Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
How’s 2021 been for you?
For me, reading wise, it was a bit of a mixed bag, but mostly – I’m actually quite happy with it. I got to start some new series I’ve been really looking forward to. We also got a few exciting sequels. And I certainly had a lot of luck with standalones, especially when it comes to the authors that were new to me.
But most importantly – I did get to read a few books this year that I’m pretty sure will stay on my all-time favorites list.
I’ve just been going through the list of all books I’ve read in 2021. And the funny thing is – some of the books I gave 5 stars to I don’t think belong on my list of the best 2021 reads. Not that I now think they are not good, their 5 star ratings remain. But looking back, they did lose some of their impact on me over time.
On the other hand, there are a few books that I gave 4 stars to. They definitely weren’t perfect, but I just can stop thinking about them.
So, that’s what this list really is – books I enjoyed a lot this year with all their perks and flaws. Books that will stay with me. And that I am looking forward to rereading.
So, here are my 10 favorite reads of 2021:
1. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Though objectively I could find flaws with this first book in a new urban fantasy series, I enjoyed it so much, I just didn’t care. It had so many things that I love – dark academia, ghosts, great protagonist and even a murder mystery – what’s there not to love?
In Ninth House, we follow Alex Stern who gets opportunity to go to Yale purely because of her ability to see ghosts. But when her mentor disappears before he got the chance to teach her all the secrets of the trade and things start to seem different than they look, Alex finds herself up to her neck in a world she barely understands…
My full review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
2. The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
This book somewhat took me by surprise. I knew I am going to love the world inspired by Middle Eastern mythology and the complex yet delicate magic system, but I didn’t know how much I’m going to love the characters.
The City of Brass is the first book in The Daevabad trilogy. It follows Nahri, a street con-artist in 18th century Cairo, who accidentally summons an ancient djinn warrior and ends up in a legendary magical city, in the midst of political intrigues, court affairs, life changing dilemmas and family secrets…
My full review: The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
3. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
It is not a surprise this book is amongst my favorites. I love Backman. I love his writing and how much humanity he manages to pack into his books. And even though amongst the shortest books I’ve read this year, this one actually made me tear up the most.
The story follows an old man who is slowly starting to lose his memories. It is about him and his family trying to come to terms with it, as well as how much we need our loved ones to be there for us through the hard times.
4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This year I’ve read two books by Leigh Bardugo that ended up amongst my favorites. No one is surprised, of course. Six of Crows is such a famous story, I would probably give it more than 4 stars if my expectations hadn’t been so high.
This duology follows a group of teenage thieves living in a ruthless, unforgiving world. They are about to attempt an impossible heist and steal a substance many would kill for. So, will their mysterious, manipulative, brilliant skills be up to the task?
My full review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
5. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Another book I gave 4 stars to, that I enjoyed so much, I just had to include it into my favorites. Especially since it is only the first book in the series, and I have high hopes for the rest.
Truly Devious is a YA mystery set at a boarding school that was a scene of a famous crime in 1930s. The book follows dual timelines. The first is set in the past, giving us glimpses and hints at what happened. The second one is in the present day, when we follow a quirky, mystery-obsessed girl, determined to solve a decades old crime.
My full review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
6. Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
What a treat and what a refreshment! Finley Donovan is unlike any other series I’m currently in a middle of (which is quite a number 😳😅). It is entertaining and fun and thrilling and lighthearted and truly addictive. The book #2 is coming out in February, and I can’t wait!
This thriller/murder mystery series follows a newly divorced mom and struggling author who gets mistaken for a hit woman. She gets a job offer she couldn’t possibly, wouldn’t accept. But her life soon gets weirder than the fiction she writes, as the silly misunderstandings turn into something much more sinister.
My full review: Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
7. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
It’s no secret I love YA contemporaries, especially when they are done well. But what did it for me in this book was the art – the little descriptions of what the protagonist was painting, always perfectly reflective of her thoughts and emotions at that moment.
Kiko Himura is a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian, and she would give anything to look like everyone else in her school and just blend in. But, with the help of art and a childhood friend, she slowly starts to learn about her heritage and realize she is beautiful just the way she is.
My full review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
8. From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
Mariana Zapata is the queen of slow burn contemporary romances and one of my favorite romance authors ever. Some of her books are near the top of my all-time favorites. This one didn’t make it quite that far, but it still was one of the best books I’ve read in 2021.
The MC is Jasmine Santos, a figure skater whose career has been going through a lot of lows and she desperately needs for the things to change before she gets forced to give up on her dream. Enter Ivan Lukov – the guy who might be just what Jasmine needs to get her career back on track… if only he wasn’t an infuriatingly arrogant asshole.
My full review: From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
9. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
I always say I’ll read more Sanderson’s books, then I end up reading only one for a whole year. This one – it wasn’t as mind blowing to me as some of his other books were, but the more time passes, the more I realize how much I am looking forward to continuing this series.
The first Mistborn trilogy follows a group of allomantic thieves as they are trying to defeat the Lord Ruler who’s been ruling the empire for centuries. But they will soon be reminded that things are often very different from what they seem from the outside.
My full review: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
10. Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
Another one by Backman. Beartown was one of my favorite books I read in 2020, and the sequel did not disappoint. The way Backman words what dances on the edge of my mind, what I can barely catch a glimpse of sometimes… I’ve never experienced that with any other author.
In Us Against You, we continue to follow the locals of Beartown after the events that shook the whole community. But with another tragedy right around the corner, will even the tough Beartowners ever be able to recover?
My full review: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman