The Best Books I Read in 2021

Thursday, December 30, 2021

All right, let's do it! 

I confess I took the easy way out of writing these descriptions of my favorite books of the year, in that I didn't actually write them — not for this post, anyway. Yeah, I just copied & pasted my original write-ups of each of them, sorry. But hey, I did take the time to round them up in the first place, which I didn't totally expect to get around to.

These are listed alphabetically, nothing more to be read into the order of them. But long story short, they're all great, & you should read them. You should also consider telling me your favorite reads of the year in the comments on this post. A girl's gotta build her TBR list!

A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley

This is the book that: had the best storytelling, the most emotion, the feelings I could really, really feel while reading. I love a memoir, & Henley does it damn well.

Original review: "I truly could not have loved this YA memoir more, about the author's childhood with Crouzon Syndrome. She & her twin sister are the first pair to survive the condition, which required them to need multiple facial surgeries as they grew up. Today, she's an eloquent storyteller & an advocate for people with facial differences & for people with disabilities in general."

TW: ableism, descriptions of surgical pain/recovery

Cultish by Amanda Montell

This is the book that: was the most interesting I read all year. Truly, it's like it was made for me — from so many of my favorite topics all in one place! I'm just glad someone is out there writing books about the things that used to be considered too weird for polite conversation. 

Original review: Oh, boy, I could not have loved this book more. Montell, a linguist, delves deep into what she calls "the language of fanaticism," talking about the language of cult-like behavior from actual cults (Heaven's Gate, NXIVM) to exercise (SoulCycle, CrossFit) to MLMs (Lularoe). This is no dry, nonfiction look at linguistics, folks. This is fascinating, funny, & educational all in one. 

TW: cults, obviously

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

This is the book that: made me the most nostalgic. I never had a relationship like this, not really (isn't it weird to think that we didn't really have texting in high school?!), but it really tapped into those soul-deep feelings of young love from so long ago, & not in a frivolous way.

Original review: This book is so smartly written, so clever & thoughtful. On Penny's first day of college, she briefly meets her roommate's one-time step-uncle, the adorable (& age-appropriate, really) barista Sam. They start a friendship via text, without ever seeing one another again in person. It's told from both perspectives, & just... wow, I really loved it. 

TW: racism, description of sexual assault

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This is the book that: got me most in my feelings. I wept at the end of it, but not because I was sad — because, as I said upon finishing it, it really just made me think & feel & then think & feel some more.

Original review: I loved the premise of this book so much: When we die, we end up in a library filled with countless, endless, infinity-forever books of the various ways our life's stories could've gone, each choice a different book. I cried at the end of the book, which is unusual for me, & truly, I just wish every book could be like this one. It made me think & feel & live. 

TW: suicide, depression

The Royal We by Heather Cocks

This is the book that: I was happiest to read. Through it all, I was just absolutely delighted. The writing is just so good, so clever, & I really didn't expect it to be. I still haven't read the sequel because I just wanted to be able to spread out the delight.

Original review: I don't typically think of myself as a royals lover, but when I came down with COVID, a friend sent me the Kindle version to keep me occupied... & it had me rapt. The writing is so clever & witty & fast-paced! During her exchange year, American Bex falls in love with Britain's crown prince, Nicholas. How will she hold up against the responsibilities, the paparazzi, & his family?

TW: none; this book is just lovely. 

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

This is the book that: resonated most with me & my feelings. I confess that upon finishing it, I expected to be thinking about it forever & have promptly forgotten all of it, but I loved it so much at the time that not including it would surely be driven only by recency bias.

Original review: I both loved & hated this book, but mostly loved? I think? Doyle is a truly incredible, beautiful, fantastic writer, her words like a poison & a balm all in one. I loved this memoir, a series of short essays about life, generally, & lessons learned from the smallest & largest pieces of it. The "hated" part, though is just because it's a lot sometimes. Sometimes I was like "OK, lol, this is not at all relevant to my own small life." 

TW: eating disorders, homophobia

What did you read & love in 2021? What are your reading goals for 2022? Let me know, then add me on Goodreads. You can also follow my (sparsely updated) bookstagram account

My "What I Read In..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.

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