For those who know me, I’ve always been a book lover, but the last couple of years have seen me a little more hyper-focused on reading than usual – I started writing on this blog, I joined book twitter and met other bloggers, readers, and writers, and I’ve been working in a bookshop where I see all the new and exciting publications as they come in. Books have probably taken over a bit more of my personality than they should, but they’ve definitely been an escape for me during these weird times, and this blog has been a much-needed outlet. I always have an urge to write, and if I can’t quite get the brain fuzz out of the way enough to write stories, I can at least shout about everyone else’s amazing works. And there have been some incredible works, especially those published this year. I probably read more new publications in 2021 than ever before, which has been really cool; I’d like to be a bit more balanced next year, but I have really enjoyed seeing where the genre is going and the new authors on the block.
A word of warning: this will be quite a long post, but after this I’ll probably be taking a break from posting until late January, because I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by life right now and I want one less thing to feel concerned over. Hopefully you’ll stick with me and come back to read my reviews when I resume them!
I somehow managed to read over 100 books this year, though I wasn’t specifically aiming for it, and since I’ve been tracking them all on The StoryGraph which is very good with its stats, it’s time to break down the numbers! (This part is more for me, so if this is boring feel free to skip to the next part).
- 62 of 102 books were published in 2021
- 40 were written by men, 60 by women, and 2 by non-binary people
- 27 were slow paced, 50 were medium paced, and 17 were fast paced
- 18 were under 300 pages, 69 were between 300 & 500, and 15 were over 500 pages
- 6 were non fiction, and the other 90 were fiction, with my most read genre being fantasy
- my most read authors were Leigh Bardugo and Adrian Tchaikovsky with 4 books each
- March saw me read the most books in a month with 12, and December the lowest at 5
- My average star rating was 4.18, though I didn’t rate and review every book I read
My Top 15 Reads
It was so hard to narrow down from such a high number to just fifteen and, yes, I could have made it higher, but I didn’t want my most loved books to get lost, so I decided to choose the ones that have stayed with me regardless of when I read them. So, in order of author’s surname, here are my best reads of 2021:
Quite apt that this is the first book alphabetically, because it’s probably also my all time favourite read of 2021 (don’t tell the others) and I’ll probably read it again in 2022 because it was that good, and I have to be ready for the sequel. Honestly, if you haven’t picked it up, please do. I have never encountered anything like it, and it’s definitely become one of my all time favourites.
A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers
My first Becky Chambers book, and I find myself thinking of the hopeful world it depicts very often – it brings me both sadness and comfort, packing so much into such a short novella.
I definitely picked this up because of the hype, and was unsure how I would do with a book labelled as military fantasy, but though the military elements are there, this is such a powerful look at the effects of colonialism, torn national identities, and magic vs science. I think this needs a reread before its sequel because I’m sure a lot of things went over my head the first time. Very good.
The first foray into crime fiction by (the evil twin of) fantasy author RJ Barker, and I absolutely loved it! The writing was sharp, the characters memorable, and I couldn’t put it down! I believe there is a second one coming at some point and I am as excited about it as RJ’s fantasy work – they give me different types of joy, both very much needed.
This book is full of heart and I still get very emotional about it. I love Norse mythology, and I’ve always liked Loki, but seeing the story from his witch wife Angrboda was a completely new experience and is written with such sweetness and agony that it has become my favourite retelling, by far. It was familiar enough for me to feel at home with the mythology but Angrboda came alive and took over the story, making it something unique.
Turns out I really love a heist, and with this being set in a world of floating boat-cities, and so many other cool world-building elements in play, it grabbed my attention and has kept it. The main character was fun, the back stories compelling, and the heist elements kept me guessing the whole way through. I do hope there will be another Twisted Seas book soon…
There is so much untapped folklore in the British Isles, and Lucy Holland brings some to life in Sistersong, using the murder ballad ‘The Twa Sisters’ as inspiration, and I loved it! It felt both fresh and eternal.
This book packed a punch! It has a heist, it has space, it has some very cool women (and one cool man), and incredible world-building. I was not ready for this!
This is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and it’s stayed with me because of it. It has elements of both fantasy and sci-fi blended together seamlessly, as well as romance and mystery filling out the plot. It kept me on my toes a lot, and I loved all three of the disaster children of this story – can’t wait to see what other messes they get into next!
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
Technically, I haven’t finished this yet, but I’ve only got about 36 minutes left on the audiobook, so I think it’s safe to include it, and it definitely takes the title of my favourite non-fiction read of 2021. It’s a beautiful exploration of the author’s relationship with nature, his fears for the future, being autistic, and his conservation work. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so compelling, especially considering the author was 14 at the time of writing it – may have to do a full review at some point…
Another book I wasn’t ready for, and absolutely loved! It’s got pirates, a grumpy wolf spirit, a tired mom(TM) who didn’t have time to find a babysitter before going to rescue her wife, and lots of other exciting things. This is another I’ll be rereading, and one that made me put Virginia McClain on my radar.
I may never stop shouting about this book, it is truly a piece of art and every page had me hooked! Vanya is the best protagonist I’ve read in a while, and the entire supporting cast had its role and made it extra. Very good!
A powerful story written in such a unique style; sometimes the prose is elegant, sometimes it is economical, each time fitting the context of the story perfectly. This is one that I have recommended a lot to friends who aren’t big on fantasy, because it’s very character-focused and more historical than magical.
Would it be my top books if I didn’t have all of the Sapphic Trifecta on here? No, of course not! The Jasmine Throne is probably one of the books I took most notes and saved quotes from. It’s so complex, with a large cast and ambitious world building that pays off and sets up questions for the next book. Tasha Suri definitely has a talent.
This was one of the first books I read this year and it’s definitely stayed with me – I started out feeling that maybe it wasn’t quite for me and by the end I was obsessed. Adrian Tchaikovsky just has a way with words and bringing his story and intention to life; it’s incredible to watch and the way he can adapt to so many different types of stories is inspirational.
Creepy, sentient forest? A grumpy and powerful man who falls in love with the stubborn, beautiful woman? Strange magic? This book sunk a hook into my heart and still hasn’t let me go, so thanks for that, Hannah.
It was a little strange looking back at all the books I read this year, because some felt like they were read a lot longer ago, some (mostly the ones mentioned) have stayed with me, and some I completely forgot about reading, even if I quite enjoyed them at the time, which makes me a little sad to think of, but not every book can have a lasting impact! I’d say out of all the reads, there are only about 10 that I regret picking up and then powering through. I had a few DNFs but some I just decided to push through on, and now feel like a waste of time, so I think 2022 will see me being less forgiving of books that don’t bring me something new.
I’ve probably said this multiple times, but maybe if I write it enough I’ll actually do it: in the coming year I want to read less ARCs and spend more time on the book hoard I have accumulated in my house – my husband is more and more distressed every time I bring home a new book, so I think I should work my way through some of those so I can make space for future purchases and gifts. I’ve also started getting into audiobooks recently, they’re pretty good for my bus commute and fill the gaps when I’ve caught up with my favourite podcasts. I’ve only done two, really, because I’m picky about the narrators, but I really like BorrowBox as an app so I’ll probably use it more as time goes on. I’ve got quite a few saved already!
I also wanted to take this time to say thank you to the people in the bookish community I’ve become a part of that have made this such a fun thing to do! Thank to Max at The Book Pyramid for being my across-the-ocean #BooksellerPal, thank you to Isabelle at The Shaggy Shepherd for being one of the first community members to welcome me, thank you to Celeste at A Literary Escape for always retweeting my reviews and for writing some pretty inspiring ones yourself, thank you to LibraryofBees for just being super cool and reading books with me, thank you to Mayri the Book Forager for always giving me joy with your comments on my posts, thank you to imyril at There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place for the events you co-create that got me more involved in the SFF blogging community, thank you to Line the First Line Reader for the lovely concept of first lines in every blog post, thank you to Al at Al Wrote a Book for always sharing my posts, thank you to Peat at Peat Long’s Blog for the constant entertainment, the introductions to fantasy off my radar, and for being kind about my writing. I’m sure I’m leaving someone out but I wouldn’t have poured as much energy and love into this lil blog if these wonderful people hadn’t been inspiring me with their own work and making it fun for me to do!