My Favorite Books of 2021

I have always loved to read. My parents used to joke when I was younger that they didn’t know where I came from. Neither of them were big readers although my mom would devour the occasional Mary Higgins Clark book. Now that I’ve set my sights on a career as a writer, reading is not only something I do for pleasure, but something I do to become better at my craft. 

At least that’s my excuse when I spend all my money on books.

My reading goal for 2021 was 24 books – two a month. It was a bit of a tall order given that I’m a full time grad student with a full time job, but reading is my escape and my favorite way to wind down at night. I also love to draw a hot bath with bubbles and lose an hour or so with my Kindle. I’m proud to say I not only met my goal in 2021, I surpassed it. By one whole one book. 

I read 25 books in 2021. Here are my favorite books of 2021 in no particular order. 

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

I know I just said “no particular order,” but The Guncle was my favorite book of 2021 and one of my favorites in a long time. It tells the story of Patrick, a gay former sitcom star who has experienced more than his fair share of tragedy. When ‘Gay Uncle Patrick,’ GUP for short, is tasked with looking after his niece and nephew for the summer in his Palm Springs home, hilarity ensures, but so does a beautiful, deep, honest look at how unique one’s journey through grief is. I laughed out loud as often as I cried. It’s a beautiful book and I can’t recommend it enough. 

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I’ve always been intrigued by the “what if” and how my life path could have taken a different route if I’d made a different decision. What if I’d stayed in Nashville? What if my parents had stayed together? What if I went into nursing? What if I didn’t break up with that guy? The Midnight Library follows Nora, a woman living with depression, who find herself in a magical library that allows her to travel through different life experiences while her physical body lingers between life and death after an attempted suicide. What if she had kept swimming? Stayed in the band? Married that guy? Pursued that career? While she drifts from one life to the next, she has to make a decision: Is life – in her waking timeline – worth living? 

This book is both light and heavy. The author deals with suicide and depression in a delicate way that I really appreciated, but do know this book contains those subjects. 

Beach Read by Emily Henry 

I bought Beach Read in November 2020 and didn’t get around to reading it until summer 2021 and I could kick myself for taking so long to crack it open. January, a romance writer who no longer believes in love after a series of hard knocks, and Everrett, a literary writer in a rut, end up in the same seaside town for the summer. They have a sort of history and are polar opposites until they strike a deal to try and shake each other out of their own iterations of writer’s block. There were times when I was frustrated with Everett in particular but only because I wanted to shake him and yell “GO GET HER YOU FOOL!” I recommend this one as a great beach/vacation read. 

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

I’m embarrassed by how long it took me to realize the same author wrote People We Meet on Vacation and Beach Read. Poppy and Alex are college best friends that travel somewhere together every summer until something happens that tears them apart. Poppy decides to make one last attempt to salvage their relationship and convinces Alex to join her in Palm Springs for what she is determined will be a perfect vacation. Naturally, everything goes wrong and past hurts can’t stay in the past. Poppy and Alex were such real and flawed characters that I didn’t want the book to end, even after I knew how it ended. Another great one for vacation/travel. 

Group by Christie Tate 

It took me a while to get around to reading Group, a memoir about a young lawyer who reluctantly agrees to go to group therapy. Christie shares her story of learning to be vulnerable and the nonlinear and never-ending road to healing in an honest yet hopeful way that left me riveted. Dr. Rosen, her therapist, is unconventional and there were times when I found myself balking at the audacity of this man, only to see his long game strategy in hindsight. Group isn’t the lightest book I read all year, but it was one of the more profound ones. 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Confession: I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and until I re-read it in early 2021, I could tell you very little about what happened in it. While I was devouring Faulkner, I couldn’t wrap my head around the classic regency of Jane Austen’s works. It was a book I have always wanted to revisit and I get it now. I utterly adored Elizabeth Bennett and was on the edge of my seat to find out if Mr. Darcy would ever swallow his pride and tell her how he felt about her. I’m now steadfast in my refusing to watch any iteration of the movie – it will not be as good. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

My friend Kristina – who reads a billion books a year – passed along a copy of The Vanishing Half when I stopped at her place in Nashville on my way to Los Angeles. I dug into it open a few weeks after moving into my L.A. apartment and I couldn’t put it down. It tells the story of the Vignes twins, one of which disappeared seemingly into thin air from their small, southern black community, never to be seen or heard from again. The author weaves together multiple points of view – and generations – for a sensational story of family, race, and economic disparity. 

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

I’ve always had a soft spot for Matthew McConaughey and after hearing a lot of good things about this book – and listening to his episode of Annie F. Downs’ That Sounds Fun podcast – I had to read it. I flew through it – and definitely read it in his voice – and was so inspired. What a wild, interesting, salt-of-the-earth guy. It left me ready to focus all my efforts on livin’ and chasing greenlights while recognizing the yellow and red ones may well turn out to be greenlights in disguise someday. (You’ll have to read the book to understand ‘livin’ and ‘greenlights’ – and bumper sticker logic). 

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I had Atomic Habits on my to-read list for a long time before finally getting around to it over the summer. I think it should be required reading. I learned so much about habits, how they are formed, and how to keep them. I use what I learned when coaching clients and always recommend they give this book a read. I myself put a lot of these exercises into practice and the difference it has made has been substantial. 

Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe by Laura Lynne Jackson

I’ve always believed we receive signs from God as well as our loved ones who have passed on. I’m not really sure how Signs made its way to me, but it did at the exact right time. It’s an easy book to read in some ways, a deep book to read in others. It could be triggering – there are stories about losing children, addiction, and suicide – but it is a really beautiful book that left me hopeful and sure that God and my loved ones have been talking to me all along. 

My 2022 reading goal is 26 books. I found the ‘12 Challenge’ on Instagram where you ask for 12 book recommendations from friends to read throughout the year. I got far more than 12, but I narrowed it down to books that were recommended multiple times first, then filled in the (very few) gaps with books that sounded interesting. I had a gift card from Christmas that was begging to be spent, so I now have several of these along with a few more on my bookshelf. Up first? This Time Next Year. Follow along on Instagram for my reviews throughout the year! 

What were your favorite books of 2021? What are you planning to read in 2022? Let me know! 

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