Every year I try to identify my top 15 reads of the year. Usually I dedicate the top 10 to my best books from 2021 and the other 5 are books published in other years, but I read a few more this year that I loved that weren’t new releases. So this year I have my Top 7 reads in 2021, ordered in terms of how much I loved them:
7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
I love Lisa See’s writing and I’ve slowly been trying to make my way through her backlist books. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan seems to be the most popular of all her novels, so I decided to add it to my TBR for this year. Like her other books, I ended up loving it. It’s a hard read about the Chinese culture of foot binding, but it’s about so much more than that. More accurately, it’s about women’s culture and the friendship and comradery that develops between two girls that come from different socio-economic backgrounds, but grow up together and develop a strong bond.
6. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
We Are Okay is from another repeat author, Nina LaCour. This is only my second book by her (although arguably her most popular) and I really liked it. It’s a young adult/new adult book about a young girl named Marin starting University after the loss of her grandfather. It’s a simple book about guilt, grief, and friendship. It has a small setting, which the author uses to explore the impacts of grief while we learn more of Marin’s backstory. LaCour is a wonderful writer and I really appreciated the hard honesty in her storytelling.
5. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Brooklyn is a rare book that I read after seeing the movie. I loved the movie and didn’t expect that I would like the book quite as much, but fortunately, I did! It differs a little bit from the movie, but mostly I just think this is a timeless tale of what it means to leave home. The tenderness you feel for it, the pain of saying goodbye to your loved ones, and the conflict you feel when you develop those same feelings of love for a new place and new people. I loved both the book and the movie and you can’t go wrong with either one!
4. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
A Curious Beginning is the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series, a historical mystery set in London in the late 1800’s that captured my heart this year. It’s been on my TBR for a long time and I flew through the first 5 books in 2021. Veronica Speedwell is such a fun character and I love how the author blends so many different genres in this laugh-out-loud series. I debated stopping after book 5, but I think I’m going to continue on and read the next 2 books in 2022.
3. In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott
This is another book that was on my TBR for a while that I read in 2021 with my book club. It’s a memoir about healing from addiction and trauma that is incredibly impactful. Helen Knott has experienced years of multi-generational trauma, racism, and sexual violence that leaves her addicted to alcohol and drugs, before finally finding the help she needs to heal her spirit. This is a book that matters because Knott is incredibly honest in her storytelling and highlights that she shares her story predominantly for other indigenous women.
2. Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
I haven’t seen a lot of press about this book, but it is so deserving. Elatsoe is a debut novel from Lipan Apache writer Darcie Little Badger. It’s an excellent blend of genres: mystery, fantasy, and young adult, that feels like the most wonderfully wholesome read. It reads a bit more like middle grade to me, but it features teen Elatsoe, who is investigating the suspicious death of her cousin. It blends traditional Lipan Apache myth with fantastical elements and makes for such a fun book!
1. The Wild Heavens by Sarah Louise Butler
The Wild Heavens was one of my first reads of 2021 and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s a character driven story set in remote British Columbia and has the most atmospheric mood throughout the book. It evokes similar feelings to my top pick from my other 2021 list, Once There Were Wolves, as well as other favourites like The Great Alone, so I’m not surprised I loved it. I love remote settings, character driven stories, and local authors, so this was a slam dunk. Intriguingly, Bigfoot is featured in this book, but it’s primarily a book about growing up and growing old – those that we’ve loved and lost and how they influence our lives.