Reading in 2021 was, for me, both a pleasure and a challenge. I read far fewer books this year than usual. At the time of this writing, I have just barely completed my Goodreads goal of 52 books. The year before the pandemic, I read 84 books. In 2020, I read 67. No clue why my number keeps rapidly declining unless it’s, you know, all the stress and anxiety. Or maybe it’s all the Animal Crossing I’ve been playing or the online guitar lessons I’ve been taking. In any case, I read fewer books this year but the ones I did read were wonderful and provided me with much-needed escape from reality. So, welcome to my favorite post of the year! I absolutely love writing this list and I have so many great reads to share with you!
First off, the special categories. Because I read a ton of music biographies, humorous essay books, and YA in 2021, I thought I’d tell you the best one I read in each category instead of throwing them in with the rest of my list. Is this cheating? Maybe, because it makes my list 13 instead of 10. But this is my list so the rules can bend as far as I want them to, right? Bend away, rules! Also, 13 is a cooler number than 10 so there. Let’s do this:
Best Music Biography: Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook: Look, I read the Dave Grohl book too, and I loved it, but this shit is AMAZING. Peter Hook is funny and blunt. He tells you everything and there’s a lot to tell!
Best YA: Drawn That Way by Elissa Sussman: This novel, set in the world of animation, is a fun, quick, inspiring read. I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s ever been told they’re too ambitious or they don’t have what it takes to accomplish a creative goal, especially women.
Best Humorous Essays: Well, This is Exhausting by Sophia Benoit: Sophia is one of my favorites on Twitter and her book did not disappoint! Fresh, funny, and wise beyond her years, she’s really one of a kind and so is this collection.
Now, onto the Top 10:
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: I wish I could live in this sweet novel. I’m a huge fan of Amor Towles and I think this is my favorite of his books. It’s funny, poignant, and the characters are absolutely unforgettable. I read it in January and I’m still thinking about it. It would make a fantastic gift if you need a last minute present because it’s one of those books you could give to anyone and they will love it.
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: My cousin Miriam sent me this book and I read it over a weekend. I was so sad when I was done, always a sign that I’ll cherish and reread a book in the future. It’s magical, riveting, and so unique! I’ve never read anything quite like this charming tale.
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: I’m a big fan of Matt Haig’s non-fiction. The man writes about depression and anxiety with so much heart and understanding that I’ll be a fan of his forever. However, this was the first fiction book of his I’ve ever read and I’m happy to report I adored it! The premise is: what if you could go back in time and make different choices? How would your life be different? Please read this wonderful book! You’ll cry your way through it but you’re gonna want to read it anyway. Trust me.
- Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger: This book is so extremely my shit! First off, it’s a beautiful little hardback that will look lovely on your shelf. More importantly, the inside matches the outside. It’s stock-full of badass lady writers and horror creatives. The classics you know and love, yes, but also a lot of new and old writers you’ve not yet discovered. I loved this book so much I still have not shut up about it. Don’t be surprised if you receive this cute little book from me as a gift in the future.
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: Believe the hype about this novel! It is a RIDE. Part historical novel, part family drama/tragedy, this book will keep you up way past your bedtime and stay with you long after you’re done reading it. Beautifully written and intricate. Loved it!!
- American Cheese: An Indulgent Odyssey Through the Artisan Cheese World by Joe Berkowitz: This book arrived at the absolute perfect time for me. I’d just started eating a tiny bit of dairy here and there after being vegan for over a year and this book made me feel not only better about my choice but excited about it. Joe Berkowitz ( a vegetarian himself) takes you on a journey into the world of cheese that will leave you very hungry and extremely full of cheese trivia to drop at cocktail parties if we ever get to go to cocktail parties again. If not, there’s always cheese.
- One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: Warning: This is a sexy, sexy book! I should’ve known because it’s, you know, ROMANCE and I loved her first book, Red, White, & Royal Blue, so I should’ve been prepared but I was NOT. You will absolutely fall in love with the main character and her mysterious love interest. There’s also a lovely mystical element to this novel that is charming as hell. Would be the perfect book to read on a beach or curled up by the fire. You know what? If you don’t have a fire, you should get one for this book.
- The Office of Historical Correction by Danielle Evans: This collection was recommended to me by my friend Drew, who works for Penguin and basically has impeccable taste in books. As usual, he was right, it’s amazingly awesome. The stories are nothing short of brilliant and there’s an excellent novella included for good measure.
- All’s Well by Mona Awad: A creepy, magical tale about a college production of a Shakespeare play by one of my favorite authors? HELL YEAH! This book is weird, compelling, and spooky. Basically all of my favorite things for a book to be.
- The Push by Ashley Audrain: Speaking of creepy and spooky, if you want something unputdownable (that’s a word, right?), I recommend this wonderful psychological thriller. Everyone I know loved it. The book is edgy and mysterious but it’s also deep. A perfect plane or weekend read.
That’s my list, y’all! Thanks for taking this journey with me once again. Here’s hoping we all have good reads and great times in 2022. Much love from my reading nook to yours.