The Best Books I Read in 2021

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My goal for this past year was to read 40 books, but I actually ended up reading 48 which was, of course, very thrilling. 

I didn’t really do it on purpose, but I always like to have a new book to talk about in my Friday morning newsletter. Between that and my increasing dependence on reading as a stress coping mechanism, it was mostly easy for me to stay motivated and on track each week. 

(Re: my Friday morning newsletter. I’ve been sending these out for almost a year now, and it’s my favorite thing to do. I usually share a little about what the fam has been up to, what I’m reading, and any products I’m obsessed with. My goal with it is to be the vibe of a friend dropping off a surprise latte in the morning–a little pre-weekend buzz to start your day off, know what I mean? Anyway, here’s the link to sign up if you haven’t already. And not to micromanage but don’t forget to confirm your subscription! Sometimes it goes to spam. ALSO–I am sending out a pdf of all of my travel beauty tips and tricks to all new subscribers–it’s excessive in the best way). 

ANWAY. I read SO many amazing books this year, and it took me all week to edit this “best of” list down. I know it’s still a long list, but I guess that means there’s something for everyone? 

If you’re new to reading (or coming home, so to speak), I wrote a post at the beginning of the year that includes all of my tips for reading more books–check it out here

Fiction

Olive, Again – Elizabeth Strout 

I have pretty much accepted that anything I read from Elizabeth Strout is going to end up on my yearly list. This book expands on the world of Olive Kitteridge, a brusque but compassionate school teacher from Maine. 

Long Bright River – Liz Moore 

This is a thriller/family drama about two sisters in Philadelphia. One is an addict, and the other is a cop. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I still think about it all the time despite having read it at the beginning of the year. 

Dear Edward – Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward is a fictional story of the sole survivor of a commercial plane crash, a young boy who lost his entire family in the event. The book is based on a similar tragic circumstance that happened in 2010. The author shares that she wrote this book because she needed to find out if there would have been a way for the little boy to move forward after having lived through such devastation. 

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi 

Homegoing follows the lineage of two sisters born in Ghana in the 18th century. Each chapter features a snapshot into the life of a succeeding descendent. There are some parts that were difficult to get through, fair warning, but it’s truly a STUNNING book. 

People We Meet on Vacation – Emily Henry

The Queen of Rom Com knocks it out of the park with People We Meet on Vacation. I didn’t want this book to end–it’s clever and quick and the characters are just perfect. Hands down my number one “beach read” recommendation ever. 

It Ends With Us – Colleen Hoover 

Like many of Colleen Hoover’s books, this was intense. I found the domestic violence content extremely upsetting, but it’s also the most compassionate depiction of the subject I’ve ever read. This book is not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth the read for the author’s note at the end alone, I swear.  

Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

Pachinko follows a family as they migrate from Korea to Japan in the 20th century. The author weaves in multiple generations, characters, and side stories in a meaningful way. Highly recommend this to anyone looking to read more books based in other cultures, something I am going to push myself to do more of this next year. 

Nothing to See Here – Kevin Wilson

This book is about a young woman who becomes a caretaker to her boarding school roommate’s new stepkids, a pair of ten-year-old twins. The catch is that the twins spontaneously combust when they get mad or stressed. This story is ridiculous, but the writing is phenomenal. I just loved it. 

Nickel Boys – Colson Whitehead

The protagonist of Nickel Boys is a black teenager named Elwood Curtis who gets unjustly sent to a reform school in Florida. The school is beyond corrupt, and the most upsetting part is that this book was actually inspired by a real “school” in Florida that operated like this for over 100 years. This book is just as good as everyone says it is, and Tyler, who almost never takes my book recs, read and loved it too. 

Beautiful World, Where Are You – Sally Rooney

It seems like Sally Rooney’s books are polarizing–you either love them or hate them. I, personally, love them. This book is honest, witty, and a hauntingly realistic depiction of the lives of four young people trying to understand love, relationships, and the world. 

Little Secrets – Jennifer Hillier

This is an amazing thriller that begins with a kidnapping in Pike Place Market in Seattle. There are twists and turns in every chapter, and I stayed up way too late finishing this one. 

Silver Sparrow – Tayari Jones 

Silver Sparrow follows the lives of the daughters of a bigamist in Atlanta. Only one of the girls knows about their shared father’s double life, and chaos ensues when their paths inevitably cross in high school. This was gripping and profound in every way. 

 

Nonfiction

Hillbilly Elegy – JD Vance 

I rarely read memoirs, but when I do I always think “wait why don’t I do this more.” JD Vance illustrates his upbringing in poor Middle America and walks through the motivations and plight of a group of people that often gets overlooked, at least by spoiled Californians like myself. I think the best thing about memoirs is they allow the reader a chance to understand and empathize, something we could all do a lot better job of. 

Operating Instructions – Anne Lamott 

Operating Instructions is the journal that Anne Lammott kept during her son’s first year of life. This is the most beautiful and honest depiction of motherhood I’ve read, and I recommend it to all parents or to-be parents.

The Gifts of ImperfectionBrené Brown

This is my favorite book I’ve read from Brené Brown and one that I truly think everyone could benefit from. In The Gifts of Imperfection, she walks through her ten guideposts to what she calls “wholehearted living” which basically means living (and loving) from a place of worthiness and abundance. 

Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

In Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner writes about her Korean heritage and her mother’s battle with cancer. This is honest, funny, and heart-wrenching. Absolutely loved it. 

For more book recommendations, check out my book category page OR my year-end roundups from 2020 and 2019

 

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