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My 2021 in books: Top 5 and least favourite

My reading goal for 2021 was 80 books. I read 91!

According to Goodreads, that’s 32,957 book pages. At an average reading rate, that’s about 1098 hours, which translates to just under 46 days of pure book bliss.

Okay, disclaimer, I audiobook. A lot.

Now, some of those books were read the old fashioned, page turning way, but the vast majority were listened to.

And...if we’re splitting hairs, reading with our ears is even more old fashioned than reading with our eyeballs, if we consider that oral storytelling was a thing long before characters on pages came to life. I’m not going to claim that listening to books is the exact same as devouring them through the magic that is sight, but I’m still going to call it reading.

There, my gauntlet is thrown.

ANYWAYS, just in case someone may be interested in some of the stories I crammed into my head in 2021...

Here are my top five reads from this past year, in no particular order of reverence as they are all stellar:

  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller

  • Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad

  • The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

If someone asked me what my favourite, go-to series is, I’d immediately say fantasy. Indeed, when I daydream books of my own, I imagine swords and medieval-style existences. However, despite reading a lot of lovely fantasy books this past year, I most enjoyed the memoir, self-development and sci-fi genres in 2021.

It seems that I like opportunities to think and be told, oftentimes in heart-wrenching, beautiful prose, about the incredible achievements and perseverance of people, like in the case of Know My Name and Between Two Kingdoms. I also appreciate when I’m taught something, or have my horizons broadened, which is why The Defining Decade and Big Magic resonated so strongly with me this year. As for sci-fi, a lot of those stories just blow my mind, the world building and imagination interwoven into the stories but with a smack of science is something I’ve been enamoured with in recent months. Also, if there’s a funny A.I. personality or sarcastic robot, I’m sold.

In deference to my love of fantasy however:

My favourite fantasy book read of 2021 was: The House Of Always by Jenn Lyons (book four of the Chorus Of Dragons series).

It’s a fantastically complex and dynamic story that dances through writing tenses, character perspectives, epic battles, unique magics and rules, gorgeous scenes, flawed protagonists, aqueous timelines, gods and goddesses, behemoth dragons, romance, fluid gender identities and roles (the first fantasy series I’ve read that presents it so well, in my opinion) and much more. There’s a lot packed into it!


My favourite series of 2021: The Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson

I adore these books! The last vestiges of humanity is trapped on a desolate planet and required to maintain an air force to repel alien insurgencies. The protagonist is a spunky, fire-hearted teenage girl named Spensa who’s a bit of an outcast, but she finds her place eventually as a pilot. As the story unfurls, you fall in love with the characters, the friendships, a hilarious A.I. named M-Bot, the dramatic battles in the sky and you’re increasingly curious why humanity is so persecuted and what answers exist out in the stars.

For those interested here are my thoughts on my top five reads from 2021

Know My Name by Chanel Miller / m e m o i r

Here’s the link to my Goodreads review

This is a deeply beautiful yet horrific book. Chanel Miller is the survivor behind the “Jane Doe” name the media gave her in the aftermath of her assault by Brock Turner. Rather than focusing on his inexcusable actions, the world knew him as a talented Stanford University swimmer brought low, and rather than being protected and supported Miller was most commonly vilified. She’s a brilliant writer and this book is more than her perseverance story, it’s a societal commentary on rape culture, how women, or really anyone who doesn’t resemble the white man, exist in a space of constant threat analysis and varying levels of fear. I was left speechless by this book. It’s a heavy read, but in my opinion, it’s an essential, exquisite story of overcoming, healing, living and hope.

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad / m e m o i r

Here’s the link to my Goodreads review

Speaking of hope, Between Two Kingdoms is another gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous book about a young woman living through her seemingly terminal leukemia. Suleika Jaouad is another magnificent writer and hers is an incredible story of enduring and memory-making despite a cruel disease. While fighting leukemia in her early 20s, she writes a column for the New York Times about it and her trials with isolation. The column connects with thousands of readers and when she’s in remission (no easy feat) she embarks on a cross-country trip to visit a handful of the people who reached out to her to express their own stories that interweave with her experiences. It’s a story of love, forgiveness, the beauty of life, the hollow points when we’re alone and scared, and the decisions we make to keep fighting.

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay / s e l f d e v e l o p m e n t

Here’s the link to my Goodreads review

I unequivocally recommend this book to every person between the ages of 20 and 35. It’s a massive eye opener, to the point of being uncomfortable. Meg Jay has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and in gender studies, and her book is comprised of conversations and lessons her clients have had and shared with her. It’s about the decision-making quagmire that a lot of 20 somethings feel stuck in, the sense that we should use our 20s to “live life to the fullest” yet simultaneously be plodding along on a stable, fruitful career, starting to settle down, but also playing the field, but don’t forget about getting married and having kids soon, travelling the world, yet also buying a home... *stress spiking dramatically* For me, I was made aware of some massive analysis paralysis issues and I felt heard when seeing some of my own fear mirrored in other 20 somethings’ lives, and I started considering different paths for myself. The book is designed as an electric zap to have you question things you’ve let settle into place, or haven’t taken steps towards, and whether that’s a good idea.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir / s c i – f i

Did you like the movie/book The Martian? With Matt Damon? Well, this is written by the same author and it’s FUNNY! Yet also concurrently heart-warming and heart wrenching. The world is going to end due to a sort of space algae and Earth’s survival ends up landing, not by design, on the shoulders of one hilarious, yet scared out of his wits, man. Surprisingly, it’s a story of a beautiful friendship, humanity, generosity, bravery and cowardice. I devoured this book, it had me laughing and crying and then recommending it to anyone who’d listen.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert / s e l f – d e v e l o p m e n t

I talked about this book for weeks after I finished it. For the creative or entrepreneurial sorts out there, or entrepreneurial creatives, this book is zesty and honest and was required reading for me in the middle of a stagnant point in my artistic journey and career. In it, creativity takes on a sort of persona, allowing you to consider it, your creativity, as an entity to be protected and valued. Gilbert holds no punches when it comes to discussing the realities of living as a creative, whichever muse you follow. I felt buoyed by this book, filling stickie notes, then my studio walls, with excerpts that had me making some big magic decisions for my own life.

Now...were there any disappointing reads? For sure. Here’s my top one:

Flames Of Chaos by Amelia Hutchins / f a n t a s y – r o m a n c e

Here’s the link to my Goodreads review

According to reviews, people LOOOOOVE this book. It was widely recommended to me, so in a moment of weakness, I acquiesced...and regretted it. For those who love this book, awesome, it’s just not my piece of cake. Frankly, I found it disturbing, creepy, ridiculous (not in a good way), and in desperate need of a huge list of trigger warnings at its beginning. My general thought throughout the book was: ew. It’s got a gross coveted virginity trope and high-key sexual assault and rape theme throughout the whole thing. Totally was not worth the curiosity satisfaction.

That concludes my *cough* brief *cough* overview of my fave and not so fave reads from 2021!

My reading goal for 2022? 100 books. I’m 15 books in so far. Yikes.

Want to follow along? If you have Goodreads, we should be friends! (My username is hannahventure)

If not, I post occasionally about the books I’m reading through my Instagram stories, head to my “books” highlight to see a snapshot of some of the titles I’ve sampled.

See my Instagram books highlight here!

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