2021: A Year in Books

Another year of reading done. After doing a summary for the first time in 2020, I have decided to make it an annual thing and share my best reads, my most popular reviews and wrap-up my reading challenges for the year.

Best Reads of 2021

My favourite books this year fell into four broad genres:

  • science fiction and fantasy,
  • literary fiction,
  • popular fiction, and, surprisingly,
  • poetry.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Image is of “She Who Became the Sun” by Shelley Parker-Chan. The paperback book is resting on a black tangzhuang-style men’s jacket with white lining. The cover is ombre yellow and orange with a dark orange Chinese dragon and black text.

There was some exceptional speculative fiction this year, and one of my favourites was Africanfuturism novella “Remote Control” by Nnedi Okorafor, an explosive story about a radioactive girl ruthless in her quest for survival. I was thrilled to read the third book in “The Daevabad Trilogy”, “The Empire of Gold” by S. A. Chakraborty which was an exceptional finale to a fantastic series. I was also really excited to start two new series with “The Bone Shard Daughter” by Andrea Stewart, with fantastic magic and an even better animal sidekick, and “She Who Became the Sun” by Shelley Parker-Chan which pushes just about every boundary, but especially the boundaries of ambition.

Literary Fiction

First training for a hike, then taking up running, I got through quite a few audiobooks this year and some were just excellent. Gothic novel “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson had me thinking about it and the disturbing protagonist Merricat for weeks afterwards. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas was haunting for a different way with its hyperrealistic exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement. Then, in spite of the controversy surrounding the narrator, “Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman was the most beautifully written love letter to the male body.

Image is of “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga. The paperback book is sitting in front of a redbrick wall next to a crystal tumbler and a small bottle of rum. Above the objects embedded into the wall is a small gold figure of the Hindu god Ganesh. The cover is white with large stylised writing in black and red and letter Is dotted with orange tiger eyes, with an image of an orange car striped liked a tiger.

A really surprising novel was “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga: one of those incredibly satisfying stories about someone choosing themselves over everything else, no matter the consequences. Then the disturbing but all too realistic “Unsettled Ground” by Claire Fuller had me ruminating for days about how so-called developed societies can collectively fail people so badly.

Popular Fiction

Image is of an advance reading copy of “The Dangers of Truffle Hunting” by Sunni Overend. The paperback book is standing upright between a champagne bottle and a bowl of cake mixture on a kitchen bench. A shirtless man stands behind it with a flour handprint on him. There are cloves scattered around, a red apple cut in half and two cinnamon sticks.

It definitely wasn’t all doom and gloom though, and I really enjoyed a couple of romps. One was “The Dangers of Truffle Hunting” by Sunni Overend which honestly was the right book at the right time, and I enjoyed the fantasy combination of food, wine and romance unashamedly. I also really liked the sheer drama and chaos of “Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty who pushed the promises of the wellness industry to their absolute extreme.

Image is of “Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty. The paperback book is sitting on a blue and silver yoga mat between a Tibetan singing bowl and a small milk jar with a sprig of wattle blossom. The cover is white with 9 differently coloured stones balanced on top of one another, and has the additional text that says “Can a health retreat really change your life forever?”


Image is of “Throat” by Ellen van Neerven. The paperback book is sitting on steps between two black skate shoes with hot pink laces and electric blue interior that match the fuchsia book cover. The cover design is of a face in blocks of colour split in two, the lips and chin at the top and the eyes, forehead and short hair at the bottom. There is a Sturt’s desert pea flower made out of red fabric in the foreground that commemorates the Frontier Wars.

I am the first to admit that I am not much of a poetry aficionado, but there were two poetry collections that really resonated with me. The first was “Throat” by Ellen van Neerven which explores the intersection between queer and Aboriginal identity. The second was “The Uncommon Feast” by Eileen Chong that combines poetry, recipes and essays in a thoughtful and delightful way.

Image is of “The Uncommon Feast: Essays, poems, and recipes” by Eileen Chong. The paperback book is resting on a light coloured timber bench below a ceramic spoon and next to a bowl of mushroom congee with sriracha sauce, picked radish and friend onion. The cover is red with a yellow typewriter with a fork, spoon and chopsticks.

Most Popular Reviews of 2021

Interestingly, of my top 10 most viewed reviews this year, only “Remote Control” was actually posted this year. Erotica continues to be, hilariously, my most popular genre with twice as many reviews making it to my top 10!

2021 Reading Challenges

I participated in 4 reading challenges this year:

Image is of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge logo, which is the silhouette of a woman wearing period clothing with stars and plants in purples and navy filling in the colour.

I was pretty surprised to have read 23 books by Australian women and non-binary authors, which is a great achievement as the Australian Women Writers Challenge is taking a new direction in 2022.

Image is of a collection of badges with different icons on them including a fox, an orc, a wizard, a monster, a robot, a knight on a horse, a dragon and a spaceship.

I had a lot of fun doing the Spells & Spaceships – 2021 SFF Badge Collection, and I was surprised that I almost got all the badges! Although it may have been a little bit of a stretch for one or two (I’m pretty sure dragons made a mention in “The Sleeper and the Spindle“) the only two that I absolutely did not get was the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and the special badge for collecting them all.

Image is of a purple icon with a book and the words “2021 Reading Challenge” with a white bar with the word “completed” across it.

I absolutely smashed my Goodreads Reading Challenge this year. I set my annual goal of 80 books but managed to read 90 in total.

Image is of a stack of 14 pancakes with butter on top.

A significant part of why I managed to read so many books this year was my inaugural Short Stack Reading Challenge! I got through 14 short books in December which really boosted my stats. It was also really nice not having to commit to any long books during this busy time of year and just move quickly from one to the next.

So that is 2021 in books. A very happy new year to everyone who has stopped by and left comments; here’s to a great year of books and book reviews in 2022!


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4 responses to “2021: A Year in Books

  1. currant7_recommends

    Great recos! I’m currently reading She Who Became the Sun and feel how you feel on “ambition”!
    Congrats on beating out the expected in your reading challenge and Happy New Year!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats on a great year of reading!

    Liked by 1 person

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