A Year of Reading

For 6 years, I’ve chronicled the books I’ve read offering a summary and my own rating scheme to identify favourite reads, non-fiction read for research purposes, light reads, and so on. This year’s reading was a little muddled — I’m not even sure I can find them all — so I thought I would take a different approach and highlight a few books that stand out and why.

The group includes two non-fiction, four novels about the Kennedy family and a wide range of time periods.

Indian in the Cabinet by Jody Wilson-Raybould ~~ Jody Wilson-Raybould was Canada’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice for almost four years and a member of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. Being a woman in this role is impressive enough, being an indigenous woman is uniquely impressive. This memoir offers great insights into the indigenous experience as well as their hopes for a new sovereign relationship between our First Nations people and the Government of Canada. It is very critical of the way politics runs in today’s Canadian government.

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad ~~ a powerful and inspiring memoir of a young woman who was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 22, battled cancer for three years, and then had to find her way back to a life without cancer. Suleika Jaouad inspired many with her blog Life Interrupted and her columns in the New York Times.

Red Widow by Alma Katsu ~~ I attended Alma Katsu’s workshop on conflict at the 2021 Historical Novel Society Conference – titled Upping the Ante. Impressed by Alma’s ideas, I read her recent novel Red Widow to see conflict in action. Trust me, she knows what she’s talking about. It’s a novel I frequently recommend.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn ~~ I’m a fan of the women who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII. Kate Quinn’s latest dual-timeline novel is a wonderful page-turner.

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict ~~ I discovered Marie Benedict’s novels with The Other Einstein. Benedict has a knack for writing about the lives of unique women of history. Who knew that Albert Einstein’s wife – Mitza Maric – was an incredibly clever scientist and mathematician in her own right and whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated?

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray ~~ The true story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian who helps him build a world-class library of rare manuscripts, books and artwork. Belle does all this while passing for white. And it’s seamlessly written by two authors!

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell ~~ I stepped way back in time to read of fifteen-year-old Emma of Normandy who crosses the English Channel in 1002 to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Fascinating story, and guess what? It’s book one of a trilogy.

One of the panels I moderated during the June HNS conference was on writing about the Kennedy family and the challenges of doing so. I decided to read all the novels these panelists featured: The Summer I met Jack by Michelle Gable; Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul; The Editor by Steven Rowley; The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Mahon. I can enthusiastically recommend each one of them.

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See ~~ Lisa See was guest of honour at the 2021 HNS conference. Since I’d only read her novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I decided to read her latest. Powerful prose and a unique story about Korea.

Drake: Tudor Corsair by Tony Riches; Essex: Tudor Rebel by Tony Riches ~~ Tony Riches has made the Tudors his specialty. These two novels are from his new Elizabethan series about the men who served the Queen in unique ways.

The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson ~~ another wonderful dual-timeline novel by Jane Johnson. This one is set in Cornwall which makes it special as I’ve been to several of the places mentioned. And it features a foul-mouthed parrot!

Birds Eye View by Elinor Florence ~~ the heroine of this story joins the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as an aerial photographic interpreter, someone who spies on the enemy from the sky, watching the war unfold through her magnifying glass. The author does a wonderful job of explaining the technology involved in this little known aspect of WWII in a way that is easily understood and of presenting a great story featuring women who served in the war.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available for pre-order on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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6 Responses

  1. I did NOT like Jackie & Maria – I think she got BOTH of these women ALL wrong. There’s also “The Lost Diary of M” if you’re interested – although not about any particular Kennedy, but rather the woman who was very close to JFK (maybe his mistress) who kind of disappeared after he was killed. A strange book, but a very different perspective. I’ve also heard about another book… I think it was called The Editor and is about Jackie when she was already widowed and working as an editor for Viking Press.

    1. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Davida and for the book suggestion! I’m currently reading All the Frequent Troubles of our Days – non-fiction story of Mildred Harnack an American who was instrumental in the German resistance from the early 1930s onward, as told by her great-great-niece Rebecca Donner. Chilling to say the least.

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