My 15 Favourite Books from 2021

This is not exactly ground-breaking news, but I read a lot of books this year. I get different totals by look at my Goodreads account, my Pinterest page, and this blog, because I don’t always remember to record every book in every case, so for a year-end total I’m going with the Pinterest board, because it gives such a good visual at-a-glance of books read and is pretty. So I’m going to say I read 113 books this year.

I usually do a quick break-down of a few stats about my reading — fiction vs non-fiction, gender/demographics of writers etc. This year I read 93 novels and 20 non-fiction books. I don’t break books down by format, but I will not that most of the non-fiction I read is via audiobook, which takes a little longer per book but allows me to get through more total books as I can now “read” while washing the dishes, driving, or walking the dog, three activities that don’t combine well with traditional eye-based reading formats. Although I read (as I always do) far more fiction than non-fiction, there were some real stand-outs in my non-fiction reads this year, to the extent that I decided to do a Top Ten of Fiction and a Top Five of Non-Fiction. That means a quarter of the non-fiction I read made it onto my favourites list this year. I still find “ears for non-fiction, eyes for fiction” is a rule that works well for how my brain processes information, but everyone is different. Most of my fiction reading is via e-book, unless it’s a re-read of an old favourite I own a copy of, or a paper book someone has given or loaned me.

Another predictable trend is that my reading still tends to favour women writers over men, this time by a larger margin than usual — 20 books by men, 92 by women, and one by multiple authors (I’m not aware of any non-binary authors I read this year unless there’s one I missed). However, one of my ten favourite novels and three of my favourite non-fiction books were written by men, who tend to be over-represented in my year-end favourites list every year simply because I’m much less likely to pick up a book by a male writer unless I already know something good about the writer or the book, so the ones I read tend to be stellar picks, whereas I’m more likely to take a chance on any old foolishness written by a writer who identifies as female. Again, just how my brain is wired.

Regular readers of this blog also know that several years ago I started making a concerted effort to seek out more books by Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latina and other authors who don’t primarily identiy as “white people.” This can be hard to define, but I find that it generally means that while 75-80% of the books I read still end up being written by white, English-speaking writers from the US, the UK, and Canada, at least I get a little more diversity in my mental diet when I make the effor to seek out other writers. This year I counted 26 books by racialized writers in my list.

My Top Ten Novels of 2021 (with links to my reviews, and with a sneak bonus book) were, in the order I read them in:

  1. Miss Benson’s Beetle, by Rachel Joyce
  2. The Girl With the Louding Voice, by Abi Dare
  3. Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
  4. Tales from Lindford, by Catherine Fox
  5. One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston
  6. A Thousand Ships, by Natalie Haynes
  7. The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, by Dawnie Walton
  8. A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers. Also I’m sneaking in a recommendation for Chambers’ other books, her Wayfarers series, especially A Closed and Common Orbit, which would have been on the list if I’d decided to do a Top 11 instead of a Top 10 novel list for some reason.
  9. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab
  10. The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles

My Top Five Non-Fiction Books of 2021, again in chronological order of when I read them

  1. Know My Name, by Chanel Miller
  2. The Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green
  3. How the Word is Passed, by Clint Smith III
  4. Wait for God to Notice, by Sari Fordham
  5. Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?, by Seamus O’Reilly

The non-fiction list was tough, because I didn’t have quite enough for another Top Ten but too many for a Top Five, and I do like nice round numbers. Two others I really wanted to include were Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad, and No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler. So I guess I really had a Top Seven non-fiction books. But I chose to knock those two off the official list because they’re extremely well-known and well-publicized bestsellers, like 4/5 of my final list, and I really wanted to give a spot to the brilliant Wait for God to Notice, a smaller-press book by a less-known author that deserves to be more widely read.

That’s my year in books, folks! What did you read and love this year? Any of these? Any others you’d highly recommend?

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