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!

My Year in Books: 2018 Edition

I read so many awesome books this year. Here are some of my favorites!

This year was a good reading year for me. As of the writing of this post, I completed 77 books, comics, and short stories (and yes, I include comics in this count. That’s a post for another day.). And I think that’s pretty good!

So today, for the final post of 2018, I thought it would be a good idea to hold my own bookish awards party. Here are my favorite books for a few different categories. 😉 (All books I read in 2018, though they were not necessarily published this year.)

Non-Fiction

First place: Educated, by Tara Westover. This is an amazing memoir about the childhood and education of a girl who grew up outside of the school system in a family that told her the world was out to get her. It’s thoughtful, insightful, heartbreaking, and empowering, all in one book!

Honorable mentions:

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. This book is all about a serial killer who was active during the Chicago World’s Fair. Very creepy and well-written!

On My Own, by Savannah Jezowski. This is a great little companion for indie authors, teaching them how to use Word to format manuscripts for print and ebook publication… not only is it good for saving some money, but Savannah’s voice is easy to read and friendly.

Contemporary Fiction

First place: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. Every human should read this book. It’s empowering and devastating and really explains the world that either readers are all too familiar with or not familiar enough with. Everyone needs to read it.

Honorable mentions:

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon. This is an excellent coming-of-age story set in the American Indian culture… with a pretty fantastic set of characters!

Hushed, by Joanne MacGregor. This is a unique Little Mermaid retelling about a girl determined to save the world and the movie star she loves. It’s an adorable story!

American Panda, by Gloria Chao. This is another coming-of-age story about a girl who must come to terms with what she wants versus what her family wants for her… and all the consequences that come with it.

Save the Date, by Morgan Matson. This is a cute, funny, and simultaneously heavy story about what it means to grow up and become your own person… all set against the backdrop of a wedding gone horribly wrong! As I had my wedding this year, it was a fun addition to my TBR.

Science Fiction

First place: The Fireman, by Joe Hill. This is such an imaginative story about a fungal infection that ravages the Earth. Once infected, people have only a little time before they spontaneously combust… or do they?

Honorable mentions:

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein. This is a great classic tale of revolution with an amazing narrator.

Fantasy

My biggest category.

First Place: Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi AdeyemiThis story is about a girl with magic in a world that hates people like her. And her quest to restore magic to the world for good.

Honorable mentions:

Etched in Bone, by Anne Bishop. This is last year’s installment in The Others series, one of my favorite urban fantasies. The political tension is heating up, and the characters are as lovable as ever!

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. This is a very unique standalone based on kelpie mythology. If you ever wondered about racing kelpies, this book is for you. Such fantastic lore and worldbuilding here!

Salt & Stone, by A. L. Knorr. This is an extension of The Elemental Origins series, so you’d do best to read that first. But this is such a deep and emotional story of magic, self-sacrifice, and mystery… with mermaids!

How to Hang a Witch, by Adriana Mather. This is set in modern day Salem, following the descendant of Cotton Mather. It was a delightfully creepy tale of teen angst, generational grudges, ghosts, and witches. Good for an October read!

Short Stories

First Place: Tears of the Sea, by Savannah Jezowski. Very rarely have I read anything that can do so much worldbuilding with so few pages! And her writing is so lyrical and beautiful… I truly read nothing else like it this year!

Honorable Mentions:

Blood in the Snow, by Sarah Pennington. This is an Asian-inspired Snow White retelling that I’ve talked about before. It’s a beautiful story of love and magic!

Final Thoughts for 2018

It was a good reading year. I also read plenty of graphic novels and comics, and while I didn’t lay out my favorites here, or list all the books that deserve attention, I enjoyed so many of the stories I read for a variety of reasons. You can drop on over to my Goodreads page to see them all!

But now I want to hear about your year in books. What were your absolute favorites? Were there any that you’d recommend? What about books you didn’t much care for? Let’s talk in the comments!