Favourite books I read in 2021
My reading year was much slower than I'd anticipated, but I still read some amazing books in 2021 and I'd love to talk about my absolute favourites with you.
In total, I read 42 books this year (and you can go to this blog post to see a round-up of all of them) but these are the top 10 books that really stood out to me this year and that I haven't stopped thinking about. I tried ranking them but it's not really full-proof as, especially the top ones, were all equally great.
10) Bridge of Souls, Victoria Schwab (Cassidy Blake #3)
I think, no matter which of Schwab's books I read in a year, they're always bound to make my favourites' list. The Cassidy Blake series is an incredibly fun middle-grade following a twelve-year-old girl who, after a near-death experience, is now able to see ghosts and walk in the world between the living and the dead. The problem is when her parents, famous ghost-hunters, start filming a TV show set in the most haunted cities across the world, and Cassidy's abilities are put to the test. This third book's set in New Orleans, and not only did I love the setting, but I also loved the new characters that were introduced in this one. The stakes are much higher and the story gets even darker than in book two. It was an amazing conclusion to this arc, while still keeping the door open in case Schwab ever wants to revisit these characters. Perfect for the Halloween season and I see myself rereading this series whenever I'm in the mood for some quick ghostly fun.
9) Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give #0)
Concrete Rose was one of my most anticipated books of last year, so I picked it up as soon as it was released. I absolutely loved The Hate U Give and I was super excited to follow young Maverick handling becoming a father while still involved with the King Lords. Seeing how Mav grew to be the incredible father he is in The Hate U Give and being back in Garden Heights was amazing, as well as seeing all the little things and references that we know later come to mean something in Starr's life. I also loved being reunited with Thomas' writing. I still need to read one of her books, but I know I'll read everything she ever publishes because I can never put her books down.
8) A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf
This is the first of the books in this list that I read for my Maeve Wiley blog post, and you'll see that I quite agree with Maeve's taste. I don't read nonfiction all that much, let alone essays, but this book made me miss writing my college thesis and want to go get a Master's just so I could write something about it. It's incredible (albeit somewhat discouraging) how relevant Woolf's points still are in today's society and I think everyone should read this. Very short but incredibly poignant, it's also made me want to read more of her works.
7) Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Yup, I finally did it, I read Jane Austen. I've been wanting to read her works, particularly Pride and Prejudice, for YEARS, and I'd avoid everything related to this book because I wanted to experience it with the freshest eyes I could (that also meant avoiding the 2005 adaptation for 16 years). I'm so glad I did that though because I don't think I would've loved it as much as I did if I'd known more about this story. There's a reason this is one of the most talked-about love stories of all time and I still catch myself thinking about some of the lines from this book. I also really enjoyed Austen's writing and definitely plan on reading all of her books soon. Absolutely adored this and I think it might be my favourite classic I've ever read. Truly *chef's kiss*.
6) With the Fire on High, Elizabeth Acevedo
After reading The Poet X and falling in love with Elizabeth Acevedo's writing, I knew I needed to make my way through her other books. And I also fell in love with this one. With the Fire on High is about 17-year old Emoni, who's juggling motherhood with being a high schooler and following her dream of becoming a chef. Besides the beautiful writing style (I listened to the audiobook because it's narrated by the author and I highly recommend it), I fell in love with all of the characters and cared about every one of them. There's also a super adorable romance that I loved and it put the biggest smile on my face. Truly heartwarming in the best way.
5) Take a Hint, Dani Brown, Talia Hibbert (The Brown Sisters #2)
The Brown Sisters series have some of the most beloved romance books out there and, although I got the hype with the first book, I only fell in love with this series when I got to Dani Brown. This book follows Dani, a very smart professor who doesn't really believe in relationships, and Zafir, a huge romantic who's been pining for Dani for years. After a misunderstanding that goes a bit viral, they both start fake dating to promote Zafir's business and there begins one of the cutest romances I've ever read. I think the reason why I loved this book so much (besides the adorable couple) was how much I related to Dani as a character. She's a bisexual woman who's very spiritual and very guarded, especially when it comes to dating. It was amazing watching her and Zafir grow as characters and start trusting each other. I also loved the way the fake dating trope was done, as it's not something I always love. The brilliant thing about this series is how diverse it is, and how it manages to intertwine deeper topics with a fluffy romance. I still haven't picked up the third book because I don't think I can love it more than this one, but I definitely plan on reading it soon.
4) Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
This was another book I read for my Maeve Wiley blog post, and it was my biggest surprise of the year. Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories following different Bengali-American families and their lives. Short stories aren't something I generally connect with but oh my, I completely adored this book. Lahiri's writing is out of this world and I want to consume everything she's ever written, because of how incredible this book was. I was enthralled from the get-go, I cared about every single story and, by the end, I was crying. All of the stories were meticulously crafted and real, and I couldn't help but connect and sympathize with every character. Truly a heartwarming read and one I see myself going back to time and time again.
3) The Atlas Six, Olivie Blake (The Atlas #1)
This is the book that swept the internet (particularly TikTok) by storm this year, so much so that it's now getting officially published by TOR. And I'm 1000% part of that hype. The Atlas Six is about a group of six individuals, each with a different set of abilities, training to become a part of the Alexandrian Society. But only five will make the cut. I became absolutely enthralled by this story, from the characters to the plot, and I loved Olivie Blake's writing. It's dark and magical, the characters are mostly unlikeable but you still care for them anyway, and I simply couldn't put it down. It had everything I love about dark academia stories and I'm still thinking about it months later. I can't wait to see how the plot evolves in future books, and how it'll change as it gets professionally published.
2) The Mask Falling, Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season #3)
The Bone Season series as a whole became an all-time favourite of mine pretty fast, and although I read three of the books this year, my favourite of them was probably The Mask Falling. I loved being in Paris with Paige and exploring the fall-out from The Song Rising. This series is set in an alternate version of our world where clairvoyants are real and deemed unnatural and hunted down by the government. We follow Paige Mahoney, a very rare type of clairvoyant, working in the criminal underworld of Scion's London. The series as a whole is full of twists and this new setting and new characters added a deeper layer to this already incredible and layered story. The way Samantha handled the trauma experienced by Paige was exquisite and my heart was hurting for her throughout the whole book. I feel like the ending of The Mask Falling combined with book five will be the turning point of this series and I can't wait to see where it leads. Samantha's writing is outstanding and it makes me feel like the characters and the world are completely real. I love everything about this story and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I read the first book at the end of 2020.
1) These Violent Delights duology, Chloe Gong
I mean, if you follow me anywhere (and I mean ANYWHERE), I'm pretty sure this did not come as a surprise at all. I read These Violent Delights in August and picked up the sequel as quickly as I could (thanks to the NetGalley gods for sending me the eARC). This duology is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920's Shanghai, following Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, the heirs to two rival gangs. This series has absolutely everything I wanted, from one of my favourite romances ever to political intrigue, a creepy supernatural monster, and a lot of drama and angst. When I read These Violent Delights I was pretty sure I couldn't love another book more, but then I read Our Violent Ends. That was the most perfect ending to this series and I'm pretty sure it was the culprit behind my reading slump. Because when I tell you that, after I finished it, all I wanted to do was reread both books immediately, I mean it. I have full in-depth and spoiler-free reviews for both books (linked here and here, respectively) and I'm highly anticipating everything Miss Gong writes in the future.
I also need to make an honourable mention to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I didn't give this a particularly high rating, nor do I think I'll reread it anytime soon (maybe ever) but I can't stop thinking about this novel. The main reason why I struggle with saying this is a favourite is because of how triggering it was for me. I don't get affected by media that easily but, being someone who's struggled with depression, this book absolutely got to me. I felt like the main character was inside the darkest parts of my head and it's why I keep catching myself thinking about it, even though I don't think I'll ever be capable of reading it again. I needed to mention it because I'm not often touched by a book this much.
I also reread a few favourites this year, like the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, and The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, but I didn't want to mention them in my top books of the year since they made their own favourites list back when I first read them.
Let me know which books were your favourites of the year and if you've read any of mine!