ranch life

2021 Books!

Hi, friends! Happy start of 2022! I have loved reading basically since I learned to read, and have gone through some productive seasons and some lean seasons as far as reading, but one of my goals of 2021 was to read more! I set what I thought was a lofty but hopefully attainable goal of 40 books for the year, and just got going. I actually ended up hitting 50 books for the year, and I loved the vast majority of them!

I think a few factors helped facilitate more reading time- I’ve had a hard time reading a lot since becoming a mom because I couldn’t seem to adjust to just getting to read in little bits and bobs as time allowed- when I’m into a book, I generally like to just read it straight through. Also, mom brain has me forgetting what’s going on if I duck in and out too much. But, I’ve been working for the last year or so to get better at smaller, but more consistent times of reading- just 10, 15, 20 minutes before bed, at night instead of watching TV, between patients, when I’m waiting for a grocery pick up, waiting in the lobby at dance for Livy, etc. Obviously, I would love to sit and read for hours, but I’m just not in that season anymore, and reading a least a little every day still keeps me engaged in the story. I typically always read e-books checked out from the library app (or real books checked from the library if it’s something new that I really want to read but it hasn’t made it to the app yet), so having a check in/check out deadline also helps keep me on pace and moving. This past February, I put time limits/locks on my social media apps on my phone, and vowed to spend all the time I was wasting on social media reading instead. Social media has made it increasingly easier to spend less and less time there, and since I have the Kindle app on my phone that syncs with my Kindle, it’s just as easy to open a book and read a few pages as it is to open and scroll (and infinitely less maddening, I think!). And it should be said that my kids are older now than they were a year or two or three ago, and are actually in a really sweet season of liking and wanting to play together, so it’s a lot easier to have them playing together while I read and keep a supervisory ear/eye on them instead of having to really watch and keep close tabs and interact.

I know that I am always looking for recommendations for new books (and having books waiting and ready keeps your reading momentum going!), so I thought I’d share my favorites of the year today. I broke them into categories so it’s easier to tell what would be of interest. If I read it all the way through and finished it, then I would recommend it for the most part- one hard lesson I’ve learned this year is allowing myself to not finish a book if I don’t like it or am dragging through it- but I would say there are some I would definitely recommend over others. My main favorite genres are historical fiction, cozy mysteries, and rom/com fiction, but I read a little wider category wise this year thanks to some recs from other trusted sources and found some great reads!

{Click on any book cover for a link to the title on Amazon!}

Memoir/ Non-Fiction

I loved all of these for all different reasons! I’ve adored Sophie’s writing for close to ten years, and I love having her voice in my life weekly through their podcast. Of all her books, this is probably my least favorite, but still great! I adored Good Apple and it gave me so much to chew on as far as reconciling loving people vs. their beliefs and how different beliefs don’t automatically mean certain things about a person. I flew through Open Book– it was fascinating and jaw dropping at times, and I just couldn’t put it down! Greenlights was exactly what I expected- me wondering often if this was the smartest or weirdest thing ever- probably both, haha! Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was another that raised a lot of questions, especially because I buddy read it with one of my college besties so we got to discuss a lot of the points together. And lastly, we read You and Me Forever for our Side by Side Bible study group and it is truly life changing/ marriage changing- I would highly recommend for all married couples.

Favorite Memoir: Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella- Elizabeth has a fantastic way of pulling readers in with some similarity/commonality (for me, it was being Southern, and being a Christian), and then dives in to what we don’t have in common and helps reconcile those, and she does it with so much humor and heart.

Honorable Mention: You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan- I truly did love this book/ study and took so much from it. Since it was “required” reading, I didn’t necessarily want to name it #1, but I still very highly recommend it!


I started and finished The Guest List on our anniversary trip at the beginning of March, and I credit it with really snowballing me into really consistently reading again. It was so engaging, and I loved how the author tied it all together in the end. I loved Foley’s other book as well, but not quite as much as The Guest List. I have read a few of Sally Hepworth’s before (The Family Next Door and The Mother in Law), and they never fail to completely blow my mind, and The Good Sister was no exception! Shari Lapena has been a much lauded social media author, but I’d say the two of hers I read were just mediocre. Not bad, but not to the caliber of the others I read, so I likely won’t read any more from her. I thought The Last Thing He Told Me was very creative and twisty, and as someone that is near-Austin, I enjoyed all the Austin references.

Favorite Thriller: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth- I read this one start to finish in less than 24 hours because I flat could not put it down and was so shocked and surprised by the ending. When people ask me for a book rec, this is one of the first I say, no question.

Honorable Mention: The Guest List by Lucy Foley- I loved all the twists and connections in this story, and the super unique setting that was like a character of its own.


The 7.5 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was creative, but took some time and I got a little bored through it. Case Histories was everything I like in a mystery- British, several intertwining stories, and a grumpy British detective, haha! The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice are a series about 4 retirees at a British countryside retirement village who like to try to solve cold cases together until 2 real life murders/ mysteries fall in their laps. These had really creative twists/turns, and so much humor that I just adored them.

Favorite Mystery: The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman- I can’t choose just one since they are a series, so I’ll name both as my fave and honorable mention! And I read recently that Spielberg has announced he is making at least one movie (possibly a series) from these, and I can’t wait!

Historical Fiction

(Fiction set in relation to a significant historical setting/ event/ person)

I think this small group holds the largest percentage of my favorites. I absolutely adored both Kate Quinn books, and Our Woman in Moscow. I Was Anastasia was one of my least favorite of the year, mostly just because of the set up of the storytelling, and because I inadvertently spoiled it for myself by reading the actual historical context, which caused my interest in the fictional telling to significantly decrease.

Favorite Historical Fiction: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn- this is such a tough race, but I think I ultimately was interested in the British history of The Rose Code just the slightest bit more than the French/ German of The Alice Network but I truly LOVED both, and think Kate Quinn is so unbelievably talented.

Honorable Mention: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Period Fiction

(A fictional story set in a time other than the present, but not tied to any particular historical event/setting/ person)

Both Patchett books were unique and I loved the real feeling of all the family dynamics she described. The two by Taylor Jenkins Reid were fine, but I felt like they were over-hyped- I got too far into them to quit, but they weren’t my favorites by a long shot. The Girls in the Stilt House was part heart-breaking, part redemptive, and very Where The Crawdads Sing– esque. I overall enjoyed The Giver of Stars but it did feel like it took a long time to get through. And I loved Summer of ’69! I love how Elin Hilderbrand weaves together several stories of members of large families, and this one set under the backdrop of the Vietnam War was interesting!

Favorite Period Fiction: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett- something about this unique family, and the overall premise of the book just really caught my attention and had me thinking about it for a while afterward.

Honorable Mention: Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand- I really love how Elin Hilderbrand can create a really flawed character (or characters) that you still really want to root for. All of her books are this way, but I loved the addition of historical context.

Chick Lit/ Rom Com Fiction

There is not a bad one in the bunch of these, and I loved them all so choosing a favorite was really hard! They all had great romantic relationships, fun settings, interesting plot twists, and humor.

Favorite Chick Lit/Rom Com: The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan- I am a HUGE British history/ Royals fan, so essentially William and Kate fan fiction?? Absolutely! I loved the first book in this series, and the sequel did not disappoint!

Honorable Mention: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren- this was cute and a little quirkier and funnier than just the typical “they hate each other because they secretly love each other” romance.

General Fiction

These run from one complete end of the spectrum to the other with some (American Dirt, It Ends with Us, and The Paper Palace) being absolutely devastating, to completely hilarious (all three by Laurie Gelman), to somewhere in between (The Husbands and Where the Grass is Green and the Girls are Pretty). They all left me with a lot to think about and contemplate, and laugh about later (seriously could not be any funnier than Laurie Gelman!).

Favorite General Fiction: Class Mom/ You’ve Been Volunteered/ Yoga Pant Nation– Laurie Gelman- these are hands down one of my favorite finds of 2021 and I don’t know how many times I laughed out loud reading them (and I couldn’t pick just one since it’s a series!). If you are a mom, especially a mom with kids in school, you will find these so relatable. I started these right as our first year of preschool with Livy started, so we are just on the cusp of a lot of these situations, and I just really enjoyed the humorous take on them!

Fantasy/ Sci Fi

All of these were so creative and interesting! I don’t know how Erin Morgenstern keeps up with allllllll the craziness going on, but she has the biggest imagination, as evidenced with The Starless Sea! The Midnight Library, The Dinner List, and In Five Years were creative in that they were mainly rooted in reality with just a touch of magic. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue combined the fantasy aspect with one of my favorite genres- historical fiction- and wrapped them together so well. And Project Hail Mary was about as far from anything I’d typically pick up- I am not a science fiction fan by any stretch of the imagination- but I loved this one!

Favorite Fantasy/ Sci FiProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir- I thought the creativity, combined with legit science research, combined with a surprising amount of humor for a science fiction “gotta save the world” kind of situation, was so good!

Honorable MentionIn Five Years by Rebecca Serle- the premise of this really caught my attention- where do you want to be in five years, and if you don’t end up where you anticipated, is it because things went wrong, or just differently? I liked this better than her other book because it was slightly more believable in the fantasy aspect, and I felt more invested in the main character.

And those were all my 2021 books with a few picked out as favorites! There’s no way I could pick an overall favorite- they are all so different and I don’t feel like it’s a fair comparison. But I hope you found some new suggestions if you are a reader! My goal for 2022 is 60 books– let’s get reading!

Linked with Jana Says for Show Us Your Books!

8 thoughts on “2021 Books!

  1. There are some terrific books on here that have made favorite lists for me as well.

    It is just as easy to spend scrolling time reading. I wish everyone knew that! It’s also a nice way to shut off the world which we all really need to do sometimes.

    1. Absolutely! I found this year that it was much more relaxing to get lost in a book than caught up in the real life social media drama! My blood pressure is thanking me, haha! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. You read some really great books this year! I loved TJR’s Evelyn and Malibu Rising. I really enjoyed Lucy Foley’s two mysteries, too. I clearly need to get on the Thursday Murder Club train because everyone is talking about it!

  3. Project Hail Mary was my best book for 2021! I did gloss over the science-y bits a little, but the story just felt so satisfying. Anyway, what a great list here. Thanks for sharing!

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