Top 10 Books I Read in the First Half of 2021

Best Books I Read in 2021

The ten best books I’ve read so far in 2021! Tell me what your favorite books have been so far this year in the comments!

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts #1) by Akemi Dawn Bowman

The Infinity Courts is a spellbinding story about death, family, and fighting for what you believe it is right. While books about artificial intelligence and questions about what it means to be “real” and whether it’s wrong to hurt or kill an AI have obviously been done before, Bowman brings heart and creativity to the questions and lets readers seem them through the eyes of protagonist Nami. Readers will be as torn as she is, wondering if humans and an out-of-control AI can learn to coexist and what it means ethically to decide they cannot. The result is a captivating book that will have readers glued to the pages for the plot even as they ponder some of the big questions of life. (Or, er, of death?)

Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe

I have my review for this scheduled closed to the release date in October, but you can read Krysta’s review linked above. Both of us thought the book was excellent — creative, atmospheric, with a nice touch of inspiration from Shakespeare even though the story stands quite on its own.

Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien edited by Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan

Overall, this collection is essential reading for anyone who loves Tolkien, and it will provide some eye-opening arguments for anyone who thinks Tolkien’s women are flat or his portrayals are sexist. The authors consistently offer evidence that while, of course, Tolkien would not have held the views of a 21st-century feminist, the women in his books are nuanced and powerful and generally subvert gender expectations rather than fulfill them. Tolkien was also a champion of women academics in his personal life, and we have no evidence to suggest he didn’t like or respect women.

Belinda by Maria Edgeworth

Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda is an exciting Regency-era novel that throws scandalous characters together with kindhearted ones to tell a story that ultimately brings most characters their happily-ever-after (or, in some cases, their just desserts!).

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Belinda, my knowledge of this time period, of course, being dominated by Jane Austen novels. I was startled to discover a novel that, at times, is a bit wild and over-the-top, with women challenging each other to duels and people playing scary pranks and all kinds of things. I had this vague idea I would be reading about balls and matrimonial maneuverings, and while those are part of the novel, their presence doesn’t make the book staid.

Speak for Yourself by Lana Wood Johnson

Speak for Yourself is a gripping novel that combines academic competition, app creation, and a hint of romance to create a story that will have readers cheering on Skylar page after page. I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, but I loved this one, as well as how Johnson really seems to capture the lives of today’s teens.

The Theft of Sunlight (Dauntless Path #2) by Intisar Khanani

Intisar Khanani’s Thorn was one of my favorite books of 2020, so it was with great enthusiasm that I picked up The Theft of Sunlight to read more of Khanani’s work. Not only does the book deliver an engaging story with a sweet developing romance and a protagonist that had me admiring both her kindness and her sass, but it also tackles one of the threads I thought was bizarrely left hanging in Thorn: the fact that dozens of children are being snatched from the street each month.

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

I still have to officially write my review of this one, but it’s engrossing and imaginative, and I love how the main character goes from off-putting to sympathetic — and also her magical powers are still so unexplored, with so much potential! Novik grips me with everything she writes, and this is no exception.

Rhythm of War (Stormlight Archive #4) by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War is one of those books I feel are almost not worth reviewing: it’s book 4 in a proposed 10 book series, and you’re either committed to reading the series at this point or you’re not. (Or you may not have started the series at all, but then why are you reading a review of book 4 and not book 1?) However, I can say with confidence that Rhythm of War is excellent, as complex and imaginative as the previous three books in the Stormlight Archives, yet highly readable, as all Sanderson’s book tend to be.

The Fellowship of the Ring book cover

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book, and I’m (possibly) running out of things to say about it. This may be only the fourth time I’ve read it though. I’m currently in the middle of The Two Towers, but life keeps getting in the way of finishing it!

Namesake (Fable #2) by Adrienne Young

Namesake is just such a wonderful mix of action and adventure with a bit of heart (and a lot of backstabbing and scheming and burning other people’s ships, actually…) that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who loves a good story.

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Honorable Mention: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

The miniseries is such a faithful adaptation of the book that I can hardly separate the two, and I actually think I prefer the show, but overall it is a great story.


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