We are nearly a third of the way through 2021 (doesn’t time fly!) so we thought now would be a good time to let you in on some of our staff reading recommendations of 2021 so far. We’ve been reading a wide variety of books this year – fiction, non-fiction, some children’s books, Young Adult so hopefully there will be a title or two that takes your fancy below.

If we’ve missed something that you think we absolutely have to read, please do let us know in the comments (we hate to miss a good book!)

As always, you’ll find some of these titles on our library shelves and some available as either eBooks or on eAudio on BorrowBox. We have included links to all so you can simply click and find the title.


Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (physical copies, eBook, eAudio)

Like a lot of people, I have seen people I care for suffer with their mental health. I thought it was time I educated myself more on what they are going through and what I could do to support them.

This book was great. A really easy read (so much so, I managed it in one sitting) written by a very likeable man. Finally, I was beginning to understand what these struggles must feel like.

It also gave me some advice on what to say and how to react; and I think we can all be guilty and saying and doing the wrong thing. I have shared this book and it has been enjoyed by everyone.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig (physical copies, eBook, eAudio)

After enjoying Reasons to Stay Alive, this was a must read.

Once again, a very easy and engaging book. It is also full of things that ring very true and I was able to take away some tips for making my life feel more engaged to reality. Although there is nothing new and ground breaking within the book, having all the thoughts, figures and facts presented together makes you take stock and reassess.

During the last 12 months it has been crucial to see the bigger picture in our lives and what makes us who and what we are. Another book that I can keep going back to when things feel overwhelming.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (physical copies, eBook, eAudio)

I saw the book. I liked the front cover. I worried I was becoming obsessed with Matt Haig. I decided to read the book anyway!

This was the first time I had read any fiction by Matt Haig and I am already lining up my next. I really enjoyed this book and found myself getting lost in it. Although the subject matter is quite dark, it is written so wonderfully that you quickly forget this and enjoy the ride.

If you buy into the theory of multiple universes, then this will be your cup of tea. If you believe every action has a consequence, then you’re in for a treat. You find yourself rooting for the main character and want to see her happy. Nothing more. As you make your way through the book you realise that happiness is what matters most. Not being famous or having lots of money or being married. They’re just the things we think will make us happy. But loving oneself and living well are what really matter. Although of course, all us romantics do hope she’ll fall in love…

The Mind of a Murderer by Dr Richard Taylor (physical copy)

After reading an interview in a Sunday paper I knew this book was one for me!

Fascinating read with some well known cases and infamous characters. If you have ever wondered what makes a murderer, then this is for you.

The book is broken down into sections that cover different ‘types’ of killers and this makes it really easy to read and to follow. And if like me, you need to finish a chapter/part of a book before putting it down, the sections are not too long!

This book provides an insight in to some of the people and places we fear the most. Although the title hardly sounds like a light read, it was very engaging and enjoyable and at times I found myself laughing out loud!

A Prayer Before Dawn: A Nightmare in Thailand by Billy Moore (physical copy)

After watching the film in 2018 I was reluctant to read this book. I finally plucked up the courage and can honestly say I really enjoyed it. If you are looking for an insight into the life of a prisoner abroad then this is really eye opening (but not as graphic and disturbing as the film). It gives some background on Billy and his struggles before he ended up in a Thai prison, something that wasn’t explored in any depth in the film.

A very easy read and some great photos to mix it up! He writes in a very simple but engaging way and although he has made many mistakes, you still come away liking him and just feeling that he was dealt a poor hand in life.

I would recommend both reading the book and watching the film. Whilst you can just put the book down and walk away, the film is very immersive and you feel you are in the Thai prison with Billy.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (physical copies, eAudio)

The front cover had me, along with the glowing reviews. And those reviews weren’t wrong.

This is a beautiful, vibrant yet haunting read. You feel yourself travelling alongside the main character, feeling all of her emotions and even the environment in which she lives.

“Crawdads don’t really sing…but if you go far enough into the wilderness, by yourself, you will hear the crawdads sing”.

A book that left me wanting more.

Normal People by Sally Rooney (physical copies, eBook, eAudio)

I did the thing you’re not supposed to do. I watched the series first! In fact, we watched the series three times we enjoyed it so much. So when I found myself search iPlayer for the fourth time I knew I had to do something. So I ordered the book.

I really enjoyed the book, although I had spoilt it for myself as I kept comparing it to the TV series!

The only thing I regret, is that I didn’t read before I watched.


Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan (physical copies, eBook)

Best known for her Young Adult fiction, this is the first novel adult by Sarah Crossan.

Initially it was the beautiful cover that drew me to this book as the topic was not something that I would usually read (they have changed the cover for the paperback edition to the one seen here).

Written in verse, the novel tells the tale of Ana, following the death of her married lover. The concise, precise style of writing, using broken sentences and omitting punctuation can be confusing at times, but adds to the portrayal of Ana’s confused state of mind as she navigates her grief.

As a protagonist, Ana is flawed and dislikeable, but despite this, Crossan still manages to make it a heart breaking and elegant novel. It is a quick read that can be read greedily in one go and ends all too abruptly, leaving its mark.


The Last Dog On Earth by Adrian Walker (physical copies, eBook, eAudio)

Set in a post-apocalyptic world of 2021 where society has collapsed and London seems almost empty, this is a difficult book to describe and review. I read the tale on Borrowbox and have just started to listen to the audio version.

The story is told alternately by the two main protagonists. Lineker is a fiercely loyal, philosophical, funny and eloquent (but very foul-mouthed) mutt of a dog. His master, Reg, (Reginald Hardy,) is a reclusive and phobic electrician who seems content to view the end of the world through binoculars from his flat window. Then things change when the brutal Purple Shirts come down their street and Reg, reluctantly, succours a young girl, Aisha, who is being hunted by the fascist-like regime as someone who needs testing to see if she is ‘undesirable’. 

Along the way to deliver Aisha to safety we are shown what the World has/could become with the return of death camps and the struggles of the Resistance.

Be warned. The book pulls no punches! The characters are not always likable and some of their choices are flawed. However, if you want a story that stays with you after you close the book and leaves you pondering the value of loyalty and the true meaning of family then read/listen on.

Get knotted!

When I was young and a Girl Guide, macramé was extremely popular. This art of making decorative textiles using knotting manifested itself again later as a craze for making friendship bracelets. With origins attributed to Arabic Weavers in the 13th century or even to 3rd century ceremonial textiles in China, this ancient craft has made a happy return recently.

It is a fun activity for all ages and requires very simple equipment. Even though there is a lot of help and inspiration to be found online, these three books made great guides as I reawakened my knotting skills:

The Book of Knots by Geoffrey Budworth and Jason Dalton.

Decorative Fusion Knots by J D Lenzen

Paracord Jewellery by Linda Peterson

Happy Knotting! 

Tomorrow by Damian Dibben (physical copies, eAudio)

I was first attracted to this book by its cover but decided to listen to the eAudio version.  After all, how can I resist a book that features a dog as a main character?

We follow Tomorrow and his Master, Valentyne, across a sweeping canvas of centuries through the Courts of Europe, on to Battlefields and meet some of the greatest minds of the Renaissance. Then, one day, Valentyne vanishes leaving Tomorrow waiting for his master on the steps of the Cathedral in Venice.

Broken hearted, Tomorrow must search for Valentyne. A quest that endures for centuries until, at last, he must risk everything to find his Master or lose him forever.

A powerful and spell-binding book of friendship, companionship and brotherhood. I couldn’t stop listening and Shadow, my dog, got some good long, walks in the process.


Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean (physical copies, eBook)

This is a wonderful book that tells the story of Archie and his family. Archie’s dad has recently made a very big announcement that has changed Archie’s family completely and Archie, along with his best friends Bell and Seb have a plan to make things right. This plan involves an adventure, meeting a cast of wonderful characters and making new friends as well as breaking a few rules along the way.

This is Benjamin Dean’s debut book and includes illustrations by Sandhya Prabhat that really bring the story to life. Archie is fantastic character – very honest and likeable and his journey is one that both entertains and makes the reader think. There’s tension when someone important goes missing as well as comedy and joy as Archie, Bell and Seb make new friends. The book tackles some big issues in family life, such as what happens when families separate and looking at life in the LGBTQ+ community and is likely to provoke conversations about such subjects, but it is a great read too.


Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia (physical copies)

If you are familiar with Goodreads, you probably know that this book was top of their popularity list for quite some time and was their 2020 Choice winner. Not one to turn down a new fantasy title with such a qualification, I read it as soon as the library got a copy! (NB The cover design bears little relation to the content!)

Briefly, it’s a ‘haunted house’ mystery set in an indeterminate time (early 20th century?) in Mexico and focussing on Noemi – a confident, bright socialite who loves parties and flirting shamelessly. However, when she gets a letter from her newly-married cousin asking for help, because her husband is poisoning her, Noemi reluctantly leaves the bright lights for gloomy High Place, way out in the Mexican countryside.

The house is owned by a strange English family, once rich from the silver mine on the property, but now fallen on hard times. Their strict house rules are completely at odds with Noemi’s customary lifestyle, and she is given little access to her cousin. Realising there is something dangerously wrong here, she is determined to rescue her cousin, helped by her only ally, the youngest son of the family. The house has different ideas.

The prose is faultless: fast-paced, intelligent and skilful; characters well-drawn. Plenty of gore for those that like it. Unfortunately (to my mind) the plot is something else. It is heavily influenced by the Brontë’s (Victor being rather a look-alike Heathcliff) and traditional fairy tales, but that’s not unusual to find in fantasy writing. I lost the magic, however, towards the end. Not to give too much away but the malicious, menacing presence in the house was something I found hard to take seriously.


Wolf Hall trilogy by Hilary Mantel

As soon as I started this story I was gripped.  I listened to it almost non-stop. When I did have to put it down, I was full of regret the story was over – a regret I still feel.

I listened to the audio version of this which really brought it to life for me – I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.


Homesick by Catrina Davies (physical copies)

Made me want to live in a shed. Well, certainly chase the ‘alternate’ lifestyle. Really interesting look at housing / the economy and a great escape in to nature.

Taken from the blurb: The story of a personal housing crisis that led to a discovery of the true value of home. Aged 31, Catrina Davies was renting a box-room in a house in Bristol, which she shared with four other adults and a child. Working several jobs and never knowing if she could make the rent, she felt like she was breaking apart. Homesick for the landscape of her childhood, in the far west of Cornwall, Catrina decides to give up the box-room and face her demons.

As a child, she saw her family and their security torn apart; now, she resolves to make a tiny, dilapidated shed a home of her own. With the freedom to write, surf and make music, Catrina rebuilds the shed and, piece by piece, her own sense of self. On the border of civilisation and wilderness, between the woods and the sea, she discovers the true value of home, while trying to find her place in a fragile natural world.


Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham (physical copies, eBook, eAudio)

Set in Lagos, this debut novel follows the lives of twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike and their younger brothers Andrew and Peter over the course of two decades, beginning in 1996.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different sibling. Going from a relatively comfortable lifestyle to poverty after the family falls apart, the story focuses particularly on the sisters, who were once so close, we see how they choose different paths on their journey to adulthood.

I really enjoyed this book, it had central themes of religion, class, loss and love, and had some beautifully written passages. I look forward to reading Abraham’s next book.

If you’re just getting started with BorrowBox, or need any help at all, you can email us at libraryenquiryteam@warwickshire.gov.uk or we have two videos available for you – one for getting started which you can view here and a second with tips and tricks for making the most of our BorrowBox collection, available to view here. This includes the all-important ‘hit return’ – when you’ve finished with a title, please hit the return link in your ‘My Loans’ list so that the next reader can enjoy the title. You can also read our earlier blog about getting the best out of our collection on BorrowBox.

Happy reading!