The Best Books I Read This Year (2021 Edition)

Want to see my favorite books from this year?

Hello and welcome to the reading wrap-up for this year! I know in previous years I separated books by category, but this time I will simply list off all my favorites from this year. It is largely fantasy, but there are also some graphic novels, manga, and a nonfiction thrown in there.

And as always, a reminder that just because I didn’t mention a book on this list, it does not mean I didn’t enjoy it. If I listed every book I enjoyed, we’d be here for another year!

This year, I set 90 books as my Goodreads goal. I managed to sneak over that line a couple weeks ago, and then I went on a bit of a graphic novel spurt, so I have since pumped that number up to 99. I will probably get another 1 or 2 by the end of the year, based on what I have going right now, but I’m pretty happy with this number.

One final note for anyone interested in reading these books: if you are sensitive to certain kinds of content (language, sexual situations, or triggers), please do look up whether these books have it. I do not shy away from most topics, so the books I read and share may contain these elements, and I read widely and diversely.

And now, let’s get into it!

Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter

I found Body of Stars through a TikTok video by Ace Dad (you should be able to find him if you’re interested in following him), and I was immediately intrigued. This book uses a magic system in which women are born with patterns of freckles on their bodies that foretell their futures – and those of the men in their lives – that appears when they hit puberty. Once the patterns are there, they are permanent. So naturally a whole system of reading the patterns developed, and then there’s the element of how irresistible girls become when they develop the patterns. Which of course influences their futures. The main character takes on these systems as her own life is turned upside down. It was a really fascinating magic system (of sorts) and a great look at how women are treated based on what they can do for me and based on what happens to them during their lives. I could not put this down.

Ever After by Olivia Vieweg

This is a graphic novel I borrowed from my local library and I was honestly so absorbed by it from the first page. It begins in a small community that is fenced off from the rest of the world – where zombie-like creatures roam free to attack those who are left. The main character must confront her past and what she did in the past with an unexpected friend as they unwittingly leave their safe community together.

I like that this story had some unique elements rather than simply being a zombie story and also had a good art style I could appreciate. Underrated book, in my opinion!

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This is a shorter book that begins a new series in which children (usually young girls) find doorways to alternate worlds, but are then returned to our world. The story deals with the aftermath at a school where they learn to understand what happened to them while they cope with the horrors they endured or await their chance to return. And in this first book, someone starts killing students, putting not only everyone’s lives at risk but also their ability to keep their school open. This is a highly diverse book with a large cast, including some identities that are not often used in books. And even more than that, the worlds the kids went to are all so interesting, and the world building is so complex. Can’t wait for the next one!

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

This is one of those books that haunts me long after I finish reading it. It coincidentally also deals with doorways, but this one is so much more on the horror side, which I usually don’t read. But it was so captivating and the story telling was so good, I couldn’t put it down even when I was absolutely horrified by what was happening. 10/10 I would definitely read this again.

House of Salt and Sorry by Erin A. Craig

This is a fantasy gothic retelling of (I think) 12 dancing princesses. There are a whole large group of sisters who are assumed to be cursed… because one after another they keep dying.

But beyond that, there is such elaborate world building and a huge atmosphere that this is another one I read quickly – most of it in a day.

I think Erin Craig may be a new favorite author! And I already have another of hers, Small Favors, on hold at the library.

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

And speaking of favorite authors, Rin Chupeco never fails me with their fantasy worlds and story telling. This particular story I just finished late last night, and it was another that kept my attention with its world and intrigue – a world that suddenly stops spinning in an event called the breaking, throwing everything into chaos, because the goddesses who were supposed to keep everything running failed at their task twenty years ago. And for those of you interested, it has LGBT+ representation as well.

This is a duology, and I will definitely be reading the next one very soon!

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

This is a feel-good autumn graphic novel that really put me in the mood for Pie-Jinks! It features a young witch and her friend, who recently moved back to town and is dealing with some pretty intense magical issues.

The world is cozy and atmospheric, and it is everything I never knew I wanted. Plus, as many of my reads this year turned out to be, it is full to bursting with representation!

My Body by Emily Ratajkowski

This was a really thought-provoking collection of essays by a model made famous through the Blurred Lines music video. It was such an interesting lens through which she sees the world and it really provokes a lot of consideration of female agency and how women in model tend to be treated.

I never would have known this book existed were it not for another list of books earlier this year, but I am so glad I read it. This is a smart lady who is unapologetic about what she does for a living while still acknowledging how difficult a world it is.

Highly recommend!

Notes from My Captivity by Kathy Parks

I read this while I was on vacation over the summer, and it did not hold back from the intensity! I was on the edge of my seat reading about this expedition gone wrong, about the rumors and stories – and the truth.

It’s a survival tale, one of my favorite kinds of stories, but also works in elements of forgiveness and finding your feet and growing up. I was blown away by it.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina by Jougi Shiraishi

I found this new manga/light novel series toward the end of the year, but I’ve already devoured the first three!

This series follows Elaina, a young prodigy witch who travels around her world, meeting new people and helping those in need. I was drawn in by the story and the way the world was set up, but this series also does not shy away from the tough topics. She encounters some whimsical places and cool people, but she also finds lands consumed by darkness, people destroyed by their circumstances.

I rarely find manga with such a mix of the hopeful and whimsical with the serious. It’s very well done!

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

I was very pleasantly surprised by this YA summer camp story! Rather than the cliche love story at camp, this book goes into a different kind of relationship: sisters who just found out they had a sister.

The two girls find out behind their parents’ backs and arrange to meet at a summer camp to get to know each other better, uncovering family secrets and old, destroyed relationships.

And if they want to keep talking to each other, they need to get their parents to make up.

Seriously, this was so good!

Final Thoughts

I read a lot of stories this year, and the ones I highlighted here really immersed me in the world and kept me turning pages (or listening). I am so excited for some of the books on my list for next year, and I can’t wait to dig in!

Now it’s your turn: what did you read this year? What blew you away? Or, if you couldn’t find the right stories, what is it you hope to read next year?

Happy reading, and happy holidays!

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