My favourite reads of 2021

My favourite reads of 2021

I thought this had been a poor year for reading, as I spent the majority of it reading academic papers for my Masters degree. Perhaps I did a lot of catching up once the dissertation was handed in, because my total for the year is 47!

I did read a lot of fiction this year – including 10 murder mysteries! I’m working my way through Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn mysteries, and read six of those, alongside the three Inspector Grant novels by Josephine Tey that I hadn’t previously read and a ‘Campion’ by Margery Allingham. I listened to 10 audiobooks (and in several cases then read parts of the books, too!), and finally, at least 15 years after I started it, finished Anna Karenina. (It was good, and once you accept the fact that Anna isn’t in it as much as the title would suggest, has lots of interesting thoughts about agriculture, community, workers and bosses etc, but I didn’t love it as much as some of my friends do!)

Here are a few of the highlights:

In Search of Julian of Norwich, by Sheila Upjohn
An excellent readable, witty, scholarly introduction to the 14thC mystic that we found in a second hand bookshop. (And short enough to read in an evening!)

A Vicarage Family, by Noel Streatfeild
Streatfeild is the author of the ‘Shoe’ books – Ballet Shoes, Skating Shoes etc – and this is the autobiography of her childhood. It’s a delightful read, and has the added draw for me of being set partly in Eastbourne, where my best friend lives, so I could picture some of the landmarks she mentions.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, by Carl Trueman
A very helpful look at how we came to be where we are with regards to our sense of self (expressive individualism) – where my story and how I experience my life carry more weight than objective truth. I was hoping to write my dissertation on some of these themes, but it became too complex for the space available.

Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
A brilliant, witty, very clever novel about people trapped in a hostage situation at a house viewing. I listened to it again immediately after I’d finished. Very good.

Those were my 5* reads. A few more honourable mentions are:

1 Corinthians for You, by Andrew Wilson
The Good Book Company has a series of these ‘God’s Word For You‘ books, which they describe as ‘expository Bible study guides’ – less academic than a commentary, but still pretty thorough. This was the first in the series I had read, and it was interesting and helpful.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
A lovely novel about faith, hope, simplicity and love renewed.

Dare to Be, by Charlotte Gambill & Natalie Grant
This is much better than its title suggests – I was expecting a ‘You go girl!’ kind of ‘inspirational’ book, teaching that you can be whatever you want. In fact it is a very helpful guide to following God when he leads you into a new adventure.

Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
An intriguing premise with lots of good thinking about the status of robotic ‘artificial friends’ in our near future. Not as brilliant as Never Let Me Go, by the same author, but thought-provoking.

The Man who Died Twice, by Richard Osman
Much better than The Thursday Murder Club, not least because the ending made sense and was very satisfying. You need to read the first one first, though, as he doesn’t reintroduce the characters or explain the setting, so you won’t have a clue what’s going on for much of it!


All in all, it’s been quite a good year of reading (you can find the full list here). Not much of any great depth, but that’s because any spare brain power was going on my studies. I did read Dane Ortland’s Gentle and Lowly, which everyone was raving about earlier in the year, but didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. It was all true, but I’m surprised – and rather concerned – that so many people, including many church leaders, found it so revolutionary to learn that Jesus loves us, and is kind to us. If you don’t already believe that, though, do give it a read!

What have you read this year? Any highlights? And any recommendations for 2022? I’m hoping to read more about what pastoral care ministry looks like for ‘undershepherds’ (such as small group leaders or women’s ministry leaders in the church). And I’m going to be studying Hebrews, with a study guide from the same series as the 1 Corinthians one, above, and at a conference – it will be fun to dig into one book in some depth.

1 Comment On This Topic
  1. Tosh
    on Jan 4th at 1:40 pm

    Hi Jenny, hope this finds you well. Thanks for the reading suggestions. I have been going through the Campion books (now up to no 15) and really like them. Can I recommend a wee Japanese detective story that I really enjoyed:

    The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo.


    Raven: First Blood

    by a friend of mine Ross Tiffin, the first of a trilogy which has expanded a bit during the lockdowns.

    A Scandinavian novel I particularly enjoyed

    Geiger by Gustaf Skordeman.

    Finally can also recommend these three books by Eugene H Peterson:

    Woking the Angles,
    Under the Unpredictable Plant,
    Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work

    giving his perspectives on pastoral calling, work and integrity

    Happy reading



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