Of the 75+ books I read in 2021, these are the clear standouts. Though I’ve shared my reading journey on Bookstagram, this blog has given me an even greater platform to share my thoughts and reactions to the books I’ve read and will read in the future. This post is dedicated to the my favorite reads of 2021, may they live on in infamy on this site and in my heart as the books that reignited my love of reading.
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City of Girls
This book started it all. It was January 2021, and I had a new digital library card and time on my hands. I’d heard great things about Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing, so when I saw that she’d released a new historical fiction called City of Girls I thought “why not?” Little did I know that I’d fall head over heels for this terrific coming-of-age story set in 1940s Manhattan. Vivian hasn’t always been rebellious, but she’s always been different. She flunked out of university, isn’t interested in marriage, and has a healthy appetite for creativity. Needless to say, she jumps at the chance to work in her eccentric Aunt Peg’s off-Broadway theater where she’ll find herself immersed in a brand new culture of creativity, depravity, and unconventional living. But will her wild ways be her undoing? How will the choices she makes then impact her future? Looking back, Vivian has more than just stories to tell.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
What is there to say about this book other than masterful? Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2017 novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, takes every mold and breaks it completely. The epic life story of classic Hollywood star, Evelyn Hugo, is full of drama, deceit, and glamour. But underneath the cloak of fame and fortune lies the truth about the screen vixen. And her truth is more than anyone ever expected, especially the young journalist she’s hired to write her memoir. Step back in time with Evelyn as she reveals herself to the world, by far the bravest thing she’s ever done.
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
Lori Nelson Spielman’s 2018 novel, The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, is the story of shared heritage, family secrets, and finding oneself. This book was a pure and unadulterated joy from start to finish. Emilia is a second-born Fortuna daughter, so she shares the family curse that’s plagued the women of her family for centuries. All second-born Fortuna women are destined to be unlucky in love, so Emilia knows she’ll never know love or marriage. Oddly enough, Emilia doesn’t mind. She’s happy with the little life she’s created for herself. But when she’s offered a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the family homeland with her quirky grandmother’s sister, Poppy, she can’t turn it down, even if it means angering her grandmother, Nonna Rosa. The feud between the two sisters has caused a rift in the family for years, but no one seems to really know why Nonna Rosa hates her sister so much. But Poppy, another second-born Fortuna daughter, reveals all to Emilia and her cousin, Lucy, while waiting on the steps of the church where she broke the family curse years ago.
Songs in Ursa Major
To think that Songs in Ursa Major is Emma Brodie’s debut novel is to be completely blown away. Not only is the book a work of art, but the story is also absolutely mesmerizing. This page-turner tells the story of Jane, a budding singer/songwriter, and her rise to fame. Along the way, she meets and falls madly in love with everyone’s favorite folk singer, Jesse. Their love story unfolds as the wheels on the tour bus turn, but they’ll soon learn nothing lasts forever in rock-n-roll. Devastated by heartache and rejection, Jane finds herself, literally and metaphorically, on the beach in Greece. She’ll have to face her demons if she wants to unleash the beast that lives in her heart. And as her pain spills out onto the sheet music, she discovers that no one can take away what she has.
Of the two Kristin Hannah books I read in 2021, The Nightingale was by far my favorite. Hannah’s genius shines through in this painfully beautiful saga of two sisters living in France during World War II. Vianne and Isabelle could not be more different. Vianne is steadfast and eager to maintain the lifestyle she and her husband have created in their rural village. But when her husband joins the French army, she faces uncertainty, hunger, and the rising threat of Nazism. Meanwhile, her younger sister, Isabelle, is angry, quick to dissent, and takes more risks than Vianne can tolerate. Fed up after she put her and her daughter in too much danger, Vianne, turns her sister out. It’s then that Isabelle finds herself on the precipice of something greater than even she imagined.
"In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are." -Kristin Hannah
The House in the Cerulean Sea
Despite its problematic origin, TJ Klune’s 2020 novel, The House in the Cerulean Sea, is quite possibly one of the greatest redemption stories ever written. The tale of frumpy and grumpy Department in Charge Of Magical Youth case worker, Linus Baker, and his journey to the magical island of Marsyas is full of emotional highs and lows. He’s sent to Marsyas to assess an orphanage run by the enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, but this is no ordinary orphanage! The children who live there are not only magical, they are outcasts even in the magical world. What Linus learns about himself, his chosen family, and his relationships is sure to warm even the coldest of hearts.
Taylor Jenkins Reid is so amazing that she deserves two spots on my favorite reads of 2021 list. Her 2021 novel, Malibu Rising, is deserving of all the praise. Set in 1980s Angeles, the book follows the Riva children over the course of one fateful night. Born and raised in Malibu, the Riva siblings live for one thing: surfing. They’ve watched each other’s backs in the water and on land since their father left them, but they’ve leaned on the eldest, Nina, for strength since their mother died. So, when Nina’s carefully curated life starts to unravel it sends shockwaves through the whole family. Everything comes to a head the night of Nina’s famous end-of-summer party. Everything they thought they knew about themselves, each other, and their famous father goes up in flames. Blink and you’ll miss it!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
What would you be willing to bargain with the devil in exchange for one wish? That’s exactly the question readers face in V.E. Schwab’s 2020 masterpiece, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Addie wants to be free, to experience life outside her 18th-century 700’s French village. The last thing she wants to do is to marry the local widower. There has to be more to life than raising children, doing laundry, and scrubbing floors. So she prays, just as she’s been taught to do. Only she doesn’t realize that prayers spoken in the darkness are answered by darkness. Now she’s cursed to walk the Earth alone for all eternity, for no one can remember the name or the girl with the constellation of freckles no matter how hard they try. But decades later, Addie hears the one phrase she’s longed to hear…”I remember you.” Now she’s full of hope, but she should know better than to believe in the light, for darkness is always there, lurking in the shadows waiting to remind her of the ties that bind.
I’ve never been a huge rom-com reader, but Beach Read might convince me to think twice before passing up a rom-com. Emily Henry’s 2020 hit packs a huge punch, and it will hit you right between the eyes! Romance author, January Andrews is down on her luck. She’s broke and brokenhearted when she learns that, not only has her father died, but he was living a double life. She’s inherited the love shack that he shared with his mistress. Naturally, this seems like the perfect place to nurse her wounded heart with alcohol and crappy food. But when she discovers her new neighbor is Augustus Everett, her arch-enemy from university, things are set in motion that even she can’t explain or anticipate. The last thing she needs is to live beside famous literary fiction author, Augustus Everett, while she struggles to find the motivation to write a new book, something she must do if she wants to pay her bills. What happens as they learn to like each other and each other’s work is the stuff of rom-com legend.
The Once and Future Witches
This book stands out as one of my absolute favorite reads of 2021, The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow is part modern fairytale, part lullaby, and all heart. I was spellbound from the start of this magical journey of perseverance and strength. The story of James Juniper and her estranged sisters is a wild ride from start to finish. Along the way, they discover the ties that bind them are stronger than they thought, for even betrayal can’t keep the three sisters from joining forces to fight the patriarchy. Juniper, Agnes, and Beatrice must re-write the story of witching and uncover the truth about the Lost Way of Avalon. The magic that happens when they work together is unlike any other, even stronger than the dark magic that lurks in the shadows of New Salem. I can’t say enough about this book and what it means to me. Read it.
My Final Thoughts on My Favorite Reads of 2021
Reading became a huge part of my life again in 2021 thanks to my new work-from-home role (read more about that here). Now I can’t imagine what life would be like without a good book. Though my enthusiasm for reading may wax and wane in the future, there will never be a time when I turn my back on reading again. Books are magic. Thanks for reading about my favorite reads of 2021 and the spell they cast over me this past year! If you’re curious about my favorite reads of 2022, don’t miss the Mid-Year Check-In!
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