32 Books I Want to Read this Year | Part 1

32 books I want to read in 2021 Elaine Howlin annual reading list

I might be a bit late with an annual TBR but I didn’t make the list until February so here we are. I use Notion to organise my blog posts and my life (meal planning, travel planning, etc.). It’s freaking amazing! They have templates for everything. One of the templates I got was this 2021 | Reading List template. I love how it arranges the books, adds a reading timeline and has space for your notes. In my copy of the template I added a section for whether I owned the book already or if I needed to buy it and a link to purchase it.

Notion 2021 Reading List Book Page Example Elaine Howlin
Example of my book page

I got super excited about creating a reading list for the year. I’m pretty bad at sticking to monthly TBR’s but I feel like I will do better with this annual one. There’s less pressure and less books than I would normally read in a year so it feels more achievable.

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I have 32 books on the list but 32 is a bit too much to talk about in a single post so we’ll break it into 3 parts and discuss about 10 books per post.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from these links, I may earn a commission. This does not affect my review.

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  1. The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
  2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  3. Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan
  4. Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
  5. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
  6. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  7. Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch
  8. Rude: There Is No Such Thing by Nimko Ali
  9. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  10. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

This is the group read for this years Irish Readathon so of course I want to read it. Contemporary YA isn’t really my thing but it will be interesting to read a different perspective of growing up in Ireland.

Synopsis: Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.

As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

This fictional account of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet won the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction. It sounds like a fascinating read plus it’s by an Irish author so I can read it for the Irish Readathon as well.

Synopsis: On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan

Another of my picks for the Irish Readathon. This is a retelling of my favourite Irish folktale, The Children of Lir. Don’t ask me why it’s my favourite, it’s pretty darn depressing!

Synopsis: A dark, feminist retelling of The Children of Lir told in Sullivan’s hypnotic prose. A retelling of the favourite Irish fairytale The Children of Lir. Aife marries Lir, a king with four children by his previous wife. Jealous of his affection for his children, the witch Aife turns them into swans for 900 years. Retold through the voice of Aife, Savage Her Reply is unsettling and dark, feminist and fierce, yet nuanced in its exploration of the guilt of a complex character. Voiced in Sullivan’s trademark rich, lyrical prose as developed in Tangleweed and Brine – the multiple award-winner which established Sullivan as the queen of witchy YA. Another dark & witchy feminist fairytale from the author of Tangleweed and Brine.

Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri

This is a maybe for the Irish Readathon but a definite “want to read at some point” book. It’s quite intriguing to see race issues broken down into components. I think understanding aspects of it would go a long way to helping me understand the whole issue more.

Synopsis: From Guardian contributor BBC race correspondent Emma Dabiri comes an essay collection exploring the ways in which black hair has been appropriated and stigmatized throughout history, with ruminations on body politics, race, pop culture, and Dabiri’s own journey to loving her hair.

Emma Dabiri can tell you the first time she chemically straightened her hair. She can describe the smell, the atmosphere of the salon, and her mix of emotions when she saw her normally kinky tresses fall down her shoulders. For as long as Emma can remember, her hair has been a source of insecurity, shame, and—from strangers and family alike—discrimination. And she is not alone.

Despite increasingly liberal world views, black hair continues to be erased, appropriated, and stigmatized to the point of taboo. Through her personal and historical journey, Dabiri gleans insights into the way racism is coded in society’s perception of black hair—and how it is often used as an avenue for discrimination. Dabiri takes us from pre-colonial Africa, through the Harlem Renaissance, and into today’s Natural Hair Movement, exploring everything from women’s solidarity and friendship, to the criminalization of dreadlocks, to the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian’s braids.

Through the lens of hair texture, Dabiri leads us on a historical and cultural investigation of the global history of racism—and her own personal journey of self-love and finally, acceptance.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

I’m obsessed with the cover for this book. I freaking love it! It’s so simple but does such a good job at portraying what the book it. I quite like Hendrix’s style after reading My Best Friend’s Exorcism so what better book to read next than this one.

Synopsis: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she—and her book club—are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I’ve read some very good reviews for this and it really sounds like such a lush gothic story. Plus that cover is pretty beautiful.

Synopsis: After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch

I actually already started reading this but with the type of book it is, I’m kind of picking it up every now and then. It’s informative and really helping me change my relationship with eating and how I see dieting.

Synopsis: We’ve all been there-angry with ourselves for overeating, for our lack of willpower, for failing at yet another diet that was supposed to be the last one. But the problem is not you, it’s that dieting, with its emphasis on rules and regulations, has stopped you from listening to your body.
Written by two prominent nutritionists, “Intuitive Eating” focuses on nurturing your body rather than starving it, encourages natural weight loss, and helps you find the weight you were meant to be.
Learn:
*How to reject diet mentality forever
*How our three Eating Personalities define our eating difficulties
*How to feel your feelings without using food
*How to honor hunger and feel fullness
*How to follow the ten principles of Intuitive Eating, step-by-step
*How to achieve a new and safe relationship with food and, ultimately, your body
With much more compassionate, thoughtful advice on satisfying, healthy living, this newly revised edition also includes a chapter on how the Intuitive Eating philosophy can be a safe and effective model on the path to recovery from an eating disorder.

Rude: There Is No Such Thing by Nimko Ali

I love books about the vagina and periods. It’s amazing how little information was out there when I was younger and just how much I didn’t know until my 30’s which is ridiculous. This kind of information should not be censored and should be common knowledge for everyone not just females or people with vaginas who have periods.

Synopsis: ‘I started my period at home in the afternoon aged 14 on a warm day. I remember screaming and thinking “There is no doubt about it; I am definitely going to die”.’

This book is about vaginas. Fanny, cunt, flower, foo-foo, tuppence, whatever you want to call it almost half of the world’s population has one.

Was Jessica Ennis on her period they day she won Olympic Gold? What do you do when you’re living on the streets and pregnant? What does it feeling like to have a poo after you’ve given birth? We all have questions but it’s not seen as very polite to talk about our fanny; in fact it is down-right rude.

Rude is an important, taboo-breaking book that shares the stories of pregnancy and periods, orgasms and the menopause, from women from all walks of life. From refugee camps in Calais to Oscar-winning actresses, to Nimko’s own story of living with FGM, each woman shares their own relationship with their vagina and its impact on their life.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I read a preview of this book during the summer and thought it was so captivating. It’s not something I would normally read but it was so unusual and alluring.

Synopsis: Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I just love stories about magical libraries! A library is pretty wonderous place already and when you throw in actual magic, I have to read it. This book seems to explore “what if’s” and “might have been’s” through the library which sounds pretty interesting.

Synopsis: Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

We’ll discuss part two of this list next week when I will have 10/11 more books to share with you.

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