The new year is almost three weeks old. So it’s time for me to look back on the past year and share my favourite books of 2021 with you. I always separate my ‘best of reading wrap up’ into two categories, my top five novels and my top five nonfiction reads, because I feel like these two types of books are so different that I don’t want to put them into one big top ten together. So here they are my favourite books of 2021:
My favourite nonfiction reads of 2021
Choosing my top five nonfiction reads is always so hard because I love reading nonfiction. So a lot of great nonfiction reads pile up throughout the year. This year’s selection of my favourite nonfiction books is a mix of memoirs, an anthology and political books. Most of them are beloved and well known in the book community. However, the at least one of them is a bit of a hidden gem. If you want to see which books made into my nonfiction top five last year, you can find them here.
Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi – Destined to Witness
In “Destined to Witness” is a intelligent and suspenseful memoir about Massaquoi’s childhood and youth as an Afro-German boy in Nazi Germany. It’s not only a moving and fascinating account of survival and resilience but also a powerful critique of Nazism and racism in any form. You can find my full review of the memoir here.
Scarlett Curtis (ed.) – It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies)
This beautiful anthology is a collection of essays on mental health. Each one of them approaches the topic differently and highlights other aspects of the topic. The books is not only an important addition to the discourses and conversations about mental health but also an invitation to reflect about what mental health means to you. You can find my full review of the anthology here.
Felicia Ewert – Trans. Frau. Sein. Aspekte geschlechtlicher Marginalisierung (Being. Trans. Woman. Aspects of gendered marginalisation)
Despite some heavy editing mistakes “Trans. Frau. Sein” made it into my top five because it is just that good. Ewert’s writing is smart and sarcastic. In a few chapters she shows what’s wrong with transmisogyny, cissexist feminism and the legal situation in Germany. I learned so much from this book and I know that I will pick up again and again. You can find my full review of the book here.
Emilia Roig – Why we matter. Das Ende der Unterdrückung (The end of oppression)
“Why we matter” mixes autobiographical elements with political nonfiction. The result is a powerful statement against the oppressive systems that shape Western societies. While the ending was a bit too spiritual for my personal taste, the book overall is an intelligent and interesting read from which I learned a lot.
Chanel Miller – Know my name
With beautiful and poetic writing Miller tells the story of how she survived being sexually assaulted and the exhausting legal battle she had to go through. Her account not only exposes rape culture, victim blaming and the faults of the justice system but it’s also a powerful and personal story about survival. You can find my full review of the memoir here.
Some nonfiction reads that didn’t make it into my top five but that I still enjoyed immensely last year are “This Changes Everything. Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein, “The Soul of a Woman” by Isabel Allende, “Body Politics” by Melodie Michelberger and “Gegenwartsbewältigung” by Max Czollek.
My favourite novels of 2021
Originally I also planned to share my personal top five of all the novels I read in 2021 like I did last year. But even though I read so many great and fantastic books this year for me personally no other reading experience came close to these two novels. It’s not that the other novels I read are worse or that I wouldn’t recommend them but they just didn’t spark the same emotions and they just didn’t affect me or kept me hooked in the same way as these two did. So instead of a top five, I chose to present a top two this year.
Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart
An impactful and moving novel which negotiates themes like colonisation, traditions and masculinity. I loved the way it builds suspense and Achebe’s writing is simply beautiful. Although this was the first novel I read by Achebe it definitely won’t be the last. You can find my full review of the novel here.
Jean Rhys – Wide Sargasso Sea
“Wide Sargasso Sea” is a gripping postcolonial feminist retelling of “Jane Eyre” that addresses mental health, gender inequalities and identity in the era of emancipation in Jamaica. It tells the story of Antoinette Cosway, her upbringing in Jamaica and her marriage to an unnamed English gentleman that leads to the deterioration of her mental health.
Some novels that didn’t make it into my top two but that still enriched my reading last year are “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “Ministerium der Träume” by Hengameh Yaghoobifarah, “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf and “I love Dick” by Chris Kraus.
Which were your favourite books of 2021? And did you read any of the ones I mentioned here? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!