My Top Books of 2021

First order of business- if you only read one sentence of this blog post, let it be this: Go and read Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan. 10/10 the best book I’ve read this year, and maybe my favorite book of all time.

Now, back to the post:

From the time my son was first born until when he was about 6 months old, he refused to nap anywhere else besides in a loved one’s arms. That left me with an odd mix of not having any time to get chores done around the house but a lot of quiet time on the couch. I am not really the binge watching type and one can only look at their phone so much, so I took to reading. Other than a handful of books in the years since college and a few during my pregnancy, I hadn’t really committed much effort to reading for fun. Since becoming a mama, all of that has changed. I crave sitting by myself next to a candle or in the sunshine with a good book. It’s an escape that can be educating, thrilling, or just plain relaxing depending on the genre that you choose. Plus, I enjoy discussing plots and stories with my husband. It’s a break in the typical day-to-day conversation and worries. 

I think it can be overwhelming to choose a book to read. There is a vast multitude of both books and opinions, so the last thing you want (especially as a mom) is to waste time on a bad book. My husband and I shared Kindle Unlimited up until around September of this year, and I would literally search for “best books on Kindle Unlimited” to find something to read. The two nonfiction books that I read had been sitting in my nightstand for a while, and I finally dusted them off. Nowadays, I happen upon books through recommendations and the classic “best book” searches, so I thought that I would do my own reviews. I absolutely love talking about books, so this is for me as much as it is for anyone else. 

For the list below, I’ve written in my rating and the short journal entry blurbs that came to me at the time that I finished each book. In chronological reading order:

  1. Devoted by Dean Koontz
    • 8/10- Very unique plot. Think cannibalism, telepathic dogs, and transhumanism.
  2. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
    • 10/10- MUST READ. I can’t believe this was a real life. Historical fiction WWII novel.
  3. Bloodline by Jess Lourey
    • 7/10- Pretty good. Creepy yet understated mystery (also wrote one other word but don’t want to have a spoiler). Apparently this was inspired by real events?
  4. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
    • 6/10- I am glad that I read it because of how relevant it was with COVID-19; however, it was slow moving. Worldwide pandemic!
  5. Penpal by Dathan Auerback
    • 8/10- The creepiness of this book captured me and made me think! 
  6. When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal
    • 8/10- The character development was good. I loved the love too.
  7. Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant
    • 9/10- So interesting, and I think I’ll take a lot away from it. (Nonfiction)
  8. Don’t Ever Forget by Matthew Farrell
    • 8/10- Very good, and it kept me interested to finish quickly. Lots of perspective changes between cops, criminals, and tapes from crimes in the past. Leaves you with good questions.
  9. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
    • 9/10- Took me a minute to get hooked, but I ended up emotionally invested. I felt for the Marsh girl. Heart wrenching!
  10. Tell Me the Truth by Matthew Farrell
    • 6.5/10- Had I read this before? A good whodunnit but nothing crazy.
  11. Verity by Colleen Hoover
    • 9/10- Very good but graphic as a mom. Still don’t know who or what to believe.
  12. Pines by Blake Crouch
    • 8/10- I had no idea what I was getting into. What a trip and weird take on (spoiler)
  13. Poe’s Heart and the Mountain Climber by Richard Restak
    • 7.5/10- Interesting nonfiction on anxiety just wasn’t groundbreaking enough to rate higher. `
  14. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
    • 7.5/10- A good mystery and some interesting twists. Wish it was more of a thrilling whodunnit.
  15. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
    • 9/10- An epic tale of finding yourself and hardship. Took a while to get going but it sticks with you.
  16. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
    • 10/10- Maybe it just hit me right but it ticked all my boxes. Magic, love, suspense. An escape. Hogwarts vibes.

You may be thinking that my list of 2021 books is small, but let me just say, I am an incredibly slow reader. My Kindle always adds hours (and not even just a few) to the estimated reading time once it learns my speed. When I read, I hear my voice reading each word aloud in my head, so it’s about the same pace as if I was speaking. My husband says that he scans chunks of a page at a time, but I don’t understand that. We read Pines from the list above at the same time so that we could discuss it like a mini book club, but really he started it after me and finished it first. Regardless, I am happy with what I’ve been able to get through this past year.

The books that I would recommend and that were my favorite were:

  1. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
    • Historical fiction is generally not what I tend to go for, but I couldn’t get enough of this book. The book is based on a real man, Pino Lella, and his both epic and tragic life as an Italian teenager during WWII. Hero is not a word to use lightly, but he lived the life of a hero, complete with sacrifice and hardship, without anyone ever really knowing. It tells the story of WWII from a perspective that I had never heard before. 
  2. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
    • I know it is a Netflix show, but I haven’t even looked to see the actors. I wanted to enjoy it with a clean slate, and I definitely did. The world that is built is unique, and while I said “Hogwarts vibes”, it’s more like the magic of the The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott rather than Harry Potter if you’ve ever read those. I simply loved it, and I’m going to close out 2021 by finishing the series.

Honorable mentions that I still highly recommend:  Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Verity by Colleen Hoover, and The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.

With the new year lurking around the corner, I encourage you to keep a list of all the books, movies, or even TV shows that you consume throughout the year. I find that seeing titles sparks my memory, and I remember little moments that I didn’t even know I associated with the times I was reading different books- kind of like each book was a separate era of the year. Plus, I think it’s fun to make lists, but maybe that’s just the planner in me. 

If you read any of the books that I recommend, let me know, and I would LOVE to hear what you think! Low key, a dream of mine would be to host or be a part of a book club. So if you know of any of those that already exist, let me know as well. Happy reading!

Note: I read most all of the books this year on my Kindle, so those pictured are random ones from around my house!
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[…] the course of the year, I kept a log of all the books that I read (see the list in a previous post here). I will definitely bring this into 2022 as well. As for movies and TV shows, I didn’t dedicate […]