2021 Book Awards

A friend of mine (hi Kel) has convinced me to move over to Goodreads this year to catalogue my reads. I’ve been a little resistant but I’m guessing it will make the process of compiling my end-of-year list a little easier next time. Still, I’m going to miss my trusty Google Keep note where I currently keep track of my reads.

I’m guessing next year will have cool graphics and fun details like page counts and word tallies and whatever else Goodreads has to offer, but until then, I give you my top books of the year (and a full list of my reads at the bottom of the page).

These didn’t release in 2021. I just happened to read them last year.

First up,

Best in Show


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

My hands down favorite of the year. This one ticks all the boxes. Endearing characters, intriguing story, wit and insight, and a flawless ending. I’m planning to buy my own copy and read this one again. I’m also really looking forward to Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway. I’m number 708 on the waiting list at the library so, you know, any day now!

Next, my top 5 various categories,


  1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartte
  2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  3. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (the audio version of this is read by Tom Hanks — can’t beat that)
  4. The Guncle by Steven Rowley
  5. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart

I like these for all the same reasons I liked A Gentleman in Moscow. Memorable characters, writing that makes you want to re-read a paragraph or five, insight into what it means to be human, subtle humor, and of course a compelling story.


  1. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  2. We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
  3. When Noone is Watching by Alyssa Cole
  4. Cormoran Strike series (all of them) by Robert Gilbraith aka JK Rowling (these are great audio choices — and not just because they are long as hell!)
  5. When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

For mystery novels, I lean toward the more literary. I prefer deeper character development and a slower pace but the ending still needs to pack a solid punch to the gut.

Historical Fiction

  1. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
  2. The Tatooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (I found out after finishing this that it’s actually based on a true story so… FictionNotFiction?)
  3. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
  4. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
  5. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I like learning something interesting while I read. All of these selections taught me something new about a time period I’ve not personally lived through.

Narrative Nonfiction

  1. When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
  2. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
  3. He Held Radical Light by Christian Wiman
  4. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  5. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (highly recommend the audio version of this — read by Noah)

This is the most broad category. A friend recently asked me what narrative nonfiction is — and I realized it’s really confusing! It includes memoir (#5) and personal essays (#1, 2, 3). It can be prescriptive if it includes narrative elements (#4). Books like The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk or Keep Sharp by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which are both great reads but not narrative, per se, are categorized as simply “nonfiction“ (I think!).

So those are my top picks from the year. What are yours? What did you read this year? I’d love to hear everyone else’s favorites from 2021 as I start thinking about what I’d like to read in 2022. Talk to me!

Oh, and if you’re on Goodreads, come find me and we can… what? What do we do over there? What’s the Goodreads lingo? Come… peep my reads? Scope my shelves? Whatever it is, my profile is here.

Complete 2021 List

1.Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
2.The Secrets You Keep by Kate White
3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
4. All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry
5. (A)The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
6. **On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
7. (A) The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
8. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
9. (A) The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
10. King George: what was his problem? by Steve Sheinkin
11. (A)White Ivy by Susie Yang
12. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
13. How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by Jerald Walker
14. The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr
15. (A) My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
16. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
17. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
18. Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard
19. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
20. ***A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
21. ***The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
22. The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley
23. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
24. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
25. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab
26. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
27. Between Kingdoms by Suleika Juouad
28. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
29. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
30. Lethal White by Robert Gilbraith
31. Troubled Blood by Robert Gilbraith
32. A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib
33. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
34. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
35. Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta
36. The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis
37. 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
38. Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
39. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lhairi
40. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
41. The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
42. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
43. Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
44. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
45. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
46. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
47. Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
48. The Searcher by Tana French
49. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
50. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
51. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
52. When Women were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
53. One by One by Ruth Ware
54. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
55. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
56. Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff
57. The Huntress by Kate Quinn
58. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
59. The Guncle by Steven Rowley
60. The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher
61. The Survivors by Jane Harper
62. Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
63. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
64. The Editor by Steven Rowley
65. When No one is Watching by Alyssa Cole
66. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
67. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
68. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
69. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
70. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
71. Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
72. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
73. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
74. When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
75. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
76. The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
77. The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
78. We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
79. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
80. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
81. The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg
82. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
83. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
84. He Held Radical Light by Christian Wiman

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