My Best Books of 2021

While I haven’t been posting book reviews regularly, I have been continuing to read a lot of books this year. My Goodreads goal was to read 50 books for 2021 and although I’ll fall short of that, I expect to reach 43 books read by the end of the year. So what did I think of what I read? If you want to see my favorites from the year, keep reading below!

And my required notice: Links in this post are for Amazon’s affiliate program and purchases help to support this blog.

First, the stand-alone novels:

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow was the first novel I had read by this author. This was a wonderful portal fantasy and you can read my full review here.

I read another book by Alix E. Harrow and also loved this one. The Once and Future Witches follows three sisters as they rediscover witchcraft in a slightly alternate history tale.

I had never read anything by Octavia E. Butler but listened to Kindred as an audiobook this year. This was a disturbing tale of time travel, racism, and slavery. Now I need to read more books by Octavia Butler.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is a fun science fiction tale with an emphasis on science. While I did question one aspect of the biology, it was quite entertaining.

I fit two re-reads in: these books were past favorites and remain so:

I can’t remember how many times I have read Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey over the years, but it had been at least 20 years since my last read. I’m always nervous to re-read something I remember so fondly, wondering if it will still stand up to my memories of it. But this book is still a solid winner in McCaffrey’s introduction to her Dragonriders of Pern series. I even wrote a review of this one here.

Then of course with the recent movie release, I had to go back to Dune by Frank Herbert. I had only read this once before and I found that I enjoyed it a lot more this time around. I never read beyond the first book though so I will likely put more of this series on my growing to-be-read list for 2022.

Best series:

I have a bad habit of starting series and not finishing them. So for 2021, I managed to read two complete series and start another that made this list.

I started to read The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo when the recent television adaptation was released. This was a spur of the moment read and these books hadn’t been on my radar prior to the series. But if you’re looking for a YA fantasy series with some romance and fun magic, then these are great.

The first book in The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty had been on my to-be-read list for a while and I’m sooooo glad I finally started this series. This story is set in a world of magical djinn and follows two main characters through struggles for power over the magical city of Daevabad. This series was nominated for a 2021 Hugo Award and has some wonderful political machinations, bad guys who really justify their actions, and a slow-burn romance. I’m actually still reading the last book of this one and I’m dying to know how it ends.

I picked up the first book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series (The Calculating Stars) last month and didn’t have time to get to more in the series, but I loved it. This is an alternate history where the space program is accelerated in the 50’s and women are chosen to be astronauts sooner than our real history allowed.

While A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine could be read as a stand-alone novel, there is also a sequel. I liked this first book more than the follow-up though. This is science fiction set in a far future empire with a focus on political machination and intrigue in a uniquely built culture. I also wrote a review for this one here.

Non-fiction:

Lastly, I do try to read some non-fiction every year and did fit a few in. The most thought-provoking one of these for 2021 was Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. This book examines our social structures and racial disparities in a disturbing assessment of American culture. I learned a lot reading this one and would highly recommend it, even if you don’t think you need to do any reading on this subject.

So those are my top picks from the year! Did you read any of these? Do you have any other recommendations? Let me know in the comments (above, near the date). Coming soon – the entire list of books read in 2021, then my planned reads for 2022.

My Best Books of 2019

Well 2019 is over and I wanted to look back on my year’s reading and pick out my favorites. Since some of these were parts of series, I’m going to limit my picks to no more than one per author. If any of these interest you, use my links to help support this blog (at no additional cost to you).

I’m going to list these in no particular order and reviews are still forthcoming on some of them.

The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton was the final volume in a multi-volume science fiction saga that I listened to as an audiobook. If you like very long and complicated plots stretched across the galaxy, this is a great series. You can find by review here. Start with his earlier book, Pandora’s Star.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was an amazing surprise of a story inspired by the fairy tales of eastern Europe. This is a stand-alone fantasy novel that I listened to as an audiobook. While I had a little trouble adjusting to the narrator’s accent, it ended up fitting the book perfectly. This may have been my absolute favorite for the year. It looks like there is a chance that it will be adapted into a movie as well. You can find my review here.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders was another surprise audiobook pick for me that I chose as part of an Audible sale. I had heard the author speak at New York Comic Con in 2018 and had been interested in her work. This stand-alone novel relates the story of a witch and a mad scientist as they work to save the world. You can find my review here.

Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch. I also read the sequel, but I enjoyed the plot better in this one, with plenty of swords and female pirates. If you want to start this series, pick up The Lies of Locke Lamora.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was one of the non-fiction books that I read in 2019 and was a great choice. This book relates the author’s efforts to discover more about Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who unknowingly contributed her cervical cancer cells to science, leading to numerous discoveries in biology and medicine. While the book does discuss the scientific side of the subject, its main focus is upon Henrietta the person and her life and family. I haven’t written up my review on this one yet.

I became aware of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo sometime after the Netflix series inspired by the book spurred articles criticizing the approach in regards to discarding books. Given that I am not the best housekeeper, I thought I’d take a look at this one. I’m glad I did, as her approach to organization has helped me learn to make better choices about what to keep and what to give up (yes, even books). It’s part of the reason why I can sit at a clean (well, half-way) desk and get more writing done now. I have a long ways to go in the process, but I fell better about getting my messes under control. You can read my full review here.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was one of two classics that I was determined to read in 2019. I hadn’t been aware of what this book was about and just delved right in. I listened to the audiobook version of this one, narrated by Sissy Spacek. While I was confused at first, once the main plot expanded past the daily life of the children, I quickly realized that this book was about racism and prejudice. I plan to put more of my thoughts into a review soon.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and was published thirty-five years after that first look at her frightening dystopian future. I found The Testaments to be a more enjoyable read than the first book, mainly because it was a bit more hopeful. The scope of the story is greater, with the narration split between three characters rather than just Offred from the first book. If you’re unfamiliar with these novels, The Handmaid’s Tale has been on sale for no free lately.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes was my second pick for a classic book to read in 2019. I lucked out this year in choosing classics that I actually liked, which is not always the case. This novel tells about Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man who receives a treatment to make him smarter. But this change comes with unanticipated consequences and the ending of this book is heartbreaking.

So I guess that The Giver by Lois Lowry is also considered a classic now, so that’s three for me for the year. This was a quick read that I picked up with no real idea of what it was about. I think I read it in a day and a half, and with the upsurge in dystopian fiction, this book isn’t as shocking as it may have been when first published. However, the story was well-done and I liked how it challenged the superficial utopia of the society in the book.

Anyone by Charles Soule was a pick that I obtained from Net Galley and I had never read anything by this author before. I just reviewed it here. This book was exciting and easy to read, despite the complicated implications of being able to slot your consciousness into another person’s body. I need to read more of this type of action-science fiction because I really like it.

That’s it, my favorites for the year! I’m planning to catch up on my reviews for some of these in the next few months. For now, I’m going to plan my 2020 reading and look at my most anticipated reads ahead.

Find all of my reviews here.

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