My Top 2021 Books

Last year was a big year of reading for me. I ended up reading 101 books and my goal was only 40! I wasn’t expecting to read a lot but we did have lockdowns and reading really became a habit for me. It took me some time to choose my top books but 2021’s list is pretty damn good.

Before I start, I also shared the top books I read in 2020 so if you missed that, check it out here.

I’ve been told reading 101 books was quite impressive and I accept it is a feat. I am more proud of the variety of books I read last year though. I made a more conscious effort reading books from people of colour, especially women of colour. Looking back on my list, I enjoyed books from POC more too. I also have a good mix of fiction and non-fiction books.

I won’t post the full list of books I’ve read but if you want to know, you can click here.

Since there are a lot to choose from, I’ve picked my general top books from 2021 then I have more categories if you’re after an easy read, non-fiction, fiction, books that surprised me and challenged me and I also wanted to share my misses.

TOP 5 Books:

Oona Out of Order – Margarita Montimore

When I looked back on Goodreads, apparently this was the only book I rated 5 stars. This was towards the start of last year so I was after an easy read. This was a nice and easy book to read but I was hooked by the story as she lived her life by jumping through different years. What would you do if you lived your life out of chronological order?

Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

This book was beautiful but sad. If you’ve lost a parent, this might be a hard book to read. I liked this as it made me think of my Asian upbringing, how Asian families show love and the culture revolves around food. I pretty much read this in one sitting.

The Push – Ashley Audrain

This book shook me and I needed to discuss it to someone / anyone that have read it afterwards. It’s a psychological drama centred around a woman that has an interesting experience with motherhood. If you’re expecting a child or have a baby, I don’t recommend this but if you enjoy reading psychological thriller books, you might enjoy this.

Arsenic and Adobo – Mia P. Manansala

I loved this book. I’m so glad I found more Filipino authors last year. This was an easy read but was so enjoyable for me. It involves food so talking about Filipino food made me reminisce and I loved the sprinkle of Tagalog in this book. If you want an insight to Filipino food and culture, read this.

Auē – Becky Manawatu

I also read a lot more NZ authors in 2021 and I really enjoyed most, if not all of them. If I had to pick one, Auē came on top. This was beautiful but brutal. It hurts to read this as it does go into heavy and dark situations but it is brilliant. I read this in Christchurch during this trip and I needed a break from reading after this book.

Now that I’ve shared my top general books above, I’ve also thought of splitting my faves into different categories as I know everyone have different book tastes.

Easy Reads:

If you’re after more beach/holiday easy reads I recommend these ones:

  • Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid – I enjoy TJR books. This one was a very easy yet engaging read for me. My absolute book of hers is still Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo though (I read it in 2020).
  • Olive – Emma Gannon – If you’re a 30+ child=free woman like me, this would be such a relatable read. It showed different perspectives about adulthood and motherhood and also friendships.
  • The Jetsetters Amanda Eyre Ward – This is set in a cruise ship around a family. They all go on their own different adventures / mischief.
  • The Overdue Life of Amy Byler – Kelly Harms – A single mum who goes on a solo adventure in New York.
  • Ghosts – Dolly Alderton – Another nice and easy read from Dolly Alderton. Also relatable for me.
  • One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London – If you like watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette shows on TV, you’d enjoy this one too as the main character goes on a similar type show. It’s fun and entertaining.
  • Weird by Normal: Essays – Mia Mercado – This book has essays so much easier to digest. I’m usually not a fan of book of essays because I don’t usually like most of them but this was relatable for me as it tackles a bit of racial identity and beauty standards but it’s also funny.

Best Non-Fiction:

I love reading about people’s stories so although I’ve read some motivational /inspirational books, my faves tend to be more biographical / memoirs.

  • Know Your Place – Golriz Ghahraman – She has such an incredible story. From being a refugee to her life in NZ. She has achieved so much becoming a lawyer and now a politian (Greens MP) and it’s inspiring. She now follows me on Instagram and she also has a cat! Haha
  • Impossible – Stan Walker – Another person with an amazing story. He has gone through so much hardship but he has so much strength to get through it all. I have watched Stan Walker live a few times. His voice is amazing. This book actually inspired me to do my end of Te Reo course speech about him as we had to pick a famous person. There’s te reo within this book too so it was good learning from me.
  • Husna’s Story – Farid Ahmed – Within the first few pages of this book, I was already in tears. We will never forget the horrible Christchurch terrorist attack. 51 innocent people died that day and Husna was sadly one of them. This book is sad but it’s also a celebration of her life as she dedicated it to saving and helping people. It’s more about love.
  • The Panic Years – Nell Frizzell – This book is much lighter than the other 3. It’s hilarious and relatable for me as Nell talks about her panic years which is between 25 – 40. It’s raw, honest but also witty and funny.

Challenging or Mysterious Reads:

I thought I’d add some books I found interesting in different ways. I have a list of easy reads but if you’re after something a bit more serious, mysterious or heavy, check these out:

  • Layla – Colleen Hoover – Colleen Hoover has become one of my favourite fiction authors. Her books are engaging and I mostly can’t put them down (Verity from my 2020 reads was one of my favourites). Layla is another mystery/thriller but with a paranormal twist.
  • It Ends with Us – Colleen Hoover – This book is quite different and it’s in this list because of the overall theme which is abuse. This book needs to come with a trigger warning but her author’s note at the end explained why she wanted to write this book.
  • Detransition Baby – Torrey Peters – I put this here as it’s the book that made me think about trans experience. The situations in this story aren’t easy to read and some take some time to grasp but it provides a good insight to their experience which is messy, chaotic and quite complex.
  • The Missing Years – Lexie Elliot – This is a mystery / thriller book set in an old Scottish manor. I really enjoyed this and although it was a bit slow, I really wanted to know what was happened.
  • In the Country stories – Mia Alvar – This is a collection of essays that are mostly about the Filipino diaspora. Some stories were interesting. They’re not light / easy stories either as they touch on Philippines history too especially when the country was under martial law. If you want to know more about Philippines, this might provide some insight.
  • American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins – This is here because it’s a controversial book. I actually enjoyed the story. It’s hard learning the struggles and lengths people go through to get to America. However, the author is white and the main characters of this book are Mexican. Author issues aside, this book was gripping.

Everyone has different tastes/preferences in books. I thought I’d share my book misses from 2021 as it’s interesting that some of these have been highly rated:

  • Beautiful World, Where are you – Sally Rooney – I really didn’t enjoy this. This is the 4th book I’ve read of hers and I now know her writing/books aren’t for me. I hated the characters. They’re unlikeable.
  • Sorrow and Bliss – Meg Mason – I was waiting for some bliss to come but no, this book is all sorrow.
  • Self Care: A Novel – Leigh Stein – This is satirical but I didn’t not enjoy it at all. Super unlikeable characters and it felt like the opposite of self care after reading it.
  • Not That I’d Kiss a Girl: A Kiwi girl’s tale of coming out and coming of age – Lil O-Brien – The story is interesting and I can only imagine how hard it is to come out as queer to your conservative family. However, I didn’t quite enjoy this as it highlighted her privilege and the awful drinking culture we have here in NZ.
  • Luster – Raven Leilani – This confused me. I think it had potential to be interesting but it was boring and went nowhere.
  • The New Me – Halle Butler – Found this absolutely pointless and boring.

That is a wrap for my 2021 books! I set my goal for 2022 to be 52 so slightly higher than my 40 goal for last year. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to read so 52 for one book a week sounds doable. If I go over it again, that would be great but I’m more into reading enjoyable books this year.

Before I end this post, I thought I’d share some thoughts. I post about books and my short reviews on Instagram and I get DMs on there about books, reading etc. Most conversations I have are great because I get book recommendations from them but a few have cropped up about how much I read, how can I read so much books etc. Here are some thoughts:

  • I am a fast reader. Always have been. If I really enjoy a book, I will read it in one sitting within 2-4 hours. It’s a downside if I read before I sleep because I sometimes end up reading til way past midnight to finish a book. If I have a free day to do nothing, I’d park myself outside in my backyard and can churn through 2 books that day.
  • I can read anywhere. I can read in a moving car and I’ve read quite a few books while Max is driving / during roadtrips. I bring a book every time we go for longer drives and when we go away on trips.
  • I make time for reading. If you really enjoy something, you make time for it! I make time to go to the gym because I love spin but I also make time to read because I enjoy it. I sometimes read when I wake up early before work, during breaks, after work and nowadays, I spend afternoons reading outside.
  • Joining the library really boosted my reading. I request a lot of books and I tend to read them all even if my pile is high because I don’t like returning books that I haven’t read. It’s been so good being able to borrow books for free and there are also no fees for any late returns. This has saved me so much money and also space because if I bought all the books I’ve read, that would be expensive and I would have nowhere in my house I can put them.

That’s all from me! Thank you if you made it to the end of this post. I hope you get some book recommendations out of this. If you want to chat about books, DM me on Instagram! 🙂

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