will trade his only pair of shoes to give her a feather for her treasured collection. When their father sets off with Pari across the desert to Kabul in search of work, Abdullah is determined not to be separated from her. Neither brother nor sister know what this fateful journey will bring them.

When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman on a windowsill

When God was a Rabbit

I really love books that are written almost poetically and Sarah Winman’s writing style definitely fits into that style. Written beautifully, When God was a Rabbit is definitely character driven, rather than plot driven, but that’s my favourite type of story so I knew I was going to love it the second I started reading it. 

From the blurb: This is a story about a brother and a sister. It's a story about childhood and growing up, friendships and families, triumph and tragedy, and everything in between. More than anything, it's a story about love in all its forms.

Fifty Fifty

This is a book that I had seen all over social media, so I was glad to be able to pick up a second hand copy. Fifty Fifty was the perfect thriller, with twists and turns the entire way through, to the point that by the time I’d reached the final pages I still had no clue how it was going to end. 

From the blurb: '911 what's your emergency?'

'My dad's dead. My sister Sofia killed him. She's still in the house. Please send help.'

'My dad's dead. My sister Alexandra killed him. She's still in the house. Please send help.'

One of them is a liar and a killer. But which one?


Last year a friend bought me a surprise book box for my birthday and this was one of the books in it. Having never heard of it, or the author, before I had no idea what to expect but just a few chapters in, I was hooked. I read the book in just two sittings, turning the pages quickly and tripping over the words in my head as I tried to quickly find out what was going to happen next. With a twist that I definitely did not see coming, it quickly became a thriller that I would happily recommend to anyone. 

Close up of a book and a candle

Here are the top three non-fiction books I read in 2021:

I'm a proud lover of non-fiction books. I never used to be. I used to read to find myself in a far-off world, not to face the one I was in but as each year has passed that has changed and I now often rotate between reading fiction and non-fiction. From autobiographies, to memoirs and self-help books, I love to dip in and out of a nonfiction book now. 

Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits is probably one of those self-help books that you’ve seen all over Instagram, but there’s good reason for it. Easily one of the most useful, and easily applied, self help books I’ve ever picked up. Before I had finished it, I was already applying some of the practical tips in my own life and I know it’s a book I will go back to time and time again.

Everything is Figureoutable

Another self help book that I actually found relatively easy to begin implementing straight away was Marie Forleo’s Everything is Figureoutable. Even the title of the book has become a saying that I remind myself of whenever I find myself faced with a situation that I initially find myself feeling overwhelmed by. 

A New York number one bestseller, the book covers what is really at the heart of it, a simple idea but I think that is also the beauty of it. It doesn’t overcomplicate anything, but it leaves you with actionable steps to take in your own life.

The Salt Path

A beautiful memoir written by Raynor Winn, The Salt Path reads like prose and at times it is easy to forget that you’re reading about experiences that the author has truly been through. Harrowing but inspiring, it’s incredible to see just how much Raynor and her husband have overcome. After being left feeling very inspired about their tale of human strength, I’m excited to get my hands on her second book so that I can continue to follow her and her husband's journey. 

The top fiction and nonfiction books I read in 2021
The best books I read in 2021

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I'm Shannon. Welcome to Tales from the Country, a countryside lifestyle blog for those who dream of escaping the hustle and bustle of life and about embracing all that comes from living in the British countryside.

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