Top Three Books of 2021 #BookGroup

This will be my first 2021 recap post. I meant to post this last month, but everything got away from me thanks to work and Covid-19.

My book group meets on the second Thursday of every month (except January). Our Christmas meeting does not include a book discussion, but does feature a secret Santa-style book exchange. The idea is to wrap a pre-loved book and to come prepared with a few bookish questions. If you answer the question correctly you can pick a parcel then ask the next question. Given how many books I read each year, my group is a little nervous when I pick their book, but in four years I have not had a reread.

  • Year 1 – The Picture of Dorian Gray | Oscar Wilde
  • Year 2 – a crime book that I cannot remember for the life of me. I gave it to Mr Books to read.
  • Year 3 – Talking to My Country | Stan Grant
  • Year 4 – The Red Haired Woman | Orhan Pamuk

February is a picnic meeting. The rest of the meetings are hosted in our homes. The host gets to select the book the group will read in two months time. A number of books each year are ones I have already read, but the majority are new to me. Most of the time this is a good thing.

Given my working life, if a book is one a really do not want to read, I won’t. Nasty crime and rural crime in particular are not my cup of tea and never will be. The group seems to accept this about me. Five of the ten books read in 2021 were by Australian writers. Eight out of ten were written by women.

Books read by our book group during 2021 included:

This year, for the first time, I asked the group to vote for their top three books of the year.

The clear winners were This is Happiness and Piranesi with six votes each.

Coming in next was A Room Made of Leaves with Honeybee a close fourth. I may have skewed the vote unintentionally, though, by declaring that I wouldn’t vote for The Yield as it had been my favourite read of 2020 instead.

Below I have added a few comments for each of the three most popular books that came in with the voting or from earlier emails.

Piranesi: “some books seem to take on a world of their own – their impact grows the more you reflect on them…Piranesi is such a book…each person’s face seemed to take on a luminous intensity as they spoke about their interaction with Piranesi…an initial hesitation as we grappled with the enigma…that hesitation then gave way to a total immersion in Piranesi’s world….we were all drawn to Piranesi (his kindness, his resourcefulness, his nurturing of the dead, his industrious documentation…)”

This is Happiness: “exuded kindness and compassion for family and strangers alike in a delightful, lyrical way.”

And “Niall Williams has created a beautifully written novel (some saw similarities with Dylan Thomas) with sensitive, poignant and often amusing accounts of Noe and his grandparents, their lives and the lives of the people of Faha. We had all marked favourite sections,  paragraphs and sentences and there were many of them.”

A Room Made of Leaves: “the beautiful writing was captured in vignettes/chapters, so meaningfully expressed in just a few words…the mixture of historical fiction and non-fiction, truths/untruths, fake news and hidden memoirs…the boldness and strength of Elizabeth’s choices”

Our February meeting will be discussing After Story | Larissa Behrendt. I’ve already read this book, but enjoyed it so much, I would like to read it again before Feb. But I’ve said THAT before!

Our March read is by Archie Roach | Tell Me Why. It will be our first non-fiction read for quite some time.

30 thoughts on “Top Three Books of 2021 #BookGroup

  1. All your group’s picks look interesting. I’ve only read 2 so far Circe and Ariadne and Piranesi I mean to get to sometime. I’ll certainly look up This is Happiness as well


  2. I can certainly recommend Tell Me Why (Archie reads the audiobook version). Of 2021’s ten I’ve only read – and not particularly liked -The Yield. I very much admired though your review of Piranesi, so I’ll have to look out for that.


    1. I’ve read the book Deb, & still have no idea what it’s about😁 that is part of its charm! I suspect work is going to be a bit full on when I return next week, so my reread of it may take place then. Something zen like could be the perfect antidote to return to work blues!


  3. Interesting picks! I love hearing how book groups work and pick books, esp since I spent a lot of time reading about that when i was doing my research, a few years ago now but it’s stuck with me! And Happy New Year.


    1. I deal with a couple if book groups at work who pick their entire years worth of reads at the beginning of the year. They come asking for recommendations of new releases coming out later in the year. Tricky the last couple of years with so many publications being delayed.
      I confess I prefer our less organised approach. It allows for surprises & serendipity & individual tastes.


      1. We are in between … we select twice a year. I really like that! I also think I prefer a consensus approach to individual choices. It feels like we get to read books we wouldn’t have thought of but not books that are someone else’s tastes and definitely not our own. But, the important thing is to have something that works.

        BTW Our group will be 34 this February!


        1. Having books in advance is a bonus so you can read ahead if you know you’re going away or will be busy.
          My old book group used to vote for every book which worked well.

          34 years! That’s impressive.


          1. I hadn’t thought of that advantage but you’re right. Certainly the books for the first half of the year which we decide in November are great for Christmas lists.

            We are very proud of our 34 years, but really we all just love it and the years keep rolling on!

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting insight into how your book group operates. I’ve only read Circe from your group’s choices (although I have read a different novel by Kate Grenville). It’s nice to learn that Piranesi’s reputation isn’t just hype from the literary set. I have a copy and must really get to it shortly (I like those dreamy, ambiguous type books, at least when I’m in a certain mood).


  5. Feel like the only person on planet Mars….
    not one of my friends etc reads books I read and enjoy
    That is just the downside living in NL…the rest (healthcare)…is great!
    No book groups in my vicinity!
    I’ll follow your thoughts and insights.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Same to same Nancy! I hear you! I am a better positioned though that I share my apartment with my elder sister and she is also a book fanatic though we read kind of different stuff, but still we like a lot of similar books and can talk through the day about them!


      1. And of course, you both have your book blogs!

        Even being surrounded by readers as I am, finding people who read the same things as myself is not always easy. IRL I am the only person I know who has read the entire Master & Commander series. In blogland, there are enough of us to embark on a 4yr readalong of the series 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  6. So I was going to start with I love your book groups Secret Santa concept and I do!! Just love it! But I also saw Nancy’s comment and echo all of it including the Healthcare! Also I am luckier than Nancy in sharing my Apt with my elder sister who reads like me! So no bookgroups but atleast a book reading sister and enthusiast! Also I read Piranesi after your review & Brona I cannot say enough thank yous for that wonderful review that made me look at Susanne Clarke a second time! I would have missed out on pure gold! Review coming up soon!


    1. Oh Cirtnecce, I’m thrilled to hear you loved Piranesi as well.
      And I’m very lucky that Mr Books is a big reader too. We share some books together, but he also enjoys a lot of crime novels to unwind with. He has been know to read a book group crime book for me, so that I don’t have to 🙂


  7. As you probably know my reading group has been doing this for several years now, and it has become a loved practice. It’s interesting that some years, like last, there have been clear winners, and other years, like this, they’ve even very close … Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart; The crocodile song, by Nardi Simpson; Girl, woman, other, by Bernadine Evaristo – each separated by one vote.

    We usually do one or two non-fictions in a year – last year it was Best Australian science writing, and Sarah Krasnostein’s The believer.

    I look forward to seeing your report next year. I always love reading group reports.

    Have you changed something on your blog yesterday? I’ve had a real issue getting logged in to comment and it’s to do with pop-up windows. The pop-up window was flashing on and off, and not signing me in or letting me sign in. My pop-ups are set to “block and notify” but it wasn’t notifying and I had to change it to “allow”. This and the fact that your post came in as a different “From” makes me thing something changed on your blog yesterday. Maybe it didn’t affect others, but just didn’t work with my particular settings? Anyhow, just thought I’d let you know.


  8. The results of our group’s vote are due in the next couple of days but I suspect Piranesi will emerge the winner. I didn’t read it – I have very little interest in anything that is non realist.


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