I did not do all that great with reading new releases this year. Between work and all of the crazy reading experiments I did this year, I just ran out of time and didn’t get to all the books I had hoped to read this year. Which I am a little disappointed about, but it is what it is. I’m definitely going to rethink my reading habits for next year so I have more time to read the books I feel like reading.
Still, I did read some great new releases this year that I’m excited to talk about. This is actually only a top nine, not ten, because quite a few of the new releases I read this year just didn’t work for me. Actually, a few of them ended up on my least favorites list. But today, we’re focusing on the ones I really enjoyed, so let’s get to it.
The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker
I don’t think this one is at all a surprise. The Golem and the Jinni is one of my favorite books, so I was very excited that we finally got a sequel after eight years. I did reread The Golem and the Jinni earlier this year, to refresh my memory before getting into The Hidden Palace. And the whole thing was such an enjoyable reading experience! I read a record number of books I didn’t like this year, so it was lovely to revisit a favorite and then get to continue the story for the first time.
If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t love The Hidden Palace quite as much as The Golem and the Jinni. But that one has been a favorite of mine for so long, matching it would have been difficult. Still, I did really love this book. I just adore this whole world and the characters. I was a little sad that things didn’t go entirely the way I had hoped, but I’m not holding that against this book because it wasn’t the fanfic in my head. But I did love how diverse this book was – even more so than the first – and how we got to explore a lot of the characters a bit more. Just a really great book.
Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir
If you are sick of me talking about this series, don’t worry, this is the sixth and final book of the Six Tudor Queens. Each of Henry VIII’s wives gets their own novel, and I really appreciated that we get to read each of their stories, with them as the protagonist. Although I probably had the most fun with Anne Boleyn (she was always my favorite), I did thoroughly enjoy learning about Henry’s later wives, because I didn’t really know all that much about them.
Katharine was particularly fun to learn about because she was kind of a cool woman in her own right. She was actually the first woman to publish under her own name in England, which is pretty badass. Her story was also pretty tragic. But overall, this was a great series and this book was a really great conclusion.
Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir
Yes, this is the same Alison Weir who wrote the previous book on this list. She is clearly one of my favorite authors. She’s also an amazing historian and writes fiction – like the Six Tudor Queens series – as well as nonfiction, like this one, which is the second book in her Medieval Queens series. Or, as I like to call it, Real Housewives of Medieval England because it is that level of crazy drama.
I’m not going to lie and say this book isn’t pretty dense – it is a history book after all – but it is also pretty fun to read. This has women causing wars, jumping out of towers and disappearing forever, and convincing their sons to stage a coup. I am a huge history nerd, and have been really, really enjoying this series.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I was so excited to get a new Taylor Jenkins Reid book this year. She is also one of my favorite authors, and this book is set in the same world as my two favorite of her books: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six. Which was super cool. I don’t think this one managed to surpass those as favorites, but it definitely is an easy third.
Taylor Jenkins Reid can write basically anything and I’ll read it. Both this book and Daisy Jones are not stories that I’d usually gravitate towards, but I know TJR can write them in a way I will enjoy, and she somehow pulls it off every time. I did like how this book focused on the children of a famous character, and how it affected them each differently.
Black, White, and the Grey by Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano
This was a surprise favorite, because I had literally not heard of it more than a month before I picked it up (for a reading experiment). You probably know I already read a little bit of everything, but this one was pretty new to me. It is a dual memoir, which is not something I’d read before, but was pretty cool.
The two authors are a Black chef and a White entrepreneur who came together to open a restaurant and became friends in the process. The dual memoir format felt kind of like a conversation between them and I really enjoyed it. It made an interesting story even more fun to read. Plus, there are recipes interspersed throughout the book. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but I want to!
The Project by Courtney Summers
I read Sadie last year, and was very surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was one of the books that convinced me that maybe full cast audiobooks weren’t so bad (they still generally don’t work for me, but I’m more open to them, depending on the story). Somehow, Courtney Summers published exactly the book I wanted to read earlier this year. Because I have been super into cult documentaries since the pandemic started.
This book reminded me quite a bit of the NXIVM cult (yes, the one Allison Mack was in). It’s about a woman who believes her sister is in a cult and tries to get her out. Obviously, it’s not easy, and not everything is how it seems. This was honestly kind of a fun little dark thriller. Definitely some difficult issues (please google content warnings for this book, because I don’t think I’d remember them all at this point). But if you enjoy reading dark thrillers, especially if they’re about cults, I do recommend this one.
The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson
I am a huge Walter Isaacson fan. I’ve read almost all of the biographies he’s written (I just have one left), and have loved them all. Leonardo da Vinci is easily my favorite, but this came in at a surprisingly close second. This one is about Jennifer Doudna, who won the Nobel Prize last year for her contributions to the MRNA technology (yes, the same technology that led to two of the Covid vaccines). Fun fact, Isaacson actually participated in the Pfizer trial while he was finishing up this book!
Anyway, two things I really love learning about are badass women and science, and this did a great job of combining both of those things. I really loved learning both about some really fascinating gene editing technology (and what’s been done with it) as well as about Jennifer Doudna. I’ve read a decent number of biographies. but this one was especially fin to read because it was about someone I hadn’t already heard of.
Near the Bone by Christina Henry
I love Christina Henry’s novels, so I was really excited to read her 2021 release. And I think it might be one of my favorites. This book was thrilling and dark and creepy, and such an exciting novel to read. I like that this dealt with a really hard-hitting and serious issue, but also involved a mystery that may or may not be supernatural in nature.
This is a survival thriller, with almost a locked room/escape room vibe to it. If I remember correctly, I picked this up when I was in a slumpy mood and still flew through it in two days. This might not be for everyone, but I absolutely loved it. I already want to read it again.
Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
I love Seanan McGuire, and the Wayward Children series, of which this is book six. And even though I love the series as a whole, I definitely have some favorites. I was really not expecting this to be one of them. If you’re not familiar with this series, it’s about the children who go through doors to different worlds. The books each follow a different child and introduces a new world, which is super fun.
This book takes us to a world filled with unicorns. And it really feels like a book meant for horse girls, which I never was. So I was a little surprised by how much I loved this one. It’s fun and whimsical and a little bit dark, and just a really wonderful read.
And that’s it for my favorite 2021 releases! Like I said, I didn’t read all of the new releases I wanted to this year, but it’s fine. I can still read them next year! And don’t worry, there are still three more favorites posts before we finish out the year, so keep reading in the next few days if you’re curious to see which of these ended up on my overall favorites list!
What was your favorite new release of 2021?
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