The Books I’ve Read During 2021

Ratings and Rankings

This week, I’m doing a different post than my regular writer content and giving something for the reader. I feel strongly that good writers are avid readers.

A good friend recently asked if I had an article ranking the books I’ve read during this past year. I hadn’t planned on one, but here we are. Not only did I rank all 50 of my reads, but I’m providing you with a dive into my top 5 reads, honorable mentions, the let downs, and the books that received a DNF (did not finish).

Note: my goal in 2021 was to read was 50 books. Some of these were via audiobook, which I note in my rankings. Everyone has different goals, reading speeds, and time to commit to reading for leisure, just like everyone has different tastes and opinions. I’m putting this out there to share what I’ve read and my personal thoughts.

My 50 reads of 2021 ranked

50. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires* by Grady Hendrix (2 stars) Paranormal Fiction

49. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (2 stars) YA Fantasy

48. Heartbreak for Hire* by Sonia Hartle (3 stars) Contemporary Romance

47. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (3 Stars) Fiction

46. Midnight Sun* by Stephanie Meyer (3 stars) YA Fantasy/Paranormal

45. City of Glass* by Cassandra Clare (3 stars) YA Fantasy

44. City of Ashes* by Cassandra Clare (3 stars) YA Fantasy

43. City of Bones* by Cassandra Clare (3 stars) YA Fantasy

42. Wayward Son* by Rainbow Rowell (3 stars) YA Fantasy

41. The Starless Sea* by Erin Morgenstern (3 stars) Fantasy

40. The Haunting of Hill House* by Shirley Jackson (4 stars) Horror

39. Christmas Cocoa Murder* by Carlene O’Connor (4 stars) Cozy Mystery

38. The Duke and I* by Julia Quinn (4 stars) Historical Romance

37. The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (4 stars) Suspense/Thriller

36. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (4 stars) Suspense/Thriller

35. Carry On* by Rainbow Rowell (4 stars) YA Fantasy

34. Get a Life, Chloe Brown* by Talia Hibbert (4 stars) Contemporary Romance

33. The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth (4 stars) YA Romance

32. In a Holidaze* by Christina Lauren (4 stars) Contemporary Romance

31. Mistborn – The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (4 stars) Fantasy

30. Namesake by Adrienne Young (4 stars) YA Fantasy

29. Fable by Adrienne Young (4 stars) YA Fantasy

28. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo (4 stars) YA Fantasy

27. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (4 stars) YA Fantasy

26. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (4 stars) YA Fantasy

25. Dune* by Frank Herbert (4 stars) Science Fiction/Fantasy

24. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (4 stars) Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

23. This is How you Lose the Time War* by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (4 stars) Science Fiction

22. Circe by Madeline Miller (4 stars) Mythological Retelling

21. Lore* by Alexandra Bracken (4 stars) YA Fantasy

20. The Inheritance Games* by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (4 stars) YA Fiction

19. The Hawthorne Legacy* by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (4 stars) YA Fiction

18. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (4 stars) YA Fantasy

17. You Deserve Each Other* by Sarah Hogle (5 stars) Contemporary Romance

16. One of Us is Lying* Karen McManus (5 stars) YA Fiction

15. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (5 stars) YA Fiction

14. Boyfriend Material* by Alexis Hall (5 stars) Contemporary Romance

13. Faoladh: A Heroine Series Novella by Brandi Gann (5 stars) Fantasy

12. My Dear Margaret by KM Bishop (5 stars) Historical Fiction

11. It Ends with Us* by Colleen Hoover (5 stars) Contemporary Romance

10. A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas (5 stars) Fantasy

9. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (5 stars) YA Fantasy

8. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (5 stars) YA Fantasy

7. Red, White & Royal Blue* by Casey McQuiston (5 stars) Contemporary Romance

6. Ninth House* by Leigh Bardugo (5 stars) Paranormal Fiction

5. Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo (5 stars) YA Fantasy

4. How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black (5 stars) YA Fantasy

3. The Invisible life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab (5 stars) Fantasy

2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (5 stars) Mythological Retelling

1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (5 stars) YA Fantasy

*Indicates audiobook

A closer look at my top five

Obviously, I recommend all of my reads marked with 5 stars (and even those with 4 stars), but these top five were the ones that just stuck with me, even now.

5. Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

I guess 2021 was the year of Leigh Bardugo for me. I watched all of Shadow and Bone the day it came out and I read the entire GrishaVerse. Its unsurprising that two of the GrishaVerse books made it in my top five.

If you want to read this book, I recommend reading all of the Six of Crows series, the Shadow and Bone series, and The King of Scars (book 1) first. Otherwise, you’ll be very confused. Most of why this book is rated so highly is that it interweaves all of the stories from this universe together. It also has gotten me so darn excited for a 3rd Six of Crows book.

4. How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black Illustrated by Rovina Cai

The fact that I credited an illustrator is a high factor to why this book is in my top five. It’s legit a work of art. I read the Folk of the Air series in 2020, so reading this short little treat of a novel was a great way to wrap up reading this series. But like Rule of Wolves, please read the source material before picking this one up.

In this book, you get to see events before, during, and after the main story of the series from the mostly antagonistic Cardan’s point of view. It’s a quick and delightful read.

3. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab

Ah, the tale of an ageless existence… quite the tale as old as time! This was a book club book for me that I was dying to read. I had seen the buzz on bookstagram about this one. It did not disappoint. It takes such a fresh take on the concept of immortality. The story is fantastical and imaginative in all the right ways. It gives you an evocative character study into the hearts and souls of the two primary characters. This book’s ending (no spoilers) is not a cleanly packaged happy ending, but it is satisfying all the same.

2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

To start, Madeline Miller is a genius. Reading this book is like reading poetry. Her mastery over prose is as masterful as her knowledge of the Greek tragedy. This is a wonderfully tragic retelling of the Iliad from the point of view of Patroclus. If I had to describe it most simply, I’d say it’s like the Great Gatsby but queer, heart-wrenching, and Greek.

1. The Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book had me reading until the AM. I had not known what I’d gotten myself into when I picked it up and it exceeded all the expectations I didn’t have. The story is thrilling and so cleverly written and the characters are beyond compelling.  It’s easily my favorite multi-POV ensemble cast. I had so much fun with this series as a whole. Reading it was a delicate balance of wanting to rush through to learn what happens and trying to savor the experience of it.

If you like fantasy, angst, humor, traumatic backstories, tension, action, and plot twists, you should already be reading it.

Re-reads of 2021

Because of how long my to-be-read list is, I don’t often reread books. This year I reread two books, and they are both in my top 10. Red, White & Royal Blue was my favorite book of 2020 and remains to be one of my favorite books. I did a reread by listening to the audiobook. While the book was just as good after another round, I wanted to give first-time reads the coveted top five books. Also, I did not care too much about the narrator, so that was my only complaint.

A Court of Thorns and Roses I reread as a buddy read, taking diligent notes and having an excellent time swapping opinions. We both agreed that A Court of Mist ad Fury was the superior read.

Honorable Mentions (books that surprised me)

Right out of the gate, two books that I was pleasantly surprised by were two books that I did not pick for myself to read. These were my book club’s picks and I’m so glad I got to enjoy them. Station Eleven (despite living through a legit pandemic while reading) completely sucked me in and told such an immersive and vivid story. This is How you Lose the Time War still has me decoding the story and building it up in my mind, it was something I didn’t know I needed to read until after I had read it.

Since 2021 was the year of Leigh Bardugo for me, it surprised me how much I enjoyed Ninth House. You could have told me it was written by a different author, and I would have believed you. It’s contemporary set and a bit more mature than the GrishaVerse, but it captivated my attention and entertained me from start to finish. All I have to say is that I hope there’s another book coming.

Books that did not wow me

Midnight Library by Matt Haig was another book club read. It was a book I was very excited to read because of the hype surrounding it, but unlike Addie Larue, it did disappoint. I was left feeling almost cheated by the ending. I felt that the author had a great concept with underdeveloped execution.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard to be blunt was predictable when it thought it was being clever, I found very few characters I could root for. (it’s a bad sign for me when I’m actively cheering for the antagonists). The world of the story is interesting and the premise really had me hooked, but the motivations were all over the place and several of the circumstances of the book felt forced. Many people like this series, but I had very little desire to read more after finishing the first book.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix was number 50/50. This one seemed like a fun summer read and I was editing my book about vampires at the time, so I thought it would be a great tie-in. This was definitely not a book for me. It was graphic in disgusting and disturbing ways. I committed to it, but let’s just say I was glad when the book was over.

DNF (did not finish) List

This is a quick note about books that I had begun in 2021 and did not or have yet to finish. Books don’t often make my DNF list because I like to give them the benefit of the doubt and read on even if I don’t love it. That being said, sometimes life gets in the way or my shiny-object-syndrome pulls my attention to another book before I finish the one I’m currently on.

The latter was the case for the majority of this list, and I swear I will try to finish them (eventually)

  • Crescent City by Sarah J Maas
  • The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
  • One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
  • The Last the He Told Me by Laura Dave
  • Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
  • All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

Let me know if we’ve read any of the same books during 2021! It’s okay if we don’t have the same opinions about these books, heck I could re-rank this list 2 months from now and it could look completely different!

Keep on reading!

If you found this post useful, let me know in the comments below. Message me with any content you would like to see in the future! Don’t forget to subscribe to the Newbie to Novelist Newsletter.

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