21 (Almost) Best Books of 2021
Hello, everybody! It's been a while since I've checked in with all of you. I might write a longer chatty post for New Year's Day, but I wanted to finish everything 2021 related before stepping into the new year, so I had to throw together my favorite books of 2021 rather fast. 2021 had the most changes for my reading life since I was 13 as I started exploring a new age category of books while also coming back to my YA roots. As with every year I get older, I also read less, which is discouraging. I barely read at all during my first LA semester, so I only managed to read 40 books this year (when I was aiming for 50). I started to wonder if I even liked reading anymore, but since I've been home, I've been reading a ton, so I've proven to myself it's really a time issue more than anything. I started bullet journaling in 2021, and this book comes from one of those spreads. I aimed to write down 21 favorite books of 2021, and I didn't quite make it. Having only read 40 books, though, I'm honestly impressed I found 19 books that genuinely blew me away across YA, nonfiction, romance, and general fiction. Having half of the books be favorites is proving that I'm doing a good job of truly only finishing books that I love instead of being so motivated to record every possible book I pick up in my reading spreadsheet. So here are my favorites of 2021, and I'll be back very soon with some reading resolutions for the new year! What was your favorite book of the year? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @readwriteandme.
by Sophie Gonzales
Perfect on Paper was my first book love of 2021because I actually read it in 2020. Sophie Gonzales is one of my favorite YA authors because she managed to write a love triangle that I loved, and you all know how much I hate love triangles. Also, this book has amazing bi rep, and you'll just never want to put it down.
by Katie Henry
Katie Henry is a hilarious author. She is super witty and writes protagonists that stick with you. This book spoke to my soul as it's about a girl who just wants to move on to college and having college friends while still in high school (and shows the flaws in that without being condescending ever). Humor and heart are always perfectly balanced here.
by Rachel Lynn Solomon
This book is truly a sign of what was to come for my second half of the year. The Ex Talk was the first romance I'd ever picked up, and it made me realize that books written for adults aren't so scary after all, even though I've been firmly in the YA world for so long. I'm so glad that so many YA authors write in multiple age categories to help guide the way.
by Phil Stamper
Phil Stamper has cemented his place among the YA greats with this book. As someone getting ready to make a major move, this story of a boy who moves from his small mid-western town all the way to London was just what I needed. This book discusses toxic friendship and subjects like body image with a sensitivity and realism I don't find often and always appreciate.
by Mary HK Choi
Mary HK Choi books will always have my heart. Yolk was quite the journey and a very intense book, especially with themes around health that could be challenging in the pandemic. But Choi's books are always so moving, and I feel like I grow as a person with each one that I read. I love the attention to small details in characterization and how the details really make the world.
by Sophie Gonzales
I finally got around to reading Gonzales's debut after intending to forever, and I absolutely loved it. I am really really not a fan of Grease, but don't let that comp scare you away from reading the book. It's a unique, wonderful, queer YA book that stands completely on its own.
by Rachel Lynn Solomon
I love Rachel's books, and I was so honored to get an ARC of her latest YA release. What I didn't anticipate even though I already knew I would love it was how deeply the OCD representation would resonate with me. This own voices story is really incredible, and I also loved the narratives about how hard it is to get ready to leave everything you've known to go to college.
by John Green
I am a John Green fan. It's at the core of my being at this point between vlogbrothers, all the podcasts, and his YA books that I grew up on. And The Anthropocene Reviewed was especially special. I love how John makes the tiniest things feel so big and important and the massive things feel manageable, even without answers, in these essays.
by Jennifer Dugan
Summer started a new run of books really stealing my heart, and this star crossed lover/opposites attract story really won me over. One pageant queen by day and care mechanic by night falls for a girl who had to leave her catholic high school, and her track team, because she likes girls. Also, have you seen that cover???
by Erin Hahn
Erin Hahn is a Top 3 YA author for me, which you would know if you've followed my blog in the last few years. I'll never stop shouting about Erin's work. This emotional story about breaking away from your faith and most of the other structures you've ever known to chart adulthood really resonated.
by Kathleen Glasgow
Kathleen is also always incredible as well, and her books will make you cry. This book kept me turning page after page and also brought up really important conversations about teens and technology and how we treat teenage girls vs boys.
by Margot Wood
I was in a huge reading slump after leaving for LA, but Fresh momentarily pulled me out of it and was one of the last YA books I read this year. This book is so honest and real about the reality of being a freshman in college which is so important and needed in the YA space. The book is also absolutely hilarious.
by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng made me realize that I actually could like literary fiction, and this was one of the few books I finished during the semester that I could not put down and that I made time to read.
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone
by Lori Gottlieb
I listened to this one on audiobook on the plane ride home from LA, and I loved it. This nonfiction book is all about therapy. It's both a book about therapists and therapy and a memoir of a therapist who also goes to therapy. How many times can I use therapy in one sentence? We'll see. The writing here was incredibly strong, and it left me with a deeper understanding of the purpose of therapy and what to look for in a good therapist. This book made me want to try therapy it was so good.
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I got totally swept away in this book. I loved the unique transcript style for telling the story, and I'm so impressed with how Reid builds her fictional characters into the real world so seamlessly it feels like they could have truly existed. Daisy Jones is one of the few books I've found in general fiction that has a voice that reminds me of what I love most in YA and it did end on an ultimately hopeful note, which was refreshing.
I read this book decently early in the year, but I found myself liking the book more the more distance I put between myself and the story. I realized how often my mind wandered back there. The book was really dense in the beginning, which turned me off originally, but I have to scream about and support any books that are pioneering the NA genre, and it's focus on that portion of life really made it stand out to me among my 2021 reads.
by Carrie McCrossen and Ian McWethy
My last YA of the year actually wound up being one of my favorites. The more time that goes by, the less I find myself connecting to YA, which makes me really sad. So I loved that this book reminded me of everything I really enjoy about YA. I saw myself so much in Margot, and the book also offered a really important social commentary on issues that are facing teens around the internet and, like Kathleen's book, makes a point about how even when girls are victims, they often face much more punishment than the boys committing the crimes.
Until Proven Safe
by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley
My last read of the year actually ended up being one of my favorites. I still haven't decided if I'll write a formal review, but I saw this book in an article of best nonfiction of 2021, and it totally lived up to that honor. This is a book about the history of quarantine, which was either going to be fascinating or an anxiety spiral waiting to happen. Luckily, it did not cause any more anxiety than the news. The book was actually in the works long before COVID, and it covers both quarantine histories from pandemics in humans, plants, animals, and the ways we're modernizing the practice with technology. Moral of the story - we are living in very precedented times.