Best Books of 2021

Since I’m still sloooowly transitioning into this new year, I thought it’d be a good time to share my favorite books that I read over the past year. I don’t keep a close count on how many I read, but I think that it was between 70 and 80, so there are lots to choose from! I’m not narrowing this down to any specific number – just sharing the books that I really loved (not in any particular order). I’ll share my review of each one, too, from their original blog post.

An image of all of the book covers in the post, reading "2021 Favorites" - The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, We're Speaking, Seven Days in June, Piranesi, The Hawthorne Legacy, The Other Black Girl, From the Corner of the Oval, The Magician's Trilogy, Fire Keeper's Daughter, Between Two Kingdoms, Legendborn, People We Meet on Vacation, Goodbye, again, Gold Diggers, A Court of Thorns and Roses, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, and The Inheritance Games.
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Okay, I LOVED this book. It’s been compared to both The Westing Game (which was one of my favorite books growing up) and the movie Knives Out (which I also enjoyed!) and I think that’s completely accurate. It’s about a girl who finds out she’s been named as the inheritor of a billionaire’s estate, but it turns out that there’s also an elaborate game/puzzle behind it all. The second I finished reading, I Googled to make sure there was a sequel (there is) and I am counting down the days until the release!

The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This is the sequel to The Inheritance Games, and I have been waiting for the sequel to come out since the SECOND I finished the first book earlier this year. In the first book, Avery Grambs finds out that she’s been named as an inheritor in the will of a (very rich) perfect stranger, and works with the man’s grandchildren to try to solve the mystery of why she was included. This time, there are more mysteries to try to unwind, danger around every turn… and brothers to choose between! I just loved it so much. It’s technically a YA book but I think anyone would enjoy!

A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

So, this is the series that completely and totally hooked me, to the point where I could not stop reading and was using every space minute to read just a few more pages. It’s definite fantasy, which isn’t always my favorite but this is so character-driven that you just feel completely drawn into their world and their lives. The general premise is about a division between humans and faeries, and the first few books follow Feyre, who is a human but is taken into the faerie side of the wall that divides the two groups. Be warned, these books are STEAMY, but I just loved them! And they’re being turned into a Hulu show, too. Can’t wait!

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

This book has been really hyped, and I think the reality actually does live up to the expectations. It kind of reminds me of Daisy Jones & The Six in that it tells the story of a performing duo (Opal and Nev) – their time together, what led to them breaking up as a duo, and where they are now in their lives. It also deals with race and social justice, and is just an incredible story. I wished they were real!

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

I loved this book. It’s centered around an Indian American community in Atlanta, but is mostly focused on one boy who grows up there. It deals with fitting in, and the pressure to succeed, and a little touch of scientific magic through a gold potion that promises a shortcut to succees. It’s both funny and sincere at the same time – it’s just a really great book.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

I loved this book and am already so excited for the eventual sequel! It’s a combination of Arthurian legend, Southern roots, and #BlackGirlMagic. It’s so good – Bree, a pre-college student, goes to the same school that her mother went to, only to find out there’s a lot more to her mother’s time there than she ever knew. As she tries to learn more about the mystery, she finds herself drawn into a secret magical society of sorts. It’s so good!!

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

This is the ultimate will they or won’t they story about two best friends (male and female) who met in college and have a tradition of taking summer trips together. The chapters alternate back and forth between “now” and previous summer trips, and you keep getting allusions to one summer trip where things went wrong and they didn’t speak for months afterwards. As you might imagine from the title, this is an excellent summer/beach/vacation read.

Goodbye, Again by Jonny Sun

This is a collection of essays and stories, not a novel. I loved that I could pick it up, read a few essays, and put it down without losing track of the story or the plot or the characters. It’s also really sweet, and touching, and sincere – it touches on life, and love, and loss in a lot of different ways.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

This young adult novel follows a Native American high schooler, Daunis, who witnesses a traumatic event and deals with the emotional, and logistical, fallout. There’s a lot tackled in one book – social justice, identity, Native American culture, undercover police, family dynamics… the list goes on! There’s a mystery at the heart of it that kept we wanting to read more and more and more. And honestly, I don’t know a lot about Native American culture, so I was glad to see it represented authentically.

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad

This book is beautiful and incredible and heartwrenching, all at the same time. Suleika Jaouad is a young woman who was diagnosed with cancer right out of college. She actually chronicled some of her experiences for a recurring column in The New York Times, which I read back when it was being published. Suleika is such a talented writer, and there’s something about the way she writes about her experiences that makes them feel universal.

The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman

I watched The Magicians on Netflix a while ago, and then decided that vacation would be the perfect time to read the trilogy. I really loved it – it’s about magic, of course, but it’s also about finding a place where you belong and realizing what and who you really care about. I also love that there’s a book within the book – the characters all love a series of books about a fictional land, Fillory, only to come to learn that it’s actually real. The whole trilogy is just so well-written and immediately pulled me in. I could not put it down.

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

Okay I LOVED this book. It’s all about Beck’s time as a White House stenographer under President Obama. Much like Beck when she started her job, I didn’t really know what the job responsibilities of a White House stenographer really are, but it was so interesting to learn! It was so fun to see her perspectives on the behind-the-scenes of the White House. And also – it was so sweet to read about her writing, knowing that she’s written not just one but two books. Highly recommend.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

This is another one that I really loved. Nella is the only Black woman working at a publishing firm. After Hazel, another Black woman, is hired, Nella is excited to make a new friend and not feel so alienated in the office. But then things get strange – Nella starts getting threatening notes at work, and she starts to feel like Hazel is taking her place and is her competition rather than her colleague. The book also starts years earlier, following another woman trying to escape from the city without being recognized. In the end, the two storylines come together – I liked the ending, but it did feel a little bit rushed after so much slow build up. Still, even with that caveat, I really liked the story.

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

I had seen a lot of people raving about this book, and I was really looking forward to reading. A few pages in, the main character mentioned being disabled and having really bad migraines, and I got immediately nervous. There’s nothing that takes me out of a book quicker than reading an inaccurate, unauthentic portrayal of disability. But after doing some Googling, I found out the author herself has really bad migraines, and that’s why she wrote them into her main character. Sold! And the book was just as good as everyone said it would be. Eva and Shane meet as children, spend a week together, and then never see each other again for years… until they’re reunited for another week. The books flips back and forth between present time and their childhood, filling in more and more details and missing pieces as we learn more and more about their history. It’s a perfect romcom book, and I highly recommend.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This book was stunning – it’s an all-engrossing read about an alternate reality. Piranesi lives in a world that’s like a labyrinth – a place of infinite rooms and halls, with water that comes and goes with the tides. It’s an alternate reality of sorts, with Piranesi co-existing with only one other man, a researcher known as “The Other.” But then strange things start happening, and Piranesi learns that there may be more to his universe than he is aware of. I know my description sounds kind of strange, but I don’t want to give anything away! It’s a book where you keep learning more and more as you keep reading. I definitely recommend.

We’re Speaking by Hitha Palepu

Hitha is one of my favorite Instagram follows, so of course I was excited to read her newest book! It blends stories and anecdotes about Kamala Harris’s life with life lessons that apply to all of us. I love the way that Hitha blends stories about her own life with stories about Kamala’s, and also the “pearls of wisdom” that she inscribes in images of pearl necklaces as a nod to Kamala’s jewelry of choice. It’s a great read about owning your own power, in whatever way is important to you.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

This book!! I have seen this book going around for so long now and kept avoiding it for some reason or another, and I’m so mad that I waited to long to read it. It was so, so, so good. Adeline, or Addie, is growing up in France in the 1700s, and wants a life so much larger than her parents have in mind for her. Desperate to escape, she makes a deal with the Devil to live for as long as she likes… but in return, she is to be forgotten by everyone she meets. But then, hundreds of years later, she meets someone who remembers, and her world is turned upside down. I feel like my life was turned upside down by reading this! It was that good.

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