Andrew J Brandt
Top 10 Books of 2021 - Part 1
This list is purely and completely subjective to not only my own tastes as a reader, but also simply what I was subjected to during this last year. My biggest fear is that I have somehow missed something huge that came out throughout the previous year, and I was too stuck in my own lane, with my head down, to notice it. That said, even though this is my list, it’s also a welcome mat, a call-to-arms, an opening to a dialogue. I want to know what are the best things you’ve read this year, and what I should look for in the coming year.
Also, I have split this list into two separate posts, so in this one you get 10-6.
Also, also: Click on either the title or the book cover to take you to a Bookshop.org listing for each one. Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local and independent bookstores like Burrowing Owl. They also have an affiliate program which pays affiliates (like me!) 10% commission on any book sale made through the site.
Without further ado, here is my list: the 10 best books of 2021, according to me.
10. Later by Stephen King (Released 2 March 2021)
Later is the first of two releases this year by Mr. King, and it’s the shorter of the two. Released under the Hard Case Crime banner, the book has some crime elements, but it’s very much a horror novel. In Later, we follow Jamie Conklin, a teenager who wants very much to be normal, except for one thing: he can see ghosts. And they, in return, can see him. When his mother, who is a literary agent for a huge-name author. When said author dies, Jamie has to communicate with the dead author so his mother can write the final novel and save them from financial ruin. The book is a mish-mash of several different genres, and reads a lot like Holden Caulfield-meets-The Sixth Sense. Nonetheless, at 250 pages, it was a brisk, exigent read and a great entry into King’s oeuvre.
9. Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (Released 5 Jan 2021)
This is the book to kick off a new era in Star Wars storytelling, and it does so in a fresh and exciting way. Charles Soule starts the novel — and the era — not with a superweapon that is common in this universe, but a catastrophe: when a passenger ship breaks apart in hyperspace, its remnants begin raining down on unsuspecting planets, putting the lives of billions at risk. In come the Jedi, the guardians of peace and justice in the Galactic Republic, to rescue those in the path of the ship’s remnants. Taking place 200 years before Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star, this is an era in the history of the Star Wars galaxy that hasn’t had its story told yet, and Soule does an incredible job of balancing dozens of characters to set up this project. We get space pirates, Jedi, and a new and original bad guy (that isn’t a Sith Lord!) All in all, it’s refreshing and fun and reminded me of why I fell in love with Star Wars as a kid.
8. Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano (Released 2 Feb 2021)
This mystery novel about a struggling and newly-single author Finlay Donovan is both hilarious and hair-raising. The hijinks — like sending her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head — and the mysteries kept me turning the page to see how it all would end. When Finlay is overheard discussing her next novel with her agent, she’s mistaken as a contract killer. Desperate for money, she looks into the job and gets caught up in things that are way over her head. With the help of her kids’ babysitter, Vero, Finlay has to weave through a world of dead guys, hot cops and the Russian mob — all while making sure her next novel is sent off in time! Elle Cosimano is great at mixing exigency with humor, and there were so many times that I couldn’t stop laughing, while at the same time shaking my head, wondering how Finlay Donovan would survive or stay out of jail. I’ve already read the next book in the series, due out in 2022, and I can say that Finlay Donovan may not be killing it — but Elle Cosimano definitely is!
7. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (Released 11 May 2021)
Emily Henry’s 2021 release is the first romance novel on my list, and was such a joy to read. Like a wine spritzer on a warm summer evening, it was sweet, bubbly and I wanted more. The novel follows Poppy and Alex. They have nothing in common. She’s wild and carefree, he’s a khaki-wearing bookworm. Somehow, when they met in college, sharing a ride home for the holidays, they hit it off, and are now best of friends. For most of the year they live apart, but every summer, for the last decade, they get back together to take a glorious one-week vacation together. Except, two years ago, when they ruined everything and haven’t spoken since. Stuck in a rut, Poppy hits up Alex and convinces him to take one last awesome vacation together — and Poppy has one week to fix everything and get her best friend back.
6. Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams (Released 20 July 2021)
Romance book number 2! The fourth Bromance Book Club book had me absolutely in tears — both from the humor and from the romantic plot. Adams is firing on all cylinders with this series, and each one gets better and better as we explore the love lives of the guys in the Bromance Book club. The secret book club is made up of a bunch of guys who read romance novels in order to be better men, lovers and communicators, and I love some of the meta conversations the guys have when discussing both the books and love in general. This novel follows Vlad, one of the ancilliary characters in the first three books, in his first starring role in the series. Also known as the Russian, Vlad is a hockey player who has to woo back his wife. Also, there may be a speakeasy of nothing but cheese. A cheesy speakeasy. A speakcheesy. Full of love, laughs and that happy-ever-after (“We run for grand gesture!”) I couldn’t get enough.