Best Books of 2021

Copy of books

2021 was an incredible year for reading for me! I was somehow able to read over 108 books throughout this past year, which is far and away the most I have ever, ever read in a single year (I typically average 60-75 books each year). My goal was to read 52 books (averaging one per week), and I shattered – and more than doubled! – that goal. As many books as I was able to devour this year, though, it’s so much less about the number and surpassing a goal. Reading is and always has been one of the great loves of my life, and it’s something that has brought me great happiness my entire life. Reading is pure fun for me, and I personally never want reading to be a chore or simply something to check off the list. There are SO MANY incredible books to be read, and my to-be-read book stack is constantly growing. I read quickly and often, but I barely feel like I can keep up with all of the books that I want to read and all of the knowledge I want to learn!

I love when dear friends recommend books to me, and those are the ones that instantly go to the top of my reading queue. Truly, one of the happiest gifts I could ever give someone is a book that he or she loves and connects with, and the same is true when I am given an excellent book recommendation, too. I have shared annual book and reading recaps at the end of every year for a while now (2020, 2019, 2015, 2014, 2013, my 2021 non-fiction book list, and my all time favorite books), and here is my 2021 recap of all of the very best books that I read this year! I hope some on this list inspire you to read them and love them, too.

My top 10 fiction books of 2021 include:

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

One Two Three by Laurie Frankel

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My top 4 non-fiction books of 2021 include:

Prayer by Timothy Keller

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella

5/5 books that I’ve read many times before that don’t count for my top new reads of 2021 but are the best of the best:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, These High Green Hills & Out to Canaan & Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon

4.75/5 rankings:

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

4.5/5 rankings:

Simply Good News by N.T. Wright

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly

Atomic Habits by James Clear

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Taste by Stanley Tucci

HRH: So Many Thoughts by Elizabeth Holmes

All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams

Be The Bridge by Latasha Morrison

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

The Queen’s Gambut by Walter Tevis

The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

4.25/5 rankings:

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

What Now? by Ann Patchett

This Is the Story of A Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

4/5 rankings:

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Our Time is Now by Stacey Abrams

The Best of Me by David Sedaris

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Here For It by R. Eric Thomas

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green

That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs

3.75/5 or below rankings:

Crying in H Mart (3.75), How Lucky (3.75), The Other Einstein (3.75), Northern Spy (3.75), The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (3.75), Finding Freedom (3.75), That Sounds Fun (3.75), Rules of Civility (3.75), Fox & I (3.75), Beach Read (3.5), The Next Right Thing (3.5), The Glass Ocean (3.5), , Meet Me in Bombay (3.5), , The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany (3.5), The Lions of Fifth Avenue (3.5), We Are the Brennans (3.5), The Beekeeper of Aleppo (3.25), Infinite Country (3.25), Mergers & Acquisitions (3.25), The Age of Light (3), The Wife Upstairs (3), Anne of Manhattan (3), How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House (2.75), The Maidens (2.75), We Run the Tides (2.5), Flowers of Darkness (2.5), The Lost Apothecary (2.5), Betty (2.5), Normal People (2)

I also had a goal to read 21 non-fiction books over the course of 2021, and I am very, very pleased that I read 29 non-fiction books this year! I didn’t check every single book off my pre-set non-fiction book list for 2021 that I shared a year ago, but I did read most of those non-fiction books (14), plus 15 additional ones. I love, love, love non-fiction books (fiction, too!) covering a wide range of topics and written by a wide range of authors. There is SO MUCH to learn, so much wisdom to soak up, so many unique perspectives to listen to and immerse myself in, and an incredible array of topics to discover and deepen my thinking and knowledge base. Many of my non-fiction reads cover topics that are deeply important to me, like faith, personal growth and development, business – plus topics I just love reading about, like food and travel and interesting people. It’s so important to me to constantly be learning and to read the works of people I admire or look up to… and some who just entertain me!

My 29 non-fiction reads for 2021 include:

Prayer by Timothy Keller

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Simply Good News by N.T. Wright

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

Garlic & Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

HRH: So Many Thoughts by Elizabeth Holmes

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Fox & I by Catherine Raven

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Our Time in Now by Stacey Abrams

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Atomic Habits by James Clear

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

What Now? by Ann Patchett

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach

Mergers and Acquisitions by Cate Doty

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Finding Freedom by Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie

Whew! It’s always hard – in a good way! – to narrow down my favorite books of the year, and this year’s may have taken the cake! I am a little in awe that I managed to read 108 books this year (over 37,000 pages!!). I would highly, highly recommend all of the books that I shared above in the 4/5 rankings or higher, and obviously my favorite books and most recommended ones have the highest ratings and reviews. My library queue is already overflowing with books that I can’t wait to read in the new year.

Now it’s your turn! What is THE best book you’ve read in the last year? What’s your most recommended book to your own family or friends? I would absolutely love to hear from you and add to my queue, and I hope you enjoyed this roundup of my recent reads, as well!

I always share what I’m reading in real time over on Instagram (#stephaniereads), along with Goodreads – so find me on one or both of those! I share longer reviews and recommendations on Instagram Stories as I finish every book, so all of my reviews and recaps are on there. You can read a ton more previous blog posts of mine about books: my 2021 non-fiction book list, my favorite books of 2020, my favorite books of 2019, my favorite books ever, all things bookslet’s talk about booksbest books of 2014best books of 2013the South’s best books and authors, and plenty more in my blog’s archives!

Affiliate links are used in this post – but I can’t sing the praises of shopping from smaller, independent bookstores (or supporting the library!) enough!

6 thoughts on “Best Books of 2021

  1. Our library had the Amazing Book Challenge 2021. Each month had a theme (included those I read and would recommend):
    January True Crime
    February A book of mythology or folklore (The Blue Salt Road)
    March A book written by a local author
    April A book where the protagonist has a disability (The Golden Age)
    May A book with the theme of anti-racism (Same Kind of Different as Me)
    June A book that features a LBGTQ+ main character
    July A book about traveling/follows a traveler (The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper)
    August A book set somewhere other than North America or Europe (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind)
    September A book translated from another language (Before the Coffee Gets Cold)
    October A YA best seller (This Poison Heart)
    November A book centered around a holiday
    December A book that was made into a movie or tv series (Big Little Lies)

    Here’s what’s coming for 2022:
    January Classic
    February Wild About Animals
    March Biography or Memoir
    April Poetry
    May Read Green
    June Refugee or Immigrant Experience
    July American Revolution
    August Author’s Debut Novel
    September Banned Books
    October Dystopian Reads
    November Native American Reads
    December Reading in Illinois

  2. You’ll need to put Sooley on this year’s list. By John Grisham, but not his usual. This one is about basketball and is set in Durham NC.

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