Best of..., book round-ups

Recommendsday: Best New Books of 2021

Yes, we’re not quite at the end of the year yet, but we’re close enough that I’m feeling fairly safe in posting this. Of course now I’ve written that, I’ll undoubtedly read something new and amazing in the last three days of the year to upset the apple cart. But hey, wouldn’t that be a delightful surprise. Anyway, these are my picks for the best new books that I read this year – they’ve all been Book of the Week Picks – so there’s plenty more detail about all of them in those posts if you click the links.

Non Fiction: Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

Cover of Empire of Pain

This was actually quite a tough decision because I’ve read a lot of really good non-fiction books this year. Empire of Pain was a Book of the Week back in July, and it has really stuck with me. In fact, I originally borrowed it from the library, but I ended up buying it on Kindle as well so that the other people who share my Kindle account could read it too. THis is the story of the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma – the company that invented OxyContin. I think it will be of interest to people who know very little about the US opioid epidemic as well as those who know a bit more to start with. It will probably make you quite cross though to say the least. If you want something that will make you less rage filled at lives lost or ruined, try one The Cult of We, about We Work, although the enormous amounts of money being thrown at so called unicorn-startups may also induce rage.

Mystery: Dial A for Aunties by Jessie Q Subanto*

Cover of Dial A for Aunties

I’ve read a lot of mysteries this year, but not many of them were newly published. But Dial A for Aunties was a real treat – a farcical comedy murder mystery with a wedding setting to counteract the dark undertones of the premise of the heroine accidentally killing her blind date. I liked the inter-auntie bickering as well as the romantic subplot. The sequel – featuring Meddy’s wedding is due out in 2022 and I’m already looking forward to reading it.

Romance: Battle Royal by Lucy Parker

Cover of Battle Royal

This is another fabulous enemies to lovers romance from Lucy Parker to start her new series. It’s got a grumpy stuffy hero with a glittery, sunshine heroine. Both have darkness and sadness in their pasts (more details on that in the BotW post), but they work out that they are perfect for each other without any stupid misunderstandings or problems that can be solved with a conversation. Also you have to love a romance set on a baking show – see also Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake.

Other Fiction: The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Cover of The Guncle

Depressed and drifting since his big TV role ended, lapsed actor Patrick thinks that having to look after his niece and nephew for the summer is the worst idea ever. They’ve lost their mum, he’s lost his sister and having them around isn’t going to help him deal with it all. Except that it does. It’s also funny and snarky and camp. And the kids don’t fall into the super-irritating trap that so many book children do. Just a delight -even if it might give you the sniffles It’s still a nightmare to get hold of in the UK though – but since I wrote about it in July, it’s got onto NPR’s best books of the year list (as well as the Goodread awards list), so hopefully that situation will improve in 2022.

Bonus pick: Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light by Helen Ellis

Copy of Bring Your Baggage and Don't pack light

I didn’t quite know where to put this, because I haven’t read a lot of essay collections this year – and I haven’t read a lot of memoirs either, but i couldn’t do a best books post of this year without mentioning it. Helen Ellis’s latest essay collection is full of hilarious characters and incidents and makes you want to be in her friendship group – as long as she’s not going to write about you of course. I had this preordered ahead of it’s release – and it was BotW here the week it came out because I read it straightaway. It’s easier to get hold of than The Guncle, but it is a bit pricey as it’s still only in hardback here. It’s worth it though.

Here’s to plenty of new books to talk about in 2022!

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