Last year, I started a bit of a tradition. I went back through all the books I read over 2020 and compiled my top ten favorites—the top ten best reads of the year. Why not do it again this year? So here you have them—the top ten best reads of 2021. (You can look up my reviews or watch for them coming in the next couple months.) I’ve arranged them in the order I read them, because ordering them in how “best” they are is impossible.
The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill—January 2021
I got this 20’s era mystery for Christmas last year and loved it. Piper is a spunky, smart heroine who actually uses her head. (I’m heading into a dangerous part of town? Might want to take an escort.) But what grabbed me and made it one of the best reads this year is the honest, raw look at grief that this book gave.
Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green—March 2021
I got this book for my birthday and was amazed at how much it drew me in. All the characters were so well-developed. But Meg and Sylvie’s dynamic and tension as sisters (and the tension with their father as well) was what made this one of the best reads of 2021. And it was that tension that made it impossible for me to put it down.
The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White—May 2021
This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. As soon as it came out, I was at the mailbox eagerly awaiting my preordered copy. It did not disappoint! I had never heard of the Scilly Islands, and what could be better than a treasure hunt? The characters all lived up to the unique voices she sets up in all her novels. I’m especially excited to see the next book focuses on my personal favorite character, Sheridan. But what made it one of the best reads of 2021 was how it touched me with its message—that everyone is known by someone far bigger than them, that everyone belongs.
The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron—June 2021
This was a surprise best from 2021. Our library (where I volunteer) got it, and, having just come off her session at the Story Embers Engaging Plot Summit, I quickly processed it and snatched it up. (No self-serving motive in processing that one . . . ) I’ll admit—it confused the heck out of me. She has essentially four plotlines running at once—two in the present and two in the past. So the whole story doesn’t really come together until the last page—at which point, I promptly went back to read it again. The plot is brilliant, as are the characters. My only complaint? She killed my favorite character. :(
Shadow by Kara Swanson—July 2021
Another anticipated read for 2021! The first novel in the duology, Dust, made my Best of 2020 list, and since then, I’ve been awaiting the next one. (That ending, Kara! Why?) I honestly think Shadow might be better than Dust (but of course, you have to read Dust to have any idea what’s going on). The magic system is so creative and vibrant, and characters old and new exploded onto the page. But what made this one a best for 2021 was the theme. It came very close to some things I was experiencing this summer and showed me the light in the shadows.
The Lines Between Us by Amy Lynn Green—September 2021
You guessed it—I’d been looking forward to this one, too, after her debut novel made my Best of 2020 list. The style and characters in this one were very unique to the style and characters of her debut. It was a wonderful novel with a dash of mystery mixed in. What made this one a Best of 2021 was how she presented all viewpoints equally. The novel deals with the conscientious objectors on one hand and the women’s army corps on the other. She showed the good people and the bad people of EVERY side. One of the most equal representing books I’ve ever read.
Numbers 7, 8, and 9
If I Run Trilogy (If I Run, If I’m Found, If I Live) by Terri Blackstock—October 2021
(REVIEW COMING SOON)
This one had been recommended to me many times, but I finally read it this year. And. Couldn’t. Stop. Reading. It. It’s a contemporary suspense, unlike the historical and fantasy I normally read. Her protagonist, Casey, is both sweet and smart, but it was Dylan that stole the stage for me. What made this one a Best of 2021 is not only the brilliant plot (and it was BRILLIANT) but the sensitive portrayal of mental illness and PTSD. I hope someday I can handle deep and needed topics in my own novels in the same way.
The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers—November 2021
(REVIEW COMING SOON)
This book was given to me by a friend, and I honestly didn’t know what I would think of it. I’d never read Francine Rivers and was not familiar with this book. It honestly was a hard and heavy book to read. I haven’t been that angry at a character’s parents in a long time. (I’m referring to both Cadi and Fagan’s parents by the way.) These kids truly went through horrible things. That being said, I honestly did like Fagan better than I did Cadi. This is also a very explicit Christian book (long Christian messages/monologues, long passages of Scripture in the novel, etc.). And yet, it was done in a way that didn’t feel preachy, forced, or awkward, despite the large amount of content in there. Those two things are what made this a Best of 2021 read.
Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin—April 2021
Alright, this addition is going to make this list eleven, but we’ll just only count If I Run as two. And don’t feel bad, Anchor in the Storm—it’s not your fault that you were up against Shadow and The Paris Dressmaker this year. While scrolling through my reviews, I realized I’d forgotten to list this gem of a book. What made this book a Best of 2021 was Lillian Avery. I related a lot to her struggle of not wanting to be seen as weak. Add on to that the realistic portrayal of anxiety, PTSD, and disabilities and a mystery plot involving a drug ring within the Navy? Count me in.
And there you have it! What about you? What were your best reads of 2021? Have you read
any of these books? What did you think of them?
If you want to see more “Best of” books, read the 2020 installment here (https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/top-10-reads-of-2020), or click the “Best of” category in the sidebar!
I read a lot of books. A lot. And it occurred to me that a Top 10 post of the books I loved the most in 2020 might be a fun way to recap the year. I did my best to categorize them from ten to one in order of my favorites, but that was impossible. So I gave up and did them in the order I read them.
Numbers 1, 2, and 3: The Codebreakers Trilogy by Roseanna M. White
I picked up The Number of Love and On Wings of Devotion on a shopping trip New Year’s Eve. The final installment A Portrait of Loyalty released this September. The entire trilogy was packed with vibrant characters, intrigue and espionage, and raw, real looks at grief and devotion. Its Christian themes, while very upfront, never felt pushy or heavy handed. Love these books!
Read the reviews: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/the-number-of-love-by-roseanna-m-white
Number 4: Frenzy by Robert Liparulo
Wow. This book blew me away. The whole Dreamhouse Kings series, really. They’re very addictive all the way, but it was this climax that blew my mind. Even with the non-stop suspense, deep family relationships and the theme coming full circle was what really landed the punch. (You do need to read the first five books first, though.)
Read the review: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/dreamhouse-kings-by-robert-liparulo
Number 5: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Received this for my birthday and it quickly became my favorite book! An amazing protagonist, a vivid setting, clever allegory, creative history, and deep truth teens need to hear. I related a lot to Thomas’ relationship to his dad and left very inspired to seek truth.
Read the review: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/fawkes-by-nadine-brandes
Number 6: Romanov by Nadine Brandes
After reading Fawkes, I wasted no time tracking down Romanov. I was not disappointed. Centered in one of history’s greatest mysteries, Romanov is a heartbreaking, but whimsical read. One might even say spellbinding.
Read the review: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/romanov-by-nadine-brandes
Number 7: The Edge of Everywhen by A. S. Mackey
Previewed this middle grade novel for my siblings and was drawn in despite myself. A whimsical tale with an equally whimsical narrator (I mean, really, it’s a BOOK narrating the story. Don’t tell me you’ve ever heard of that). Full of bookish quotes, realistic discussions of grief, autism, dyslexia, and more; mysteries and libraries. All the things middle grade novels—and grown-up novels—should be made of.
Read the review here: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/the-edge-of-everywhen-by-a-s-mackey
Number 8: Dust by Kara Swanson
A long-anticipated release that did not disappoint! A creative twist on Peter Pan bursting with relatable, vibrant characters that leave you looking for magic around every corner. But it’s not all pixie dust—it also gives a new perspective on depression, anxiety, and the hope that lies ahead.
Read the review: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/dust-by-kara-swanson
Catch the cover reveal for the second book: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/shadow-cover-reveal
Number 9: The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson
This imaginative little book takes the best of both worlds—sci-fi and fantasy, real and imagined. It embraces the impossible and I couldn’t put it down. (And that ending!)
Read the review here: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/the-girl-who-could-see-by-kara-swanson
Number 10: Things We Didn't Say by Amy Lynn Green
This epistolary novel—told entirely through letters and other documentation—is full of all the vibrant voices of a small town. I loved Johanna's unique voice and related to how she felt different from everyone else, "too practical." It makes one think long after you close the book. (And the ending! There should be more! Yet it’s so true to life . . .)
Read the review: https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/things-we-didnt-say-by-amy-lynn-green
There you have it! My favorite reads of 2020 and perhaps all time! What about you? What were some of your favorites?
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!