This is hardly an original thought, but it feels especially surreal to me that 2021 has already passed us by. I’m not sure I like how much recent events have me being hyper-conscious of the passage of each year. It’s certainly been an eventful year personally, however, with some significant life changes. My second job, which has me doing a fair amount of freelance editing on a regular basis, is giving me a lot of valuable experience, but reading lagged behind as a result too.
Nevertheless, I can still look back at the year and consider, as I do every year, my top five books among all that I read. This is not ranked in any particular order, these are just my five favourite reads from 2021.
The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule
An exciting new era in history of Star Wars, set 200 years before the start of the Skywalker Saga, I really loved the way that this book dove into the the time period with its myriad of compelling new characters, both heroes and villains. Though I’ve not kept up with new material throughout the year like I would have hoped, this was nevertheless a fantastic start. Some of what I’ve enjoyed most so far is actually the world-building, with even just this novel giving nuanced details about what it is like to be a Jedi within the Order, details which were sadly lacking from the prequel films, as well as the different perspectives people have on their respective connections to the Force.
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
It’s a little hard to believe that one of my favourite books from the year was a Christmas novel, but that’s the power of Terry Pratchett, I suppose. Though I read several books from the Discworld series every year, they don’t always find their way onto this list. This year it was easy, however, as Pratchett created a beautiful holiday tale not just about the power of belief in general, but its vital importance to human experience, as the Grim Reaper himself endeavours to keep belief in his world’s Santa Claus (the Hogfather) alive.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
I don’t always fall in love with classic novels, and I’m not sure I can say so with certainty in the case of this book, but there is no denying just how fantastic a piece of literature this is. It’s a phenomenally effective antiwar novel, with a particular moment that is perhaps not the most standout passage in the whole novel, but is nevertheless seared into my brain. Dry and darkly humorous, it was a sincere and surreal meditation on life that I could honestly see myself revisiting sooner rather than later, and I don’t often reread books.
Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
I’d been a fan of the author prior to the book’s release for her work as a video essayist online, so I initially bought the book more out of curious obligation. Though I didn’t expect anything bad from it, I did not anticipate just how much I would end up loving the book. It’s by no means perfect, but the relationship between the main character and the alien for whom she serves as translator resonated with me deeply; it’s transition from cold and practical to something more emotionally intimate was really affecting. On top of that, the story around these characters was a fascinating examination of the implications of contact with advanced alien life, especially on an existential level. I look forward to reading the recently released sequel this year.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
To be honest, if I bothered with ranking, this novel would be an easy pick for number one, so this is perhaps my unofficial #1 for the the year. When looking back at everything I read in the year, there was no question that this book would be on this list. If I’d already populated it with five books before I remembered it, I’d have bumped one. It was simply a fantastically moving romance novel, a genre a little outside of my personal wheelhouse, that was also an exceptional fictionalization of Greek mythology. Miller sets the bar so high with her novels in this respect especially, and I hope the other books that have come out that seem to follow her example measure up.
I hope you enjoyed this year’s list. Let’s all look forward to another year of great books. If you’ve got any favourites of your own from the year, I’d love to read about them in the comments. Thank you for reading!