Shows and films of 2021

I think I can fairly say I spent most of 2021 watching TV shows, with relatively few books and films thrown in. As before, anything particularly outstanding is rated with * and anything particularly woeful with !

Emily in Paris, seasons 1 and 2, 2021, Darren Star

The Girl Before, 2021, J P Delaney

Married at First Sight Australia, Season 8, 2020*

Squid Game, 1 season 2021*

Atypical, seasons 1-4, 2017-2021*

Vigil, one season, 2021

The IT Crowd, all 4 seasons, 2006-2010*

Motherland, seasons 1-3, 2017-2020*

Starstruck, 2021

Unsolved Mysteries, Netflix version, seasons 1 and 2, 2015, 2020*

The Investigator: a British crime story, season 1, 2016 !

Murder among the Mormons, 2021, Jared Hess

The Keepers, 2017, Ryan White*

Sophie: A Murder in West Cork, 2021, John Dover*

The Staircase, 2018, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade*

Never Have I Ever, 2020, Season 2*

This Way Up, 2019-2020, Seasons 1, 2*

Good Trouble, 2020, Season 3*

If I hadn’t met you, 2018 (one season)

10% (Call My Agent), Seasons 1, 2,  3, 4*

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, seasons 1, 2, 3, 4*

Fringe, Season 1

Line of Duty, season 6

El Desorden que Dejas, (The Mess You Leave Behind), 2020, Roger Gual


The Circle UK, season 3*

The Circle UK celebrity

Money Heist/La Casa de Papel, seasons 1-4 of 4,  2017-2020, Jésus Colmenar

The Lost DNA

Lupin, season 1

The Vanishing at the Hotel Cecil

An American Murder*

A Teacher

The Secrets She Keeps

The Circle USA, season 1*

RuPaul’s UK Drag Race, season 1*

Bridgerton, season 1

How to Get Away with Murder, seasons 1 and 2

Surviving Death




The Holiday, 2006, Nancy Meyers !

Don’t Look Up, 2021, Adam McKay

Man Up, 2015, Ben Palmer

Nobody, 2021, Ilya Naishuller

The Tomorrow War, 2021, Chris McKay

The Settlers, 2021, Wyatt Rockefeller

Eli, 2019, Ciaran Foy

Minimalism: Less is Now (2021) !

Casting JonBenet, 2017, Kitty Green

Saint Frances, 2019, Alex Thompson

Fatima, 2020, Marco Pontecorvo

Sixty Six, 2006, Paul Weiland

Belle, 2013, Amma Asante

Exam, 2009, Stuart Hazeldine

The Gentlemen, 2020, Guy Ritchie

Pleasantville, 1998, Gary Ross

Flying Blind, 2012, Katarzyna Klimkiewicz

Circle, 2015 (Aaron Hann, Mario Miscione)

Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga, 2020, Will Ferrell !

Idiocracy, 2006, Mike Judge

Tenet, 2020, Christopher Nolan

The Lobster, 2015, Yorgos Lanthimos*

White Tiger, 2021, Rahmin Bahrani

Vivarium, 2019, Finnegan and Garrett Shanley

7500, 2019, Patrick Vollrath

What Happened to Monday?, 2017, Tommy Wirkola

2067, 2020, Seth Larney

Books of the Year 2021

As ever, I’ve listed below everything I’ve read in reverse chronological order. Those that surpassed my expectations are marked with *, and those that really disappointed me are marked with ! (though there are far fewer of them this year!)

Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris*
Middle England, Jonathan Coe
Capital, John Lanchester
Ordinary People, Diana Evans
The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Christy Lefteri
The List and The Drop, Mick Herron*
Begotten, Not Made, Pat Higgins*
The Blue Castle, L M Montgomery
Property, Valerie Martin
Spook Street, Mick Herron*
Luster, Raven Leilani
The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
Her, Harriet Lane
I Think I Might Be Autistic, Cynthia Kim
The Woman Next Door, Cass Green
Hold Your Tongue, Deborah Masson
He Said/She Said, Erin Kelly*
Becoming Strangers, Louise Dean*
Written in Blood, Diane Fanning
It’s Not Always Depression, Hilary Jacobs Hendel
The Perfect Marriage, Jeneva Rose!
The Source, Sarah Sultoon
The Shallows, Nicholas Carr*
Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
The Ikigai Journey, Hector Garcia
Developing Your Intuition: A Guide to Reflective Practice, Talula Cartwright
How Women Rise, Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith*
Love Your Impostor, Rita Clifton
The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington
Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind, Nancy Kline*
Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
Christmas Days, Jeannette Winterson
Deep Work, Cal Newport*
Grit, Angela Duckworth*
Cultural Misunderstandings, Raymonde Caroll
The Islandman, Tomas O Crohan
Ordinary Men, Christopher Browning
The Lost Man, Jane Harper*

Midwinter Music

The long Christmas break was the ideal time to quietly put together a short album of related songs on a wintry theme. Here is album #11, the last creative project of the unsettling and unprecedented year that was 2020.

Shows of the Year 2020

As is becoming usual, listed below are all the films and TV shows I’ve watched this year.  The ones that surpassed my expectations are marked with *, and any that I thought were overrated with !

Standalone films

  • The Hunt, Craig Zobel
  • Inheritance, Vaughn Stein
  • Serenity, Steven Knight
  • Yesterday, Danny Boyle
  • Contratiempo, Oriol Paulo
  • A Suitable Girl, Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra*
  • First They Killed My Father, Angelina Jolie
  • Birdbox, Susanne Bier
  • The Platform, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
  • The Proposal, Anne Fletcher
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma*
  • Two States, Abhishek Varman
  • The Two Popes, Fernando Meirelles
  • Aurore (I Got Life), Blandine Lenoir*
  • Sir, Rohena Gara*
  • Badla, Sujoy Ghosh
  • Judy, Rupert Goold
  • Contagion, Steven Soderbergh
  • American Woman, Jake Scott
  • Ad Astra, James Gray
  • Knives Out, Rian Johnson !


  • The Queen’s Gambit*
  • Journey with my Daughter
  • Utopia: season 1
  • The Man in the High Castle: seasons 1 and 2
  • Get Organized with The Home Edit
  • The Crown: seasons 1 to 3.5
  • Masaba masaba
  • Good Trouble: seasons 1 and 2*
  • Sex and Love around the World
  • Bandersnatch
  • We Are The Wave
  • A Suitable Boy
  • Normal People
  • Never Have I Ever*
  • Tiger King
  • When the Boat Comes in: seasons 1 and 2
  • The Inventor Out For Blood
  • Fall Cabal
  • Indian Matchmaking
  • I May Destroy You*
  • Line of Duty: seasons 1 to 5*
  • Killing Eve: season 3
  • After Life: season 2
  • Killing Eve: season 2
  • The Island !
  • The Messiah
  • Devs
  • Dr Foster: season 2
  • Dr Foster: season 1*
  • Orange is the New Black: season 1
  • After Life: season 1

Books of the Year 2020

As usual, I’ve listed below all the books I’ve read this year.

I choose books mainly based on recommendations from friends, followed by recommendations from reviews in the papers and on the radio, and then from suggestions on my Kindle and on sites like GoodReads.

Here’s the list in (reverse) chronological order. I’ve marked the ones that surpassed my expectations with *, and any that I thought were overrated with !

  • The Secret Within, AnneMarie Postma
  • The One, John Marrs
  • Love Your Life, Sophie Kinsella
  • House of Correction, Nicci French
  • The Easy Way for Women to Lose Weight, Allen Carr
  • The Casual Vacancy, J K Rowling
  • Fracture, Andrés Neumann
  • The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides
  • My Dark Vanessa, Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • The 5 Love Languages: Singles Edition, Gary Chapman
  • The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron*
  • The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney, Okechukwu Nzeiu
  • Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Burnt Shadows, Kamila Shamsie
  • The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
  • The Guest List, Lucy Foley
  • The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley
  • The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary, Catherine Gray
  • Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, Ayesha Malik*
  • The Unexpected Joy of being Sober, Catherine Gray*
  • The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern !
  • Boundaries, Henry Cloud and John Townsend
  • The Panopticon, Jenni Flagan
  • I Choose Elena, Lucia Osborne-Crawley
  • Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn
  • Forbidden, Tabitha Suzuma
  • Plague, Jean Ure
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo, Hirami Kawakami
  • Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo
  • Haven’t They Grown? Sophie Hannah
  • Unsheltered, Barbara Kingsolver
  • Ask Again Yes, Mary Beth Keane
  • Non-bullshit Innovation, David Rowan

Joanna Rubery: prize-winning writer

Read my prize-winning short stories, travel writing, and articles on language (for the OxfordWords blog). I’m also a songwriter and pianist.

Short stories and microfiction

Right of Way (first prize, 1000 Word Challenge) (“a beautifully-written story, focusing on the relationship between a driving instructor and his pupil. The characters are skilfully built, with genuine ambiguity.”)

Date with a Sociopath (published as a Narrative magazine iStory)

Fallout (finalist, Gotham Writers ‘Be a Hero’ competition)

The Photograph (highly placed, Grindstone Literary Academy) (“you tread that fine line between vagueness and giving just enough away to piece together a backstory. My first reactions were very strong for this piece and I championed it”)

Trapped (shortlisted for Writers Online)

Rewired (shortlisted for the Limnisa Short Short Competition)

Gooseberry (longlisted for the Irish Fish Flash Fiction Prize)

Travel writing


Lost in Translation…so I was: adventures in Irish English (published in New Zealand’s Christchurch Press)

Is Polish the most difficult European language to learn? (published on the OxfordWords blog)

Zucchini Flowers (Greece)

Fallen Angel (Belgium)

Why learn Italian? (published on the OxfordWords blog)

Jèrriais, the language of Jersey (published on the OxfordWords blog)

Paris in the spring? (published on the OxfordWords blog)


Loving Latin (Peru, Chile, Bolivia) (published on the OxfordWords blog)

Peruvian Blues

Niagara Flaws (Canada)


Vis-à-visa (published in Wanderlust magazine) (Cambodia)

Stranded in Sihanoukville (Cambodia)


The First Tomorrow (New Zealand)

Articles on language (for the OxfordWords blog) include:

Foreign languages

Let’s just “call a cat a cat”: cat idioms in foreign languages

Can the Académie française stop the rise of Anglicisms in French?

From pralines to pasteurized milk: everyday things named after French people

From silhouette to leotard: more everyday things named after French people

This blog is a he: gender in foreign languages

TEFL and EFL ((Teaching) English as a Foreign Language)


10 British animal idioms and expressions (Advanced/Proficient)

10 common mistakes with prepositions made by learners of English (Beginner/Elementary)

10 mistakes made by learners of English (for teachers)

Other articles include

Flash fiction: short stories with a long lifespan

From room to zoom: a short history of the camera

Chasing the rainbow connection

The language of leap years

Relational language: the language of cousins


Favourites (Best of 2015-2019)

Latest album: Glass Heart (2020)


[The following short story made the shortlist of the recent Limnisa Short Story Competition 2020:  Although your story couldn’t make it into the top five it was on the short list of twenty five, out of five hundred entries, and was rated highly by some of our judges.”]

There it is. Just one word.

Down in the corner at the bottom of the screen.


I skim the ad, breath held. Catherine, I think. This would be perfect for Catherine.

My phone rings, on cue.

“Catherine?” I try.

There’s a muffled sound. My sister is crying, which isn’t at all like her.

“What’s happened?” I ask in a low voice. “Is it” – what was his name this time?  – “Nick?”

Continue reading “Rewired”

Books of the Year 2019

woman and books

As before (will this become a tradition?), I’ve listed below all the books I’ve read this year.

I choose books mainly based on recommendations from friends, followed by recommendations from reviews in the papers and on the radio, and then from suggestions on my Kindle and on sites like GoodReads.  This year, too, I’ve joined a book club, which has prompted a few of these titles. In the same way as last year, I also wanted to include some classics that I had never looked at properly before.

Here’s the list, this time in chronological order. I’ve marked the ones that surpassed my expectations with *, and any that I thought were overrated with !

  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • The Lost Dog – Michelle de Kretser
  • The Rooster Bar – John Grisham !
  • The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf
  • India: Another Way of Seeing – various authors
  • The British in India – David Gilmour
  • City of Djinns – William Dalrymple
  • Blokes, Beers, and Burritos – Jo Blakeley
  • I am, I am, I am – Maggie O’Farrell *
  • Devil’s Peak – Deon Meyer [in translation]
  • Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  • Love Factually – Laura Mucha
  • The Unexpected Joy of Being Single – Catherine Gray
  • The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  • Slade House – David Mitchell !
  • I know why the caged bird sings – Maya Angelou
  • The Second Plane – Martin Amis
  • Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Problems – Jade Sharma
  • By Jeeves – P G Wodehouse *
  • The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter
  • The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
  • Selected Tales – Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton *
  • The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky ! [in translation]
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Normal People – Sally Rooney
  • The Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula Le Guin
  • The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  • Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White *
  • Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata [in translation]
  • The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory
  • My Sister the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite *
  • Moby Dick – Herman Melville !
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
  • Goddesses in Everywoman – Jean Shinoda
  • Collected Ghost Stories – M R James
  • The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  • The Antidote – Oliver Burkeman
  • Antisocial Media – Siva Vaidhyanathan
  • Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys – Will Self
  • Fox 8 – George Saunders
  • Dead Famous – Ben Elton
  • I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella
  • The Mother-in-Law – Sally Hepworth
  • What Red Was – Rosie Price
  • The Potter’s Field – Andrea Camilleri [in translation]
  • The Longest Way Home – Andrew McCarthy
  • Attached – Amir Levine, Rachel Heller
  • Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty !
  • Flight Behaviour – Barbara Kingsolver *
  • Doughnut Economics – Kate Raworth
  • How to be a Kosovan Bride – Naomi Hamill
  • Watching You – Lisa Jewell
  • The Better Sister – Alafair Burke
  • Hunger – Amélie Nothomb [in translation]
  • The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
  • The Prenup – Lauren Layne
  • The Holiday – T M Logan !
  • Christmas Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella *
  • The Understudy – Sophie Hannah, Clare Mackintosh, B A Paris, Holly Brown !