I think this is the latest that I’ve ever put this list together. Normally, I’m chomping at the bit to have it done, and I know well before we get to December what’s going to be on the list, but I won’t lie. This hasn’t been a great reading year. I’ve read a ton, but I haven’t liked a ton, and I definitely haven’t been wowed by a ton. However, there were some books that snuck by, and I’m so thankful for them. And ICYMI, here’s the lists for top five rereads, top five contemporary, and top nine sequels! And yes, these are in order.
I am the most surprised that If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann is my favorite read of the year, but only because it’s a contemporary because every other part of me knew immediately after reading that it was going to end up on this list. My rule of not doing an author more than once was nearly budged, too, because Let’s Talk About Love also wrecked me this year. Kann absolutely skyrocketed up into my favorite authors list with just this book, and it made her an auto-buy author like you wouldn’t believe. This book was phenomenal, and when I look back on my reading for 2021, this is always going to stand out.
Much like Natasha Ngan for the top sequels, I put Little Thieves by Margaret Owen on this list before I even read it. I mean, it had to be a favorite. The Merciful Crow duology absolutely slayed me, how could I not also love this, particularly with that stunning cover? And I was dead on. I actually put this book at number four originally, but knew as soon as I was about 100 pages in that it would have to move up, and I’m honestly a little surprised that it beat out Rogerson, but Owen had romance in hers, and that bumped it up for me. Because Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad? Hi, I’d like to be chased, too! I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention I’d like to be thieved by Vanja, and if I didn’t mention the absolutely fantastic plot. If nothing else, the deeply woven intricacies of Owen’s plot had me hollering at the full moon.
I definitely was hanging onto autumn’s new releases in the hopes that it would take up quite a few spaces on the top reads list, and Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson knocked it out of the park. And a big lol @ me for not realizing this was a duology, but I am so hyped that I might be able to put a Rogerson book on my sequels list next year! The relationship between Artemisia & the revenant was always going to be something I loved, but I somehow wasn’t quite ready for how much they were going to make me shriek and weep in equal measure. I’d just reread Sorcery of Thorns before this, too, and was already screaming over Elisabeth & Silas, so you’d think I would have been prepared, but alas, they had me hollering.
For some reason, I had it in my brain that A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth was a Sleeping Beauty retelling, and it was 100% not that, and I thoroughly adored it. Truthfully, this was batting for the top spot. I was just devoured by this, and I cannot wait to dive back and reread it next year. This was exactly what I wanted to read when I read it, and it was so masterfully written, and I can’t wait to start in on Weymouth’s backlist.
No surprises here! I knew that The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore would end up on this list even before I’d begun reading it because their books are always top notch, and this was no exception. Honestly, this may be one of my top favorites of everything they’ve written, and it was such a painful, wonderful book to read. There was so much packed into it, and the way that McLemore wove through the story in such big, but soft ways was everything I love about their novels.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston was an utter delight, and I can’t wait to reread it soon. This was a fantastic novel on its own, but the side characters in this amplified it even more, and every instance of Niko had me screeching with delight. The found family in this was outstanding, and, as always, it was the characters that really hit home. McQuiston’s plot and writing are fantastic, but her dialogue, and the way she threads love through her characters is just next leve.
Lore by Alexandra Bracken might be the biggest surprise for me this year, but I had so much fun reading it! I was thinking about it while I wasn’t reading it, and I was so excited each night to get home so I could read it. I didn’t have to think a whole lot while reading, and it was like an enjoyable action movie with lots of explosions. Fun, chaotic, and exciting. This held my attention, and I was sad when it was over, and I keep thinking about it even a full year later.
I mean, like, obviously The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley is on here, it made me weep. Even though I was heartbroken that Mori didn’t make an appearance, I have some theories, and I was still thoroughly enraptured by the rest of the novel. The characters were gruesome and flawed and full of horrible pasts, but they were also trying so damn hard to overcome their trauma and stop causing each other so much pain, and it was all very ugly, but so well written. The mastery that pulley has over her characters is beautiful, and this got its hooks in me from the very start and didn’t let go until well after it was over.
I’ve said this every time I talk about The Binding by Bridget Collins, but I was first introduced to Collins through The Haunting Season, and even just a few pages into her short story, I knew that she was going to be an author that I fell hard for. I immediately picked up this and The Betrayals, and I couldn’t not read it right after getting home, and I’m so glad that I did. This was everything that Pulley was for me in the wake of finishing Lara Elena Donnelly’s trilogy, and Collins has become the relief of filling the void that Pulley has left. These three authors are going to stand out in my mind for years to come, and I’m so glad to have found another one.
I’m a little surprised that The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is at the end of this list, but while it’s definitely one of my favorites of the year, I think I need to read it again for it to really sink in. It didn’t quite hit me as strongly as I was imagining, and I think I need to languish in it again to fully appreciate it. That said, this was such a stunning novel, and I fully understand why people have made so much noise about it. The pain and love that were intertwined throughout the whole novel was almost more than I could bear, and it was beautiful.