2021 Reading Recap: The Best and Worst Books I Read in 2021

After looking at my 2021 reading list, it is clearly a year of trilogies, sagas, and series. Also among them (and not to my surprise), I read predominantly in the science fiction and fantasy realm. In terms of fiction vs non-fiction, four of the twenty-one books I read were non-fiction (I really want to read more non-fiction this next year). Also, please note that all the links on the lists below are my Amazon affiliate links.

Jumping right into it, here are my top five favorite books this year:

 

  1. Piranesi – Susanna Clarke

Man did I love this book. From the start, this story was like an unraveling puzzle. I hesitate in saying anything regarding the plot (or any element for that matter), so instead, I’ll praise the prose and compliment the execution of the “Diary Trope”. If you like puzzles and unreliable narrators and are looking for a beautiful, refreshing world this is for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Jade City – Fonda Lee

Described by the author, Fonda Lee, herself Jade City is like “The Godfather with magic and kung fu set in an Asian-inspired setting”. This book was a great start to the trilogy (which I will continue to read), one that didn’t pull any punches when it came to the safety of your favorite characters and is truly epic in world-building, political intrigue, and scope. This novel is a great read and offers an alternative to the traditional European-based fantasy setting. Jade City has a blend of intrigue, action, complicated characters and relationships, and an interesting magic system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Murderbot Diaries – Martha Wells

The 2021 Hugo award-winning series chronicles an anxiety-ridden combat AI that only wants to be left alone and watch TV. As whimsical and wholesome as that sounds, this collection of novellas both deconstructs what it means to be human and deal with human interactions (or overcoming social anxieties) all through the eyes of a combat AI, AKA the Murderbot. This will appeal to lovers of science fiction and those who have never entered the genre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Empire of the Summer Moon – S. C. Gwynne

Empire of the Summer Moon is not a new book by any means and gained a recent resurgence in popularity. For a long time this book has sat on my to-be-read shelf and now, after reading it, I kick myself for not having picked it up sooner. This book is by no means a happy book, nor does it shy away from the horrors of the western and Texan frontier during the forty-year battle between the Comanche and the white American settlers. I have a special place in my heart when it comes to Native Americans history, and the honesty of Empire of the Summer Moon is just heart-wrenching in so many ways. If you’re interested in this time period and want to learn about the Great Planes Tribes, consider picking up this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Stone Sky (Broken Earth Trilogy) – N. K. Jemisin

I am not sure why I waited so long to finish the Broken Earth Trilogy (I read the first book and adored it back in 2019). I picked up the second book—the Obelisk Gate—early into 2021 and couldn’t stop myself from finishing the series. Obelisk gate (book 2) was phenomenal, but my absolute favorite was the conclusion of the story, The Stone Sky. N. K. Jemisin tells a brilliant tale, displaying her evocative prose, beautiful world-building, and intricate magic system. This trilogy earns every award given to them and then some.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My three least favorite books:

  1. Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlen

I won’t deny the importance of this novel and the influence it had on the science fiction genre and its sub-genres but found it rather dated. The commentary was on nationalistic governments was interesting, but in 2021 (the year I read it) I found the critique flat. I would recommend it only to those who love the sci-fi classics and have an affinity for military sci-fi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Learned Disguise – R. C. Waldun

The Learned Disguise was a self-published title that follows a university student as he grapples with friendships, romantic relationships, and his passion for reading and writing. It was a fine story that didn’t do anything overly dramatic or strike a unique chord with me. The writing was well done but I had a hard time relating to the protagonist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Who Will Do What by When – Tom Hanson and Birgit Zacher Hanson

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this book, other than it was a required book that we read at work. It covers exactly what the title says, but follows a bland and generic narrative of a sales manager trying to inspire his sales team. There were some bits here and there that were useful, but I couldn’t get beyond the tasteless overarching narrative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few goals for next year include, rather obviously, to read more, but perhaps less obviously, to read more of a variety. I have a healthy number of books on my to-be-read shelf already, but I really want to expand the genres I primarily read from (that being sci-fi and fantasy). I also want to read more recent publications from the genre fiction space. Mentally, I put a lot of steak in the classics and will continue to read them, but think newer publications are more relevant in these spaces.

Also, I want to hear what you read and what books you would recommend! Also, let me know what your reading goal is for 2022.

 

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