My Favorite Books of 2021

This year, I set the ambitious reading goal of 100 books. As we reach mid-December, I’m so proud to say that not only have I read 100, I finished before the end of year and even had time for a few extra!

When I set this goal, I knew that it wouldn’t be enough to rely on one genre. Though fiction holds my book nerd heart, reaching my goal meant intentionally branching out, reading across genres and not being afraid to walk away from a book that didn’t capture me.

To stick to my goal, I used The Story Graph to track my books. Not only does the Story Graph act as a tracker for my books, they also crunched my reading data to paint a detailed picture of my 2021 reading. So for your reading pleasure, here’s what I read this year and what I loved the most.

My 2021 Reading Stats

  • I read 102 books and 21,614 pages
  • 75% of my books were under 300 pages, while only two books were longer than 500 pages.
  • 56% of my books were non-fiction and 44% were fiction
  • I read 30 genres, the most popular being poetry (29 poetry books!)

My Favorite Books of 2021

Overall Favorite 

Winter Garden, Kristen Hannah

Kristen Hannah is one of my favorite authors with a knack for bringing me to tears. Winter Garden left me sobbing, fully sobbing, in the most beautiful way. The book explores the relationship between two sisters and their estranged mother after their father dies unexpectedly. Though you start wondering how any mother could be so cold, you quickly learn that still waters run deep. This book deals with the siege of Lenningrad during World War II, a subject I wasn’t familiar with and was left rocked by.

Runner Up: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd

I knew Kidd from The Secret Life of Bees, one of my favorite childhood books. When I first started searching for books on spiritual awakenings specifically for women, this one came up time and time again. Kidd explores her exit from the Southern Baptist Church and the deconstruction of her internalized misogyny, and she holds nothing back. I read this book during a particularly turbulent few weeks in Q1, and it gave me more than what I thought I needed. 

Genre: Fiction

Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward

This beautifully written book paints a vivid picture of a Black boy growing up in rural Mississippi. I loved the fluid narration and the way Ward brings the past to life, and how she shows that it never really leaves us. The ending scene is so powerful.

Runner Up: All My Mother’s Lovers – Ilana Masad

I grabbed this book off the shelf because I liked the cover, but I was blown away by the story of a woman dealing with the untimely death of her mother. This book explores sexuality, evolving relationships, and what it means to love someone unconditionally.

Genre: Non-fiction

How to be Less Stupid About Race, Crystal Marie Fleming

This book tackles seriously important and timely topics. As someone who grew up in a white neighborhood in a predominately white suburb, this book opened my eyes to damaging preconceived notions and ways that I had unconsciously been perpetuating white supremacy. Fleming tackles heavy, emotional topics but this book is easy to read and follow.

Runner up: Foundations of Mindfulness, Eric Harrison

2021 has been my year of meditation, and no book has been as helpful as the Foundations of Mindfulness. Harrison has studied meditation since the 80s, but what really makes this book incredible is the way he takes a secular, science-based approach to meditation while incorporating the teachings of the Satipatthana Sutta. Did you know the Buddha endorsed four kinds of meditation? If sitting doesn’t work for you, you’re not alone!

Genre: Poetry

Facts About the Moon, Dorianne Laux

I read a lot of poetry this year, but book blew me away. My favorite poem was the title poem, Facts About the Moon. Laux masterfully weaves a narrative, comparing the moon to a devoted mother of a delinquent sun (the earth and us.) The best line of the poem comes in the middle when Laux writes “We don’t deserve the moon. Maybe we did once, but not now after all we’ve done. These nights, I harbor a secret pity for the moon, rolling around in space without her milk planet, her only child.”

Runner up: West Wind, Mary Oliver

I love anything by Mary Oliver, but West Winds holds two of my absolute favorite poems, Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches and Black Oaks.

Wildcard Favorites

Girls on Fire, Robin Wasserman

Oh my. This book was dark, twisted, and deliciously intriguing. I love YA books about women and friendships forged between them. This book captures a moment in time in the 1990s in rural Pennsylvania, when Satanic Panic was at it’s peak and explores two teen girl’s fight for independence and autonomy in a town that would rather keep them quiet.

Runner Up: She’s Too Pretty to Burn 

In the same vein, this book explores the immerging friendship between two girls as they fight for independence, for each other, and against themselves. Inspired by the Picture of Dorian Grey, there’s a twist ending you won’t see coming and won’t be able to forget.

Published by Jessica Reilly, Writer

Writer, cannabis aficionado, and poetry lover

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