My Best Books Picks for 2021I read 125 books in 2021. The best of the lot are summarized below and my Goodreads reviews for each can be found here.
To be clear, not all of these books came out in 2021. Some are older and some, (like my Netgalley reads) won’t be published until 2022. This is just the year when I read them.
Hopefully you’ll find a book below that connects with you and inspires your 2022 reading list–even if that’s just to read a single book. If none of these ideas do it for you, check out my 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 or 2015 lists.
For a good celeb memoir, check out The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by
Runner up: Memorial Drive by
Best YA (Young Adult)
hich has a Stephen King, The Outsider vibe.
I also really liked The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, a (soon to be on Netflix) YA mystery/thriller about a young Native girl who goes undercover to investigate a drug ring that is destroying the lives of the people of her tribe.
Runner up: If you’re looking for YA Romance, check out Instructions for Dancing the latest book by Nicola Yoon, who has written a number of strong YA titles.
I didn’t have much luck finding a true horror title this year, so I’m giving this spot to two thrillers who had very creepy scenes in them.
The first is The Resting Place by who also wrote last year’s horror pick on my list, The Lost Village. Place has a bunch of creepy elements–people trapped in an abandoned old house, a possible killer on the loose, and our hero who has prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize people’s faces.
In the thriller, Such a Pretty Smile by the serial killer isn’t a real person, but something that lives inside people’s heads, which makes for some spooky moments. This is a weird book, and for me, it didn’t quite stick the landing, but it did give me some chills.
This year I read the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by . Is this series great literature? Nope. Is it a fun, fantasy adventure with cool, hot fairies? You Bet.
Here’s the skinny… First, these are not YA, (there’s quite a bit of fairy sex in the later books). The first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses is pretty good. The second, A Court of Mist and and Fury is even better. The third, A Court of Wings and Ruin is not quite as good, but does a nice job of wrapping up the adventure. The fourth A Court of Frost and Starlight is the equivalent of a lame Christmas special (skip it). The fifth, A Court of Silver Flames is a continuation of the story focusing on different characters. (Unfortunately, you kind of need to have read the earlier books to fully understand what’s happening.)
Anyway I read them all like candy. If you need some candy in your life, check ’em out.
I’ll be honest, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by is a loooong read. Thankfully though, the author is a great storyteller and the book is chock full of enlightening information you’ve likely never heard before. I’m glad I tackled it. It’s probably the best “Intro to Racism for Well-Meaning White Folks” book that I’ve read thus far.
Runners up: I also enjoyed The Day The World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander Newfoundland (the basis for the musical Come From Away) about a small town where hundreds of planes landed on 9/11, as well as The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by the incomparable
Best Historical Fiction
I like historical fiction because it gives me deeper insights on the parts of history with which I may be totally unfamiliar.
This year, I learned more about the Dust Bowl through The Four Winds by
I have two favorites in this category. First up, Day Zero by
Best Literary Fiction
I read a number of amazing literary fiction books this year. As with last year, I think my favorites are a three-way tie.
The best were Hamnet by , (speculative fiction about a pivotal moment in Shakespeare’s life) The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, (a book that goes in such unexpected directions I’m scared to even give a summary. Let’s just say, it’s not simply about racism in the office) and the luminous, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by
also read Reid’s Malibu Rising this year and liked that too. Hugo though, touched my heart.
My favorite romance this year was One Last Stop by which has a great time-travel premise and a lovable cast of characters that jump off the page.
I also was intrigued by Milk Fed by Melissa Broder, which appeared on a lot of 2021 best book lists. (Fed has a romance at its center, but is not generally classified as “romance.”)
Interestingly, most of the romances I enjoyed this year featured same sex couples, so I’ll throw in a recommendation for the hetero crowd too. I enjoyed The Hating Game by but, (as is my issue with most hetero romances) I didn’t dig the, “does he love me or does he want to hurt me?” power dynamic at the beginning.
I tend to read both the kind of Sci-Fi that takes place in outer space as well as what some call “future fiction”–where we’re clearly in a future society with new technology, but still on Earth.
Regarding the former, I really liked two books, starting with Project Hail Mary by . Mary starts out with The Martian vibes, but ultimately becomes something altogether different and even more charming.
I also loved the book, Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by that takes place on a Hoth-like ice planet that hosts an annual equivalent of a sled race with hybrid wolves (a story about a girl and her dog? YES, PLEASE).
On the future fiction side, I enjoyed The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev by
I enjoyed the fabulous debut, Iron Widow by which some have described as “Handmaid’s Tale meets Pacific Rim.”
Yes, I am aware that sounds like a ridiculous mash-up, but I found the book thrilling and fun. It broke a number of common tropes in this genre like featuring a hero who is disabled and an actual love triangle–where the girl loves two boys…who also happen to love each other.
I also liked The Gilded Ones by about a nearly immortal group of girls whose blood runs with gold. Both books appear to be the beginning of a fantasy series. I look forward to reading book #2 in both.
I read a lot of thrillers, and after awhile they all tend to blend together. So if I can remember a book’s plot at the year’s end, it makes this list. This year, two books hit that mark.
The first is Come With Me by
Best Stephen King
I read two books this year.
According to reviews, I was suppose to like Billy Summers more. And don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it a lot. Billy had great characters and a plot that rumbled along like a well-oiled machine. I just found the final quarter to be a little repetitive.
So ultimately I’m giving this spot to Later, which was overall a more enjoyable read. Later started off feeling a little like a Sixth Sense ripoff, (a fact which King wisely calls all out in the story a few times) but quickly becomes it’s own thing. It’s a fast, fun, spooky book that’s a nice throwback to King stories of old.
Best Self Help
I wasn’t in love with most of the self-help I read this year, but the one that seemed most helpful was Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live) by
I don’t think Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Broshis quite as amazing as her first book Hyperbole and a Half. However, I ended up reading it the day we put our senior dog to sleep and it gave me a cathartic laugh/cry for which I’ll be forever grateful. For me, it was the right book at the right time.
I also enjoyed Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson. Like Solutions, this isn’t perhaps Lawson’s best book, but it’s still charming, sad, hopeful, and fierce.
Both of these books are funny because the women who wrote them are funny. Those women also sometimes draw that humor from a deep well of pain. So I’m always wary of classifying their books as strictly “humor.” If you have an excess of empathy like I do, they may end up hurting your heart a little too.
The thing I like most about my annual book post is that I get to make the categories! I’m doing that for this last book, about a woman who is a hoarder and the people she meets who offer her a chance to change.
This is a quirky, sad, and ultimately hopeful book–less about hoarding than it is about love.
When I first read this book by it was called The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton and had a pretty ugly cover. It looks like it might have gotten a makeover because the hardcover is now called Everything is Beautiful. No matter what the title or cover it’s a hidden gem, a touching story that might appeal to those who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.