It is that excruciating time of year where I choose only my top 10 favourites!!
Although I’m going to admit, I did not have a good reading year. I had about eighteen 5-star reads…and when that’s out of 200 books? It’s a little sad. And I am a little sad. And I maybe am a little grumpy lately too. (It’s been a rough year and I’ve come out the other side quite ragged.)
But the thing to focus on is that (a) I DID find some books I wholly love so deeply, and (b) I still struggled to choose exactly which are the top ten. I’ll do my end of year recap in a few days though, so you’ll get to see all my new loves. But for now…
1. These Violent Delights by Micah Nemeverever
If I had to choose only ONE favourite of the year — it’s not even hard this time. It’s this book. This book ruined me, and I still think of it and my soul sort of explodes. It’s an adult dark academia of obsession and pain, of depression and co-dependency, of the intimate phenomenon of being known and of the all-consuming rage of seeing and unfair world. It’s not an “I would fix this world if i could”. More an “i would burn this world down”. So YOU KNOW. It is queer teens and Jewish pain, and it has deep autism coding. Add in excruciatingly incredible writing and just the beautiful but horrible ideal of being perceived — and you have ME, in love with this book. There is also murder. Such horrible, horrible boys. I love them so much. (I also don’t think I can fully ever explain WHY I love this book so much, I just do 😭.)
2. Circe by Madeline Miller
I actually was nervous I wouldn’t love this as much as The Song of Achilles, but — oh I did. I so did. It has a very different tone and also story structure. I almost call this Greek Gods cottagecore, with Miller’s signature gorgeous writing. Circe was amazing and I absolutely love her. Her naivety because she’s so good is painful but also beautiful. Also I want her island 😭 I know it was prison. But also an introverts haven. It was just such a gorgeous book, cleverly told and made me love and ache for Circe.
3. The Memory of Souls (#3) by Jenn Lyons
Back with my favourite epic fantasy series (of ever?! dare I say!!) and this was actually the first book I finished in 2021 and the absolute best way to start the year. I think this is my favourite of the series because it was so downright HILARIOUS. Solid plot, epic reveals and twists — and also comedy gold. Kihrin continues to be our favourite dumbass heroic himbo, and I can’t say he did a single thing right in this book, but we love him for it. If you are looking for an epic fantasy series, just drop everything and read this one. (Queer, extremely huge and complex world, inverted chosen one tropes, and beautiful elf-like people with knives, and demons and gods and utterly chaotic.)
4. The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros
This one came out of nowhere and I just !! I fell in love with this wholly. It’s set in the late 1800s, about a closeted queer Jewish immigrant named Alter who has come to Chicago to earn enough money to help bring his family over — and it gives such a brutal, crisp view of the immigrant life. Plus he gets tangled up with the ghost of his murdered best friend … and there’s some Stalking Jack the Ripper vibes plus suave, sassy thieves, and the World Fair. It’s just so so good!!! It busted a hole in my heart, too, which I do appreciate.
5. Silver In the Wood by Emily Tesh
This is a novella, and oh oh it had every foresty, whimsical fairy tale vibe I could ever ask for. I’m truly in love 😍 Ancient forests and slipping time and an old man grown from trees and a young snappily dressed folklorist. Dryads and monsters. I just kept reading it and being like, THIS IS MY THING. Only problem is it is 100 pages and ends too soon. (There is a sequel though, but I loved book one the best.)
6. Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
This book will HAUNT YOU. It was phenomenal?! I’d seen so many people rave about it, but I was in a bit of a slump when i picked it up and I was like, “This will be good but I doubt I’ll fall over.” SIRS. I fell over. Jaw on the floor. It is just so well written and a masterclass in suspense. It’s about two Black students (no romance between them!!) and how something slow and insidious unfurls in their school, until they’re literally being haunted and stalked by an anonymous terror. The best thriller.
7. Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer
Back to the books that give me immense fairy tale vibes!! This was perfect. It was so gorgeous. The style is so warm and beautiful, slow in a gorgeous way, and it follows the story of Owen who lives on the edges of a wicked wood and how he ends up falling for a murderous tree siren. Monster girls and soft boys are one of my absolute favourite tropes. And just the way this book was so gentle 🥺 and deeply, ruthlessly magical. Adored it. (I listened to it on audio and then had to go buy a copy, okay.)
8. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
I got told I’d love this book (which is why I bought it, let’s be real) and did I? Absolutely I did 😩👌🏻 It’s a sea-based fantasy (my favourite) with sea gods and monsters (also favourite) and an absolute dumbass con artist kid (again, fave) and a very intuitive and caring commentary on the pain of toxic relationships (hurt my heart and I love that for me). It was just so clever with such beautiful world building, and I just got so so into this. (Also no romances! And Hark is 14, so it’s nice to have a younger-featuring protagonist for once.)
9. We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra
This is exclusively told in letters by two boys assigned to write to each other as part of their English assignment and — okay I just didn’t expect it to hit as hard? But its so beautifully told, and I really love introspective books that get all personal and angsty but in a beautiful way. And watching one character come to terms with their queerness despite abuse, and the other character fighting against a mainstream world was just 😭 I love it. And it hurt. It was so poetic and tender.
10. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Now talking about pain– hahahah. I did not know pain before this. This book made me BAWL (and I don’t even ever shed real tears while reading?!) It broke me 😭 and there is no being the same after this. It’s notoriously infamous for being an extremely hard-hitting book that deals with a torrent of abuse and it’s hard to read at times. It will strangle you with emotions and horror more than once. But I just think it was so well written, so well captured. Disability and queerness and the complexities of friendship groups. Like this book changed me and I’m so glad I read it, even if it was such a hard read. The intimate friendships and love it portrayed just– will go cry into the carpet for a bit, brb.
tell me your favourite reads of 2021? did we share any of the same?