What I Read in 2021: My Book Recommendations

Need some inspiration for what to read next? Or just need to compulsively fill your wishlist with books even though you have stacks of unread books sitting right next to you? You are my people. Here are the 100 books I read last year, my top 25 book recommendations, and some tips on how to read more.

All of the books I read in 2021, including my top 25 book recommendations

Last year was a mixed bag for me when it came to reading. I started strong, reading great book after great book and feeling really motivated. Then, about half way through the year, I think the Covid/lockdown/weirdness of 2021 kicked in. I hit a patch of not-so-great books and I began to struggle a bit with motivation. So I thought I would share what helped me, in case you’re feeling the same.

HOW TO READ MORE:

  • Have a few books on the go at once. I always have a day-time book (usually something non-fiction that I need to be fully awake to take in!) and a night-time book on the go (usually crime/thriller related so I can scare myself before bed). That way if you’re not feeling one book, you can dip into the other. Reading on the kindle makes this so much easier.
  • If you have a kindle, I recommend downloading the kindle app onto your phone. Instead of doom scrolling on twitter or losing yourself in a TikTok rabbithole while you wait for your food to cook or for your bus to arrive, spend 5 minutes reading instead. It is amazing how quickly those 5 minutes add up.
  • Set aside time to read. This is a big one and my main reply when people ask ‘how on earth do you read that many books in a year?’ I make an effort to give myself time to read, whether that’s reading a chapter with my breakfast or lunch, going to bed an hour earlier than usual, or having screen-free evenings.
  • Choose your books carefully. If you’re in a bit of a slump or want to ease yourself into the habit of reading, pick books that are designed to pull you in. Anything from the thriller, YA, or romcom section below is perfect for this – these stories are designed to pull you in, keep you interested, and ultimately leave you with a sense of satisfaction or happiness at the end.
  • Consider reading with others. It doesn’t have to be an official book club, but in the same way that it’s fun to discuss the newest episode of a TV show with a friend the same goes for a book.
  • Look for adaptations. I find that choosing books that are either in the process of being adapted for TV/film or have already been made inspires me to finish them: I love to be able to compare the two afterwards and it pushes me to finish the book so I can start on the adaptation quicker.

Right! Enough preamble. Let’s get going with my 2021 book recommendations. I’ve split them out into genres, so if you’re a fan of a particular kind of book you can narrow it down. I’ve also highlighted my top 25 books of the year – there were lots of others I enjoyed, but those bolded were the stand outs. If you want to hear my thoughts on any of the other books, just let me know!

NON-FICTION

NON-FICTION: SELF-HELP

FICTION: THRILLER

FICTION: ROM-COM

FICTION: YA

FICTION: APOCALYPSE/END OF THE WORLD

FICTION

  • Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead, Emily R AustinThis is another book that I could not stop thinking about. It’s a dark, funny, sad, and odd book but a brilliant one. Lots of comparisons to Fleabag, if that’s your thing.
  • American Housewife, Helen EllisA wonderfully surreal collection of short stories about different American housewives. They’re all a little bit strange, but I loved them (the one about the shared corridor was a particular highlight).
  • The Secret History, Donna TarttI can’t believe it took me so long to read this when I adored The Goldfinch by the same author. I was told it was the perfect autumn read and I agree, in fact I will probably read it again when next autumn rolls around. A clique, a murder, friendship bound by a secret… all the good stuff. The writing is phenomenal, if a little dense and self-aware in places (but if you’ve read The Goldfinch you’ll expect that!).
  • Circe, Madeline MillerA book so many people recommended to me and I don’t know why I resisted for so long. A retelling of the story of Circe, the banished daughter of Helios. Witchy, strong women, mythology – what’s not to like?
  • Pizza Girl, Jean Kyoung FrazierAnother odd book that doesn’t have a typical start-middle-end type story (I seemed to be drawn to those last year…) A young girl struggling with her pregnancy, her close relationships, grief, addiction, and a compulsive obsession with a stranger.
  • Marilou Is Everywhere, Sarah Elaine Smith
  • Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
  • The Man Who Saw Everything, Deborah Levy

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Y: The Last Man (book 1-10), Brian K Vaughan and Pia GuerraKnowing how much I love the end-of-the-world genre, my husband recommended I read this before the recent TV series started (which is great by the way and I’m gutted that it hasn’t been renewed for a second series) All males (human and animal) die suddenly and violently…except one. The story of how the world continues and how things are changed by the loss of all men. Plus there’s a monkey.
  • The Walking Dead (vol 1-13 [books 1-78]), Robert KirkmanWe’re rewatching The Walking Dead and I wanted to read the graphic novels as we went along, so I could do the annoying thing of saying ‘that’s different, that doesn’t happen, that character’s not in the comic…’ Yes I know, I’m very fun to be around.
  • Hawkeye, Matt Fraction and David Aja (books #1-22) – Again, my husband urged me to read these before we watched the new TV series. I have held a deep hatred for the Hawkeye character throughout all of the Marvel films (he’s just so deeply, deeply boring), but after reading this and watching the Hawkeye TV series I see that that is not due to the character or his background but down to a clear lack of storylines and character development in the films. The comics are funny and fun to read, the same goes for the series.

And that’s your lot! 100 books and some absolutely wonderful ones that I will definitely return to in coming years.

What were your favourite reads of 2021? Even though my book wishlist and TBR pile is ENORMOUS, I still would love to hear what you would recommend.

Lex

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