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Reading 2021 and 2020

I saw this idea on Medium and had to copy it. Below is a list of the books I read in 2020 and 2021, and mini-reviews of each.

For 2022 have a look here!

Full credit to Amanda Pinsker for her great idea. If you’re going to buy them, and you’re in the US/UK, why not try


December 2021

Artemis Andy Weir Cover


Andy Weir

Last book of the year, and an incredibly enjoyable one. Strong characters, believable science and lots of action meant I ripped through thisat pace.

The Rabbit Factor

Antti Tuomainen

For those of you following these various mini-reviews, you’ll know that I’ve developed a real liking for Antti’s books over the last 12 months. This is his best yet, with a very strong cast of characters, gruesome violence but all written in a way that kept a smile on my lips the whole time. 

rant chuck palanhniuk cover


Chuck Palanhniuk

I’ve never read Fight Club, but picked this up as I love the movie and have read a few of the author’s short stories. This was a tour-de-force of imagination, with different ideas smashed together to form a narrative that never went where I expected it to. Disturbing, funny, intelligent writing.

November 2021


Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson’s world-building is second to none, and this is a great example of a YA book that holds just enough back to keep the reader guessing, but doesn’t let that get in the way of the character or the story. Heartbreaking at times, brutal but also speckled with humour, very much recommended.

little-siberia antti tuomainen cover

Little Siberia

Antti Tuomainen

More mayhem! More! I honestly think that all aspiring authors should read the first few chapters of Antti’s books just to see how to upend the protagonist in as efficient a way as possible. Great fun, and a great read.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo

Bet you didn’t see this coming. An interesting take on minimalism and how our attitidue to our living space impacts on our mood and wellbeing. Since the pandemic, I’ve been working from home and have become more aware of the impacts that my environment has on me, hence why I picked this up.

The Storyteller

Dave Grohl

I’m a big Foo Fighters fan and loved reading this. There’s a style to the writing that makes this stand out to me, as well as an energy and enthusiasm that is infectious, no matter whether it’s applied to music or writing.

October 2021

Tips From a Publisher

Scott Pack

Solid, straight-talking advice, from writing to publishing. Well worth a read. The second part of the book was cringe-worthy for me as I identified some of the mistakes I’ve made when submitting in the past, although I’m now confident I’ll avoid them in the future!

Consider Phelbas Iain M Banks Cover

Consider Phelbas

Iain M Banks

Not my first visit to Banks’ Culture series, but I happily picked this up to inspire my work in progress. Banks is one of my favourite writers, and although the pacing of this maybe placed it as an “old” novel, I enjoyed the story and felt fully immersed in the world.

September 2021

The Oak Papers James Canton Cover

The Oak Papers

James Canton

My first real taste of nature writing, this had a profound effect on me as I was reading it, and I started to seek out the natural history around me. Given my interests in gardening and sustainability, it was only a matter of time before I discovered this type of book – I’m looking forward to exploring more.

Mostly Harmless Douglas Adams cover

Mostly Harmless

Douglas Adams

Somehow, I’d avoided spoilers on this book, and found it another enjoyable tale of planet-hopping, dimension-hopping and time-hopping. What I like most about it is the sheer confidence Adams displays in his prose, even if by all accounts, he struggled writing it.

The Fifth Season

NK Jemisin

As part of my ongoing quest to better understand world-building, I picked up the first in this trilogy. Read mainly over a short holiday, I was fascinated by the world and premise. Very much, though, an introduction to the world. I suppose it means I’ll have to read the rest…

August 2021

hungry Jeff Gordinier Cover


Jeff Gordinier

Now for something completely different. While food/memoir/biographies have never been my thing, once I started reading this I was caught in the writer’s fascination and dedication to the subject. This acted as a reminder for me to read a greater variety.


The Silent House

Nell Pattison

An unnerving thriller that takes a terrifying premise and pleasantly surprised me by building in strong characters. This isn’t just a run of the mill murder mystery,  it felt just as much a commentary on modern family life within small communities.

Range David Epstein Cover


David Epstein

My non-fiction reading goes a lot slower than my fiction – but I really enjoyed this book. My performance (and attitude to) my real-world job will definitely improve after reading this, as well as giving me faith to continue my writing.

we begin at the end chris whitaker cover

We Begin At The End

Chris Whitaker

Brutal crime that, for the first time in a while, really took my breath away with a character death. Lots of twists and turns kept me reading. I very much enjoyed this book as an introduction to the author.

July 2021

the axemans jass ray celestin book cover

The Axeman's Jazz

Ray Celestin

Classic historical conspiracy and crime, set in New Orleans between the two World Wars. Well plotted and gripping, with a real sense of place that other books struggle with. Sometimes the different perspectives took a while to sink into my head (this is a standard failing of my brain).

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre book cover

The Spy and The Traitor

Ben Macintyre

Real-life spy stuff! What a fantastic insight into the workings of spycraft at the height of the Cold War. It’s amazing how much goes on, but is also overlooked, when espionage occurs under heaving bureaucracy. 

June 2021

Blacktop Wasteland

SA Cosby

Noir at its finest, this intricately plotted book just piles the pressure and the woes on the lead, and forces him to some dark places to fight through it all.

American by Day Cover Derek B Miller

American By Day

Derek B Miller

Witty and clever, this book takes a culture clash and uses it to shine a light on rural America, complete with all it’s wonder and deep-rooted problems.

May 2021

The Book Of Koli

M.R Carey

More dangerous plants from the writer of “The Girl With All The Gifts.” Very well written, the story drew me in and the main character’s metamorphosis from little villager to potential world changer is well done.

Road to Nowhere Caimh McDonnell cover

Welcome to Nowhere

Ciamh McDonnell

I found this through Prime Reading and enjoyed the slightly off the wall, fantastic humour of this. What if the Bullingdon boys went a bit mad?

Adrian Tchaikovsky cover image

Bear Head

Adrian Tchaikovsky

This fella is a bit of a powerhouse, it appears. The Children Of Time books are a favourite of mine, and this, complete with brain takeover, animals with human intelligence and distributed personalities… is just on the right side of insane.

April 2021

Black Widow Chris Brookmyre cover

Black Widow

Chris Brookmyre

I’ve not read a Chris Brookmyre book since ‘Attack of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks”. How things have changed for his main character! Still, this has inspired me to dig more into his catalogue after reading this solid, twisty-turny mystery.

thelongmars-paperback cover

The Long Mars

Terry Pratchet and Stephen Baxter

There’s a lot to take in with this book. The numerous dimensions (now spread across two planets) are fascinating to read, but sometimes I do feel the story takes a backseat to these imagining. Am I going to finish the series though? Hell yes.

March 2021

Ego is the Enemy

Ryan Holiday

I’m getting the feeling I’ll be returning to this book, which uses examples to highlight the danger of being led by ego, and the benefits of good, old fashioned hard work.

Fools Gold Ian Patrick Cover

Fools Gold

Ian Patrick

Another fast paced, sometimes brutal story in the Sam Batford series. This time, with a couple of (notable!) exceptions, he seems to be more on the right side of the law. Although I do feel things might go wrong in the next book.

Palm Beach Finland

Antti Tuomainen

You may have guessed as this appears to quickly after the last book, I really enjoyed Antti’s last book and this one is just as good. More mayhem, but no less ridiculous (in a good way), than “The Man Who Died”. Recommended.

Jim Crow book cover Michelle alexander

The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander

Very direct and unapologetic, this book shows how different systems and processes in place in the USA are leading to the creation of a permanent underclass. Astonishing and thought provoking.

The Man Who Died Antti Tuomainen cover

The Man Who Died

Antti Tuomainen

If there’s one book that captures the tone I’m aiming for in my work, this is it. Funny, offbeat but still dark, I read this as quickly as I could and still wanted more.

February 2021

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright cover

The Looming Tower

Lawrence Wright

It’s taken me a while to finish this book, but I’m glad I picked it back up. A fascinating account of the years leading up to 9/11 attacks, focusing on the personalities and circumstances that formed the men who organised the atrocities.

Redbreast Jo Nesbo cover


Jo Nesbo

It’s been a long time since I read a Harry Hole book. I picked this up because I wanted something a bit more procedural and standard after “King”. This was ideal for that, a really fast paced and at times very dark thriller-mystery.

King of The Crows

Russell Day 

What an ambitious book! Very big, very heavy and very different. While it took a while for me to get into the story, so overwhelming was the scope, by the end of this I was fully invested in the Crows and the police bringing them to justice.

January 2021

The Unquiet cover john connolly

The Unquiet

John Connolly 

Strange that this book falls under more comfort reading, given the horrifying subject matter, but John Connolly books never fail to entertain me, and this was no exception. Small scale, but brutal, this is dark fiction at its best.

So long and thanks for all the fish douglas adams cover

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

Douglas Adams 

I needed some comfort reading at the start of this year. So I went back to my Hitchhikers collection. On reading this, though, I realised that I haven’t got this far before. As always, this is a crazy journey, although as it’s based on Earth it feels a lot more grounded. You know, flying aside.

Steal Like an Artist Austin Kleon Cover

Steal Like An Artist

Austin Kleon 

This was a quick read, which definitely is a consequence of this being an expanded blog post. However here brevity is not a bad thing, as it gets to the points and gives a number of actions that are easy to implement, which other books often forget. It inspired me to continue investigating others work, and to keep learning.

America City Cover Chris Beckett

America City

Chris Beckett

I’m a fan of Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden trilogy, and picked this up on the strength of those books. Far more down to Earth, this read like a warning of an all-too-plausible future. Beckett manages to pull off a tricky near-future setting, with numerous links to the present day, and takes logical steps over the future of social media, political discourse, and climate.

December 2020

The Snow Song Sally Gardner Cover

The Snow Song

Sally Gardner

I devoured this story. Totally unlike anything I’ve read for a long time, everything about this book just worked. I loved the setting and the main character, and have reserved a permanent place on my bookcase for it.


A Very Fahrenheity Christmas


Some short and sweet Christmas tales from various celebrated authors. Despite their age, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. It goes to show, quality never goes out of fashion.

Say Goodbye When I'm Gone cover

Say Goodbye When I'm Gone

Stephen J. Gold

A brutally violent noir tale, which jumps between characters, time periods and locations at a blistering pace. Sometimes reading like a collection of different stories that shared a character or two, I would have liked to spend more time on the history of the ‘big bad’ in Hawaii. I really enjoyed the writing style and the setting and look forward to reading more from the author.

This is how you lose the time war cover

This is How You Lose The Time War

Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

An interesting, twisting novella that really drew me in, after I’d wrapped my head around the format. Two rival factions constantly fighting throughout multiple realities gave the writers a massive playground and I can feel the fun they had exploring it through the text. I did struggle initially to follow the narrative as the format skipped between prose and letters, but feel rewarded for my perseverance.

November 2020

White Noise

Don Delillo

My first read of a Don Delillo book, and I was mesmerised. I wonder if the underlying messages were lost on me, but this thorough examination of death, the messages around it, and what it means to face up to them really made me think. My favourite character? The Nun in the penultimate chapter.

Right Publish Repeat

Write. Publish. Repeat.

Sean M PLatt, Johnny Truant, David Wright

It’s taken me a long time to get back to this, as I struggled with it the first time. Not because the advice isn’t great – there’s some really good thoughts in here on marketing and staying away from trends and fads – but because it’s underwritten by the just write loads message, which just makes me feel guilty about my output.

Going Short Cover Nancy Stohlman

Going Short

Nancy Stohlman

As I’ve moved into more short fiction recently, and following a recommendation, I picked this up on Kindle. A quick but insightful read, I plan to apply the tricks within to some of my own work. Less of a ‘how to write’ and more of a ‘how to write this.’

Revenger cover _ Alistair Reynolds


Alistair Reynolds

My first taste of this writer. I got this because I wanted to see how an experienced writer went about world building. It turns out, with a heavy dose of ‘mentor and mentee’ for the first few chapters. The pace of the story never gives up, and even when the characters are ‘learning’ there’s still a lot of conflict.

Vital Abyss Cover

The Vital Abyss (Novella)

James S.A. Corey

I can’t get enough of The Expanse, and I went through this novella as quickly as any of the other books. The main character, who it took me longer to place in Expanse world than it should have, is well written and it offers a interesting back story to one of the most devious characters in the series.

October 2020

Stoned Love Ian Patrick Cover

Stoned Love

Ian Patrick

Short snappy sentences are the order of the day in this sequel to the excellent Rubicon. While the plot for the sequel wasn’t as tight as the previous book, the main character is one of the strongest I’ve seen in similar stories.

Cloud Atlas Cover

Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell

Imaginative and ambitious, this is a mammoth book that I very much enjoyed. The stylistic changes alone make this a must read, and I enjoyed seeing an author at the top of his game balance the different genres within the book.

Why I'm Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race

Reni Eddo-Lodge

A powerful book with an important message, I can tell this book will impact on my thinking . The writing is also excellent, urgent and persuasive, but never too complicated lest it detract from the message.