This post is a little bit late, but I still want to share with you the books I read in summer of 2021. I split the year into quarters, and the summer quarter was books read from late June through September. I’ve got seven books to share with you in this post. Some of the books were fabulous and others really weren’t worth reading. I didn’t read as much as I wanted to this summer, as my time was taken up with gardening and dog walks. Also, work has been very busy as we attempt to have a “normal” academic year at Oxford. I’m looking forward to some cosy and spooky stories for autumn. For now, let’s jump right in to the books I read this summer!
For other books I read in 2021 see:
The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex
This was the last book we read in book club before taking a summer break. I was really looking forward to the story, which is about the mysterious disappearance of lighthouse keepers in Cornwall. Unfortunately, it was a disappointing read. What I liked about this book is the descriptive writing about life as a lighthouse keeper. The detail of the day-to-day activities was immersive. I got a sense of the repetition and solitude people (men) faced in that career.
However, the book tried to tackle too many themes. It was divided into sections from the perspective of each character, the lighthouse keepers, and their wives/girlfriends. I found it confusing to keep track of who was with whom. This story was more so about how the women were trying to come to terms with the disappearance/death of their loved ones. The Lamplighters was told partly from the perspective of the women having a conversation with an author who wished to write about the mystery. The problem is that it’s written as a one-sided conversation, and this was confusing and irritating to read. Overall, this book had lots of potential but didn’t deliver. 3/5 stars
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
This was a quick read, but a useful one for people interested in mental health, either for themselves or supporting others. I can’t say that Matt’s mental health difficulties mirrored my own. However, that is his point – mental health affects everyone differently. I don’t really want to give this book a star rating, but I will say it’s worth reading.
Circe by Madeline Miller
This book is a contender for my favourite book of 2021! It was such an adventure to read – entertaining, funny, emotive, and well-written. This is a Greek myth re-telling about Circe, who is ostracized by her family (Titans) partly because she possesses herbal witchcraft knowledge. It’s filled with famous figures from Greek mythology, including the Minotaur and Odysseus, as well as strong themes of love, loyalty, and belonging throughout. I 100% recommend Circe and gave it 4.5/5 stars!
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
Lucy and I started our own summer book club, and this was the book I picked for us to read. If I tell you that I struggled to finish it, and Lucy DNF’d the book after trying to both read and listen to it, that should give you an indication of how underwhelming The Confessions of Frannie Langton is. The writing was confusing, the pace of the book dragged, and I didn’t connect with the characters.
Set in the Georgian period, this book follows Frannie, an enslaved women on a Jamaican plantation, who travels to London and becomes a maid and her mistress’s lover. When her mistress is found dead, covered in blood, Frannie is accused of her murder. The book is told as Frannie’s recounting or confessions from her prison cell. It’s such a good idea for a book, but was not well-executed. For historical lesbian romance, I recommend you try Sarah Waters, rather than this book.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
Out is another book that is a contender for my favourite book of 2021! I absolutely loved this thriller, which is set in Tokyo, and is about a group of women who work a night shift at a factory and end up involved in a murder. It was filled with betrayal, greed, and crime, and I loved the characters. Although a bit dated/ traditional in its portrayal of women, I adore Kirino’s writing and she is known as a quintessential crime author in Japan for a reason! If you like Dexter, and Breaking Bad, you’ll probably like this book. 5/5 stars
Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent by Andrew Nikiforuk
This non-fiction work about the Canadian tar sands in Alberta is dated at over a decade old, but it’s message is still relevant. I already know about the environmental devastation the tar sands have on Canada’s natural environment. What I learned from this book is the social and economical consequences of these bitumen-extraction mega projects. The poverty, health consequences, road traffic accidents, tax dodging, and all-round shitty economical deal for Albertans really comes to light from this book. I’d like to do a bit more research to see what the current plans and policies are for the tar sands, given the climate crisis and forthcoming COP26. This book, though dated, is certainly worth reading and was very accessible to a non-expert.
Wanderland by Jini Reddy
I borrowed this e-book from the library because it was described as being similar to Underland by Robert Macfarlane (one of my favourite books). Wanderland is about finding the magic in nature in British landscape. I thought magic meant the beauty or awesome ingenuity of the natural environment. No. This book is literally about magic as in spirituality, crystals, and chakras. Reddy acknowledges that her book and its themes aren’t for everyone, and even describes herself as a woowoo hippy.
As a Brit with an ethnic minority background, who spent her childhood in Canada, Reddy uses a central theme of “otherness”. I can’t comment on what Reddy feels, but I found this theme to be forced into the writing. This book came off as self-indulgent and bragging. I got a sense that it was an entitled Londoner who tried to place herself into various landscapes across the UK, but then complained about how she felt out-of-place. I did like some of her writing about the various places she visited, such as the chapter on St Michael’s Mount, and the way she described some of the natural beauty. This book wasn’t for me. It struck me as a book marketed for urban dwellers who enjoy weekend spiritual breaks in the countryside, but who are perhaps dismissive of the people who live in those places, and their connection with the landscape. 2/5 stars
I mentioned that I was looking forward to reading this book in: Ten Books I Plan to Read in 2021
All in all, it was a good summer for reading since the great books balanced out the not-so-great reads. I’m looking forward to getting back to book club, and curling up with some good books this autumn! What was your favourite book this summer?