Jess’s Favorite Books of 2021
How does that saying go – if your goals don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough? Well, my 2021 reading goal totally scared me. I set a goal to read 100 books in 2021. Around February I realized I was crazy and almost changed my goal. Around June I was ahead of schedule by 4 books and then I thought “oh, I’ve got this!” But.. then came busy season. I slowly fell behind and by December, I had 8 books to read to hit my goal. Whoa.
December was a very emotionally challenging month for me and my family. So I found peace in my favorite place. Cuddled up at home with Jordan, the furbabies, and a good book. I am still in shock that I met my goal of reading 100 books!!
Over the past year, these books have taken me to different cities and periods of time. I fell in love with the characters, cried with them, and even despised a few of them. Here are my top 10 favorites (in reading order) from 2021.
Disclaimer – If I had to list out things I was good at, reviewing books would not be one of them. I’m actually quite awful at it. I’ve included a small description from Goodreads of each book along with how I read the book (physical book or audiobook). I also wanted to take the time to mention if you enjoy listening to audiobooks and have a library card, you can download Libby and listen to audiobooks that are available at your library for free from your phone!! Finding this app was such a game-changer for me, especially this year! Check out Libby here! You can also set your own reading goal for 2022 and keep track of your progress over at Goodreads!
Ps- I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on what your favorite books were of 2021 and if we had some in common! Drop your thoughts in the comments below! <3 Happy Reading!
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
Goodreads – “Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
I listened to the Midnight Library on Audible and found the narration to be so captivating. I felt as if I was in the Midnight Library with Nora and exploring her different lives. This was a book I could not stop listening to!
Anxious People Fredrik Backman
Goodreads – “From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and “writer of astonishing depth” (The Washington Times) comes a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.”
I could not stop laughing while listening to Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. This book is a must-read but I HIGHLY recommend the audiobook. I loved it so much that I also purchased a physical book to read all over again. I rarely read books more than once, but this is one I would legit read every year. Bonus – Netflix released a limited series based on the book in 2021. I haven’t seen it yet but it is absolutely on my TBW list. However, there is no way it can be as good as the book.
Outlawed by Anna North
Goodreads : “In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw. On the day of her wedding-dance, Ada feels lucky. She loves her broad-shouldered, bashful husband and her job as an apprentice midwife.
But her luck will not last. It is every woman’s duty to have a child, to replace those that were lost in the Great Flu. And after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are hanged as witches, Ada’s survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.
She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang. Its leader, a charismatic preacher-turned-robber known to all as The Kid, wants to create a safe haven for women outcast from society. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.”
I never thought a “western” book would hook me like Outlawed did. Follow Ada as she tries to find her way after being banished and accused of being a witch for being barren. Outlawed is LGBTQ friendly full of kickass women.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Goodreads: “Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone. … When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake …And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.”
Y’all, this was the biggest twist ending I have EVER READ. My mind was BLOWN. Each of the main characters is voiced by a different narrator in the audiobook which reads just like a tv show. And guess what?! Netflix created a tv adaption of Behind Her Eyes!! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. JK.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Goodreads : “A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.”
Y’all, A Man Called Ove made me UGLY CRY. After reading Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People, I knew I had to read more of his books which led me to A Man Called Ove. I actually had flagged this book as a TBR and I kept putting it off until I realized who the author was. This book made me laugh and it made me cry legit big ol fat crocodile tears. This is another book that I would read again. The audiobook was narrated perfectly.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Goodreads – “France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.”
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a bewitchingly captivating book! Do I sound like a book reviewer now? But in all seriousness, it really was. In the spring I suffered a back injury and I was on bed rest for what seemed like forever. In the beginning, I couldn’t sleep so I would lay in bed and listen to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue in an attempt to not wake Jordan. I highly recommend reading this book after dark to up the creepy factor!!
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Goodreads : “What happens when you mix 1 (accidental) murder with 2 thousand wedding guests, and then toss in a possible curse on 3 generations of an immigrant Chinese-Indonesian family? You get 4 meddling Asian aunties coming to the rescue!”
Y’all, Dial A for Aunties is a good lighthearted read with a little bit of murder. This book had me laughing and on the edge of my seat wondering what the Aunties were going to say or do next. This was another audiobook I flew through. Through gathering images and links for this post I found out there is going to be a sequel – Four Aunties and a Wedding!! I’ve already pre-ordered the audiobook that comes out March 29, 2022. I cannot wait to see what havoc the Aunties and Meddelin create this time!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Goodreads : “Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.
Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .”
I didn’t have high expectations for this book but I was proven completely wrong. I immediately fell in love with Eleanor. This is another read that will inspire you, make you laugh and if you’re anything like me… cry. Once again, the audiobook was amazing!
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Goodreads : “A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.
Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.”
Jordan listened to The House in the Cerulean Sea with me while we were on our road trip in September. Linus Baker is a bit of a boring character at first. But once he meets the children of the Orphanage, his character begins to develop into a loveable bear. I would LOVE to see this book turned into a movie. The House in the Cerulean Sea is a beautifully written LGBTQ story. If you’ve read The House in the Cerulean Sea, we would LOVE to know who your favorite character was! Jordan said that was an extremely difficult decision and he couldn’t decide between Talia, Chauncey, and Lucy. I would have to agree. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Talia quotes – “Are you Mr. Baker? If you are, we’ve been expecting you. If not, you’re trespassing, and you should leave before I bury you here in my garden. No one would ever know because the roots would eat your entrails and bones.” She frowned again. “I think. I’ve never buried anyone before. It would be a learning experience for the both of us.”
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Goodreads – “Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.
Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.
Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?”
I found out this year that I enjoy witty, quirky, comedic books. And Nothing to See Here checks all of the boxes. This was another book I put off on my TBR list and finally decided to give it a chance. I am so glad I did because it made it to my top 10 out of 100 books for 2021. Nothing to See Here audiobook is also narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Marin Ireland. If you enjoyed Anxious People, A Man Called Ove, and/or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, you will LOVE Nothing to See Here.
I decided to set a significantly lighter reading goal for 2022. My goal this year is to focus on reading more physical books and taking a chunk out of my TBR list before purchasing more. JK. There is no way I could walk into a book store and not leave without at least one book in my hands. Never happened and probably never will. And I’m okay with that.
Have you set your 2022 reading goal yet? If you have a Goodreads account, drop your page below so we can cheer each other on! Happy Reading, friends! <3