2021 was an interesting year both personally and in terms of my reading life. I read a lot of great books, but these ten stood out among them. I would love to know what your favourite book of 2021 was!
Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.
There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.
If I had to choose one favourite book of 2021, it would be Piranesi. There is something so compelling about Susanna Clarke’s writing and I was fully engrossed in this world she created that exists entirely in one house. I love that story is written as if we have access to Piranesi’s journals, and everything about it just works. I will say, this is a book for a very specific type of reader, but if it sounds like something you would like, please give it a try!
Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish.
Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.
All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.
His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.
Project Hail Mary was so close to being my favourite book of the year. If you loved The Martian, I have faith that this book will work for you as well. I found the science to be interesting yet accessible and the characters are so memorable and some of my all-time favourites. I think about the ending all of the time. It is best to go into this one knowing as little as possible, and I highly recommend the audiobook!
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.
I initially gave The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina four stars, but as time has gone by I have decided to bump it up to five stars. It is one of those books that grows on you and that I have come to appreciate as I have had some distance from it. It made me realize why I love magical realism as much as I do and I think that Zoraida Cordova has the potential to become an auto-buy author for me. I definitely want to explore more of her work in 2022!
When single mother Liv is commissioned to paint a mural in a 100-year-old lighthouse on a remote Scottish island, it’s an opportunity to start over with her three daughters–Luna, Sapphire, and Clover. When two of her daughters go missing, she’s frantic. She learns that the cave beneath the lighthouse was once a prison for women accused of witchcraft. The locals warn her about wildlings, supernatural beings who mimic human children, created by witches for revenge. Liv is told wildlings are dangerous and must be killed.
Twenty-two years later, Luna has been searching for her missing sisters and mother. When she receives a call about her youngest sister, Clover, she’s initially ecstatic. Clover is the sister she remembers–except she’s still seven years old, the age she was when she vanished. Luna is worried Clover is a wildling. Luna has few memories of her time on the island, but she’ll have to return to find the truth of what happened to her family. But she doesn’t realize just how much the truth will change her.
The Lighthouse Witches is a book that snuck up on me. I love books about sisterhood and anything Gothic. Also, give me any book set on an island! I really connected with C.J. Cooke’s writing and I loved how she played with timelines and perspectives. It was the perfect mix of mystery and family drama.
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.
In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
It is no surprise that a book by Kazuo Ishiguro would end up on my favourites list! Klara and the Sun gave me a very similar feeling to Never Let Me Go, which is my favourite book of all time. I love books that explore the ethics behind clones, AI, and/or robots, which this book certainly does. There is something so bittersweet about Klara and the Sun and I had this sinking feeling the entire time I was reading it. It was very well done!
A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.
Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.
The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.
Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.
Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.
It is not often that a thriller ends up on my favourites list, but Razorblade Tears is something special. It is one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to, and I devoured the entire thing in a day. I was a blubbering mess at the end and I was not prepared to feel so connected to these characters. I need to read Blacktop Wasteland and whatever S.A. Cosby writes next!
Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.
As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?
Would it be my favourites list if I didn’t include a book from Tiffany D. Jackson? The more that I think about it, the more I think that Monday’s Not Coming is my favourite book of hers. It completely wrecked me and I cannot stop thinking about it. I always go into one of her books prepared to be crushed, but Mondays Not Coming took it to another level. Not many authors could have pulled off what she did!
The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.
A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.
The Practical Magic series is one of my favourites, and I thought that The Book of Magic was a perfect conclusion. I loved seeing all of these beloved characters come together and the curse is finally broken. I was moved by it and definitely teared up throughout. I always connect with Alice Hoffman’s writing and the way she writes about magic.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.
But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
The Jasmine Throne is another book that sort of snuck on this list. When I was looking through all the books I have read in 2021, it stood out to me. It is definitely out of my comfort zone, but I adored it and cannot wait to continue on with the series.
It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
Becky Chambers’s new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?
Any year that Becky Chambers publishes a book, there is a high chance that it will end up on my favourites list. A Psalm for the Wild Built is heart-warming and reflective and has everything I loved about A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I cannot tell you how excited I am that the sequel comes out in 2022. I need to be with these characters again!
What was your favourite book of 2021? Do we have any favourites in common?