this year’s favorite reads [2021]

This is my NINTH year making a book recommendation or ‘favorite reads’ list. This year felt very different though because I set the resolution to ‘make reading a priority again.’ I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Read 21 In 2021 Challenge (read 21 mins each day this year) and I set a goal to read 50 books. The last few years I’ve read 15-20 so this was a big stretch for me.

Between the daily 21 mins and introducing audiobooks into my life… I finished 60 books this year. In the past I’d struggled to pay attention to audiobooks, but I discovered I enjoy them while I’m walking the dog, folding laundry, and scanning photos for clients. That created a lot of new “reading time” for me.

The ‘trouble’ with reading 60 books is it’s harder to narrow down a Best Reads list. Also it’s interesting that my lists are historically a mix of fiction + non-fiction, but none of my non-fiction reads made the cut this year.


Here we go… the best books I read in 2021!

  • The House In The Cerulean Sea. I finished this book last weekend and it was instantly one of my favorites of the year. It’s a story of a home for “magical” children. I grew to love the characters so much I missed them when it was over. This book is like a comforting hug.
  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies. Oh, Cyril. I sure fell in love with this character as the story took me through his entire life as a gay men growing up in Ireland in the 1940s. It’s a long one (and I actually listened to this one on audiobook) but if you like a book with strong character development, I thought this was excellent.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This book is written by Taylor Jenkins Reid who wrote Daisy Jones and the Six which was on my faves list last year. And this one didn’t disappoint. It was a delightful story of a Hollywood star who had an interesting history in love. It was the perfect summer read.
  • American Dirt. Wow, this book. It’s the story of a mom and her son crossing the border from Mexico into the United States and even though it was fiction, it was very eye opening. Parts were hard for me to read because my son is the same age as the boy in the book and, oh, it just broke my heart a few times. I found out after finishing this book that there’s some controversy around it (the author identifies as white, but many other authors of color have told similar stories without comparable support from publishing companies). There was an interview with the author and Oprah (she chose this as a book club selection) that caused me to also read the true story, The Distance Between Us, which was eye opening as well.
  • Into the Drowning Deep. Listen, this book is “mermaid horror” which I never would have picked up but it was highly recommended by a few people so I figured I’d give it a try. The story involves a team of scientists who go out into the depths of the ocean to study strange activity (ahem, killer mermaids). It was fascinating because the science element made it feel realistic. I kept joking with my husband that “I just need to find out what the mermaids are going to do!”- I seriously couldn’t put this down.
  • The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. This was a really unique story because it is narrated by the voice of “Music” as we learn about Frankie Presto, a talented guitarist. It has some elements of fantasy/magic while also being believable. The audiobook is such a fun experience because there are many different voices (like Ingrid Michaelson and many others).  



Because I read so many books this year, I wanted to do an “honorable mention” category with a few extra selections (it was just so hard to narrow to only 6)!

  • The Book of Longings. This book made me a little uncomfortable because it’s a story about Ana, the wife of Jesus. The author did a considerable amount of research and the story was captivating, but she definitely took some liberties that differ from what I was taught in church. The book is really the story of Ana though, not as much Jesus, and I enjoyed it.
  • The Song of Achilles. Madeline Miller’s other book, Circe, made my best of list last year so I was excited to read this one too. I have virtually no background in Greek mythology so this is new territory for me, but I really enjoyed this love story (that’s also full of adventure).
  • The Great Alone. I’m a big fan of Kristin Hannah and the story telling in this one was awesome. It’s a story about a troubled family that decides to homestead in Alaska. The people who befriend them are interesting + lovable and the things they endure in Alaska winters are fascinating. I flew through this one.
  • This is How it Always Is. This is a heart-warming story of a family raising five boys in Wisconsin, the youngest of whom feels he should have been born a girl, and their journey through his transition. It was really interesting and I think about Poppy often.

Looking for more recommendations?  Check out my lists from 2020201920182017201620152014 & 2013!

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