It’s here, it’s finally here! My 10 favorite books that I read in 2021. If you’d like to read the best books I read in 2020, you can find that blog post here for even more book recommendations.
I exceeded my reading goal of 45 books this year and read 50 but I also leaned in to a new reading practice…
…this was also the year of the DNF! If you’re not familiar with that phrase in bookish culture, DNF means did not finish. I have found that there are just TOO many good books out there that I don’t have time to keep reading books that I don’t like.
Some of the books I picked up then put down were popular books. Some were books that are all over bookstagram or the book blogs; books that everyone seemed to love. I have to quickly remind myself that not every book is for every person. Sometimes a certain book is just plain wrong for you and sometimes a certain book is wrong for you at this particular time. Let this be your encouragement to put down that book that you don’t want to read if you don’t like it!
Okay, off my soap box now 😉 Let’s get to the reason why you’re here…the 10 best books I read in 2021!
These are in no particular order and, even though I read these all in 2021, they were not all published in that year. I hope you can find at least one new book to add to your shelf or put on hold at your local library!
(each book title is a link to take you to Bookshop.org where you can buy a copy and support your local indie bookstore AKA don’t buy books off Amazon if you can help it 😉 Okay, okay getting off my other book soapbox).
Look, I’m not going to lie, I was first attracted to this book because of the cover. I am a self-admitted, self-proclaimed “judger of books by covers.” I am so glad I picked this up, though. This is a slow, cozy novel. It is admittedly not super fast paced but the author describes every day life in such beautiful detail that you can’t help but get sucked into the story and the characters. This book follows Jane, a teacher in a small town, and Duncan, the man she’s in love with (but so is every other woman in this town, too).
Her connection to Duncan allows her to get connected with many of the other town’s characters. There is eccentric Gary, the now husband of Duncan’s ex wife Aggie. Aggie the know-it-all slash unlikely friend. Then there’s Jimmy, the practically adopted boy who can’t live on his own but becomes an integral part of Jane and Duncan’s life.
A series of unfortunate events brings these characters together with so much love, depth and human. It was just so charming to read. Even though these characters often made my eyes roll, they made me laugh just as much and I fell in love with the makeshift family that was formed in this book.
I would highly recommend picking up this book if you like stories about cozy small towns, friends that turn in to family, and beautiful descriptions of every day beauty.
The next book was on my Summer Reading Guide of 2020, so you might’ve seen it there.
I’m sure you’ve heard of it or seen it advertised in your local book store or on Bookstagram. If you haven’t picked it up yet, let this be your sign to do so! This book is about a woman, who in a time of desperation, makes a “deal with the devil” to live forever. She is warned to never make deals with gods who only come out at night. She ignores this warning and is sentenced to a life that never ends. Sounds like she got her, right? There is a catch. Not only is Addie sentenced to live forever, but every person she meets in this life is bound to forget her as soon as she or they walk out a door.
This book spans across countries, continents and centuries; across history, art and culture. Addie learns to leave her mark on the world in a very special way despite her restrictions. After 300 years of this life, something incredibly surprising happens in a hole-in-the-wall bookstore in California which changes her life trajectory. You’ll have to pick up the book to find out what!
What happens when a wedding planner mysteriously dies and leaves his business to his wife and his mistress? A hilarious, heartwarming romance and coming of age happens, that’s what! It Had to be You is a romance written in the style of Love Actually with multiple storylines and interconnected characters. I personally found this book so sweet and I was rooting for all the individual characters and couples. This story was obviously of interest to because of the involvement with the wedding industry and I think, even if you aren’t apart of that industry, this book could give you fun insight!
Liv, the widow is confronted with her husbands death and this new reality of sharing her business with his widow. The two strike up an unlikely bond and allow each other to grow in ways they’ve both been desperately needing.
This story is really tender and sweet and I’d definitely recommend picking it up if you’re interested in a light read.
Intriguing and illusive Hollywood icon, Evelyn Hugo, is finally ready to tell the truth of her life. She, what seems randomly, picks journalist Monique to tell her story. As Monique listens to Evelyn’s fascinating story, the novel is taken from Hollywood in the 1950s describing all of Evelyn’s 7 husbands, to modern day. Evelyn tells Monique stories of ambition, ruthlessness and forbidden love. I LOVE stories set in Old Hollywood. TJR always tells compelling stories of complicated women…I will continue to pick up her novels!
I know EVERYONE has read this but it’s so so good and TJR is a master story teller. Not only does she write compelling characters but she always has twists and turns in her stories that will keep you guessing.
Trigger warnings for domestic abuse, alcoholism and suicide. This book does not shy away from heavy topics. The scenes are not graphic, but be aware if these topics are not comfortable for you to read about, please be aware.
I read this book in early 2021 so it feels like so long ago. It was one of my favorites books of the year (obviously, or it wouldn’t be included in here haha). Dear Edward is a book about a boy who goes through an unthinkable tragedy and must learn some way to go on. This book also features a cast of interconnected characters, but mostly centers on Edward. All of these characters were on, or related to someone in an airplane crash where 182 of the 183 people on board die. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler).
After the tragedy, Edward struggles to figure out how to go on and carve out a space in this world that now does not contain his family. He soon makes an unexpected discovery that leads him to a place of meaning and hope.
Trigger Warning. This book is definitely sad and deals with the loss of family members and living in the midst of horrible suffering. Keep that in mind if you want to pick up this book and if you feel it might be a trigger to you. I found it incredible beautiful, though. It helped me to come to a better understanding of how to live with suffering and beauty in both hands.
Okay, so this book is technically a series, but if you read one you have to read them all so I just had to include them together!
The Arc of the Scythe is a young adult series that I would recommend for lovers of the Hunger Games or Divergent. This series is written in a fictional future where all disease and pain has been eradicated. In order to control the population, certain people have been given the roll of “scythe.” Their job is to kill. Each Scythe has a different method of “disposing” of people. When one particularly wise and mysterious scythe comes into contact with two different teenagers, he takes them on as his apprentices. The catch is that only one of them can become a scythe in the end.
This series follows this world where everything seemingly has rhyme and reason. The reader soon finds out what these two teens must take on in order to become scythes and the ways in which they attempt to change their world in the process. The question is whether they’ll change is for better or cause everything that’s been built to come crumbling down?
These books were incredibly engaging and fun to read! Like I said, if you are a fan of other YA dystopian stories, these would be a great option to pick up next!
The Seven Sisters is apart of a series but, to my knowledge, can be read out of order. This book is all at once a fantasy novel, family story, historical fiction and romance. I found this title through my favorite book podcast, What Should I Read Next (which I highly recommend). Maia and her six sisters all gather in their childhood home after their mysterious father, Pa Salt, dies unexpectedly. Each of the sisters were adopted by their father as babies but have now been given a clue regarding their birth heritage. Maia’s clue takes her across the world to Brazil where she begins putting together the pieces of her story.
This story has two timelines which I found really intriguing. The second timeline is 80 years in the past, following wannabe aristocrat, Izabela Bonifacio. Izabela’s father wants her to marry into aristocracy but she wants to travel to Paris to study art and immerse herself in this new movement art, culture and intellectual thought.
The book jumps between these two timelines and readers discover if and how these characters are connected.
I found this story to be an incredible adventure and am excited to pick up the others in the series so I can read abou the other sisters.
I have featured two other Katherine Center novels in my book blogs and for good reason! This author continues to write uplifting stories about characters overcoming different circumstances. This novel was definitely in the same vein!
Samantha is a quirky school librarian (think Jessica Day crossed with Miss Frizzle) who loves her job and the students! Her careers is quickly put in a precarious situation when the school she works at hires a new principal. Duncan lives but a strict set of rules and regulation and is very anti whimsy and quirkiness. The exact opposite of Samantha. Weirdly though, Samantha and Duncan used to work together at a former school and the Duncan she remembers is NOTHING like who he is now. This new change in staff is the worst possible thing that could happen to Samantha until the opposite becomes true.
These characters, and the beautiful cast surrounding them, help each other change and grow in ways you’ll definitely be rooting for!
Katherine Center is so skilled at writing stories about characters with complicated pasts. She does it in a way that is tender-hearted but not cheesy. She is an auto-buy author for me and I highly recommend picking up one of her novels if you need a warm hug in book form.
This light and fluffy romance by Christina Lauren hits the spot if you’re looking for a summertime read. I finished it in one day by the pool. The Unhoneymooners is about two sworn enemies, Olive and Ethan, who are forced to put aside their hatred for one another and go on a free vacation after Olive’s sister’s ENTIRE wedding party gets food poisoning at her wedding. They head to paradise and try to avoid each other, but when Olive runs into her future boss and is committed to making a great first impression on him, Olive and Ethan band together, pretending to be newlyweds. This was sweet, easy to read and had really funny back and forth banter.
There are some steamy scenes, so be aware of that if, but I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to my romance reading friends!
This book is a historical fiction novel with a badass female lead! Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon follows Nancy Wake, an Australian expat who lives in Paris during the rise of the Nazi regime. The story is told in interweaving timelines, outlining the different code names Nancy takes on during the war. Nancy is bold, sassy and admirable. I loved the characters, especially the men Nancy befriended and worked alongside in the French resistance and I loved her relationship with her husband. I would definitely recommend this book if you are into WWII novels, especially for fans of The Alice Network or the Nightingale (two books from 2020 summer reading guide).
And there you have it! 10 of my favorite books I read in 2021. I hope you found at least one to add to your TBR list (to be read) and feel free to comment below or on my Instagram post with which book you might pick up!