Brittany the Book Lady's Top Books from 2021

Brittany the Book Lady's Top Books from 2021

January 4, 2022
by
Brittany the Book Lady

2021 was, without a doubt, my best reading year yet - with an astounding 210 books read or listened to. I came into the year with the goal to read more for me and I blew my goal out of the water. More on how I managed to accomplish my goal in another blog post, but for now, I'd love to share more about my Top Books Read in 2021. After agonizing over my 5 star reads from the year from a WIDE variety of genres, I somehow managed to narrowed it down to these 12 titles.

Here is the general criteria I used to select these books: 

  • "Unputdownable"
  • Memorable
  • Unique premise
  • I recommend it over and over to others
  • Deep, heavy, powerful, and/or leaves a lasting impact on me

In order to make the cut, the book had to fulfill at least 2 of these 5 criteria points.

Let's get into the books! Have you read any of these? 

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue - V. E. Schwab

While this one was outside of my typical genre, I was enamored with it the whole time. In short, in a moment of desperation, Addie LaRue makes a bargain to live forever but in exchange, she is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. This one has a bit of a slow burn, but the prose was so beautiful that I wanted to savor it and I never wanted it to end. Be aware, you will find very mixed reviews on this one. People seem to love it or hate it. I'm definitely in the love it camp. It has a dark quality, atmospheric, magic, fantasy, a little bit of love and attraction, nonlinear timeline, historical, and more. I think it's absolutely brilliant. People who love this book LOVE this book!! Author V.E. Schwab has a bit of a cult following! I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Criteria met - I recommend it over and over, Leaves a lasting impact on me, unique premise, memorable

Project Hail Mary - Andy Weir

I don't dabble in a lot of science fiction either, but I absolutely loved this one. Interestingly, my top two books of 2021 are from genres that I don't read from much. May that be your signal to try branching out from your typical genres. You might find something that surprises you!! Short synopsis - Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last chance mission to save Earth, but he doesn't know this, as he wakes up onboard a ship and he's forgotten everything. Admittedly, it took a bit for me to get into this one. I put it down a few times. I was intimidated by its length. I sort my Goodreads "want to read" list based on overall community rating and this one was at the absolute top out of hundreds of books, and so I pressed on to see if it lived up to the hype, and oh my word, it did!! I've never read a book quite like this one. It had humor, heart, perseverance, and uniqueness. At one point I gasped out loud reading this one. I don't think I will ever forget this book! I read a physical copy of this book, but I hear it's fantastic as an audiobook, as well.

Criteria met - I recommend it over and over, unique premise, memorable, leaves a lasting impact on me

Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi

It is unlikely that I would have picked this one on my own. I hadn't heard of it when my virtual book club chose to read this one. But from the beginning, I was engrossed in this story that spanned across time periods and continents - Africa and North America detailing the very different lives, legacies, and descendants of two half-sisters born into two different villages in 18th century Ghana. The characters in this book faced devastation, hardship, and their lives were shaped by historical forces well outside of their control. The characters' lives are woven together and I loved seeing how they were all linked across time. This book was a debut by young author Yaa Gyasi, and it was another example of a brilliantly beautiful piece. I also later enjoyed Transcendent Kingdom written by her.

Criteria met - Unique premise, memorable, deep, heavy and leaves a lasting impact on me, unputdownable

The Giver of Stars - Jojo Moyes

I'm a big fan of books about books, librarians, and libraries. This one had it all, and history, too! Set in depression-era America, 5 courageous women who became known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky embark on a journey via horseback delivering books to the furthest reaches of the frontier as part of Eleanor Roosevelt's "traveling library" initiative. What a powerful tale to see books reach families and children who would not otherwise have them in this time period. These books had such a powerful impact on the people who received them. Not everyone agreed with the work of the Packhorse Librarians and at times, these women were criticized or put in danger. But they were dedicated to the cause and courageous, despite all of the challenges and hardships that they faced. This story is epic, beautiful and even better that it's based on a true story. I loved that it showcased women as the heroines on their mission to spread literacy in rural America.

Criteria met - Unique premise, memorable, unputdownable, deep

Verity - Colleen Hoover

From page one, this book absolutely gripped me and like many others, I finished it in half a day. For me, it lived up to all of the hype with unexpected twists and turns along the way. It was creepy, thrilling, salacious, ominous, in all of the best ways. Struggling writer Lowen is given the opportunity of a lifetime to “co-author” the remaining books in a best-selling series by big time author Verity Crawford who has been in an accident and cannot write. She takes the job and part of her assignment is to sort through all of Verity’s notes and outlines in her office to get a sense for the characters and the series so she can continue it. She stumbles upon a printed manuscript labeled autobiography that it seems nobody was supposed to find. Lowen becomes curious and reads what ends up as salacious details of her and her husband Jeremy’s sex life as well as horrifying details about her own thoughts and actions. As Lowen reads deeper and deeper (and since she's staying in his house), she also finds herself falling for Jeremy herself. She grapples with whether or not she should share the manuscript with him. If she does, will he ever view his wife the same again? One of the best thrillers that I read in 2021! 

Criteria met - Unputdownable, unique premise, I recommend it over and over, memorable

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

After reading this one, I realized that I love reading about atypical characters. Eleanor always speaks her mind, has no filter, struggles to demonstrate appropriate social skills, and she proves to be an out of the ordinary heroine in this tale of finding herself, opening her heart, becoming vulnerable, and finding the connection that she maybe didn't realize was missing in her otherwise predictable and carefully timetabled life. I loved reading about Eleanor and Raymond's blossoming friendship and the connections she built with some other key characters who she let into her life and heart. This one has some unexpected twists and surprises as well.

Criteria met - Unputdownable, unique premise, I recommend it over and over, memorable

The Book of Lost Names - Kristin Harmel

I'm a big fan of historical fiction and this one didn't disappoint. Set in WW2 era Paris, Eva has fled with her mother to the Free Zone after her father, a Polish Jew was arrested. She wants to help with the war effort and finds herself associated with a group of people who are secretly harboring and forging documents for Jewish children who are fleeing to Switzerland. In order not to erase these children's original identities entirely, she records their real names in code in a religious text that they coin The Book of Lost Names. This book has a historical flavor, a bit of love and romance, as well as heart and courage during a devastating time period.

Criteria met - Unputdownable, deep, heavy, and leaves a lasting impact on me, memorable, unique premise

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book had me hooked from the beginning! Monique Grant, an unknown magazine reporter gets the surprise of a lifetime when mysterious and reclusive actress and movie icon Evelyn Hugo chooses to "tell all" about her glamorous and scandalous life for a biography. So she takes the opportunity and listens as Evelyn shares all of the juicy details about her seven husbands, forbidden love, friendship, and the inner workings of show business and how to get ahead in the cutthroat industry. This book will leave you floored!! 

Criteria met - Unique premise, unputdownable, memorable, I recommend it over and over

The Good Sister - Sally Hepworth

This was another book that I absolutely couldn't pause (I listened to this one). The audiobook version of this book was phenomenal and one of my favorites for the year. Sally Hepworth really knows how to weave a family drama/thriller tale. Sisters Fern and Rose are bound by the secrets they hold about an awful experience that they shared in the past. What really happened on that fateful day? Today, Fern lives a carefully crafted and curated life with routines that make her feel safe and comfortable. Yet, she wants to do something to "pay her sister back" for all she has done for her. To do this, she decides she will carry a baby for Rose, since Rose is unable to get pregnant. Of course getting pregnant will require finding a father and disrupting all that she knows in her carefully structured life. The twists and turns in this one will shock you!

Criteria met - Unputdownable, unique premise, I recommend it over and over

Wish You Were Here - Jodi Picoult

Are you ready for a book set in covid times? I know it's too soon for some, but seeing as how Jodi Picoult is one of my absolute all-time favorite authors and I hadn't read any of her books in all of 2021, I had to pick this one up. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy of this one, thanks to @netgalley! Without giving too much away, I will say that this book has love, loss, isolation, loneliness, connection, surprise, character development, grief, and character growth all amidst covid, a pandemic that has rocked our world. It also had the most unexpected turn, ever!

Criteria met - Unputdownable, unique premise, I recommend it over and over, memorable

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

As a new fan of Kristin Hannah's books (The Great Alone is the first book I read of hers, followed by Firefly Lane, and the Four Winds), I had to pick up this historical fiction book set in WW2 France, my favorite historical time period to read about. It details and highlights some events surrounding a lesser known war known as the Women's War, and the women's path toward survival and resistance in German occupied war-torn France. This story is deep, heavy, and moving in all of the best ways! 

Criteria met - Deep, heavy, and leaves a lasting impact on me, unique premise I recommend it over and over

A History of Wild Places - Shea Ernshaw

I read this amazing book as an ARC earlier this year, thanks to @netgalley! Travis Wren goes on a mission to find Maggie St. James, a well-known author of dark children's books, who has gone missing and on his hunt, he finds himself on a reclusive commune called "Pastoral." After stumbling upon this place himself, he too disappears. Without giving too much away about this twisty tale, this one was dark, mysterious, eery, ominous, atmospheric, and troubling. I was kept guessing the whole time. It was hard to know what was real and what was imagined. I love how it ended and the character development throughout. Completely unexpected! 

Criteria met - Unique premise, I recommend it over and over, unputdownable

Did you enjoy this blog post? Would you like to see more bookish content? I invite you to also connect with me over on Instagram at and on my Goodreads account.

Brittany the Book Lady

Growing up I was first introduced to Usborne Books and More at a young age when my mom had purchased books for our family. Since then, I've fallen in love with the books and the company's mission to promote literacy throughout the country.​

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