32 Books I Want to Read this Year | Part 3

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.


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.


Amazon Links

  1. Beach Read by Emily Henry
  2. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, The Last Man in the World: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds
  3. Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth Peters
  4. Shipped by Angie Hockman
  5. Good Behaviour by Molly Keane
  6. OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea by Patrick Freyne
  7. One Woman’s Year by Stella Martin Currey
  8. Mary Cannon’s Commonplace Book: An Irish Kitchen in the 1700s by Marjorie Quarton
  9. Pain and Prejudice: A Call to Arms for Women and Their Bodies by Gabrielle Jackson
  10. The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
  11. Country Girl by Edna O’Brien

Beach Read by Emily Henry

After reading the feel-good and not too tropey You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry, I really want to try out her hit from 2020. I will probably wait until the summer to read this one for obvious reasons.

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, The Last Man in the World: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds

I’m not usually into fanfiction or retellings but this author

What if…

The last man in the world she could be prevailed upon to marry…is her husband?

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet tells the proud Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy that she wouldn’t marry him if he were the last man in the world.

But what if she never said the words? What if circumstances conspired to make her accept Darcy the first time he proposes?

In this installment of Abigail Reynolds’s acclaimed Pride and Prejudice Variations, Elizabeth agrees to marry Darcy against her better judgment, setting off a chain of events that nearly brings disaster to them both…


Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth Peters

This came to my attention from a BookTube friend of mine, RainyDayReads, in one of her reading vlogs. It looks like a combination of Phryne Fisher and Indiana Jones. Maybe something a bit like the recent Phryne Fisher movie….

Amelia Peabody inherited two things from her father: a considerable fortune and an unbendable will. The first allowed her to indulge in her life’s passion. Without the second, the mummy’s curse would have made corpses of them all.

Shipped by Angie Hockman

This is another one I’m thinking of for summer though it was released early this year. It’s another enemies to lovers romance…can you tell I have a bit of a thing for that trope?…

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?


Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

I came across this while looking up classics for the Irish readathon. I love a book that looks at the conforms of society and highlights just how nonsensical many of them are and how damaging they can be.

I do know how to behave – believe me, because I know. I have always known…’

Behind the gates of Temple Alice the aristocratic Anglo-Irish St Charles family sinks into a state of decaying grace. To Aroon St Charles, large and unlovely daughter of the house, the fierce forces of sex, money, jealousy and love seem locked out by the ritual patterns of good behaviour. But crumbling codes of conduct cannot hope to save the members of the St Charles family from their own unruly and inadmissible desires.

OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea by Patrick Freyne

This is another of my Irish Readathon picks for non-fiction. I do like serious non-fiction but if I can get something humorous, I am all over it. I love anecdotal stories about growing up in Ireland as well.

‘Funny, smart, soulful and sometimes devastating, this book shows life in all its shades. It made me laugh and cry.’ Emilie Pine, author of Notes to Self

‘Hilariously, painfully, Freynefully brilliant’Joseph O’Connor

Patrick Freyne has tried a lot of stupid ideas in his life. Now, in his scintillating debut, he is here to tell you about them: like the time (aged 5) he opened a gate and let a horse out of its field, just to see what would happen; or the time (aged 19) he jumped out of a plane for charity, even though he didn’t much care about the charity and was sure he’d end up dead; or the time (aged old enough to know better) he used a magazine as a funnel for fuel when the petrol cap on his band’s van broke.

He has also learned a few things: about the power of group song; about the beauty of physically caring for another human being; about childlessness; about losing friends far too young. Life as seen through the eyes of Patrick Freyne is stranger, funnier and a lot more interesting than life as we generally know it. Like David Sedaris or Nora Ephron, he creates an environment all his own – fundamentally comic, sometimes moving, always deeply humane. OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea is a joyous reading experience from an instantly essential new writer.

‘Patrick Freyne is a comic genius’ Marian Keyes

‘Clever, lovely and great, great fun’ Roddy Doyle

‘Patrick Freyne has a distinct and enviable gift for story-telling, guiding the reader into the tardis of his brilliant brain; from music and families to society and loss. Full of humour and tenderness, this book is an absolute JOY‘ Sinéad Gleeson, author of Constellations

Patrick Freyne is a writer of rare humour, depth, and humanity. These essays are a delight’ Mark O’Connell, author of To Be a Machine


One Woman’s Year by Stella Martin Currey

Another BookTube friend of mine, Kate Howe, has been posting about her reading of Victorian diaries and they just sounded like such lovely reading, I had to go find some for myself. I decided upon this one because of its mix of writing and recipes. I love reading old recipes.

This beautifully designed book, first published in 1953, is unusual in being a mixture of commonplace, diary, short story, recipes – and woodcuts. The book is dedicated to Tirzah Garwood (then Ravilious and later Swanzy) but the woodcuts are not by her because she had died two years before. They were done by a friend, Malcolm Ford (who, like Stella Martin Currey’s husband, taught at Colchester Royal Grammar School).

These are the contents for January: there is a quotation, as there is before every month, from the British Merlin (1677), an Almanac known nowadays as Rider’s British Merlin. It starts ‘This is the Season for good husbands to lop and prune superfluous Branches and Fruit trees’ and ends: ‘The best physick is warm diet, warm Cloaths, good Fires, and a merry, honest Wife.’ Then there is a ten-page essay on ‘Books for the Family’. Of course it is now a bit out of date, but the mention of Pamela Brown, Eve Garnett and Belloc’s Cautionary Verses (among dozens of good suggestions) can never be dismissed. After this is a funny piece about a visit to the hairdresser. Next there are a few pages about a burst pipe, a cake recipe, a description of A Visit to the Tower of London, an extract from Jane Eyre and finally an extract from our own Tea with Mr Rochester.

November again has an extract from the British Merlin (‘Set Crab Tree stocks to graft on’), eight pages on the art of embroidery (‘One of the loveliest and most lovable rooms I have ever seen had copies of old flower paintings and they were all embroidered in delicate stitches on very fine yellow silk… Another fascinating adventure in embroidery is to copy an old map’). Then there are suggestions for a Guy Fawkes Party (‘sausage rolls, gingerbread men, conspirator biscuits and toffee’), a quite detailed piece on ‘deciding whether you can eat the mushrooms which grow in the garden’, a recipe for the said biscuits (you cut them to look like conspirators), a short piece on visiting an art gallery with children (pick out the animals eg. the little dog in The Arnolfini Portrait, the dragon in St George and the Dragon), an extract from Elizabeth and her German Garden by our very own Elizabeth von Arnim, and finally an extract from Emma.

But it was her novelist’s eye and ear that makes One Woman’s Year such a gem. In between the sometimes period details are many extremely useful pieces on dressing-up boxes, phrases to be used in thank-you letters, an extract from The Young Visiters, or which flowers to have in vases for every month of the year. One cannot imagine anyone who would not find this book both useful and endearing.

Mary Cannon’s Commonplace Book: An Irish Kitchen in the 1700s by Marjorie Quarton

This is similar to the above book but it’s Irish and pre-famine. It’s difficult to find anything historic and food related that is Irish (many of our traditions are closely related to Britain). We don’t even really have a national dish. If you visit here, you might be told it’s oysters and Guinness but I’m pretty sure that’s a recent invention by the tourism board.

‘To Bake a Pigg in a Pan’… ‘To Make Black Cherry Beer’… ‘To Cure the Dropsy’

These are just a few samples from an eighteenth-century Commonplace Book, passed down the generations from Mary Cannon’s kitchen to her many times great-granddaughter Marjorie Quarton. A Commonplace Book was a scrapbook for sayings, letters, prayers, measurements, or, as in this instance, of recipes.

Mary Cannon lived in Dunleary (now Dun Laoghaire) and collected over 120 recipes between 1700 and 1707. They are presented here in sections such as ffishe, ffleshe, Puddings and Deserts, Pickles and Preserves.

The visceral vocabulary and archaic spellings of these dishes will refresh our word hoard, while imparting a sumptuous flavour to Ireland’s gastronomic repertoire. Unopened and untried for over 300 years, they form a unique resource for food historians and knights of the dining table.

MARJORIE QUARTON has edited these recipes, commenting on the significance and usage of certain ingredients. She has added fragments of family history, from Jacobite leaders and Huguenot refugees to tales of the Indian Mutiny. The recipes are illustrated by Alice Bouilliez, also a descendent of Mary Cannon.


Pain and Prejudice: A Call to Arms for Women and Their Bodies by Gabrielle Jackson

I’ve had a book like this in each part of this list now. This one focuses more on the pain that women endure and how it’s expected. For example, my mother was denied the epidural by her doctor because he believed she should be able to deal with the pain. His actual words were “well, if you’re one of those women who can’t stand pain….”

A timely and powerful look at how our culture treats the pain and suffering of women.

‘Women are in pain, all through their bodies; they’re in pain with their periods, and while having sex; they have pelvic pain, migraine, headaches, joint aches, painful bladders, irritable bowels, sore lower backs, muscle pain, vulval pain, vaginal pain, jaw pain, muscle aches. And many are so, so tired … But women’s pain is all too often dismissed, their illnesses misdiagnosed or ignored. In medicine, man is the default human being. Any deviation is atypical, abnormal, deficient.’

Fourteen years after being diagnosed with endometriosis, Gabrielle Jackson couldn’t believe how little had changed in the treatment and knowledge of the disease. In 2015, her personal story kick-started a worldwide investigation into the disease by The Guardian; thousands of women got in touch to tell their own stories and many more read and shared the material. What began as one issue led Jackson to explore how women – historically and through to the present day – are under-served by the systems that should keep them happy, healthy and informed about their bodies.

Pain and Prejudice is a vital testament to how social taboos and medical ignorance keep women sick and in anguish. The stark reality is that women’s pain is not taken as seriously as men’s. Women are more likely to be disbelieved and denied treatment than men, even though women are far more likely to be suffering from chronic pain.

In a potent blend of personal memoir and polemic, Jackson confronts the private concerns and questions women face regarding their health and medical treatment. Pain and Prejudice, finally, explains how we got here, and where we need to go next.

The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor

Self-love and acceptance is something I’m really trying to work on this year which lead me to this book. I don’t just want to accept my own body but every type of body. The ones that don’t fit the so called beauty mould and the ones that do.

A global movement guided by love.

Humans are a varied and divergent bunch with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive off our inability to make peace with difference and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies.

The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems. World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world–for us all.


Country Girl by Edna O’Brien

I love a book that shakes up the status quo and challenges peoples view of what’s acceptable. Plus, anything that rattles the local priest has to be good for people’s individualism especially women’s.

When Edna O’Brien’s first novel, The Country Girls, was published in 1960, it so scandalized the O’Briens’ local parish that the book was burned by its priest. O’Brien was undeterred and has since created a body of work that bears comparison with the best writing of the twentieth century. Country Girl brings us face-to-face with a life of high drama and contemplation.

Starting with O’Brien’s birth in a grand but deteriorating house in Ireland, her story moves through convent school to elopement, divorce, single-motherhood, the wild parties of the ’60s in London, and encounters with Hollywood giants, pop stars, and literary titans. There is love and unrequited love, and the glamour of trips to America as a celebrated writer and the guest of Jackie Onassis and Hillary Clinton. Country Girl is a rich and heady accounting of the events, people, emotions, and landscape that have imprinted upon and enhanced one lifetime.

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