Top Ten Tuesday: My favourite books of 2021

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to list our top ten books of 2021. I know there are still a few days of December left, but I’m confident that I’m not going to finish anything before the end of the year that would make it onto my list, so it should be safe to post it today!


1. Good by Stealth by Henrietta Clandon (1936)

From my review: “This wonderful Golden Age crime novel from 1936 was written by John Haslette Vahey; Henrietta Clandon was one of his many pseudonyms…I found this one so much fun to read, I will certainly be reading more of his books! The book is hugely entertaining and often very funny and although some parts of the story don’t seem at first to have much to do with the overall plot, everything falls into place by the end and the significance of even the smallest detail becomes clear.”

2. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (2021)

From my review: “I loved this! I’ve never read Kate Quinn before, although she has been recommended to me several times, so I’m pleased that my first experience of her work has been such a good one. The Rose Code wasn’t a perfect book, but the few flaws that I noted were quickly outweighed by the gripping plot, strong characters and interesting historical setting.”

3. China by Edward Rutherfurd (2021)

From my review: “Like all of Rutherfurd’s novels, this one is clearly the result of a huge amount of research…I think anyone with even the slightest curiosity about China, its history, geography and people, will find a lot to interest them in this book – just be aware that it’s quite a commitment and will take a while to get through, even for the fastest of readers!”

4. The Green Gauntlet by RF Delderfield (1968)

From my review: ” It was lovely to be back in the Shallowford Valley and become reacquainted with Paul and Claire Craddock and their family, friends and neighbours…Although there’s plenty of action and always something happening in the Valley, the story moves along at a leisurely pace and the focus is on the daily lives of the characters and the relationships between them.”

5. Castle Barebane by Joan Aiken (1976)

From my review: “I thoroughly enjoyed reading it – both the domestic parts and the gothic adventure parts. The atmosphere is wonderful, there’s a suitably sinister villain and I loved the remote setting…I’m certainly planning to read more of Joan Aiken’s books and am hoping they’re all as good as this one!”

6. A Marriage of Lions by Elizabeth Chadwick (2021)

From my review: “The main focus of the story, however, is Henry’s younger half-brother, William de Valence, and his wife, Joanna de Munchensy of Swanscombe…There’s not much information available on the real historical figures, particularly Joanna, but Chadwick’s portrayal feels convincing and believable and I enjoyed getting to know them both.”

7. Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig (2021)

From my review: “I loved Andrew Greig’s last book, Fair Helen, a beautifully written historical novel based on a Scottish Border Ballad, so when I saw that his new one, Rose Nicolson, was going to be set in the same time and place I couldn’t wait to read it. Now that I’ve had the opportunity, I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed it just as much as Fair Helen and can highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Scotland in the 16th century.”

8. The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Penman (2020)

From my review: “The Land Beyond the Sea is a fascinating novel. I have read a lot about Europe in the medieval period, but not so much about other parts of the world…As with Sharon Penman’s other books, this one has clearly been very well researched and her afterword and author’s note are almost as interesting as the story itself.”

9. St Martin’s Summer by Rafael Sabatini (1909)

From my review: “I had high hopes for St Martin’s Summer – and I’m pleased to say that it definitely lived up to my expectations. First of all, it’s a lot of fun to read…there are duels, disguises, impersonations and all sorts of other tricks and deceptions, some of which are obvious to the reader, but not to the characters, who repeatedly fall into each other’s traps!

10. Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes (1946)

From my review: “I would probably never have picked this book up based on the description alone as it didn’t really sound like my usual sort of read. And that would have been a shame, as I thoroughly enjoyed it…The setting is wonderfully atmospheric and Hughes creates an amazing sense of place…I loved this book and am so pleased it came up for me in the Classics Club Spin!”


So that’s my top ten…however, I have also read a lot of Agatha Christie novels this year for the Read Christie 2021 challenge and it didn’t seem right not to put any of them on my list – so I’m adding an eleventh book and highlighting my favourite Christie novel of 2021. I enjoyed all of them, but the one that particularly stood out for me was December’s read:

11. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie (1931)

From my review: “My favourite thing about this book, though, was the setting; many of Christie’s mysteries are set in small villages, but the wintry weather gave this one a special atmosphere. I loved it and am glad the Read Christie challenge prompted me to pick it up this December!”


Have you read any of these?

What are your favourite books of 2021?

28 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: My favourite books of 2021

  1. Pam Thomas says:

    Here’s my top ten from 2021, in no particular order:
    Sunset Swing by Ray Celestin – brilliant culmination of a quartet which began in Jazz Age New Orleans, and now finishes in late 60s Los Angeles. Gritty, well-written, great characters (including Louis Armstrong).
    The Goblin Emperor and Witness for the Dead, by Katherine Addison. Yes, fantasy, but there’s not a lot of magic and definitely a steampunk vibe, with airships and factories. The Goblin Emperor in particular was brilliant, though I definitely needed the character list!
    Yours Cheerfully, by A J Pearce – great follow-up to ‘Dear Mrs Bird’, about a young reporter assigned to the problem page of a women’s magazine in WW2.
    Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, set in 1980s LA – I loved ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’, and while I did enjoy this, it wasn’t nearly as good.
    The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex – three men vanish from a lighthouse in around 1970. What happened to them? Gripping mystery, well-written, great characters, one of my favourite books of the year.
    The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper. The story of a group of prostitutes in Roman Pompeii, not for the squeamish, but this was probably the best book I read in 2021. Wonderful on the power of female friendship in desperate times.
    Blood and Sugar and its sequel Daughters of Night. by Laura Shepherd Robinson. The unpleasant underbelly of Georgian London, vivid and gripping.
    V For Victory by Lissa Evans – the story of Noel and Vi, begun in ‘Crooked Heart’, is concluded. Set in WW2, and funny as well as sad.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks for sharing your list, Pam. I have read Daughters of Night and enjoyed it, but I haven’t read any of the others you’ve mentioned. I’m sure I will get to Yours Cheerfully eventually, as I loved Dear Mrs Bird. I’ll look out for the rest, particularly The Lamplighters and The Wolf Den!

  2. Liz Dexter says:

    I’ve not read any of these but have heard of a few, and what a lovely year of reading you’ve had. My lists will be out on 1 Jan. I have one coming up that looks really good so who knows what will be in the top 10 (or 15) …

  3. Pam Thomas says:

    I’ve only read two of your list, Helen – Castle Barebane (I read it many years ago), and A Marriage of Lions, which I read this year and greatly enjoyed. I’ve reserved The Sittaford Mystery at the library, it sounds really good, but some of those classic crime novels are quite hard to get hold of.

    • Helen says:

      I wasn’t expecting too much from The Sittaford Mystery as it’s not a very well-known Christie novel, but I loved the winter setting and the atmosphere.

  4. FictionFan says:

    Glad to see Rose Nicolson on your list since I’ll be reading it very soon. The blurb sounds just my sort of thing and now your recommendation has made me even more enthusiastic!

  5. whatmeread says:

    My list is going up on my anniversary in January, as usual, but I see you had mostly books on your list that I haven’t read yet. The one I have read is Rose Nicolson, which I also enjoyed very much but haven’t reviewed yet. I am taking note of some other of your recommendations. Hope you had a great holiday!

  6. whatcathyreadnext says:

    What a fascinating list! I’ve only read The Rose Code but I’ve read books by R. F. Delderfield, Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick in the past, although not the ones you mention. I have Joan Aiken’s The Haunting of Lamb House in my TBR pile. I love the sound of Rose Nicolson.

    • Helen says:

      Rose Nicolson is beautifully written – I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy the Joan Aiken book. Castle Barebane is the only one of hers I’ve read so far, but I’m sure I’ll be reading more.

  7. jessicabookworm says:

    Sounds like a wonderful selection of books you have enjoyed the most, Helen. I haven’t read any of these, however I did enjoy a comforting re-read of Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase; and you have reminded me, I must try more of her books. 🙂

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