My Reading Year: A Recap of my 2021 Books

by | Dec 28, 2021 | Books, Reading | 4 comments

My goal for 2021 was 120 books, the same as last year, and I ended up reading 125. I can usually read 8-10 books a month, and I hope to continue that in 2022! As always, I read a fabulous amount of middle grade novels (often vintage MG!), supplemented with occasional bits of poetry, women’s fiction, and nonfiction. I had a much better reading year than last year–I was able to find more books that I especially enjoyed, which was such fun. So without further ado, here are my top favorites, organized into category! Happy Reading!

Favorite Fiction of 2021

 

1. Treasure for Debby by Amy Wentworth Stone (1936)
This was extremely difficult to choose, but I decided to award the top spot to this beautiful novel. A story of two sisters, 18-year-old Debby and 11-year-old Polly, navigating life with their prim aunts in a mansion full of treasures, was a book I just couldn’t put down this summer. This book has everything I love: family, romance, old houses, a mystery … and it’s set in Maine!

2. Just Jenifer + Up Goes the Curtain by Janet Lambert (1946)
I fell in love with Janet Lambert’s books this year! Some of the best of the maltshop romance genre, these books feature young love, strong families, military and theater life, and thoroughly engaging characters. Although I read quite a few of them this year, Just Jenifer (about a 16-year-old girl taking care of her younger siblings) and Up Goes the Curtain (about Penny Parrish’s life as an actress) were my very favorites.

3. The Two Mrs. Abbotts by D.E. Stevenson (1943)
The final installment in the three books about Miss Buncle, this one surprised me with its incredibly funny characters and scenes. All of D.E. Stevenson’s books have a certain amount of witty humor, but this one was above average. Following Miss Buncle’s life in WWII with her young children, the book also focuses on her charming niece in-law and several new characters to the village who take center stage.

4. Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary (1961)
This is the kind of book where I tell myself, “I’m going to read this one slowly and savor it.” Well, that didn’t really work. I raced through the book with great unabashed joy, and I can now say that it’s one of my very favorite Beverly Cleary books. I’ve been trying to try more of her books that I’ve never read before, and this one–semi-autobiographical, set in the 1920s, about a small girl with a penchant for mischief–is a delight.

5. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1933)
As with Beverly Cleary, I also tried to read several of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books that I’d never read before. Although I enjoyed each one that I read, Farmer Boy–the story of her husband Almanzo Wilder’s childhood on a farm in New York–was definitely my favorite! I knew this book was famous for its descriptions of delicious food, and it didn’t disappoint. 🙂

6. The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish by Karina Yan Glaser (2021)
I eagerly awaited this latest installment of the Vanderbeekers series, and I was overjoyed when this one quickly became my very favorite since the first book in 2017. Make a Wish tells the sweet story of the Vanderbeeker children attempting to solve a family mystery in order to give their dad the best birthday present of all, while coping with an unexpected visit from their grandparents. Such a good one!

7. Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant (2018)
I read this book (a Jolabokaflod gift) just recently, and I adored it. A sweet, quiet, and enchanting little story about a girl who takes refuge in vintage novels at a quaint used bookstore when her parents separate. Best of all, there’s a happy ending and a cast full of endearing characters! It’s the first story I’ve read by Cynthia Rylant, and I’m looking forward to exploring her other work, especially the sequel to Rosetown!

8. The Four Graces by D.E. Stevenson (1946)
Another sweet and humorous novel by Stevenson, The Four Graces is the story of four sisters in an English village who contend with all the drama of first love, misunderstandings, and an overbearing relative, set against the backdrop of WWII and full of brilliant characterization.

9. Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1847)
My interest in my Acadian ancestry led me to read Longfellow’s Evangeline for the first time this year, and I was blown away by the stunning imagery and the incredible poetry. No doubt this was inspiration for L.M. Montgomery, as I found echoes of Longfellow’s lines in Montgomery’s writing. 🙂

10. The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill (2000)
The story of a British teacher who arrives in 1940s Alaska to teach in a one-room schoolhouse, The Year of Miss Agnes is a slim book full of enduring themes and wonderful characters. This is another book that I wish could have been just a little longer!

Favorite Cast of Characters

  1. Just Jenifer by Janet Lambert (1946)
    2. The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish by Karina Yan Glaser (2021)
    3. Best Friends by Mary Bard (1955)
    4. Glory Be! by Janet Lambert (1943)
    5. The Four Graces by D.E. Stevenson (1946)
    6. Melissa Across the Fence by Augusta Huiell Seaman (1919)
    7. Nora’s Twin Sister by Nina Rhoades (1919)

New Favorite Authors

  1. Janet Lambert
    2. Amy Wentworth Stone
    3. Tove Jansson
    4. Rachel Dodge
    5. Mary Bard

Best Description/Environment

  1. Ginnie and the Mystery House by Catherine Woolley (1957)
    2. Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1947)
    3. Mystery on Nine-Mile Marsh by Mary C. Jane (1967)
    4. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1940)
    5. Treasure for Debby by Amy Wentworth Stone (1936)
    6. Ann and the Island Storm by Elspeth Bragdon (1955)
    7. Beverly Gray: Reporter by Clair Bank (1940)

Best Feel-Good Stories

  1. The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill (2000)
    2. Love, Mary Elisabeth by Christy Martenson (2017)
    3. Pegeen by Hilda van Stockum (1941)
    4. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932)
    5. Schoolroom in the Parlor by Rebecca Caudill (1959)
    6. The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren (1946)
    7. Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant (2018)

Most Delightfully Funny Books

  1. Francie on the Run by Hilda van Stockum (1939)
    2. Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary (1961)
    3. The Two Mrs. Abbotts by D.E. Stevenson (1943)
    4. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006)
    5. Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars by Ellen MacGregor (1951)
    6. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (1926)
    7. Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson (1948)

Favorite Rereads

  1. Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (1937)
    2. The Magic Summer by Noel Streatfeild (1966)
    3. The Gemma series by Noel Streatfeild (1968-69)
    4. The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom (1960)
    5. Up from the Sea by Amanda Dykes (2019)
    6. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)
    7. Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace (1943)
    8. The Baker’s Daughter by D.E. Stevenson (1938)
    9. Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer (1952)
    10. The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid (2018)

Favorite Nonfiction

  1. The Anne of Green Gables Devotional by Rachel Dodge (2020)
    2. Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson (2019)
    3. Mackinac Island: Its History in Pictures by Eugene T. Petersen (1973)
    4. The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford (1950)
    5. Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion (1994)
My 2021 Reading Challenge

My Goodreads goal for 2021 will be to read 120 books. That means 10 books a month, which is my typical average. I’ve reached this number a couple of times before (the last two years, actually), so it’s not a significant challenge. But I’d like to delve into some longer books this year instead of the generally shorter ones that I enjoyed in 2020, and my hope is that I might find some new gems if I take the focus off sheer quantity. 🙂 I can’t wait to see what books I discover in 2021!

What were some books you loved in 2020? (Feel free to pass along some recommendations!)

4 Comments

  1. Julie Aamoth

    Thank you so much as always! I too love Janet Lambert – my favorites have varied over the years, but I would say right now “Practically Perfect” and “A Dream for Susan” might be at the top. I reread the Campbell series this year and greatly enjoyed them; I don’t know if she had planned another in the series but I wish she had as I would love to have seen Josie’s further development. And I have always been sorry that “Here’s Marny” ended the Parrish-Jordan-Drayton saga; I still have questions!!!

    I’ve been rereading my Beverly Grays and your inclusion of one in best description intrigued me. I need to go back now and look at it. I love the categories you use; I hadn’t thought of analyzing my books that way but I may do that in 2022.

    My stand-out new children’s read in 2021 was “The Thief Knot,” which is the fourth book in the Greenglass House series. Many rereads of old favorites….and I recently joined the DE Stevenson FB group! (Miss Buncle’s book is a classic.)

    In 2022 I plan to give “Rosetown” a try, finish rereading the Dana girls series, and read “Daughter of the Deep”, among other things.

    If you haven’t read the Betty Wales books (favorites are 3-6) or the Maida books (favorites are 1, 3, 5, and 7) I highly recommend them.

    Best for 2022!

    Reply
  2. Anna Rose Johnson

    Thanks for your comment, Julie! So glad that you’re a Janet Lambert fan as well. I’ve only read the Parrish/Jordon books so far (and I’m only partway through the series!) so it’s quite fun and I’m attempting to avoid spoilers. We should discuss more when I’ve finished the series!

    It’s quite fun to put my year’s reading into categories, I encourage you to try it! Yes, I really felt like that Beverly Gray mystery had a strong feel to the environments described.

    Ooh, is there a D.E. Stevenson FB group? I should find it!

    I think you will love Rosetown, I thought it was just darling. I’ve read a few Dana girls books would love to try more.

    I haven’t read either the Betty Wales or the Maida books! But I really need to, the Maida books have been recommended to me before. 🙂 Thanks for the heads-up!

    Reply
  3. Julie Aamoth

    I just finished Rosetown. It’s beautiful – got it from the library but I’m going to buy a copy to keep. Thank you so much for the recommendation!!!

    Reply
    • Anna Rose Johnson

      You’re welcome, Julie!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, I thought it was just about perfect. 🙂

      Reply

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