Top Ten Self-Published Books 2021

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We thought that 2020 was a strange year but 2021 has been equally so. Once again we've been amazed by the quality of self-published books which have come our way. Last year's top ten consisted of eleven books (maths never was our strong point...) but this year we're going to have to make it a baker's dozen as we really couldn't split them apart. Here they are, in alphabetical order, by author:


Review of

Who Needs Nappies? Not Me! (Everybody Potties!) by Justine Avery and Seema Amjad

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Who Needs Nappies? Not Me! is the latest release in the Everybody Potties! series from Justine Avery. This series of fun picture books aims to take the pain out of potty training children and replace it with some fun. It's a worthy aim, as any frustrated parent will tell you. . Full Review


Review of

Understanding Human Nature: A User's Guide to Life by Richard Brook

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

I am a firm believer that sometimes we choose books, and sometimes books choose us. In my case, this is one of the latter. Not so very long ago, if I had come across this book I'd have skimmed it, found some of it interesting, but it would not have 'hit home' in the way that it does now. I believe it came to me not just because I was likely to give it a favourable review [ full disclosure The Bookbag's u.s.p. is that people chose their own books rather than getting them randomly, so there is a predisposition towards expecting to like the book, even if it doesn't always turn out that way ] – but also because it is a book I needed to read, right now. Full Review


Review of

Flights for Freedom by Steven Burgauer

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

It's the later stages of World War I and the United States has just entered the conflict. Petrol Petronus is a young American who has signed up and joined the 17 Aero Squadron. This company was the first US Aero Squadron to be trained in Canada, the first to be attached to the RAF and the first to be sent into the skies to fight the Germans in active combat. But before that can happen, Petrol has to master flying the notoriously difficult but majestic Sopwith Camel. Full Review


Review of

When Fred the Snake Got Squished and Mended by Peter Cotton

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Meet Fred. Well, actually, you're going to be meeting Fred-Fred for reasons which will become all too obvious very quickly. But I'm getting ahead of myself: I'd better tell you a bit more about Fred. Fred is a snake and even those of us who have a phobia about snakes are going to warm to him. He arrived as a present in a box with holes so that he could breathe and immediately became part of the family, to the extent that they would take Fred out with them when they went out for a walk. And that was where the problem started. Fred didn't have any road sense. Or brakes. Full Review


Review of

Autumn Camp by Barry Fowler

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

It was to be Brian's last camp. He'd founded the organisation some four years ago and had done all the organisation since but he was leaving school and the time had come to hand the reins to someone else. The obvious person was Gary, who'd always been the fun element of the camps and Brian had said that on this camp, Gary should act as the leader and he'd just be there to observe. The problem with this was that Gary wasn't really an organiser, an administrator if you like. He was the entertainer, the person who basked in the spotlight and made things fun - so Brian stepped in and did the organising. He handed the camp over - and then took it back. And Gary determined to have his revenge. This should have been his camp. Full Review


Review of

Snowcub by Graham Fulbright

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Fourteen-year-old Rachel is her school's animal rights project leader and she and her friend are producing a competition entry to highlight the way in which human beings exploit the animal world. She gets a great deal of support from her family: father Pip Harrison, a lecturer at Imperial College, London, mother Kate and her twin, Nick. Kate runs the family business, a toy shop called Cornucopia in Putney, which is where we'll meet Rachel's main (if unsuspected) source of information: five soft toys. Full Review


Review of

Crooked: Honest Criminality by Bronwen John

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Memories nobody but death can cheat me of... and I've always wondered if I can con him.

The con had seemed like a good one: tricking people into buying artwork supposedly by the new Banksy - and they should have made a decent profit from it. The problem was they were too successful: one of the marks had bought a few and then discovered that they were valueless. Henry Martin Holmes had fallen for a simple con and his father, celebrity criminal Harry Holmes, was determined that he and his family could not lose face like that. The grifters were going to pay. Ashia 'Ash' Cox and Max 'Colorado' Ying needed to be got out of the country. In the course of bringing this about, Luke Gaines, Ash's foster father, lost his life. Full Review


Review of

Invisible Ink: A Family Memoir by Martha Leigh

5star.jpg Biography

Martha Leigh begins her book talking about a childhood spent in a slightly eccentric, immediately recognisable upper middle class English family. Her father is a Cambridge don, forever clacking away on his typewriter as he edits the complete correspondence of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, his life's work. Her mother is a concert pianist who practises for hours every day. Neither parent is hugely interested in the practicalities of life. There is love in the house but also darker undercurrents that a child does not fully understand but knows is there. Full Review


Review of

Tokyo Zangyo (Detective Hiroshi) by Michael Pronko

4.5star.jpg Crime

Zangyo: overtime work, often unpaid

It's the culture, isn't it? The hours for which you're paid are really just a statement of the minimum you'll be required to do: you'll work more hours to get the job done and done to the satisfaction of bullies like Shigeru Onizuka. When he was found dead in front of Senden Central's headquarters in Tokyo there was nothing in the way of regret or grief, even from his family, but there was a mild curiosity as to whether he'd jumped from the roof of the building or been assisted in his descent. Gossip revolves around the fact that he left the roof at the exact same spot that an employee, Mayu Yamase, had committed suicide some three years earlier. She'd accused Onizuka of bullying her and forcing her to work an unreasonable amount of overtime. Full Review


Review of

100 Ways in 100 Days to Teach Your Baby Maths: Support All Areas of Your Baby’s Development by Nurturing a Love of Maths by Emma Smith

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Babies seem to be born with an amazing number sense: understanding shapes in the womb, being aware of quantities at seven hours old, assessing probability at six months old, and comprehending addition and subtraction at nine months old.

Did you know this? I didn't! How about:

Maths ability on entry to school is a strong predictor of later achievement, double that of literacy skills.

I didn't know this either! I think most parents are aware that giving your children a good start in literacy - reading stories, teaching pen grips, singing rhymes - gives children a solid foundation when they start school. But do we think the same way about maths, beyond counting? I don't think we do, in part because so many of us are afraid of maths. But why are we? Most of us use maths in daily life without realising and it follows that giving our children a similar pre-school grounding will be just as beneficial. Full Review

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Review of

Supply Chain 20/20: A Clear View on the Local Multiplier Effect for Book Lovers by Kim Staflund

4.5star.jpg Reference

So, you've finished writing your book and you think the hard work is all done? You're convinced that all you need to do now is get it published and the money will start rolling in?

Wrong and wrong again. You presumably wrote the book because you wanted to - and you had a talent for delivering the written word. You knew your subject back to front. Now you're going to have to get to grips with the book supply chain, which even parts of the publishing industry believe to be wrong but it's too difficult to change and no one wants to be the first to try. Then, when you finally have a copy of the book in your hands, you're going to have to work out how to sell it - because it is going to be down to you. Full Review


Review of

If Only by Matthew Tree

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Twenty-one-year-old Malcolm Lowry had been sent abroad by his father, cotton-broker AO Lowry: he asked his accountant, Mr Patrick, to ensure that the young man got on board the boat and thereafter Patrick was to send him a monthly allowance. Patrick sent the money regularly and a correspondence - of sorts - sprang up between the two although we hear more about what Lowry has to say than Patrick. It wasn't that Lowry senior didn't care for his son, it was that he didn't care to have him in this country where he might be a danger to his wife and other children. The alcohol problem was obvious even before Patrick managed to get the young man on his way. Full Review


Review of

Crosshairs of the Devil by Yancey Williams

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Award-winning crime writer Eddie Jablonski is getting on in years and, despite his strenuous objections and thanks to his daughter, finds himself living - or imprisoned, from Eddie's point of view - in room 315 of the Garden of Eden nursing home, with only a trusty nursing aide, Jenkins, for palatable company. Nothing is going to keep Eddie from his stock-in-trade of writing though, so here, for his readers, are his wanderings through his life's work. Full Review