My Favorite Books of 2021

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hope you’ve all had a great start into 2022, and to make that start even greater, I am here with a list of absolutely wonderful books that you simply have to read!!!!!

(I know, that was a flawless transition, wasn’t it? πŸ™ƒ)

I’m not kidding – 2021 was possibly THE greatest reading year of my entire life. Even though I was only able to finish my Goodreads Reading Challenge by deviously cheating and lowering my goal by 20 books on December 31st, I actually read way more page-count-wise than in previous years, and I also encountered so many amazing books that, for the first time ever, I did not manage to fit all of my five-star reads into my favorites list! Like, what?! 🀯 How did this even happen?

Anyway, excluding rereads, I read a total of 87 books in 2021, and today, I will be sharing my top twelve with you.

(At least sort of. I’m cheating by squeezing a series into my number two spot; but this is my blog, so I make the rules! 😜)

Why twelve, you ask? Well, because it was absolutely impossible to narrow the list down to ten books. Twelve already just about killed me, so you’re just going to have to deal with it. Besides, there are twelve months in a year, so a top twelve list totally makes sense, right? Just see it as a list of monthly recommendations for 2022.

But before I talk too much, let’s get started! As always, the closer the books are to the top of the list – where even those treacherous few of you who don’t want to read the whole post are sure to see them – the more I loved them! πŸ€—

πŸ¦‰ My Favorite Books of 2021 πŸ¦‰

#1 The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

(read in April; full review here)

Are you surprised? Seeing that I haven’t been able to stop gushing about The Betrayals ever since I first listened to the audiobook, I’m guessing not πŸ˜‚

A slow and mysterious dark academia novel set at a prestigious academy in an alternate history version of Europe, The Betrayals snares you in with its complex characters, intriguing world-building, and the variety of societal questions it poses. Set against a horrifyingly dark political backdrop, it includes new spins on some of my favorite tropes of all time, a slow burn romance that I couldn’t get enough of, and is heavily influenced by music, mathematics, and philosophy.

By now, I’ve acquired my own physical copy, reread it multiple times, and am still of the opinion that this is one of the best books I’ve ever crossed paths with. I love absolutely everything about it! πŸ₯°

#2 The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

(read in August, September, November, and December; I wrote full reviews for Words of Radiance, Oathbringer, and Rhythm of War)

I didn’t think it was possible that Brandon Sanderson could ever write a series I would love more than Mistborn, but The Stormlight Archive has proven me completely wrong – I AM OBSESSED!!!

Roshar is one of the coolest high fantasy worlds I have ever come across, with a fascinatingly mysterious and complicated history, an utterly unique magic system, and a ton of politics that had me glued to the edge of my seat. But the biggest reason I love this series so much are its characters 😍 Dalinar’s idealism, Adolin’s puppy-like cheerfulness, Renarin’s quiet thoughtfulness, Jasnah and Navani’s love for science, Shallan’s determination, Pattern and Syl’s never-ending sense of amazing spren humor, and, of course, Kaladin in all his broody brokenness, won me over completely, and I just can’t get enough!!! Words of Radiance in particular has definitely earned its spot among my all-time favorites πŸ₯°

#3 Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

(read in July; full review here)

AXFDASGXWQQASFY!!! My nerdy math- and language-loving heart just about burst when reading this book!! 🀩😍🀩

Following an astronaut on a solo-mission to save humanity from an alien threat, Project Hail Mary has a ton of drama, a ton of action, and, best of all, a ton of science. But, even better, it has one of the coolest friendships I have ever read about! It has a super-secret character whom I love more than any other non-Kaladin character I’ve read about in a while, and I probably would have given this book five stars just for their sake πŸ₯°

Is Project Hail Mary a bit unrealistic? Kinda πŸ˜‚ But I still adore it from the bottom of my heart.

#4 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

(read in May)

To Kill a Mockingbird took me completely by surprise. After all the whining I’d heard from people who had to read this for school, I was expecting a somewhat dry, maybe even boring classic that was mostly known for the themes it explored.

Instead, I got a beautifully nuanced tale about right and wrong and growing up in a country divided by race. A story that made me simultaneously glad that I no longer lived in the American South and horribly homesick. A novel with beautifully lyrical writing told from the perspective of a head-strong eight-year-old.

To Kill a Mockingbird was, for a lack of better words, simply amazing, and I highly recommend that everyone go read it! πŸ€—

#5 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

(read in July; full review here)

Did A Little Life utterly destroy me and leave me in a sobbing mess of a book hangover? Yes. Yes, it did.

I now understand why everyone who has read this story about four college friends growing up in New York says it is the saddest book of all time. Its cover is a very accurate representation of how I felt while reading it, because even though I very rarely cry over books, this book left me in a flood of tears. Multiple times.

So obviously, there was no way in hell that I wasn’t putting it on this list πŸ˜‚πŸ˜­

#6 Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

(read in December)

A gorgeously enchanting Rumpelstiltskin retelling with a Slavic twist, this book absolutely took my breath away. There were so many things that I loved about it – from the lyrical writing, the wintery fairy-tale atmosphere, the characters, the wonderful family relationships and friendships, the different cultural influences, to the underlying political commentary – that naming all of them would be impossible.

This story was unlike anything I’d read before – though in terms of atmosphere, it did remind me a lot of the Winternight trilogy, which took the number one spot in my favorites list last year πŸ₯° – and I highly recommend you go check it out yourself to discover all of the amazingness it has to offer!

#7 Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

(read in December)

Yup, Brandon Sanderson made the list with multiple books this year. But what am I supposed to do when everything the man writes is so ingeniously good?

A YA science fiction novel following a girl trying to escape her father’s dark legacy, Skyward is full of action, suspense, and some of the most wonderful friendships I’ve read about in a long time. There are lies, multiple mysterious pasts, evil aliens, a ton of training scenes, sentient spaceships, a grumpy mentor character, and lots of deaths in this one, and if that doesn’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will πŸ₯°

#8 The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

(read in December)

The House in the Cerulean Sea is the bookish equivalent of sitting next to a warm fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate and a cozy blanket while watching a thunderstorm rage outside your window. Although the world this book is set in is anything but welcoming, the story itself is so heartwarming and enchantingly written that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.

An adult novel with a distinctly middle-grade feel, it follows case worker Linus Baker, who is sent to inspect an orphanage full of magical children and report on whether or not it should remain open. Everything about this book, from the wonderful characters, their endearing relationships, to poignant questions it posed, stole my heart completely, and I just know I’m going to be rereading it time and time again πŸ₯°

#9 The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

(read in August)

Knowing how tragically Anne Frank’s life ended, I was expecting her diary to be hard-hitting, but I wasn’t expecting to be so completely and absolutely drawn into it.

Because, boy, Anne Frank could write! I was immediately invested in the daily lives of everybody living in the “achterhuis”, astounded at depth of Anne’s thoughts and at how well she could express them, and I related to so many of the things she wrote.

And, even though I knew what was coming, the ending absolutely destroyed me. It was a horrifying reminder of how much pointless hatred, suffering, destruction, and death can be caused when nationalism spirals out of control and is one of the most eye-opening accounts of the Holocaust that I’ve ever read. Everybody, in my opinion, should read this diary.

#10 Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

(read in February; full review here)

As the sequel to Bitterblue, one of my favorite books of all time, Winterkeep was by far my most anticipated release of 2021. And it did not disappoint!

Although I do still like Bitterblue significantly more, this installment in the Graceling series had me drooling over the lyrical writing, bawling my eyes out over the feelings of a fox, deeply invested in the politics of a post-industrial society in a steampunk-inspired world, and over the moon to see some of my favorite characters again. In my opinion, this series is some of the best YA fantasy out there, and I highly recommend you go check it out!

#11 The Binding by Bridget Collins

(read in April)

With this beautifully lyrical tale of a farmer’s boy in a world where books are considered profoundly sinister, Bridget Collins has also managed to secure her second spot on this list. Since part of what is so wonderful about The Binding is figuring about what it is about, I’m not going to get any less vague than that, but just trust me on that you have to read it! Like The Betrayals, it’s wonderfully atmospheric, and the characters, though thoroughly flawed, are people you can’t help but fall in love with πŸ₯°

#12 Dunkelnacht by Kirsten Boie

(read in May)

I think this is the first time since I’ve started blogging that a German book has made my favorites list – but Kirsten Boie’s Dunkelnacht 100% deserves it.

One of the most horrifying stories I’ve ever read, this novella is based on true events that took place in a small Bavarian town between April 28th and 29th, 1945, right after the news broke that the Americans had invaded Germany. From multiple perspectives that couldn’t be more different, it shows a village divided by hope and hatred, by idealism and humanity. Rather than the “all Germans were Nazis that popped out of their mothers’ wombs as purely evil monsters” perspective that absolutely infuriates me about a lot of WWII historical fiction, Dunkelnacht gives you a much more realistic and nuanced picture of the situation that, if possible, makes everything that happened in our past even more terrifying and tragic.

This book is gruesome and the events portrayed beyond horrifying, but if you speak German, I highly recommend you go read it.

And that, my friends, were my top twelve reads of 2021! Before I sign off, though, I quickly want to give a shoutout to some absolutely amazing books that very narrowly didn’t make the list but still very much deserve to be read:

What can I say? πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ I just read a bunch of good stuff this year and am keeping my fingers crossed for that streak to continue in 2022!

Also, in case you’d like to check out any of my favorites from previous years, you can find those here:

But anyway, let me know down below what your favorite book of 2021 was, and whether or not you’ve read any of my favorites yourself! I’d love to exchange opinions, especially since all of these are books I simply can’t shut up about!!!

Other than that, I’ll see you on Friday with my worst books of last year – so prepare yourself for some heavy ranting πŸ˜‚

44 thoughts on “My Favorite Books of 2021

  1. Rachel says:

    ahh Naemi I haven’t read a lot from your list (and i didn’t really like Skyward a lotπŸ™ˆ) but House In The Cerulean Sea!! It’s just as you said (and that cozy imagery was perfect) it definitely has middle grade vibes!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Line says:

    We have the same number one!!! 😍πŸ₯³πŸ˜‚ I’m very happy about that obviously, but also a tiny bit proud to have recommended you something that beat your obsession with Stormlight Archive πŸ˜„ And I also think it’s allowed that you made it a top 12 when that meant The Binding got a spot.

    I’m actually surprised to see To Kill A Mockingbird so high up. I knew you loved it more than I did but also more than A Little Life and Spinning Silver? I didn’t see that coming, but I’m glad that it managed to bypass your own low expectations 😊

    I also experienced a second of sadness over not seeing a Robin Hobb book in your official list, but then I remembered that you only really read two last year so I’m fine πŸ˜… It wasn’t as if Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest made my own list, so giving one an honorable mention is fair πŸ˜„

    And I still need to read Anne Frank…

    Of course, I’m also excited for your post on Friday then! I feel like I know very little about what’s going to be on that list πŸ€”

    Liked by 2 people

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Well, technically, if it hadn’t been for you, I probably would’ve put off reading the Stormlight Archive for even more years, and you’re also responsible for quite a few of the other entries on this list – so I think you deserve to be proud regardless of where The Betrayals ended up 🀣 Still, I quite enjoyed toying with your expectations, because obviously, nothing was going to top The Betrayals πŸ₯° Words of Radiance got close, but in light of how the series went on, it ultimately can’t compete 😁

      Also, I’m disappointed in your lack of faith in To Kill a Mockingbird πŸ˜ͺ It is sooo good!! To be honest, though, I don’t think my ranking in the middle section is all that definite πŸ˜… I’m sure about my top and bottom three of the twelve, but was constantly moving stuff around in the middle… To Kill a Mockingbird, A Little Life, and Spinning Silver all rank pretty equally in terms of my adoration of them πŸ₯° Like I said, I just read way to many good things in 2021!

      Also, I am pretty sure you are getting a Robin Hobb book on this year’s list, so hopefully, that makes up for the lack of them here πŸ˜‰ I am already beyond in love with Ship of Magic and now that I’m almost finished with The Mad Ship, I think it might turn out to be even better, simply because there’s more Paragon 😭 And Robin Hobb finally managed to write a romance I’m totally on board (See what I did there?) with! 😍 One reason I decided to post today is because I think I need to write a series review (with lots of ranting about Kyle and Malta) once I’m done, so I need all of the 2021 wrap-up posts out of the way quickly πŸ˜‚

      But yes, the worst books come first! Though I don’t think they’re quite as awful as in the past, so don’t get too excited πŸ˜„

      Liked by 2 people

      • Line says:

        Yeah, but I didn’t want to take full credit for the Stormlight Achives since you already wanted to read them. But I’m definitely proud of how many of the books on this list I made you read 😁

        And I think I was mainly surprised about To Kill a Mockingbird because I don’t think you’ve talked about it much since reading it. I had kind of forgotten that you read it πŸ˜…

        But I’ve very happy to hear you’re loving Liveship Traders! πŸ₯° I also definitely loved The Mad Ship more, but probably because I felt it had more plot. And a series review with lots of ranting about Malta is exactly what I’ve been waiting for! That’s also what my own reviews are filled with but I’ve been in need of someone to vent to because I have been SO angry!

        Liked by 2 people

        • abookowlscorner says:

          I guess that means I’ll just have to talk more about To Kill a Mockingbird in the future then πŸ˜‚

          But you can definitely expect loads of ranting about Malta! I’ve never wanted to slap anyone so badly in my life, but somehow, things still always seem to go her way! πŸ™„

          (Also, since Riddhi tagged both of us for the Know Your Buddy Tag – you wouldn’t happen to be looking for someone to eventually do it with, would you? πŸ™ƒ)

          Liked by 1 person

  3. volatilemuse says:

    Ah I see Bridget Collins has two spots on your list. I read The Binding and now want to read The Betrayals too so thank you for that. Cerulean sounds amazing. I see you have read Yanagihara. I couldn’t face it but very interested to hear your opinion. She now has a new one out which I probably won’t be able to face either:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m glad you liked The Binding enough to want to give The Betrayals a try πŸ₯° Both books are amazing, so I really hope you enjoy The Betrayals, too!
      Opinions seem to be divisive on Cerulean Sea, but I think it’s a really charming comfort read that I know I’ll be revisiting. Which definitely can’t be said of A Little Life – that book puts you through utter agony and has trigger warnings for just about everything, so I can completely understand you wanting to avoid it. Apparently, I just love being put through pain, though, because I am already very excited to read Yanagihara’s new book πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m really happy to hear we share some favorites! To Kill a Mockingbird is probably due for a reread soon, but nonetheless, it has already earned its place as one of my all-time favorite classics πŸ₯°

      And I hope you’ll end up loving The Stormlight Archive as much as I do! It has a slow start, but once I started figuring out what was going on, you couldn’t pry Way of Kings away from me πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mari says:

    I’ve yet to read Winterkeep and Spinning Silver, but they’ve been on my list! Especially glad about the comparison of Spinning Silver to the Winternight trilogy, I loved that series too!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Riddhi B. says:

    Ah, I have seen so many people rave about House in the Cerulean Sea, I should really get to it soon! And AGGGTM is such a good read, I recently reread it, and I loved it all the same!
    Glad you achieved your Goodreads Goal Naemi :p
    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yeessss, Riddhi, read Cerulean Sea!! πŸ€—πŸ₯°πŸ€— It’s such a cute comfort book! (But also, don’t get distracted – I want your thoughts on Eliza and Her Monsters more, so I have to keep reminding you of its existence! 😁)

      And I’m so happy we agree on AGGGTM! I have yet to read the final book, though, and have heard so many mixed things that I’m genuinely scared πŸ˜… But book one will certainly always have a special place in my heart!

      And thank you :p Life is all about adapting to circumstance and setting realistic goals, isn’t it? πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Suhani says:

    Oohhh these are all wonderful books, and I absolutely love how almost all of your posts feature at least one Brandon Sanderson book hahahah!! ( at this point you’re really making me run to the store and buy all of his books okay? πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚) have a great new year!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Strawberrys Corner says:

    I completely agree with To Kill a Mockingbird, I had to read it for school and was scared due to all the complaints others who had to read it for school did but it was amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Devangi says:

    I just finished A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder a few days ago and it was so amazing. The title intrigued me immediately and I couldn’t keep it down till I finished it. Sorry, I haven’t read any other from your list but The Betrayal does invoke curiosity in me. *Sighs* Let’s add these again to my never ending TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m so glad you loved A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, too! Seriously, I was only intending to check out the first chapter or so when I saw it on Scribd, and then I ended binging through the whole thing that same night 🀣 It was just so addictive!

      And I’d like to say I’m sorry for making your never-ending TBR list even longer, but I’m really not 😁 Especially if The Betrayals is on there!! And, I mean, are you really a true reader if you don’t have a never-ending TBR list? πŸ€”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Maria @ The Character Study says:

    I remember reading Anne Frank’s diary back in school or high school, I couldn’t have been more than 15 and wow. I’m pretty sure we must have read an abridged version but it was still extremely hard-hitting. I’m glad you had such a fantastic reading year despite how busy you were during most of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      We also read excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary back in school, but those didn’t prepare me at all for how insightful and hard-hitting it was in its entirety. I was absolutely blown away and broken after reading it, and I really wish I had decided to pick it up sooner! I can imagine that it’s even more impactful when you read it as a 15-year-old and are closer to Anne in age.

      And thank you! 2021 was definitely not one of the best years in my life, but it somehow managed to make up for that completely readingwise πŸ˜„

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Anoushka says:

    But I’m so glad to hear you had such a great reading year! Hope your 2022 reads have been amazing too so far! the only book I’ve read from this list is The diary of a young girl, AND I REMEMBER BEING ENTIRELY OBSESSED WITH IT A FEW YEARS AGO. And yes, I agree with literally everything you said about it, Anne’s writing is SO GOOD like I definitely had not expected it and ITS ALSO SO BEAUTIFUL AND SAD AND HARD-HITTING AT PARTS!
    Also this post is another reminder for me to get started with all the Brandon Sanderson novels. I HAD HEARD THAT HIS WORLD BUILDING WAS AMAZING, but like there’s friendships too?!? I’d never known that, BUT NOW I NEED TO READ THEM.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      But increasing people’s TBRs is such a big goal in my life, Anoushka! πŸ₯Ί After all, why should I be the only one with an endless list of books I eventually want to get to? 😜

      However, I’m thrilled to hear you also loved Anne Frank’s diary, and I 100% support everything you said about it! IT ABSOLUTELY BROKE ME! 😭😭😭

      And yesssss, read Brandon Sanderson!!! πŸ€— Even Nehal ended up loving The Final Empire after someone (I really don’t know who πŸ˜‡) highly encouraged (forced) her to finish it, so I’d take that as a sign!!


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