Monday, January 3, 2022

The Year in Books

In a recent article in the New York Times, Julie Lasky quoted author Reid Byers on home libraries: "Entering our library should feel like easing into a hot tub, strolling into a magic store, emerging into the orchestra pit or entertain a chamber of curiosities, the club, the circus, our cabin on an outbound yacht, the house of an old friend. It is setting forth and it is coming back to center."

After reading the article, I counted up the books in my house -- well over 500. And I realized I have a "home library." Not that I've read them all, but I plan to!

Which leads me to the 58 books I read in 2021. I had set a goal of 60 and I didn't make it, as well as a page goal of 20,000 -- and I didn't make that, either. But I enjoyed most all of the books I read. Here they are, with my favorites and links to previous posts! (Books previously mentioned here are linked. I thought a few others were, but I can't find the post!)

The Top Nine (in no particular order)

Follies: Everything Was Possible by Ted Chapin -- You don't have to be a lover of Broadway or Stephen Sondheim to find this book fascinating, but if you'd like to follow a remarkable musical behind the scenes, from audition to rehearsals, out of town tryouts to Broadway; get the dish on a cast of Broadway and film veterans who were in the cast and dip into the minds of Sondheim, producer Hal Prince, choreographer Michael Bennett and more, this is for you. Author Chapin was a student doing an independent study as a production assistant when he kept his detailed diary and it's a treat for anyone who loves theatre.

The Riviera Set by Mary S. Lovell -- Have you ever heard of Maxine Elliott? I hadn't, but in the 30s she was the hostess with the mostest on the Riviera (move over, Pearl Mesta!). From an impoverished background to a stage career to the real-life role of ex-pat aristocrat, Elliott created her own glamorous world -- one that attracted Winston Churchill, two Princes of Wales and Aly Kahn, who bought her estate after her death and continued her legacy. Fascinating and dishy!

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis -- If you've only seen the musical "Mame" or the film "Auntie Mame," you haven't really learned all there is to know about Mame Dennis, the flapper who found herself a guardian of a ten-year-old boy after the death of her brother. Patrick Dennis tells the story and it's delightful and illuminating.

Finding Chika by Mitch Albom -- Columnist Mitch Albom is well known in Michigan for his work in the Detroit Free Press and to a wider audience as the author of "Tuesdays with Morrie," among many other books. Finding Chika may be his most personal story yet, as he recounts the all too brief life of Chika, a Haitian orphan with a severe heart condition that he and his wife brought to the U.S. after the Haiti earthquake in the quest for medical help. Chika is an unforgettable character and she touched not only the Alboms' lives but those of all she encountered. She'll touch yours, too.

The Lost Manuscript by Cathy Bonidan -- This was a fun fiction read about a woman who finds a manuscript in the drawer of the B&B she stays in and goes on a quest to find the author. Lives are changed, relationships built and hearts are healed in this delightful novel.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles -- I probably need to say little about this one; I may have been last on the block to read it but oh, it was fabulous. Beautifully written, it is the story of a Russian aristocrat who is "imprisoned" after the fall of the Tsar in a luxury hotel he must never leave. As decades go by, he encounters a variety of remarkable characters -- the hotel staff, guests and even a young girl named Nina whose life makes a profound impact on his. The first 30 pages or so were a slow start for me. And then I couldn't put it down.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris -- The subject of the film of the same name, Chocolat tells of Viviane and her daughter, who come to a small French town and open up a chocolate shop, right before Lent. This act raises the hackles of the town priest who does all he can to shut her down and changes the lives of some of the villagers at the same time. Even if you've seen the movie (now on Netflix), don't pass up this eloquently written, magical book.

Not in a Tuscan Villa  by John and Nancy Petralia -- Most books about moving to a foreign country seem to settle on buying and restoring a villa. The Petralias decided they wanted to spent a year in Italy, but living as the Italians in the cities do. They find an apartment (two), they dine out, go to museums, opera, become friendly with the locals and in the process learn what it is really like for a relatively ordinary couple to uproot their lives and discover something new.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osmun -- Oh, if I ever have to live in a retirement community, please let it be like Cooper's Chase, where Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim meet every Thursday to solve "cold cases" from former member Penny's police files. But when murder comes to the community itself, they are convinced they can find the culprit. Eventually working with two reluctant police detectives, they take on their challenge and will delight you every step of the way in their quest. (I haven't reviewed this yet but will in the next book wrap.)



I love mysteries, as is obvious by the quantity of titles here (37, well over half). I'm fond of series, most of which I think are best read in order and you will see three of my favorite writers in this category: Elly Griffiths, Susan Hill and Donna Leon, all of whom write rather complex and not-cozy mysteries. 

I must also recommend the British Classic Library Series -- British mysteries from the golden age of the 30s and 40s from writers less known than their contemporaries, Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, among others. The covers alone are treasures. 

I also discovered a couple new series writers this year -- Rennie Airth (not cozy) whose mysteries set in England between the wars are fascinating and Jeanne Dams (definitely cozy) who always seems to get herself into a peck of trouble. 


Books read by Elly Griffiths


Books by Susan Hill



Books by Donna Leon



Books by Frances and Richard Lockridge 



Books by Rennie Airth



Books by Jeanne Dams



British Library Crime Classics 



Solo books -- (The Upson, Fossum, Pryor and Osmun books are part of a series.)





 When I read fiction, chances are it is a book or author who has been passed along to me by a friend with similar interest. So, I have Rick and friends Suzanne, Joan, Lin, Maryanne and blogger Ricki Jill to thank for the titles in this list! Oddly enough, three of my top ten were in this category. Two were short and small, including the beloved children's favorite, "Stuart Little." "The Christmas Tree" is a charming small book about about the Rockefeller Center gardener who goes on a quest to find the perfect tree for the center and finds it in a convent, where the nun who loves it dearly is reluctant to let it go. A Christmas MUST!

Other books not mentioned above of special note in this list are the final book in Hilary Mantel's "Cromwell" series, The Mirror and the Light and Love, Death and Rare Books, where I learned a whole lot about antiquarian books!



I like non-fiction and don't read enough but when I do, it's usually travel. Mike Biles' High Days and Holy Days has been referred to more than once and James Herriott's Yorkshire has been a fun companion as I've been enjoying "All Creatures Great and Small" on PBS. (New season starts January 9!) France: A Love Story is a wonderful collection of essays.



Well, if you count memoir/biography as non-fiction, maybe I read more than I thought! Of those books not included in my top ten but still very noteworthy were Pancakes in Paris, Craig Carlson's wonderful story of how he opened an American diner in Paris -- and all the problems and joys that come with operating a business as an ex-pat in the City of Light. You Must Remember This is a must for film fans. The star of "Hart to Hart" recalls the golden days of Hollywood -- the time of his arrival and the decades before when Hollywood grandeur was at its peak. It's really more of a history than a biography but could go either way. I thought I  knew a lot about Charles and Diana, but I learned a lot more in "Diana vs. Charles" -- definitely fun.



I mentioned this when reviewing my November books. It's not for everyone, but anyone into painting will find valuable lessons here.


So, that sums up 2021. And 2022 has started -- which means I have, too! We'll see what pops up in the new year!


GretchenJoanna said...

My goodness, Jeanie, this post could keep one busy browsing for the next year! At least, some ONE like me. I am amazed at how organized you are and how you can write brief but helpful reviews of so many books.

I'm glad for what you said about A Gentleman in Moscow. I started it but didn't get to 30 pages. Now you've given me hope about it. The Christmas Tree sounds like a good book for this season...

Thank you!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

A well-spent year, Jeanie. Last evening, Miriam, and I were sitting at opposite ends of the loveseat both reading. How could it be any other way? There are people who don't love books I am told, but I really don't want to know them!

Julia said...

Hello and Happy New Year from England! I loved The Riviera Set and as Maxine is my middle name was fascinated to read that THIS Maxine was the first and she made up the name for herself! Who would have known? So now if I meet another Maxine I am able to tell them the origins of our name. Happy reading! Julia.

Valerie-Jael said...

For me there's no life without good books, chocolate and coffee! Reading is a way of life. Hugs, Valerie

Gayla said...

What a treasure to find your gorgeous list of books to read! I plan to grab a few for my new year! I was such a reader before my years of early onset cataracts and a surgery that left me with one eye for reading and one for distance... I want to read more! I have all the Chocolat series but have read the first! It is so different from the movie... Have you seen the movie directed by Sally Field about The Christmas Tree. ? It's so good! Andrew McCarthy... it was on YouTube. I will check! A library would be delicious!

Have a fun year reading.

Gayla said...

Yes, on YouTube it is still there! THE CHRISTMAS TREE MOVIE 1996 MUST SEE... I want to read that this year!

Rain said...

Wow you sure have a full library! I always imagined having a library like Beauty and the Beast...with the need for ladders to get to the top shelves!! :)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Jeanie

A great book post and reviews. I have picked a few books off of your list.
Chocolat and A Gentleman in Moscow were two I enjoyed. I have read most of Elly Griffiths. I will check to see if my library has the Susan Hill series.
Take care, enjoy your day! Have a great week ahead!

Anvilcloud said...

I am surprising myself by no longer reading much. I read and my eyes water and the yawns come. I probably need to read earlier in the day and "read" more audio books. I have found that to be quite pleasant when I do it.

My name is Erika. said...

You always have such an interesting reading list Jeanie. And you are the queen of finding new mystery series. The Lockridge series is good and I love seeing the vintage versions you photographed. They are hard to find online. And thanks for Susan Hill. I have books 3-7 downloaded that I need to continue.The Thursday Murder Club was a favorite of mine too. I'm with you about wanting to live in such an interesting place if I ever need to. I do enjoy your yearly wrap up, and I've bookmarked a few to keep my eyes open for. You definitely had a good year even if you didn't make your goal. I hope you have a great year of reading in 2022. Hugs-Erika

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

Wow! You read a lot of books this year! I need to start reading more.

La Table De Nana said...

I've lost my concentration:( I need a book to catch me while it can..I agree w/ a Gentleman in I got the audio..loved the narrator...worked for me:)There's just so much that keeps me doing other things..that in all this chaos..I prefer.I hope my concentration returns..
You would laugh if you saw my books..all by height LOL..Some are color and height;)

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

This is a great resource, and I'll surely refer back to it. I enjoyed France: A Love Story, as you know, and in between book club reads, Italy: A Love Story is up next, followed by Not In A Tuscan Villa, which is right up my alley.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Your library is so extensive - 500! When I was a child, I wanted a library in my home just like I saw in old movies with walls of books, comfortable chairs, and even a fireplace. Since I have never been a wealthy aristocrat in a manor house, I never had it. Many of the books in my life were library books. Now most public libraries have small collections of books and lots of electronics. As the arthritis in my hands began to bother me, I bought a tablet to read electronic books. I must have over 300 books on it. Many electronic books are not very good and I read and delete. Classic stories I keep. I read in spurts where I read constantly and then switch to TV. Then later I read again. I have no idea how many books I read a year but a fair number. I stand in awe of how many kinds of books you read. I used to be a reader of diverse literature. The older I get the more select I am. I mostly read cosy mysteries with characters I like to spend time with. I like books that are not dark or sad. I just don't want to fill my mind with dark images now. The same goes for movies. Series I used to devour now seem to dark. Brother Cadfael is a perfect example. I read all the books and loved the series on PBS. Now I find them too dark or sad for my taste. They are excellent but make me sad now. It was a dark and violent time then.

Thanks for sharing your list. I remember reading Auntie Made as a kid when the movie came out. My older sister brought it home to read and then left it in the bedroom while she went to the party. When she was ready to read it, I was through with it. I did that often growing up. That's how I read Exodus too. Have a great day my friend!

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

I envy you finding time to sit and reed...I did make more time to read this years than in the 2 years prior since I stopped working and I was thrilled to say that i did get to read 9 books which is big time for me!! Hopefully, that number will increase this year... As I worked through a lot of projects i wanted to do, I found more time but then the landscaping projects in the Summer took hold and that was the end of my time reading...It is one of my goals for this year for sure..Thanks so much for all your visits and kind was an interesting but good Holiday Season and now I have to get started on changing over to Winter and Valentine's decor...Busy again...
Happy New Year!!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Your favorites for the year include several I've read and loved including Auntie Mame, Chocolat, and Gentleman in Moscow. I am now looking for Not in a Tuscan Villa as it sounds like a book I'd like.

The French Hutch said...

I've never counted all of our books but it has to be up there. I've not read all of hubs but many and I've got several I haven't read yet. I wish I had room to have them in a library but they are scattered all around the house. I see several here I may add to my reading list. You have a very impressive list Jeanie and I have to go back through this post. I always enjoy seeing what you are reading. Happy January.....

Divers and Sundry said...

What a wonderful overview! I'm at the point where I'm breaking up my home library and passing books down. It's not something I ever thought I'd do, but I'm trying to plan ahead for possible downsizing.

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

Great selection of books Jeanie. I always read I should read more.I am more of a computer nerd...LOL

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

WOW, Jeanie! Such an amazing list. You are not last on the block to read "A Gentlemen in Moscow." I recently ordered it and "The Lincoln Highway."

You truly do have a home library and I think it is wonderful. My books are on my "to organize list" for this winter and I will make a count. I am certain it will not be close to 500 - but your number will make Mike feel better. He thinks we may have to move out and turn the house over to the books. Ha!

Have a great week!

anno said...

Great compilation, Jeanie, representing a great mix of genres and interests. And... with many thanks to you, several of these appear on my own list this year. Always happy to see your recommendations, friend!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

My goodness, jeanie, you DO have a small well-equipped library in your home with plenty of reading for cold winter days and eves! So many good reads in this list and I confess to needing to return to this post to list some of your suggestions. My only problem is that often our local library doesn't have copies of recommendations by blog readers.

My book reading/listening total for 2021 was about 51 which was less than the 59 in 2020. didn't track reading in previous years but suspect it was a lesser number.

My own hoe library has some photo books, lots of cookbooks (too many) and far fewer novels. I have donated many in the past so the collection is very small at under 25.

Pam Richardson said...

I love reading and have always wanted a library. I am impressed with your reads last year and will refer back to your reviews. I only read 27 books, but hopefully more this year. I am stuck in historic fiction and can’t seem to stop! Thank you, Jeanie!

Ricki Treleaven said...

I enjoyed reading your Book Year in Review! You shared a few authors I love, and I like how comprehensive your post is. I'll post my Year in Books tomorrow, but my post is not as detailed as yours. ;P
My goal is to read more cozy mysteries this year, especially this winter. I really enjoyed the first quote comparing a home library to a hot tub. That's great! :D

Sandra Cox said...

Glad you had a year full of wonderful reads;)

DUTA said...

Well, I must say, books are not what they used to be. Moreover, unlike with clothes or household items, donation is problematic. At the library they suggest you put them in the little community libraries spread out in the parks,
I went to our local synagogue to donate my late parents' book prayers. The guy there politely refused them on the ground of space shortage. His teenage boy who witnessed our conversation 'made my day'. He said keep them! it'll protect you and your home. clever boy!

Joanne Huffman said...

What a great reference for books to read!

Marilyn Miller said...

What a fun list. I am impressed.
I write down the books I read, but not by year;
so not sure how many I read. Not one of the books
I read were on your list. I do have a book in my pile
by Mitch Albom, but it is another.
happy reading for 2022!

William Kendall said...

Very well read.

Victoria Zigler said...

The main thing is that you enjoyed reading the books you read, so it doesn't matter that you didn't quite meet your goal. And it sounds like you read some incredibly good books.

I'm not sure how many physical books are in my home, but considering I have about a thousand on my Kindle, plus all my audiobooks, some braille books, various crafting books in both print and braille, and all hubby's various kinds of print books, I'm pretty sure we can claim library status. LOL!

Iris Flavia said...

I must make more time for books.
I admit, I just browsed through, way too dangerous to go into detail, I still have too many unread books, kindle and real!

Danielle L Zecher said...

You read more than I did in 2021. My goal was 52, but I only read 45. One of my goals for this year is to read more and watch less TV.

I'm adding so many of these to my to-read list on goodreads! I absolutely love Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series, so I'm very interested in checking out your other mystery recommendations since you're also a fan. Have you read Ellery Adams' "The Secret Book & Society"? It's a series (and that's the title of the first one.) I loved the series. They center around a woman who owns an independent bookstore and her circle of friends who solve mysteries.

You're not quite the last one to read "A Gentleman In Moscow." People keep recommending that one and it has been on my list for a while now.

Thanks for sharing all of these. I'm sure this post took a fair amount of time to put together. I'm logging into my library account now to see if I can get some of these.

gigi-hawaii said...

You are definitely well-read. I think you made a small error in the review of Auntie Mame -- it should read ten year old GIRL, not boy.

crackercrumblife said...

It looks like you had a wonderful year of reading! And now I have a billion more books to add to my list - all those mysteries!!

Your bookshelves look so inviting! I would be the type of guest that comes over and plops down in front of them to read through all the titles. Lol.

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I love browsing other people's book shelves! I've spotted your Christopher Fowler books - I love Bryant & May :D

Polly said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the quote about entering a library. I have been around the world and in numerous eras through books. You have an impressive library. You’re not the last one on the block Jeanie, I have requested ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ from my library but it is taking a long time to come through. Oh how I agree about ‘The Thursday Murder Club’.
‘Dead Opposite The Church’ is on my ‘Want to read’ list, some Hilary Mantel ones, and I think I’ve got some Elly Griffiths ones on there as well. So many books, so little time!
Happy New (and healthy) Year to you dear Jeanie, to Rick and family.

Priscilla King said...

Loved "James Herriot's Yorkshire"--the pictures to go with all those stories. (I've been rereading "Every Living Thing" this week.)

Sandra Cox said...

So many books. So little time.

Lynne said...

Amazing . . .
Thank you for the “breakdown!”
I have saved this post so I can refer to it at will!
I have a book for you to add to your 2022.
(I might make it a traveler!)

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

This reminds me that I need to read Finding Chika. I meant to earlier this year and then it got lost in the shuffle of my other reading!

I used to have a huge library but I donated all but my favorite books when I moved in with Phil. But a lot of what I owned no longer reflected my reading tastes and we just didn’t have the room for lots of bookshelves because of the layout of his house. This house doesn’t really have much bookshelf space either, again because of the layout. But it does have a great window seat area with shelves on either shelves so that is where my favorites reside and I have added to the collection. But now my book purchases are focused on the boys! I wonder how many books we have. Phil would tell you 1,000. Ha. But I am always happy to buy books for them as most get read a ridiculous number of times. I’m trying to introduce Paul to chapter books so I bought Stuart Little for Christmas. I think he’s a bit young for it but maybe in a few years.

You already saw my favorite books post! It was a great year for reading as I read 129!! I don’t really know how I did that but the pandemic has increased my reading since we do so little and reading is my favorite hobby by far!

ashok said...

Hi Jean,
Happy to share link to my new book

Happy new year

Pam said...

I have not read that many, not near. HAHA...I try to read before bedtime. I have books that belonged to my niece, and some of mine. I got rid of all moms, but I am planning on building a small library to put out in front of the house for folks to pick up and or leave off for where I live. Reading might happen today since it is SNOWING like crazy here.

Red Rose Alley said...

Jeanie, I'm not much of a book reader, cause my poor eyes get tired after reading small print after awhile, but I love that you bury yourself in a good book now and then. The only thing I read these days are special blogs, and with a few of them, the font is so small, and it can be a bit tricky. Thank you for using adequate font so your readers can see what you're saying! Good reads to you in the new year, Jeanie.


DeniseinVA said...

Hi Jeanie, you have a lovely selection of books. Thank you for sharing your favorites. I’m taking notes :)

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Wow, Jeanie your list of books is quite impressive! I wish to take more time to read this year. I seem to be too distracted to settle into a book lately. Not like me, but I do resolve to change that this year. Happy New Year!

Sandra Cox said...

I enjoy good mysteries too:)
How's the weather on your end?

Arti said...

I always like to read what you're reading, and what you have in your home library. A Gentleman in Moscow should be a good movie, with tightened editing and a character actor. And what do you know... just checked, Kenneth Branaugh is set to produce and star in its movie adaptation.

On another note, have you read The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante? The movie adaptation is now on Netflix. It's the directorial debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal's starring Olivia Colman in almost every scene. Do check it out, both book and film. Both are well done.

Lowcarb team member said...

What a lovely selection of books.
I do like reading, it's so nice to have books around the house isn't it.

Here's to more books during 2022.

All the best Jan

Anca said...

Well done for reading 58 books, even if you didn't reach your goal of 60, you still read more than 1 book each week, so that's pretty amazing. I didn't do my goal of 100, so changed it to 89, the actual number. :)) Maybe I should do like you and make a page goal too, but it seems a bit too complicated. :)

I would like to read a few books you mentioned, like A Gentlemen in Moscow.

Bohemian said...

So... does calling it a Home Library now absolve me from being considered a Book Hoarder? *winks* I Love Books yet am not a prolific Reader like you are, in fact, most of mine are Visual Delights. I like Writing, Reading, not so much, even a good Read takes me a long time to get thru. Right now I'm reading an Autobiography by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, I may finish it by the end of 2022. *LOL* Interesting people's Lives fascinate me, but most of my Books are Decor or Art Books, I have a better selection than Barnes & Noble, no hyperbole, the Truth! I do well Selling off my Book excess in my Showroom when I'm not wanting to keep any I have in the Home Library... Lord, I'm liking the sound of that... Home Library... NOT a Book Hoard. *Ha ha ha*

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

You have a wonderful library and read some interesting books this year, Jeanie. I am in a book club with neighbors and we each pick a mix of styles and genres with basically an emphasis on historical fiction the most often chosen. One book that stuck with me was The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich--she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for it although it is based on a true story. It was not an easy book to read--some of the subject matter was depressing but it made me aware of the challenges Native Americans, especially women, face living on reservations.


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Carola Bartz said...

I read this post with interest and put some of the books in my Kindle wishlist. I love the books by Tracy Chevalier, so this will probably be the first one I will get. I think biographies and memoirs count as non-fiction just as I think that mysteries count as fiction. I will definitely go on with the Ruth Galloway books - so far I have only read three or four, so I have enough to go!

Dawn said...

On your recommendation I have just finished The Bookseller by Mark Pryor and loved it. I've already ordered the next book in the series. I'm always looking for new authors and appreciate your help.

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