Every year, it seems, I forget to round up my top ten books of the first half of the year until late July or early August, so I guess this is par for the course? Let’s not even pretend I remotely have my act together anymore. In any event, I’ve had a great six (actually seven) months of reading – and plenty of good writing ahead of me for the rest of the year, of course. In no particular order, here are my top ten highlights of the year (as always, this list covers books read this year, not necessarily published this year) so far.
Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, by D.E. Stevenson – I have a feeling that 2021 is going to be my Year of D.E. Stevenson. It took me way too long to get to her most famous character, Mrs. Tim Christie, but when I did I was enchanted.
The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton – Gorgeously written, lushly evoked, and frustrating for being so avoidably tragic, The House of Mirth might be Edith Wharton’s masterpiece. I still love The Age of Innocence most, but any Wharton is going to end up on my best-of list for the year, it’s basically guaranteed.
My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell – If you’re looking for something to scratch a travel itch and make you scream with laughter, look no further. I literally laughed until I wept, and then looked up flights to Crete.
Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and their Least Impressed Visitors, by Amber Share – I’ve written on here before about Amber Share’s work and what a huge fan I am. Her first book – featuring some of her best known pieces from social media, but a bunch of new parks too, juxtaposes iconic national park images with idiotic nitpicking criticism and is absolutely hilarious and the pinnacle of irony. Let’s all just crown Amber queen now.
Rhubarb, Rhubarb: A Correspondence Between a Hopeless Gardener and a Hopeful Cook, by Mary Jane Paterson and Jo Thompson – I flew through this, but loved every second. Thompson and Paterson exchange breezy notes, recipes, gardening tips, and life updates. There are beautiful illustrations and photographs and it’s utterly lovely.
Spring Magic, by D.E. Stevenson – See, didn’t I tell you it was going to be my year of D.E. Stevenson? I thought of leaving the charming Spring Magic off this list because Mrs. Tim was already on here, but I couldn’t. I just loved every second of this delightful book.
Mango and Mimosa, by Suzanne, Duchess St. Albans – Give me all the eccentric expat childhood memoirs, please.
Black Narcissus, by Rumer Godden – Not a comfortable reading experience (like most of the other entries on this list were), but Black Narcissus was lush, eerie, gorgeously written and quite frightening. I couldn’t put it down.
A Winter Away, by Elizabeth Fair – Elizabeth Fair is a new-to-me discovery this year and I’ve already read two of her six novels (the other being Landscape in Sunlight, which just narrowly missed this list). These are charming, cozy, comfortable comedies of village life and I am here for them all. (And this one had the added benefit of not being completely obvious who the heroine would end up with – I did guess at the final romantic coupling, but only about 25 pages before the end.)
Winter: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons, ed. Melissa Harrison – I’m reading my way through this series this year, and I’ve read both Winter and Spring. Both are lovely but I enjoyed Winter just a bit more – perhaps because I like winter better than spring in general? Either way – everything from the cover to the last page was just lovely.
What have been your favorite reads of the year so far?