*Contains affiliate links*
The Reading List – Sara Nisha Adams
The Khan – Saima Mir
Kololo Hill – Neema Shah
Would I Lie To You – Aliya ali-Afzal
The Girl With The Louding Voice – Abi Dare
Magpie – Elizabeth Day
A Piece of Peace – Sweta Vikram
Where Hope Comes From – Nikita Gill
I Wish I Knew This Earlier – Toni Tone
How To Mend a Broken Heart – Ziella Bryers
It’s been quite a year for books, hasn’t it?
I started the year and set myself a challenge to read 2 books a month. And I smashed that! I’m looking at ending 2021 by having read 33 (I’d love to make it 35) books.
Having moved home for lockdown and not having many friends, reading became my comfort, my best friend. I really think that 2021 was one of the best years ever for books, particularly for debut female writers.
Below, I have included slightly edited reviews of each of these books which I posted on Instagram, and all contain mild spoilers but nothing that isn’t already in other online reviews.
Even though the above list isn’t in any particular order, the book I loved the most in 2021, which touched my heart and therefore is my book of the year is The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams.
I have one word to describe Sara’s debut novel and that is ‘magical.’
The Reading List is the story of how two lonely souls, widower Mukesh and teenager Aleisha, who is having a painful time at home, connect through the magic and power of books. Obviously, you can already tell why I love it.
Aleisha is working at the library, when she discovers a reading list left by a stranger, it becomes a lifeline not just for her, but for Mukesh and his granddaughter Priya who is always reading and wants to be a writer (sound like someone you know!?).
Uplifting, magical, lovely and a book that will remind you to take care of the elders in your life.
Now, for the rest of the books which I loved reading this year.
How to mend a broken heart
‘It feels like someone has died, but the person we have lost is still very much alive.’
The above is a quote from Ziella Bryars 2021 novel and I’m sure you, me and every person who has had their heart broken has said or at least thought these words.
This book is one I loved because it backs up (with science) a lot of what I have written about in my columns from my own experience. The feelings, emotions, anxiety, grief, acceptance post break-up are all very real, valid and scientifically proven and the studies that back it all up are discussed in this book in a very easy to digest way.
I think even though the book focuses on romantic heartbreak, the feelings can apply to so many forms of heartbreak and rejection.
So, if you’re looking for a book which you’re going to nod along to and say, ‘yes, I felt/experienced that,’ then this is the book for you. A book which is like an older friend or sister saying that it’s okay to feel like you do.
How to mend a broken heart is a warm, uplifting, witty, quick (it’s only 80 odd pages long) read that every woman will benefit from reading.
The girl with the Louding Voice
Even though this book released in 2020 I couldn’t not include it in the list as I was so, so moved by it.
Oh Adunni, what an inspiration you are. I picked this novel up when I was in Paris after a work colleague recommend it to me. It totally lives up to the love it’s been getting, and I would love to see it made into a film.
Abi Dare’s debut novel follows the heart touching (and sometimes heart-breaking) story of fourteen-year-old Adunni from a small Nigerian village to the hustle and bustle of Lagos.
Forced into child marriage after her mother passes away to a man much older than her, Adunni has a voice and isn’t afraid to use it. She escapes, but where will life take her?
This story is one that will touch your core. It is funny, sad, eye-opening and one that will stay with you forever. Adunni is fierce, brave and inspiring.
I loved the characters that helped Adunni’s journey, especially Khadija, Kofi and Tia.
If there’s one book you read to end the year, it’s this x
Ok, so since I discovered the how to fail podcast, I’ve become a huge fan of Elizabeth Day. So, I was very excited to read Magpie, the first fiction book I’ve read of hers.
I can’t write this review without some spoilers, but I’ll try not to give too much away. In a nutshell, the story revolves around new couple Jake and Marisa who take in lodger Kate, but something doesn’t feel right…
We’re then taken on a whirlwind journey that covers infertility (which is sensitively and delicately handled by Day, but perhaps some people may find this triggering if they’ve been through it), mental health, obsession, love, family and other trauma that women face.
It also has a FANTASTIC twist! I had heard there’s a twist and just before I got to it, I guessed it might be it but was still surprised.
Magpie is a pacy, gripping, psychological thriller that I read in a couple of sittings and really enjoyed. I think it would make an excellent film or series too!
I Wish I Knew This Earlier
When people say I wish I knew this earlier is ‘scarily accurate,’ they’re not lying.
Toni Tone’s debut book discusses the three stages of love: the dating, the loving and the healing stage. Toni shares her experiences throughout this very easy to read book.
I found myself saying ‘yes, I did this!’ In so many parts. I’ve accepted less, not set boundaries, stayed in relationships longer than I should because (and I didn’t realise this at the time) I was settling. And so much more…
I started reading the last stage (the healing stage) first, because I thought that’s what I needed but each section is equally as important. Taking as much time to heal does not make us weak x
One lesson I’ll hugely take away is that we should ‘listen to understand and not to reply.’ This is a lesson we can utilise in all walks of life.
For anyone navigating the world of love, dating and heartbreak, this is a must read!
A Piece of Peace
Thank you to my friend Sweta for sending me her new book all the way from New York City! A book that is well-needed in the current climate.
A piece of peace is Sweta’s personal journey of encountering and surviving a near-fatal chronic illness. The collection of essays discusses Ayurveda, yoga, mindfulness, well-being and so much more.
Sweta writes bravely, eloquently, honestly and every word is heartfelt. You can sense from the first page how passionate she is and how much she truly believes in what she says.
Even though it’s geared for creatives, this is a nice little book for those who need a little healing from a world full of anxiety.
Watch out for a lil quote from yours truly too! See you in NYC soon, Sweta x
Click here to buy A Piece of Peace
Where Hope Comes From
‘Your strength is within you always to call up when you want to.’
Where Hope Comes From is the new poetry book by one of my most favourite poets Nikita Gill.
Born in the pandemic, this wonderful collection of poems, mantras and illustrations just reminded me that we really do have hope, we’re resilient and that strength comes from within.
It’s a nice read for those who really need some positive and healing words and energy in their life – don’t we all.
Nikita dedicates this book to those who need to believe again, so if you need to, pick up this wonderful, life-affirming book. I really enjoyed it and can imagine I’ll pick it up again, like I did her last book (my favourite book from last year) The Girl and the Goddess.
Would I Lie To You?
I was very kindly sent an advanced copy of Aliya Ali-Afzal’s debut novel Would I Lie To You?
Faiza’s husband has lost his job in the city, and she’s spent all their family’s savings. How far will she go to put it back? I loved how Aliya tells this story so effortlessly and since it’s been released, the love it is getting.
The novel is an absolute gripping, page turner! Funny, relatable, heart-warming and just a nice, light read. It’s going to be the perfect summer read. I can’t wait to see what Aliya writes next.
Kololo Hill follows the journey of Jaya, Asha, Pran and Vijay when they were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972.
Vivid, descriptive and bittersweet this was a book which will touch the hearts of everyone, especially those who’ve had families in similar situations. As someone whose parents are from Tanzania, I related a lot to the references to the food, places and even though my parents aren’t from Uagnda, I felt they would resonate a lot with the feelings of settling in a foreign land.
Since reading this, I had pleasure of spending some time with Neema and listening to her talk so eloquently about the book. The story is one that will stay with you for a long time and Neema is another writer who has a very bright future ahead.
When crime lord Akbar Khan, AKA The Khan, is brutally murdered, his successful London-based lawyer daughter Jia Khan must return to her northern roots to take his place. And that’s all I’m saying about the story. It’s got loads of twists and turns and that made it one I didn’t want to put down.
This book is path-breaking in so many ways! Have you ever read a story about a British Asian, gangster/Godfather type family? A story which just happens to be written by a British Asian woman and that features a lead protagonist that happens to be a Muslim female?
I love that Mir is unapologetic in how she has written this book, in so many ways. About the way culture and religion is explained mainly, that you don’t need to go into detail about many religious and cultural practices, they’re just a way of life.
Gritty, thrilling, immersive, authentic and spicy… If you’re looking for something different to get your teeth into, this is the one.
That’s it for 2021! I have a huge TBR to get through for 2022 so my question is, what should my 2022 reading challenge be?