my 2021 bookshelf || the best books of the year || life & literature ep. 10

2021 can be marked as the year I fell in love with reading again – the year I realised how much impact books can have on your life. From setting myself a goal of reading 70 books earlier this year to actually finishing all those books well I’m still reading the last one, but there’s time I’ve enjoyed the entire process of reading them.

It actually started with my Cassandra Clare obsession in late 2020 – where I binge-read the entire Mortal Instruments series. I remember being in my grandmother’s house and just reading all. day. long. By early January, I’d finished the series and started on the other three trilogies and was done by the end of February.

It sort of marked the beginning of new reading ‘era’ for me – after my middle-grade fantasy phase and I have read so many good books this year. Obviously, credits to all the book bloggers out there who put out amazing recommendations, and thank you to Goodreads and StoryGraph for all the stats.

I won’t be able to mention all 70 books I read this year, but I will be mentioning the biggest surprises, some books that literally changed the way I look at things, and books I absolutely adore. Let’s get to it!

(You can also check out some of the books I reviewed here because I won’t be mentioning them again:

click here to see all the books i read📚

The first book I want to mention from earlier this year is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It’s one of my all-time favourite novels, and it’s a book about books. I found this book from @myyafictionaddiction on Instagram and this has to have been one of the best I’ve read this year.

“Although you may forget me in the course of time, one day I hope you understand how much I loved you.”

Set in Barcelona, Spain, it starts with a boy, Daniel whose father is showing him a secret library and he goes on to find this book called The Shadow of the Wind. It’s one of the only copies of the book – and he tries to find others, but he can’t seem to. I read this very early this year, but I still remember every moment.

It’s a mystery and he dedicates his life to finding more about the author – Julian Carax. When Daniel does, the book sort of cascades into a story with a bit from the past and his life begins to parallel that of Julian’s. It’s absolutely magical and worth every page – every minute spent reading it. 💖

The Fault In Our Stars Paperback
“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”

Call me hackneyed for mentioning this yet again, but I’m still not over The Fault in our Stars. For those few of you who haven’t had the opportunity to read this masterpiece yet, it’s a story of two cancer patients – Hazel Grace and Augustus.

It’s about so many different things: knowing what is right for you, living when you might die any day. There are the smallest of things John Green pays attention to – the things which make this book so beautiful. It’s a contemporary romance novel that discusses so many important aspects of our lives.

Of course, I can’t say much without spoiling it, but you’ll break down at the end 😭 (unless you’re one of those heartless souls who drop bad reviews on Goodreads.)

Salt to the Sea
I wept because I had no shoes
until I met a man who had no feet.

This is a slightly lesser-known novel and so is the incident it’s based on. The Titanic and the Lusitania both are well-documented disasters but this book chronicles the sinking of a different ship: the Wilhelm Gustloff. It’s historical war fiction, and though there are a few things I’d change about this, I loved it. 🚢

The writing style makes you fall in love with all the characters and when some of them meet their end in the torpedo, it really hurts. It was also a very educational read – from the Nazi backstory to the actual sinking.

One thing I would have liked in this book was longer chapters. Of course, the fact that the chapters are so short makes it easy to read, but slightly harder to connect with the characters on an emotional level.

There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things.

Earlier this month, I went on a Colleen Hoover binge starting with this book. I sped through it, forgetting everything else, and when I finally finished it, let me tell you I was mind-blown. I read this really early this year, too.

There are so many books that romanticize abuse and misunderstandings and sexism but this isn’t one of them. This is perhaps the polar opposite of that. This might even have been a four-star book, but that author’s note changed my mind completely. 💘

The book is about Lily, our protagonist, whom we learn about gradually as the story progresses. We see snippets of her past and how she became who she is now and who her parents were.

Letting people love you and care for you is part of how you love and care for them.

Malibu Rising is another book I read recently because of its nomination in the Goodreads Choice Awards. And let me tell you, it deserved every single vote it got.

This is my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book and she’s well known for her other works (Daisy Jones & the Six, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) and this was released earlier this year. It is also a work of historical fiction about four siblings: each of whom have secrets they’re hiding, but mostly trying to survive. And there’s a lot of surfing because it’s Malibu.🏄

The concept of the story is interesting and it had me hooked but what I loved most was their parents’ past and how they came to be. And how much I detested their father for leaving their mother (twice) but that’s another story. The ending was so beautiful.

Make yourself a myth and live within it, so that you belong to no one but yourself.

The next book I want to mention here is part of a series – a brilliant representation of so many wonderful cultures and exquisite characters.

The Gilded Wolves is a trilogy (think Six of Crows meets Mission Impossible) based on a group of teens in 19th-century France. The leader, (well, sort of) Severin, has been asked to go on a mission seeking this artefact and to help him, he calls upon six of his associates to help him.

And that’s the interesting part. All of the characters. Each of them has their own backstory which makes everything so much more intriguing and not only that: they each have their own fears and misbeliefs and desires which makes them all so fleshed-out. Definitely worth a read!

“People don’t change. They just get better at hiding who they really are.” (I did. I like crime now.)

This has to be one of my favourite YA thrillers simply because of the style it’s been written in. Sadie has chapters alternating between the protagonist, Sadie’s point of view and a true-crime podcast about Sadie’s disappearance. 🕵️

It’s probably one of the best ideas I’ve ever come across because I listened to the podcast chapters via audiobook and I read the first-person chapters which enhanced the whole mystery idea itself.

It’s very fast-paced and if you need something to keep you on your toes, I definitely recommend this one! It’sabsoletly riveting and though there were a few things I’d have changed, I loved it overall. (Here’s the audiobook on Spotify if you want to listen to it.)

“Yeah, but broken isn’t the same as unfixable.”

Winter is the last of the Lunar Chronicles – a borderline middle-grade series set in futuristic earth. It’s primarily sci-fi, but there are a few fantasy elements in it, and this whole series was wonderful. It’s about the Lunar queen who colonized the moon, trying to do the same to Earth and the concept was fresh.

Think the Avengers but they can hack computer systems and the banter is a lot funnier than just “lAnGuAgE, tOnY.”

The entire series is also based off of fairy tales in a subtle way – they have a twist at the end or even in the middle. 👸🏿 For example, Winter, the last book in the series, is based on Snow White, but the witch is the Lunar Queen, and the “woodcutter” ends up with Winter. It’s a whirlwind of a series and if you like fairy tales or science fiction, I say go for it!

“Love makes us such fools”

It was very, very very hard for me to narrow down to one book I loved the most, so I won’t. But if I had to pick, I would, very reluctantly, choose this masterpiece that is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. It blew my mind and I could not do anything but read the whole thing over again when I finished this.

Ava Lavender – a girl born with wings – tells the story of her grandmother’s life, her mother’s life and then finally comes down to hers. It’s all written so beautifully I barely even realised I finished an entire novel when I turned on to the last page. It had me hooked throughout. In fact, I think the entire concept of the story was magical. 💗

And those are some of the best books I read in 2021! Once again, you can check them all out here (all 70 of them) and I hope you enjoyed reading this! As a side note, it took everything in me to not mention every single Colleen Hoover book I read because her books are quite literally something else. There’s some sort of magic laced in them (even though all of them are contemporary novels, but hey.) And this also happens to be my last Life & Literature post (we reached ten?!)

All in all, 2021 was a great year reading-wise and I’ll be posting my year-in-review by mid-January! Stay safe and I hope you had wonderful Christmas and vacation. Sending you love & light 💖


Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you’ve read this year – or top three… and what new releases are you excited for next year? Tell me in the comments! Until next time xx

41 thoughts on “my 2021 bookshelf || the best books of the year || life & literature ep. 10

  1. What a coincidence but I started reading The Mortal Instruments in late 2020 too! (October maybe) Binge Reading Cassandra Clare made me fell in love with reading all over again!! Great post Maya!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 2021 really slipped away into a moment of time! TFIOS is a rollercoaster… I binge-read all of John Green’s books this year and each were absolutely remarkable ❤
    I have a lot about Malibu Rising, hope to read it soon 🙂
    Wishing you a very happy new year, Maya! 🥂🎉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can’t believe it’s the end of the year already! The Gilded Wolves and the Lunar Chronicles have been on my tbr list for quite a while, and now I’m considering Malibu Rising too! Sadly, I didn’t read much this year😔but I think The Cat Who Saved Books tops my list. A very light book indeed!
    Great post, and looking forward to the next one!
    Wishing you a very happy new year filled with books!🎉🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t believe it’s the end of the year already! The Gilded Wolves and the Lunar Chronicles have been on my tbr list for quite a while! I’m now considering Malibu Rising too!😄
    Sadly, I wasn’t able to read much this year😔 but I think The Cat Who Saved Books topped my list this year. A light read, indeed!
    Great post, and eagerly looking forward to the next one! Wishing you a great new year filled with books!🎉🎉

    P.S: Can’t wait for more updates on your book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ooh I’m really happy that you liked the fault in our stars, it wasn’t my cup of tea but I’m so glad you loved it! And ahh salt to the sea has been on my TBR ever since I read between shades of gray,I seriously have to pick it up! ANDD YES WINTERRR ONE OF THE BEST FINALES EVER! 😭😭😭

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love Cassandra Clare’s books so much!! I’m rereading The Infernal Devices right now for probably the first time in five years, and oh my gosh I forgot how much I love them. Out of this list, I’ve read only Salt to the Sea and Winter. Based on your descriptions of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and Malibu Rising (which i’ve heard a lot of hype about), I’m really interested in reading those now, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. AAAAAA its been so long since i visited ur blog im so sorry!!<33

    ""Think the Avengers but they can hack computer systems and the banter is a lot funnier than just “lAnGuAgE, tOnY.”"

    WHy is this so funny and accurate help
    I also loved Sadie and Malibu Rising both made me ugly cry 😭
    Happy 2022❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It looks like you had a fantastic reading year! I can remember bingeing all of Clare’s books, but it’s been a few years now. I hope 2022 brings you lots of great books and joy!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve read some John Green and Colleen Hoover and they are great 🙂 Also read a book by Taylor Jenkins Reid and since you mentioned Malibu Rising in your top reads for last year, I’ll try to read it soon. Also intrigued by that book with the girls with wings. I’d read another post about it but now I’ll put it on my TBR list. Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ahhh maya, this post is so amazing, i loved reading it! i haven’t read any of these books but THEY’RE ALL GOING STRAIGHT ONTO MY TBR! Especially The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender sounds so good??!! And i am trash when it comes to blue and yellow covers, I JUST LOVE THEM TOO MUCH. And The Shadow of the Wind sounds great too, I am always up for books featuring books! Thanks so much for the list! Here’s to an amazing 2022 filled with loads of new favorites! ❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

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