Thoughtful Thursday: Our favorite books of 2021

Here are our favorite books published in 2021. Hover over the cover to see who recommends each book. Click on the cover to read our review.

Please keep in mind that we did not read every SFF book published this year, so we know we’ve missed some good ones!

Please add your comments — we’d love to hear your opinions about our list and to know which were YOUR favorite books of 2021. What did we miss?

One commenter chooses a Kindle version of one of our 2021 faves or a book from our stacks.

ADULT SFF

MIDDLE GRADE / YOUNG ADULT SFF

NON-FICTION


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17 comments

  1. John Smith /

    With “The Planetbreaker’s Son,” it was great to discover the work of Nick Mamatas this past year.

    I enjoyed reading the latest collection of Junji Ito graphic-novel horror stories, “Sensor,” and there’s another recent or upcoming one that I will have to read!

    I finally read the circa 2013 graphic novel by Suehiro Maruo, “The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island,” based on a novella by Edogawa Rampo. It’s “adults-only,” so mostly it’s okay, but toward the end it gets into some things that people wouldn’t find appropriate for a general audience.

    I am about to read “The Madman’s Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts, and Other Literary Curiosities From History” by Edward Brooke-Hitching. It looks gorgeous and fascinating!

  2. I’m adding Leviathan Falls to my list as thanks to grading and holidays I didn’t get to it until yesterday. Endings are hard and these guys nailed it.

  3. M. A. Carrick’s The Mask of Mirrors was a quite pleasant read and a bit of a surprise.
    M. L. Spencer’s Dragon Mage is more of the type of fantasy I’m into these days, and was unsurprisingly among the best of the year for me.
    Although I’m very much more into the fantasy end of the SFF spectrum, Essa Hansen’s Nophek Gloss was a kick in the pants of a revelation. Loved it.

  4. Lycaon’s Fire by Jeff Schanz
    When Sorrows Cone by Seanan McGuire

  5. Because of scheduling problems, I didn’t get REVELATOR by Daryl Gregory, or MASK OF MIRRORS, by M. A Carrick on my list. Both were faves. I just finished the sequel to MASK OF MIRRORS, THE LIAR’S KNOT, and it would go on the list as well.

    And, the book I only just finished, THE HIDDEN PALACE by Helene Wecker.

  6. Paul Connelly /

    In no particular order, the best fantasy/SF novels published in 2021 that I read were Blackthorn Winter (Liz Williams), The Mask of Mirrors (M. A. Carrick), A Desolation Called Peace (Arkady Martine), Firebreak (Nicole Kornher-Stace), and The God Is Not Willing (Steven Erikson). So that’s two matches with your list. Of your others, I read and enjoyed Fugitive Telemetry and The Last Graduate but wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about them.

  7. I read Remote Control and A Psalm for the Wild-Built and loved both, and Fugitive Telemetry goes without saying at this point. A bunch of these are on my to-read list for sure, and of course, checking out your reviews means even more will go on the list. :)

  8. I didn’t want to share before I posted it on my blog (a few of my friends were curious), but my favorite (SFF) book of 2021 was “The Unbroken” by C.L. Clark. The themes of colonization, heritage, and loyalty were well-written and I’m looking forward to see how the magic system is expanded in the Book 2!

  9. Noneofyourbusiness /

    Definitely the graphic novel “Dark Matter, Vol. 1: Rebirth”, which was reworked into the awesome TV show Dark Matter. More people should get into the campaign to bring it back!: https://www.change.org/p/netflix-to-get-netflix-to-finish-the-show-dark-matter?cs_tk=Avf3-z2qFmRwANmhz2EAAXicyyvNyQEABF8BvAa3XQeO-0z9E8yMQoMyE0A%3D&utm_campaign=b277495aa9a8442ebf7886c95b9d1281&utm_content=initial_v0_3_0&utm_medium=email&utm_source=petition_signer_receipt&utm_term=cs

    Request Seasons 4 and 5 directly from Netflix: https://help.netflix.com/en/titlerequest

    And tell Amazon to pick it up: https://twitter.com/primevideouk/status/1470408178353549320

    More info on the show here: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/DarkMatter2015

    And community here: https://www.reddit.com/r/DarkMatter/

    Even if you’re a newbie, any voice added to reviving this great series would be welcome.
    .

  10. Lady Morar /

    “The Inspector General”, because Russians and satire go together.

  11. The Distinguished Professor /

    I greatly enjoyed all the characters I was introduced to in Alexander McCall Smith’s “44 Scotland Street”, especially little Bertie.

  12. Really Liked First Steps by Jeremy! So insightful!

  13. How to make an apple pie from scratch is fantastic! I have both an ebook and a printed version. Would love to win one of your other favourites!

  14. Jacob Young /

    Love the books and appreciate the giveaway keeps reading alive

  15. Mario, you win a Kindle copy of one of the books above, or a book of your choice from our stacks (if you live in the USA), or a $5 Amazon gift card.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

  16. Paul Connelly /

    Since we didn’t have a “best reads of 2021” post this year, I will mention here four excellent non-fiction books that I read in 2021 (not necessarily published then). Hope someone may read this and try one or more of these.

    Enough Already by Scott Horton is an exhaustive and dismaying history of the “War on Terror”. The author begins with Jimmy Carter’s funding of fundamentalist Islamic fighters in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s troops, and ends just prior to Joe Biden’s follow-up on Donald Trump’s commitment to get US troops out of a seemingly endless war against…fundamentalist Islamic fighters in Afghanistan. In between Horton covers our other (bipartisan) wars against Iraq, Serbia, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Mali, and Yemen, at a dizzying cost in trillions of dollars and a sickening toll in human lives shattered. Our biggest achievement, other than wrecking whole countries, seems to be creating future enemies.

    Stuart Ritchie brings us up to date on the problems bedeviling scientific research in Science Fictions, including the publish (and be cited) or perish incentives in the awarding of academic tenure and research grants, the “replication crisis” and the career disincentives for replication studies, plus political and academic bias, fraudulent research, misuse of statistics, and overhyping of results. He proposes some measures for correcting this situation that are perhaps idealistic but that should be considered seriously anyway.

    How Did Christianity Really Begin (Howard M. Teeple) is an analysis bringing in historical and archaeological evidence, dense with scriptural citations and footnotes, concerning the earliest days of the Christian religion. The author covers the basics of Biblical “higher criticism”, describes the influences on and divisions within first century Jewish society, and shows how much of what became Christian dogma arose from applying previous ideas and terminology from Jewish (and occasionally pagan) scriptures to problems that were causing dissension in early Christian communities. Teeple looks briefly at other first century Messiah figures as well as parallels to Christian beliefs in the Dead Sea Scrolls. I question a few of his assumptions, but overall this is quite persuasive.

    Middle-aged law school professor Rosa Brooks becomes a reserve police officer in Washington, DC, in Tangled Up in Blue. The book portrays her training and experiences on the street, and some of the issues that she finds relating to crime, poverty and racism. (Also, how this complicates her relationship with her longtime left-wing activist mother.) No TV-style shootouts or wild car chases, but two maybe unsurprising conclusions: too many behaviors are criminalized at too high a level of severity, and police are made to perform too many roles that are sometimes in contradiction.

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