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Our Best Books of 2021

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Our Best Books of 2021

Our Best Books of 2021

This year Nutreats Book Club, our Book review section continued to grow. Thank you to the amazing publishers (and authors) who make it possible; Jonathon Ball Publishers, Pan Macmillan and Penguin Random House.

 

It’s been a joy for us to be able to share our love of reading with you and see how more and more of you are turning to books.

 

In the words of Cathy Rentzenbrik, “I wanted people to read because I hoped it would be a great thing for them, not because I needed to convert everyone into good citizens. I didn’t want people to read in the same way they might eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, but because I wanted them to know the mind-expounding privilege of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, of being able to turn a page and be transported to another world.”

 

Reading has always been a constant in our lives. But during the past two years, we’ve read more than ever and books have provided us with an escape from the endless news cycle and allowed our minds to journey to foreign lands at a time when our bodies were stuck at home.

 

We don’t judge books by their covers, we only arrange them by them. However, this year we have been more selective with genres and have tried to choose books that are different, original and leave you with food for thought and action.  Some have been tell everyone excellent, others good, some decent and a few select ones we couldn’t quite get through. We finally learned that it’s ok to put something down you aren’t enjoying and shared that revelation in our tips on how to read more.

 

That brings us to our Best Books of 2021 –  the books we’d recommend without being asked. If you’re looking for a fantastic read, might we suggest you pick up one of the below. These are the books that made a huge impression on us, the ones we couldn’t stop talking about and the ones still linger on in our minds. At the bottom of the list is notable mentions, these are books that we may not recommend without being ask, but books that if we were to start chatting books would come up as good reads.

 

Best Educational / Learning Books of 2021

 

How I Built this by Guy Raz

This is the book version of the acclaimed NPR podcast of the same name. In it, Guy Raz shares the best insights from guests of his podcast on starting and building a successful venture. As a fan of the podcast I could not wait to get my hands on his book and it didn’t disappoint. He writes as well as he interviews and manages to weave lessons in entrepreneurship into stories masterfully. It’s one of the best business books I’ve read and not only peels back the curtain on entrepreneurship but also on the man behind How I Built This – Guy Raz and what made him start the podcast and how each episode comes to be.

Read the full review here

 

Stressproof by Richard Sutton

Stress proof tackles stress from a business perspective in a way that is engaging and practical. Much like he does in The Stress Code, Richard Sutton explains the topic of stress in a way that is interesting and leaves you feeling like not only have you learnt but that you’ve gained practical tools that you can apply in your own life.

Read the full review here

 

Rapport by Emily Alison and Laurence Alison

This book opens with one of the best introductions I have read; and this sets the tone for the rest of the book which is just as good. It’s all about communication, interaction and how to build authentic connections with people. Communication is at the cornerstone of every relationship and interaction and it’s something you can learn to be good at. Rapport is a brilliant book that holds valuable lessons and insight into communication and how to become better at it.  I learnt a lot from it and highly recommend it as a must read.

Read the full review here

 

Think Again by Adam Grant

This fascinating book explores how rethinking happens and why it’s so important to rethink old ideas. It makes you think and leaves you rethinking your own ideas and interactions with people who have different opinions to yours. But what makes this a must read is that it’s not just interesting, it’s practical. In a world where things are ever-changing and uncertain, being able to rethink and unlearn isn’t just about intelligence, it’s about survival – and this books gives you the tools.

Read the full review here

 

Fully Human by Steve Biddulph

A book that seems particularly timely, Fully Human combines the latest in neuroscience, cutting edge psychotherapy and Steve Biddulph’s life’s work helping people heal and grow from the worst. By using two concepts – supersense and the four story mansion he explains how our bodies and minds work to process things and how we can do it in a healthier and more cohesive way. It’s a book that explains so well emotions and things that happen in our brain that’ll make you feel less alone and more equipped to handle whatever life throws at you.

Read the full review here

 

Best Fiction Books of 2021

 

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

This book follows Dawn, a death doula who survives a plane crash that has her choosing what path to take and makes her confront her past and what she wants her future to look like. It was one of the first books I read this year and still remains on the top of my pile of best books. It was gripping, evocative and mind-bending and had me switching between racing to get to the end and dragging out pages not wanting it to end. Not only was the storyline brilliant, but she tackles the topic of death (a main theme of the book) beautifully with empathy and bluntness that so perfectly captures the myriad emotions of both dying and living.

Read the full review here

 

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain is set in a poor mining town in Glasgow during the 80’s and 90’s. It follows the Bain family and tackles addiction, poverty and abandonment in a raw and authentic way. This is Douglas Stuart’s debut novel and it’s both brilliant and devastating – he manages to bring to life each character in a way that feels incredibly intimate and personal. It’s not a pretty book and that is exactly what makes it so memorable.

Read the full review here

 

The City of Tears by Kate Mosse

This historical novel is set way back in the 1500’s and tackles family bonds, persecution, loss, revenge and greed. Kate Mosse has created an amazingly vibrant and rich backdrop to a dazzling story that encapsulates everything that makes a good book great: solid research, excellent writing, multi-faceted characters, suspense, drama, and unpredictability.

Read the full review here

 

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

This is one of the best heart-breaking historical novels I have read. Set in the dust bowl era, one of the darkest periods of the great depression, it follows Elsa a 30 something mother as she navigates overcoming her childhood adversities and saving her family. It is a powerful story that portrays the strength of women and is exceptionally well written.

Read the full review here

 

The Funny Thing About Norman Forman by Julietta Henderson

Norman is an awkward 12 year old boy who lost his best friend Jax. In a flurry of grief his mother promise to help him keep his own promise to Jax. What follows is a darling story filled with mishaps, humour and life lessons. It’s a charming book, written in a loveable style and a fantastic heart-warming easy read.

Read the full review here

 

Outlawed by Anna North

A historical novel set in the 1890’s after the great flu where it is every woman’s duty to have a child to replace those that were lost. Described as a feminist western, it follows Ada as she is forced to flee her home after being unable to fall pregnant. She joins up with a notorious gang led by the charismatic “The kid” who dreams of creating a safe haven for women outcast from society. It is gripping, well written, touching and interesting.

Read the full review here

 

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

This book is so vastly different to anything I have read before. Told through the eyes of Klara, an artificial friend, it follows her life cycle. This book, although touching and almost innocent, isn’t just a sweet story – it makes you question the human tendency to make people and technologies redundant and the essence of what separates humans from machines.

Read the full review here

 

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

Flitting between Afghanistan and America this tells the story of Sitara, a young girl whose family is murdered during the communist coup. She ends up in America, changes her name and buries her past only to have it appear years later and force her to confront her history. It’s brilliantly vivid and emotional and is an example of the ability of books to transport you to faraway lands. It mixes fiction with reality in a can’t put down book that I loved.

Read the full review here

 

The Fine Art of Invisible Detection by Robert Goddard

This novel follows Umika, a Japanese secretary to a private detective who has her world thrown off its axis when she steps into her bosses shoes. It is well written, has a captivating storyline, an exceptional main character, twists and turns, and an ending you won’t see coming.

Read the full review here

 

Another Life by Jodie Chapman

This book is about Nick and Anna, and on surface level a love story, but it is written brilliantly and with such poignancy that it touches you deeply. The underlying theme highlights the collection of memories and events that define you as a person.

Read the full review here

 

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth McNeal

This historical novel is set in the 1800s and moves between the Pleasure Gardens of Victorian London where Nell, a girl marked by brown birthmarks goes from outsider to circus phenom and the battle scarred plains of Crimea where her circus master Jasper and his brother Toby went to war. I loved it and found myself completely entranced and transported to another time. It’s unlike any book I’ve read and held my attention throughout. It’s historical fiction that brilliantly shares a snippet of history you would never had otherwise know about.

Read the full review here

 

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Macksey

This book introduced me to a whole new genre of books that I absolutely adore. It is a beautifully illustrated book that shares the story of four unlikely friends and their adventures. Weaved in that story is universal lessons on life, love and friendship. It’s a timeless book that belongs within reach so you can come back to it time and time again and one that makes a wonderful gift.

Read the review here 

 

Big Panda, Tiny Dragon by James Norbury

Similar in style to The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The horse, big Panda, Tiny Dragon follows the two friends as they journey through the seasons of the year together. At first glance it seems like a simple illustrated book, but it holds so many poignant and universal messages that you can come back to over and over again. I absolutely adore this beautiful, meaningful book which much like the one above is one you keep forever, come back to often and would make a brilliant gift.

Read the full review here

 

Best Non-Fiction Books of 2021

 

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrick

This is part memoir, part book recommendations and part love letter to books. Cathy Rentzenbrink uses books to map out her life. It’s such a Fabolous book that feels like you’re having a conversation with a friend. It made me love reading more and want to read anything she writes.

Read the full review here

 

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

This hefty (it’s literally heavy) book is the first of two volumes of Barack Obama’s memoir. This first volume covers his childhood, early political career and his first term as the President of the United States. It’s a superb memoir and his uncanny storytelling ability means you’re never bored. My favourite parts were the parts he peeled back the curtains on what it was like being POTUS and gave behind the scenes details of history making events.

Read the full review here

 

The Happiest Man Alive by Eddie Jakua

A short but incredibly impactful and special Holocaust memoir, this was written by Holocaust survivor when he was 100 years old. He passed away this year and his story has stuck with me as being proof of the adage “you’re never too old to do something”. His attitude and mindset to choose life and love over hate is a lesson to us all.

Read the full review here

 

The Bomber Mafia by Malcom Gladwell

This book explores in a way only Gladwell can do what happens when we happen on a new idea, one with revolutionary potential. He uses the story of The Bomber Mafia, the small group of renegade pilots in the US Air Corps Tactical School that came up with the idea to make bombing so accurate wars could be fought by the air. It’s masterfully written and leaves you feeling like you’ve learned something new.

Read the full review here

 

The Spymaster of Baghdad by Margaret Coker

What reads as a can’t put down spy thriller is actually the true story of The Falcons: The top-secret Iraqi intelligence unit that infiltrated the Islamic state and played a critical role in locating and killing reclusive former leaders of Iraq and foiling dozens of terror attacks. It’s superbly researched and written and offers insights and stories from a wide spectrum of Iraqi’s during a war we all watched play out from the safety of our TVs. It’s a brilliant piece of investigative journalism and a story you won’t soon forget.

Read the full review here

 

Listen to Your Footsteps by Kojo Bafoe

This is a collection of reflections and essays from writer, poet, businessman and family man Kojo Bafoe. It surprised me how much I enjoyed this book and how quickly he drew me in to his world with his words and reading this book felt for lack of a better word, cathartic. He has a beautiful way with words and expresses ideas in a thoughtful and thought-provoking way.

Read the full review here

 

World Travels by Anthony Burdain

An alphabetical guide to the places Anthony Burdain travelled to, this is a travel book unlike any other. It provides you with not just hotspots to visit and useful travelling information, but it allows you to travel the world through its pages, through the vivid descriptions of cities and the sensitive acknowledgements of cultural and historical aspects of certain places and how travel and tourism impacts locals. A balm to the current travel restrictions.

Read the full review here

 

Scatterling of Africa by Johnny Clegg

The early years of Johnny Clegg written by Johnny gives you a raw and unfiltered peak into the circumstances that turned Johnny Clegg into the musician and artist whose songs we all know so well. It was a joy to read and to learn not only his origin story but the rich culture and history of the Zulu migrant worker. It’s a must read for Clegg fans and one that shows you the incredible things that can happen when you follow your curiosities.

Read the full review here

 

The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

One of the most inspiring business books I’ve read. Robert Iger has had an incredible career and became the 6th CEO of the Walt Disney Company. This follows his career trajectory and has him imparting lessons from each step of his career, culminating in his lessons for leadership. Not only does it give you a fascinating peak behind the curtain of some of the world’s biggest businesses, there are so many valuable lessons to take from this book.

Read the full review here

 

Notable Mentions

Nine Letter by John Webb – Read more here

The Russian Affair by David Walsh – Read more here

The Searcher by Tana French – Read more here

The Art of Fairness by David Bodanis – Read more here

Everything is beautiful by Eleanor Ray – Read more here

How to avoid climate disaster by Bill Gates – Read more here

A path unexpected by Jane Evans – Read more here

The break by Marian Keyes – Read more here

Burnout Survival Kit by Imogen Dall – Read more here

The Harpy by Megan Hunter – Read more here

The Frequency of us by Keith Stuart – Read more here

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley – Read more here

The cat who saved books by Sosuke Natsukawa – Read more here

7 and a half lessons about the brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett– Read more here

The 100 years of Leni and Margot by Marianne Cronin –  Read more here

 

What were your best books of 2021?

 

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