It is finally time to share my overall favorites of 2021! This has been a weird year. I’ve probably read more books I didn’t like than ever before, but I did still read a lot of books I absolutely loved. And today, I finally get to talk about them!
Just in case you missed them, I already published separate posts about my audiobook favorites, favorite new releases, and favorite nonfiction books of the year. As well as my least favorite and most disappointing books of the year, because I know that’s what you all want to see.
But todays we are talking about my absolute favorite books of the year. The ten books that I am still thinking about. The ones that made the biggest impact on me, but were also really enjoyable to read. I can’t believe it’s already time for my final favorites post of 2021, but here we go!
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
This book had been sitting on my TBR since it was released almost three years ago. And I’m a little annoyed with myself for not picking it up sooner. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure how I was going to feel about this one, but (obviously) I ended up loving it. As a second-generation Palestinian American, it was super cool to see that culture in a novel.
I just really loved everything about this novel – the characters, the story, the writing. This is a feminist story spanning three generations of women, which I thought was brilliant. It’s definitely not the happiest book (why are all the books we love most so sad?), but there was some hope amidst the tragedy. Bittersweet, but beautiful.
How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang
I’ve talked about this one before, and how I was absolutely prepared to not like it at all. Westerns just are not my thing. I don’t gravitate towards them, and they just don’t seem like something I enjoy. Clearly, I was proved very wrong. And I’m so glad I was, because this book is so amazing. It’s about two children of Chinese immigrants, who are orphaned during the Gold Rush and become outlaws.
And their story is just really beautiful. I picked this up in the middle of a slump, and I still flew through it in a single day. I loved it so much, and I’m still thinking about this months later. I really need this author to write another book, because I want more!
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
I am honestly a little surprised that this is the only nonfiction book on this list. I did read some really amazing one this year – check out my nonfiction favorites if you want to see what they are – but this is the one that left the biggest impact on me.
After coming to the US as part of the DREAMer program, and then graduating from Harvard, the author traveled the country gathering stories of undocumented Americans. The stories themselves were so impactful. I thought it was really important that they were being told, and was so glad I had the opportunity to read and experience them. It absolutely opened my eyes to experiences far different than my own, and I felt truly appreciative. Also, it’s gorgeously written and I wish there was more from this author that I could read.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Michael Sullivan
We all know a WWII novel based on a true story is basically destined to be a favorite of mine. This is the story of Pino Lella, who as a teenager in Italy, chose to join the German army… as a spy. He ended up working for some pretty high-up generals. And not only did he gain invaluable information and aid the Allies, he also helped lead refugees to freedom through the mountains.
This is definitely one of those WWII stories that made you realize just how incredibly difficult it must have been to live during that time. People had to make some hard choices to survive. And I can’t say I would have willingly joined the Nazi army as a spy, because those are some pretty high stakes. But this is a wonderful, heartbreaking, and inspiring story and I loved reading it. Except when I had to stop because I was crying and didn’t want to keep going. But I still loved it.
Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
I have loved almost all of the books in the Wayward Children series, of which this is book six. And honestly, going in, I was expecting to closer to the bottom of my ranking with the one or two others in the series that I liked, but didn’t love. Because I’m pretty sure this book was written largely for horse girls (you all know what I’m talking about), and I was definitely not one.
Each book in this series (for the most part) follows a different character and takes us to a new world. The world featured in this book just happened to be populated by unicorns. which I did not think would be my thing, but this was so much fun to read! Just really whimsical and lovely. I don’t think this is my favorite in the series, but it’s definitely up there
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
I feel like I don’t really need to say anything about this book because pretty much every one has heard about it at this point. I’ll be totally honest, this didn’t quite blow me away as much as I was expecting. It was still a five-star read, but I wasn’t sure it was going to make it into my favorites. But the more I thought about it after I had read it, and the more I kept coming back to it, the more I realized just how much I did love this book.
I can definitely see where some of the criticisms of this book are coming from, but I do think it was just a fun book to read. And I personally really enjoyed it. I actually read this for a reading experiment earlier this year, so if you want to read more of my thoughts, go check out that post. After having sat with my thoughts on this one for a few months, I think I can say this one is probably just behind Vicious in my ranking of V. E. Schwab books. And I love pretty much all of her books.
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
No one is surprised that the weirdest books I’ve read this year ended up on my favorites list. But this one was a very pleasant surprise. I honestly don’t know all that much going into this book. I’d seen it around a few times, but there really isn’t much hype around this book (which is a shame). So I went in kind of blind, and was blown away.
This is a semi-supernatural story told in a blend of poetry and prose, but written like a memoir. It is bizarre and beautiful, and I absolutely loved the insight this book gave into Indigenous culture and beliefs. I did read this as part of the reading experiment where I read books by Indigenous authors, and this was easily my favorite. Why do so many of the authors on this list only have one book for me to read? If Tanya Tagaq comes out with another book, I’ll be picking that up immediately.
Near the Bone by Christina Henry
I love Christina Henry’s books! They’re dark, but so unique and interesting. This one was a quick read. It’s a survival thriller, but with sort of a supernatural element to it. There’s also a previous mystery that plays a huge part. And it’s just a really dark, spooky horror novel, but with some very hard-hitting, real horrifying elements. It’s like if you took one of the worst things you heard about on the news, stuck it in a forest, and threw in a mysterious and massive animal.
I’m probably describing this very badly because I’m very tired, but it’s so good. I loved it so much. It was a really quick read – I absolutely flew through it – and I’m a little bit sad when it was over because I just wanted more.
Bunny by Mona Awad
I distinctly remember putting this book down and just thinking “what the f*ck did I just read?”. Because this book is that insanely weird. I don’t want to say too much about this book because I think this one is so much more fun if you don’t know much going in.
But I will say this book is not for everyone. The feeling I had after reading this was very similar to how I felt walking out of the movie theater after seeing Midsommar. And I believe my exact words then were “I feel like I just did drugs with my eyes”. This is that level of weird. So if you like weird, pick this up! But if not, I won’t judge you, because this book will probably mess up your brain. It definitely did mine.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
I didn’t put these in any particular order, but if I had to choose, this one might be my favorite of the year. And I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s about a man living in a massive labyrinthine house. There is only one other person, who he only sees occasionally, and who calls him Piranesi. And that’s pretty much all he knows.
This book really felt like mythology, and I was absolutely loving it. And then everything kind of turned on its head. This book is absolutely not what it seems, which made for such a fun reading experience! I’m still not over it. And it might have convinced me to finally brave Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which has been sitting on my shelves for way too long, but is just terrifyingly huge. But now that I know the magic Susanna Clarke can create, I need more.
And that is it for my 2021 favorites! I can’t believe we’re done! Make sure you check out my other favorites posts if you missed them (links are at the top of this post). And let me know: what was your favorite book this year?
Check out my bookshop, where you can go and buy books and also shop my curated collections of my personal favorites AND all of the books I’ve read for my reading experiments.Or you can just buy whatever books you want to. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you get to support your choice of indie bookstores – it’s a win all around!