I wanted to highlight a lot of favorites in this post, and I ended up with not only a top 10 for the year but also a runner-up top 10, as well as many different genre and category favorites. I’m still working on my stats post, so that will come later, but first I wanted to talk about as many of the fantastic books I read this past year as possible.
Top Ten Favorite Books of 2021:
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans – fantastic debut short story collection focusing on themes of racism, with some fabulist elements
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth – genrebending horror with timelines in the past and present, a story within a story with a unique structure and a trio of compelling main characters
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn – the book that restored my faith in YA fantasy this year
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. – a fascinating new fantasy world from a past favorite author
Writers & Lovers by Lily King – an emotional coming-of-age story about writing, grief, and love
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake – a dark academia fantasy that sets up a fascinating world and cast of characters
Tender by Sofia Samatar – a unique short story collection inspired by folklore and mythology
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – an incredibly darkly funny YA dark academia fantasy with a memorable main character
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – an immersive historical fiction following the diverging paths of two sisters and their daughters
Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo – a fascinating nonfiction book exploring racism and misogyny
Runner-Up Favorites of the year:
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell – a slow burn science fiction romance featuring an arranged marriage
Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall – a big-hearted and wonderful contemporary romance set around a Great British Baking Show-esque competition
Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda LeDuc – a nonfiction book combining discussion of fairy tales and folklore with memoir
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons – a short, powerful novel about grief and belonging
A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard – a short story collection from an author I’ve really enjoyed in the past, featuring a fantastic Arthurian-myth inspired novella set on a college campus
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood – my favorite romance of the year, which was originally written as fanfiction and featuring women in STEM
The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik – the second book in Novik’s Scholomance trilogy, which hit me hard with emotion particularly at the end and made me need the final book ASAP
The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson – literary science fiction dealing with climate change, overconsumption, and AI, heavily leaning on the concept that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson – science fiction featuring an indomitable main character in alternate universes on the same world plagued by deep inequality, that I read near the beginning of the year but has stuck with me ever since
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – a thoughtful, introspective book dealing with science and religion
Favorite contemporary romance:
I read a LOT of amazing romance in 2021, but these 5 were the best of the best. 4 were from authors I’ve previously read and loved, and 1 (The Love Hypothesis) is a debut from an author I can’t wait to read more from.
I didn’t read nearly as much UF/PNR compared to contemporary romance, but I enjoyed the heck out of reading these three.
Favorite historical romance:
2021 was not a big historical romance reading year; I kind of thought it would be after devouring tons of the genre in 2020. However, I did read 2 new favorites, and am looking forward to picking up the next installments in these series in 2022.
I read a lot of nonfiction in 2021, mainly on audiobook, but Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo and Disfigured by Amanda LeDuc really stood out.
Favorite science fiction:
Favorite debut novels:
Like I said earlier, I was pretty shocked to discover 2 amazing new YA favorites in 2021, after some disappointing YA reads over the past few years. Not only are these favorites for 2021, but they’re also all-time YA favorites for me.
Favorite sequel or next-in-series:
I absolutely loved The Last Graduate, a 5-star read and the sequel to A Deadly Education, and had so much fun reading the third book in Juliette Cross’s Stay a Spell series, Witches Get Stitches.
This is a great short story collection overall, but my favorite piece was the novella, Once, Future, which is a modern-day King Arthur retelling set on a college campus that also ruminates on the enduring power of myth.
Favorite short story collection:
Most disappointing reads of 2021:
I’ve loved several of Becky Chambers’s books, so the fact that her newest novel was underwhelming was a disappointment. And I’ve ranted a lot about the issues I have with Fates & Furies, which I think could have been a really great novel but it had too many serious flaws.
Worst books I read in 2021:
I unfortunately really, really disliked both of these contemporary romances from new-to-me authors. Both had premises that really interested me, but both had extremely unlikable characters and romances that I just couldn’t root for.
Favorite covers of 2021 reads:
New-to-me authors I can’t wait to read more from:
There are a lot of authors who could fit this category, but I wanted to highlight Ali Hazelwood, who has a bunch of books coming out in 2022; K. J. Sutton, whose Fortuna Sworn series I’m looking forward to continuing; and Vanessa King, whose Pride & Prejudice-inspired book A Certain Appeal was a great surprise.
What were some of your favorite books of 2021? Let me know in the comments!