It feels very much on point that I am sharing my favorite reads of 2021 with hours to spare, as I don’t think I’ve managed to finish anything early this year. My 2021 has been packed with the launch of my debut novel, moving across the country, buying a house, revising book two and writing book three on tight deadlines. It hardly seems possible that in a few hours I can say again that I have a book out this year, which is something that is both amazing and slightly overwhelming. I’m really grateful to everyone who picked up Pride and Premeditation, shared photos, recommended it, and left reviews. You all made my debut year really special!
Now on to my favorite reads of 2021! As in previous years, I want to stipulate that these are just my favorites, by no means the “best” because who am I to say what’s the best out of thousands upon thousands? I enjoy making this list, but it also stresses me out to some degree because there are at least twenty books from my TBR book cart that I didn’t get to and desperately want to read, and probably would be my favorites if I could just find the time to read them. It’s enough to give me an existential crisis! But these are twenty wonderful books I enjoyed a lot, and if you’re looking for something to read, I hope you like them, too!
Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi
I love Parvin! She’s loud and funny and passionate, and reading her story reminded me in the best way of all the YA I read when I was fourteen, but this was a fun and smart contemporary take on starting high school.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
It won the National Book Award, what more needs to be said? But I am always here for beautiful stories about queer women coming of age and finding love and building their lives in historical settings, and this one more than delivered.
Squad by Maggie Tokuda Hall and Lisa Sterle
I’m obsessed with the pops of color in this artwork, and this super smart and nuanced story about girls fighting back against rape culture…but what happens when they go too far? Plus, it’s queer!
The Natural Mother of the Child by Krys Malcolm Belc
This is a brilliant memoir about what it means to be a parent when you don’t fit the binary, and how our world isn’t set up to accommodate nonbinary parents. It’s brilliantly written and the story is utterly mesmerizing.
Beasts and Beauty by Soman Chainani
Feminist fairy tales with a twist. I think this is supposed to be for kids, but honestly, it’s for all ages. I was continually blown away by each story, and I want to return to them again and again.
When Things Get Dark edited by Ellen Datlow
Here’s another short story collection, this one from contemporary writers whose assignment was to write a short story inspired by Shirley Jackson’s work. No retellings or homages, just their own interpretation of her vibes. The result is a really fascination collection of very different stories that nonetheless feel quite cohesive.
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
I enjoyed The Alice Network but fell in love with Quinn’s writing with The Huntress. This is an engrossing story of three women who meet at Bletchley Park, and whose friendship is torn apart by the war. Only, they must reunite against the backdrop of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding in order to solve a mystery that threatens their country and their lives.
Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
As someone who used to write in Panera every day, I was completely charmed by the premise of this book, which is a single overworked novelist mom who is overheard explaining the plot of her next book in Panera, and is mistaken as a hit woman. Hijinks ensue. I’ve already preordered the second book!
The Less People Know About Us by Axton Betz-Hamilton
This might be my most recommended book of 2021, honestly. It’s the fascinating account of Axton’s childhood, which was plagued by paranoia and identity theft, and how she unraveled the decades of secrets once she hit adulthood.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
It’s a new romance by Emily Henry, of course it was my favorite! Honestly, I was blown away by her ability to create these beautiful, realistic, vibrant characters. There’s a lot of banter, too. I inhaled it.
The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
This is a high-concept book that really delivers—a scientist’s husband leaves her…for the clone of her that he created illicitly. And then when that clone “accidentally” kills him, they’re both at risk for discovery. I will pretty much read anything Gailey writes because they’re a genius at coming up with premises that are my catnip and they’ve never let me down.
This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry
If Marvelous Mrs. Maisel were a contemporary YA book, it would look like this novel! I loved that this book is about stand up comedy, friendship, and learning to identify and extricate yourself from toxic relationships.
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
This book was fun and fresh and humorous and exciting—think mythology meets contemporary intrigue, with a gorgeous estate setting and lots of secrets. I can’t wait for the sequel!
Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
If you love the vibes of Practical Magic but want a hot sapphic romance, this is your book! I really loved the tension between the protagonists, but I fell in love with the fun setting and magic system!
She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen
Another book by Kelly Quindlen making the year-end list! I just adore her characters and how she manages to make her settings and the many relationships (friendships, romances, family) feel so fully realized! This is a trope-tastic book with lots of heart.
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Arranged marriage, galactic empires, big conspiracies, and lots of jokes! I am honestly sad that this isn’t a series because I would read about Kiem and Jainan saving the universe multiple times over.
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
This is a horror novel that straight up scared me and made me eye my basement door with a deep mistrust! I loved how Jackson maintained and constantly upped the tension in this book. It scared the crap out of me!
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
This book is so big-hearted and complicated, with two sisters who don’t want to admit they love each other but who can’t stop looking after the other. It’s a quieter read, but the emotional impact will stay with me for a while.
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Found family, a fantasy western world, and nonstop action and me flipping the pages so fast! I really loved the world building and characters of this novel, and I have the sequel on my Kindle right now. (It’s my greatest ambition to finish it before the end of the year, but…I’ll be honest, it probably won’t happen tonight!)
The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
This book. Holy cow. It’s a retelling of Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and it hits you right in the chest. It also has a literal cliffhanger that has me counting down the days until the sequel!
Happy New Year! I hope that your 2022 is full of good books!