Top 10 Books I Read in 2021

I can’t believe it’s already time for another Top 10 post; 2021 really flew by (even though it wasn’t all that great). How is it already the end of the year? What is happening? Actually, don’t answer that.

I read a lot more than last year, which is likely due to it being the first full year in my new position at work (which gets me advance access to many wonderful books, as you can tell from how many ARCs I am privileged to read). However, despite reading more I’m still not sure I read as much variety as I could have. I still read way more fiction than nonfiction, more science fiction/fantasy than realistic or historical, and more light romantic stories than serious literary works. But hey, I’m having fun, so who cares? I do have some goals for next year, but I’ll get to that later.

As usual, this top 10 list was SO difficult to put in order. So just as in previous years, consider this a loose ranking, because every time I worked on it over the course of the past few days, I changed the order of all but a few.

Note: This list features only books I read this year that were new to me, regardless of when they were published.

10. Bridge of Souls

V. E. Schwab; middle grade fantasy

I adore this author, and this charmingly spooky adventure through New Orleans is a wonderful addition to her oeuvre. The settings and action sequence sweep you away, even while sending chills up your spine. And the bonds between the characters are just lovely. A wonderful conclusion to a wonderful trilogy.

9. Garlic & the Vampire

Bree Paulsen; middle grade fantasy

Sure, this graphic novel took maybe fifteen minutes for me to read, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an insanely wonderful fifteen minutes. Adorable story, adorable characters, adorable lesson about not judging people before you get to know them. It’s simply fantastic. And did I mention that this is adorable?

8. The Cost of Knowing

Brittney Morris; young adult contemporary fiction

This book will definitely make you cry, and probably scream, too. Its exploration of racism, grief, and brotherhood is so moving and memorable, and if I could hug any characters from the books on this list, it’s Alex and Isaiah. This is pretty devastating, but so important. Read this, seriously.

7. The Reading List

Sarah Nisha Adams; contemporary fiction

This novel is brilliant, striking a wonderful balance between sad and uplifting, somber and heartwarming. It celebrates the unlikely connections people can find with each other through books, and the power of literature to provide both escape and guidance. Check the content warnings, but also read it, because it’s lovely.

6. Concrete Rose

Angie Thomas; young adult contemporary fiction

This captivating tale of a young man trying to find his place in a harsh world is fantastic. It doesn’t shy away from deep themes and difficult situations, but what results is powerful and engaging and so hard to put down. I mean, I read it in basically one sitting!

5. Poison for Breakfast

Lemony Snicket; literary fiction

This love letter to stories and to the little things in life combines great characters, delightful wordplay, and excellent humor to make something truly special. It’s equally funny and philosophical, and might leave you a little bewildered, but that’s the point, after all. And the audiobook version is awesome, too!

4. Renegades

Marissa Meyer; young adult science fiction

This dystopian adventure involving super-powered individuals surprised me by how much it drew me in. Practically every feature of this book is incredible, from the delightful characters to the breakneck action scenes to the clever plot twists and everything in between. It’s a gut-punch of an opener to this trilogy!

3. Under the Whispering Door

T. J. Klune; fantasy

As one of my most anticipated books for this year, it’s surely no surprise this is on the list. This gentle tale features a magical afterlife full of endearing characters and second chances. It has a quiet melancholy, but is also utterly hopeful and beautiful. I will definitely reread it!

2. A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Becky Chambers; science fiction

This is a tender novella with equal parts technology and nature, loneliness and friendship, thoughtfulness and silliness. Everything, from the imagery to the characters to the emotions, is written near-flawlessly. This is one of the sweetest and most refreshing books I’ve read in ages, and it just makes me smile.

1. Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir; science fiction

I’ve been praising this spectacular book since February, and I don’t plan to stop. Combining stellar humor, science, action, characters, and themes, this is one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read. Also, if Barack Obama, V. E. Schwab, and I agree a book is good, it must be true, right? So if you won’t listen to me, listen to them—read this!

And that’s all she read!

Honorable mentions: Taste, the Heartstopper series, The Lost Apothecary, Kiki Kallira, and One Last Stop (which I technically read in 2020 and put on that year-end list, but since it was published this summer, I wanted to give it another shout-out—it’s that good).

So this year, I read 109 books (well, I’m planning to finish my 109th today, so I’m counting it here). I didn’t write reviews for all of them, partly because many were kids’ graphic novels or novellas, or I simply didn’t have time. And I really didn’t expect to read this many titles this year!

As for next year (again, HOW is it already 2022?) there are so many upcoming releases I can’t wait for (and some of which are ARCs sitting across the room from me as I write this). Hopefully I’ll find new authors to love and new fictional worlds to discover. I also plan to read at least the occasional nonfiction, and will try to do at least one audiobook a month—I certainly have enough on my account!

And who knows, maybe 2022 will finally be the year I read more Brandon Sanderson? Or at least some of the old ARCs I’ve been neglecting? I think I said that last year, too… Oh well, regardless, I bet it’ll be fun.

Happy New Year, and happy reading!

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