Favorite Books from 2021

I love year-end reviews, the reflection on what worked and what didn’t, what was a highlight and what you wish you could forget. I’m also a sucker for all of the “best of” lists that are published around the new year. Top movies, top hits, top moments, and of course, top books.

It’s even more fun to reflect on your own personal reading year. What books were your favorites? What do you want to do differently in the coming year? And of course, set a goal or theme for your reading year. 


Reflection

Outside of the general craziness of the world, 2021 was a great year for reading – to escape what was happening on the news, to imagine a safer world, to get lost in a previous time period – one where you know how it ends! 

I read 142 books last year, blowing past my Goodreads goal of 125! This is my best reading year since middle school. I think it was due to my intentional efforts to read more, keeping a book with me at all times whether it was a physical copy, my Kindle, or an audiobook. I’m happy with this number but for 2022, I’m bringing my goal back down to 100. I read a little compulsively this year, taking away from family time, and I found it was difficult to read a lot while writing. As I hope to write book #2 this year, I think it’s best to set my expectations a little lower.

Thanks to my handy dandy book tracker from the Currently Reading podcast (join as a patron and you’ll get it!), I know the breakdown of my books:

General Stats:

  • 142 books
  • 2 DNFs (did not finish)
  • 47,645 pages read
  • 71% physical books, 31% digital, 1% audio (I had a few books in multiple formats)
  • 75% fiction, 25% nonfiction
  • 80% books for adults, 16% for middle grade, 4% for YA
  • 40% of my books were purchased in 2021, 38% were from the library, and 12% were from my TBR (rest came as review copies or Kindle Unlimited)
  • Book genre breakdown:
    • Historical Fiction: 61 
    • Historical Nonfiction: 15
    • Romance: 38 (including historical)
    • General fiction: 13
    • Classics: 6
    • Memoirs: 5
    • Parenting: 2
    • Travel/Food: 1
    • Thrillers: 1

I’ve really honed in on the types of books I love (historical fiction and nonfiction) but this year, I did break out of my comfort zone and tried historical romance and mysteries, literary fiction, and contemporary romance. I found books that I loved in all of these categories. 

With 27 five star books and 52 four and a half star books, I read too many good books to list in a year-end review. I’ve broken my genres down into moods or sub-genres to help you find your next five star read. Here are some of my favorites! A reminder, these aren’t all 2021 releases, just books I read in 2021.

All books are Amazon affiliate links. You can also visit my Bookshop.org shop, where your purchases help independent bookstores and creators.


Favorite Historical Fiction

Favorite Debut:

Jennifer Anton

Under the Light of the Italian Moon

New Favorite Author: 

Karin Tanabe

The Diplomat’s Daughter

A Hundred Suns

A Woman of Intelligence (2021 release)

Favorite Author who never disappoints:

Susan Meissner – I’ve read seven of her books!

The Nature of Fragile Things (2021 release)

Favorite Books about a Specific Time Period:

American Revolution: Answering Liberty’s Call

Post-Civil War: Where the Lost Wander

Early 20th Century: Wild Women and the Blues

World War I: Last Christmas in Paris

Cold War: Our Woman in Moscow & A Woman of Intelligence

Superlatives:

Favorite multi-generational history: Haven Point

Favorite dual timeline: The Lost Apothecary

Favorite multi-year history: The Women of Chateau Lafayette 

Favorite love story: Love, Theodosia

Favorite feel-good book: Once Upon a Wardrobe

Favorite book with a history unknown to me: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

Favorite book not set in America or Europe: Sparks Like Stars

Favorite book set in my home state of North Carolina: The Outer Banks House

Favorite Historical Romance:

A League of Extraordinary Women series:

Bringing Down the Duke

A Rogue of One’s Own

Portrait of a Scotsman

Favorite Historical Mystery:

Maisie Dobbs series


Favorite Historical Nonfiction:

Civil War:

Richmond Burning

World War II: 

The Churchill Sisters


Favorite Classics:

Emily of New Moon series





Favorite General Fiction/Literary Fiction:

Book that is now in my top ten books of all time: The Midnight Library 

Favorite book about parenting: Landslide

Favorite family drama: Apples Never Fall

Favorite time travel: Oona Out of Order

Favorite book about the writing life: Writers & Lovers


Favorite Memoir:

Wintering

Gift from the Sea


Favorite Contemporary Romance:

Evvie Drake Starts Over

Beach Read

Life’s Too Short


Favorite Travel:

The Deepest South of All


2022 goals

Looking ahead at 2022, I want to make a few tweaks in my reading. I have two vacations to England planned so I want my reading to reflect this. There’s nothing better to me than to read a book about a destination and then go there, walking in the character’s shoes. I’m going to center most of my books around England and Scotland, both historical and nonhistorical books, at least until July. 

It shouldn’t be too hard for me to do this since I already read a lot of books about England, particularly in World War II. And with my recent discovery of Outlander, Scotland has become a renewed interest in my reading. I can’t wait to dig into even more books about its history! 

My plans also include some classics from Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Bronte, and more. We plan to spend at least one night in Stratford so I can’t wait to introduce my kids to Shakespeare’s birthplace. I’ve already downloaded Romeo and Juliet to my Kindle for January! 

After our trip, I’d like to get back to reading Civil War fiction, which was sorely missing this past year as I was finishing my own novel about the war. I’ve been on a reading hiatus from any fiction set during the Civil War while writing and revising but as I’m getting closer to being done, I hope to add this missing piece back into my reading life. 

Comment below with your favorite books about England and Scotland or your favorite classic I should add to my TBR!

Happy reading in 2022!

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4 thoughts on “Favorite Books from 2021

  1. Wow…Jada…Amazing! I love that you share your love of reading. I have been reading some of the books you love and I make a list of what to read next.

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  2. I think we have a lot of similar tastes in historical fiction, so you have probably read some of these already, but here are a few: The Summer Before the War, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, and The Last Garden in England, and The Firebird. Also, The Jane Austen Society — I read this after getting to visit Miss Austen’s home in 2019 so that was a special treat. For something not historical, Second Thyme Around (Katie Fforde) – contemporary romance with a sweet sense of English village life. Happy reading!

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