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The Best Books of 2021

The Best Books of 2021

This year has filled us with a whirlwind of events. Despite the crazy time we live in, there is no denying that new reads and stories have kept us hopeful—books that have been our source of comfort and company throughout this 2021.

We asked around to find out the best books that bookworms have read this year. Check out the Best Books of 2021 below according to resident bookworms, the First Look Club, and members of the Bookworm Corner community:

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

In a time filled with uncertainty, trapped in a pandemic in my mid 20s, I filled my head with endless questions and this read made me realise I wasn't alone with my own thoughts. It made me accept and own up to vulnerability about relationships, political views, religion, mental health, i.e the human species in questioning.

- Addie, Fully Booked

Sugar and Spite by Gail Villanueva

My favorite book for 2021 is Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva. My favorite local/middle grade author did it again with her sophomore book with lots of Filipino references and traditions that makes me relate to that. I enjoyed this heartwarming story with magic, friendship and trust, especially for Jolina and Claudine.

- Raven, Bookworm Corner

The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso

This finale in the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen series is the most epic, painful, well-written ending I could've asked for. It has everything I ever wanted for an adult fantasy, and it makes me extremely proud that it's written by a Filipino author!

- Rovie, Fully Booked

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The Anthropocene Reviewed is John Green at his most generous. The book is brimming with vulnerability and just a deep, pure longing for days you can never get back and can only treasure in your memory. As John muses about death, viruses, the internet, and diet Dr. Peppers—a reader can find comfort in his honesty, in his ability to sit with his own feelings. This book invites us, the reader (or in my case, the listener), to be as honest and open with ourselves as John Green is being on the page.

This book is a lovely chronicle of what being human, in this era, feels like. If you've never read John Green or have outgrown his young adult work, I recommend erasing any previous notions and misconceptions about his writing and pick this up.

- Ilia, Fully Booked

In these strange times, we need to read stories that would give us hope despite everything happening around us. In John Green’s first non-fiction book, he was brave to show his vulnerabilities through his essays, which are very informative, sometimes funny, always heartwarming and with a sense of hope. If you need to be reminded that life will get better, this book is for you.  

Sharing one of my favorite lines from the book:

“You can’t see the future coming- not the terrors, for sure, but you also can’t see the wonders that are coming, the moments of light-soaked joy that await each of us.”

- Karla, Fully Booked

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart is beautiful and devastating and funny and it will make you hungry. It’s easy to dismiss the hype and the outpouring of love for this novel, but it really is everything my friends have made it out to be. I listen to Japanese Breakfast occasionally but it didn’t prepare me for the emotionally precise writing and the love for words, words, words, that is palpable all through out the memoir. I’m impressed, and sad, and craving jjajangmyeon.

See Thor's post about Crying in H Mart on Instagram here.

- Thor, @thorbalanon

Monsters by Barry Windsor-Smith

What started out as a pitch for a Hulk story turned out to be one of the most poignant stories ever told in graphic form. Told in stark black-and-white by acclaimed writer-illustrator Barry Windsor-Smith (Weapon X), you won't finish reading this book with a dry eye. It's Maus-level heavy drama, man. If you can only buy one graphic novel this year, this should be it.

- Clifford, First Look Club

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. by David Levithan

A great middle-grade book that I feel most parents need to read. It highlights the importance of trust, and believing in your own children. It also give you that idea on how insightful children could be. And, the LGBT+ Representation is definitely well-written.

- Joe, Fully Booked

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

First story in, I told myself, “Hey, I had missed this.” Second story, I find myself almost uncharacteristically tearing up. By the time I was done with Charlie Parker and Shinagawa Monkey, I had become fully convinced that First Person Singular. is a hit. And then the final two bits—essays, not short stories— tell you that Murakami is already in serious memoir mode. The man is, undoubtedly, opening up. Letting us in to see a previously unknown facet of his personality. Vulnerable. Contemplative. Easy, Light. In the first person singular.

No longer lonely. The guy has some late-life magic left, still. I am weak-kneed in awe and admiration.

See Jed's post about First Person Singular on Facebook here.

- Jed, @yourliterarylawyer

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

A well-cooked novel (another one from a Filipino author!) that has the right elements of humor, mystery, and lots of strong Filipino culture references. I highly recommend reading this with a snack, as all the recipes and cooking scenes will make you drool.

- Rovie, Fully Booked

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

His most humanist novel to date; textured characters and a narrative that lets audience identify and digest various life philosophies without being sanctimonious or suffocating in its tone.

- Jay, Bookworm Corner

Anne of Manhattan by Brina Starler

Brina Starler's Anne of Manhattan takes Green Gables out of 1870's Canada and drops it into the heart of modern-day America! 

After a disastrous last night in high school, Anne and Gilbert reconnect in their graduate program in Manhattan. In typical fashion, the big question is, will they be able to put their competitive natures and bickering behind to see what's blossoming right in front of them? 

Full of nods to first four Anne books, all the way up to Anne of Windy Poplars, fellow kindred spirits will adore this scrumptious (and even steamy!) contemporary retelling.

- Reina, First Look Club

World Without Email by Cal Newport

If you've been feeling overwhelmed, hyper-stimulated, and exhausted at work—perhaps Cal Newport's newest book World Without Email can help you understand why. Newport helps reveal the toll that the modern hivemind and its constant demands on our attention and inboxes have exacted on us. The second part is filled with practical examples and case studies of redesigns of efficient workflows that don't rely on email. This book is an insightful read on the modern workplace.

- Ilia, Fully Booked

The Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Billed as a prequel to the phenomenal best-seller The Hate U Give, The Concrete Rose centers around Maverick Carter living as a Black teenager in the 1990s. We see the future father of Starr Carter juggling school, work, gang life, and parenthood. With love and precision, Thomas gave us a Black teen hero with real problems and actual emotions. The Concrete Rose is a 368-page reminder that young Black lives matter.

- Jowana, First Look Club

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

What draws me to Ishiguro is that he will hurt you into insight. In Klara and the Sun, he gives a quiet exploration on loss, loneliness, preservation and posthuman ethicsunraveled through muted mysteries, always reaching devastation in their revelations. For me, he’s one of the writers that never disappoints and I promise this will hurt less than his other works (but still, hurt).

- Pamela, Fully Booked

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

Millennials and zillennials that populate the digital and "Soc-med" world (Hi Twitter! Hello Facebook!) will greatly admire Lockwood's brash, steeped-in-realism observational saga wherein Communication and language are the causes and (ironically) the solutions to their self-inflicted dilemmas.

- Jay, Bookworm Corner

Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV & Werther Dell'Edera

The complete first arc of the surprise horror hit from the creators of The Department of Truth and Loveless is finally collected in a single hardcover volume. There are things in Archer's Peak that are making children disappear, and it's up to Erica Slaughter to find them and end them. Wait, "Slaughter"? Is that even a real name? Get the book and find out, my dude. Recommended for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Trese, and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.

- Clifford, First Look Club

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

It’s hard to describe Project Hail Mary without spoiling its coolest surprises, but here are the important things to know about it: there’s tons of cool science, a handful of breathtaking action sequences, and a premise so utterly far-out that it’s amazing how the author made it seem so plausible. Space and science fans: a wonderful read awaits.

- Jed, First Look Club

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book is a proof that a story doesn’t need to be over the top. You just have to be a great storyteller. I love how everything happened in just 24 hours and a lot of flash backs. This book made me mad as hell, cried a little bit and made me sigh a lot. It’s fast paced and I read it in one sitting.

See Riri Read's post about Malibu Rising on Instagram here.

- Riri, @riri_reads

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

My favorite book for 2021 is The Guncle by Steven Rowley.

If you ever want to judge a book by its cover it should be Guncle by Steven Rowely. The Guncle is a sweet, funny, ultimately uplifting novel about love, loss, family in all the forms they come in and the courage it takes to move on.

- Denice, Fully Booked

Locke & Key: The Keyhouse Compendium by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

Loved the Netflix show? Can't wait for the next season? Can't find all six trade paperbacks or the three Master Editions? No problem: The Keyhouse Compendium collects the entire story, from beginning to end, in glorious oversized hardcover format. It also includes a guide to all the known keys and a host of other extras. There's also an homage to Calvin and Hobbes that you probably won't see in the TV show. Aloha!

- Clifford, First Look Club

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Here, in a novel, that is almost plotless, she has carved an intimate portrait of a woman navigating her place, her whereabouts, in the world and its weighty expectations. Here is a woman you may meet when you’re outside, who appears to be ordinary and yet has such a rich inner life. She peels the layers of the woman’s life revealing her losses and cockeyed successes. The story never peaks. From the very specific location of the sidewalk in its opening pages, the story moves at a measured pace with tension felt beneath its surface. It never reaches a boiling point. Instead, it simmers with an aching longing to live, to make sense of the years behind and the years ahead. She writes as if she’s having a conversation with you, telling you the character’s whereabouts today. And in her telling, she weaves the past and the present into a beautiful tapestry of a solitary life.

- Dan, First Look Club

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

A collection of thematically-urgent stories about lives and relationships built, shattered, and revived in the quest for love, companionship, joy, revenge, and affirmation of human existence. Certainly Brandon Taylor did not disappoint on his strong follow-up to his highly-acclaimed debut novel Real Life.

- Jay, Bookworm Corner

Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap

Isabel Yap, a rising star of the SFF genre, published a collection of 13 short stories entitled Never Have I Ever. Weaving Filipino folklore and culture into her experience as a Filipina and an immigrant, Yap proves her voice is both distinct and essential. Set during a Catholic school retreat, "A Canticle for Lost Girls" is one of the standout entries of her collection. 

- Jowana, First Look Club

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

5/5 stars because just when I thought I guessed who the killer is, Alex Michaelides has a bomb waiting to explode in the last few chapters. Awesome red herrings and what a crazy twist!!! Perfect addition to your thriller/mystery collection.

See Cielo's post about The Maidens on Instagram here.

- Cielo, @cielly_belly

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

A typical YA contemporary with a dash of magical element! Excellent writing, inspirational main characters, taco jokes, and a unique love story that will make you tear up. I did!

- Rovie, Fully Booked

Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency by Michael Wolff

Recounting the months after the failed re-election bid of Donal Trump up until the horrific U.S. Capitol attack of his supporters, Michael Wolff delivered a solid and sometimes hilarious look at the fall of a president and his hubris. Underscoring the fact that Trump functions outside the realm of facts, Landslide dissects how chaos has both guided his ascent to and crushed his desire to hold on to power. One thing Trump is going to hate about the book is the droll deadpan observations of the author.

- Jowana, First Look Club

Have you read something that's not on the list? What's your best read of 2021? Share your picks in the comments! 

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