Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

January 7, 2022

The Best Books I Read in 2021.

       My reading goal for 2021 was 40 books, and I actually exceeded it slightly and read 42 books! Read and listened to I should say, as this was the first year in many that I got back into listening to e-books.

      Looking back over my Goodreads for 2021, I was reminded that I read a lot of average books this year. In these blog posts I only recap the absolute best books of a year (ones I'd recommend to everyone), the ones that I gave five stars to on Goodreads. That was surprisingly only six books in 2021!! Three fiction and three non-fiction. I'm hoping 2022 will bring more five star reads, but for now let me recap my six favorites of last year: 

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Best Fiction Books of 2021:

*Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino - The absolute BEST new book that I read in 2021. This book is an emotional roller coaster in the best way! It played out just like a movie in my mind as I read it. I think it would truly make an incredible film- I hope it eventually gets adapted. The main character is a woman named Emiline, who is a writing professor in San Diego and struggling with getting her own writing career started. When a novel by a anonymous and mysterious new author starts making waves in the literary community, Emiline picks up a copy, and is shocked to realize that this famous new book is actually about her own traumatic childhood and first love. She thinks her first love from high school exploited the story of her past for profit on his book... or did he? This is a whirlwind story alternating between past and present, and it kept me hooked until the last page.
     This was my first Renee Carlino book, and I read another from her later in the year. I really didn't like the other book I read (I think I gave it one star?)... not sure if the other one I read was just a fluke, or maybe Swear on This Life really is her standout book?

*The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon - Over the past couple years I've read a fair amount of romance novels, but it's very rare that I rate one four or five stars. I think this is the first five star rating I've ever given to a romance novel!! I absolutely loved this cute book, and I think the fact that the two main characters work in radio definitely helped. Shay and Dominic both work for Seattle Public Radio, and Dominic is Shay's workplace enemy. In a twist of events in the workplace, they have to start doing a radio show together to save their jobs. The kicker? It's a radio show about relationships, and their boss wants them to pretend that they're exes who have dated before! Not surprisingly, real sparks eventually begin flying between the two former enemies. I loved this book because it gave a lot of insight into what working for public radio is like (different from commercial radio, which is what I do), and I thought Shay and Dominic had amazing chemistry! There are several adult scenes in this book (it is a modern romance after all- ha!), so just want to give that disclaimer. But I really loved this one!

*The Guilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst - This was a re-read! The Guilded Life of Matilda Duplaine was my favorite book that I read in 2019, and I loved it so much that I wanted to see if it held up two years later. It absolutely did!! Still a favorite of mine, and so glad I own a copy now. It's kind of a modern day interpretation of The Great Gatsby, set in LA. You can read my review of it from my 2019 Best Books blog post!

Best Non-Fiction Books of 2021:

*Bare Bones: I'm Not Lonely If You're Reading This Book by Bobby Bones - Funny story before I get into this review- Bobby Bones is my radio competition! The other country station in Virginia Beach plays his morning show, haha. Despite the fact I compete with him locally, I really respect Bobby and all of his success in the radio industry. (Sometimes I'm bad at being competitive. 😉) I absolutely loved his memoir, Bare Bones! Bobby's personal story is incredible, as he had a very un-stable childhood and grew up in poverty. He not only got a college degree, but has found immense success in radio, TV, and not other ventures too! This book documents his journey in a way that's so fun to read.
     I did read one of Bobby's other books this year- that one was okay, but Bare Bones was my favorite! 

*Every Day is a Gift by Tammy Duckworth - For the past few years, I've tried to read a couple political memoirs each year, from people in both major political parties. I had heard good things about Senator Duckworth's memoir, and when I saw that my library got it in, I grabbed it. This book is wonderfully written, and tells an impactful story. Senator Duckworth begins by writing on her interesting childhood (spent in between various countries in Asia and the US), and then writes extensively about her military career and time in the service. She tragically lost her legs while serving in Iraq, and that experience as well as her lengthy recovery is documented in the book. It ends with her venture into US politics, and her journey into motherhood later in life. While I disagree with Senator Duckworth politically on many things, I truly have so much respect for her after reading her book! I also learned a lot about the military. Definitely my favorite political memoir of the year.

*To Selena, With Love by Chris Perez - 2021 was my year of rediscovering my love for the late Tejano star Selena Quintanilla! I loved listening to the Anything for Selena podcast, binged both seasons of Selena the Series on Netflix, re-watched the Selena movie with J. Lo, and had to read Selena's husband Chris Perez's book about her life and legacy. This book is so beautiful and heartfelt! It gives a lot more detail about the real Selena and Chris's relationship (much more than the Selena movie or Netflix series), and also walks through the aftermath of her murder, and what that horrible time was like for Chris. If you're a Selena fan, this is a must-read! It was so well done. 

     Those are my six favorites of the year!! I'd love to hear what books got a five star rating from you in 2021. For 2022, I set my reading goal a bit smaller (30 books vs. 40 books). I definitely am looking forward to reading this year, but I also have some other goals and things I'd like to do in my free time, so I don't want to put as much of a focus on books.

Best books from years passed:
2020 // 2019 // 2018 // 

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese 

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