My Favorite Books of 2021


Susie Anderson

From classics to biographies to children’s literature, my tastes ranged throughout the year.

Susie Anderson, Contributing Writer

Amidst the craziness of last year, I found a singular certainty in the books that I read. Following narratives across genres offered a much-needed escape from reality and allowed me to enjoy a few exceptional stories. Of the 36 books that I read in 2021, here are my favorites:


If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

Published: 1974

Genre: Romance


This love story, set in Harlem in the 1970s, traces the relationship between 19-year-old Tish and 22-year-old Fonny with themes of racial injustice, familial ties, and perseverance. Tish and Fonny’s relationship is tested when Fonny is arrested under false accusations of a terrible crime and a pregnant Tish feels pressure from all directions as she faces an uncertain future for herself and family.

 I fell in love with Baldwin’s presentation of love as an emotion that can suffocate just as easily as it can free. Each character possessed clear motives and attachments, contributing to the incredible, heart wrenching tale. I was reassured by the author’s depiction of a multi-dimensional female protagonist, powerful and courageous in the face of tragedy and uncertainty. 


I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian Reid 

Published: 2016

Genre: Psychological thriller, horror

While uncertain about her relationship with her boyfriend, a young woman agrees to take a road trip with him and meet his parents. As the evening progresses, the narrator’s apprehension only intensifies.

The second I turned the last page of this book, I was so shaken that I rushed to the library and dumped it in the return box. A champion of the “thriller” genre, this book elicited anticipation, anxiety, and many “Wait, what?” moments that kept me engaged throughout reading. Reid’s talent in using simple sentences to paint an increasingly eerie atmosphere that made for a truly finger-nail-biting book. Even though I lack substantial experience with horror stories, I can wholeheartedly say that this book walked the line between reality and nightmare masterfully. Short enough to be a single-day read, this book is sure to cause confusion, chills, and perhaps endure a dramatic throw across the room.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Published: 2012

Genre: Thriller

Nick Dunne returns home to his rented McMansion in North Carthage, Missouri to find his beautiful and clever wife Amy is missing. Thrusted under the spotlight of suspicion surrounding her disappearance, Nick pieces together the fate of his seemingly perfect wife.

The twists within this story pulled the rug out from under my feet, and I fell for it time and time again. Flynn’s meticulous detail and imagery in all things fascinating and grotesque added to the precision and intensity of the plot. I found myself sinking into the storyline and falling into the same traps as the characters. Trying to stay on guard against unreliable narration proved futile, yet made the revelation all the more satisfying. 


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Published: 2018

Genre: Mystery, Bildungsroman

Set in a two-part timeline, the story traces the ups and downs of Kya’s life in the North Carolina marsh between 1952 and 1969, marked by loneliness as well as hope. Her adolescent journey is intertwined with the investigation into the murder of Chase Andrews, a popular boy from a nearby town. The tale involves romance, mystery, and murder amidst a beautiful backdrop of the south.

As I read this book over April break, just as the air began to warm and light stretched into evenings, Owens’s vivid imagery transported me to the Outer Banks alongside Kya. I was particularly drawn to the emphasis on life science and wildlife, depicting the natural world through graceful language. Junior Lauren Brockwell shared, “I haven’t read a book in a long time that has been so interesting and has moved me like where the crawdads sing. This book is amazing and definitely my new favorite novel.” 


Honorable mentions: Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World of Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown, and Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Sophomore Lily Samoska said that “One of my favorite books this year was Daisy Jones and The Six. The interview style of the book made reading it fly by.”

Looking back on the fantastic books that I read last year, I look forward to journeying into new genres and authors in the new year.