Posted On:
Friday, December 31, 2021
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

My Top 10 Fiction Books of 2021

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A good book brings me such a cozy, happy feeling.  At any given point, I have one nonfiction book going and one fiction book going at the same time.  

On Monday, I shared My Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2021.  I felt it was only right and fair that I also share My Top 10 Fiction Books of 2021.

I actually reread a lot of books in 2021, and I didn’t include any of my rereads in this list.  One thing that I found interesting about the rereads and thought I’d share: It’s amazing how our perspective shifts over the course of our lives.  What seemed good and enjoyable to me 20 years ago was not necessarily enjoyable to me as I reread it this year.  And yet, for other books I reread, rereading them made me love them even more.

I find fiction reading to be a somewhat finicky and ironic thing; I enjoy it so much when I’m reading the book, but I find that fiction books can be more “forgettable” for me than nonfiction books tend to be. The books on this list are the ones that have stayed with me over the course of this year.

If you’re interested in seeing all of the books - fiction and nonfiction - that I read this year and/or discussing any of them, I invite you to follow me on Goodreads.  

Without further delay, here are my Top 10 Fiction Books of 2021!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Thank you for your support!

#1 - Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary tops my list for 2021, which is not entirely surprising since I love, love, love his other two novels: The Martian and Artemis.

I really enjoy Mr. Weir’s writing style and the wit he infuses into his stories.  I also like that the science is plausible, even though it is certainly in the science fiction realm.

This story gave me so much food for thought and really struck my imagination.  Without diving into any spoilers about the storyline, I definitely found this engaging and satisfying from the first page to the last.

#2 - The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin was a bit of a surprise for me in terms of how much I really loved this story.

I borrowed this book from a friend, and read it at her suggestion.  I’m so glad that I did!  I loved the friendship between Lenni and Margot and I especially loved the style in which Ms. Cronin chose to write the story.  It alternates perspectives between the two main characters and interweaves the past with the present in a delightful, engaging way.

#3 - The Lost Apothecary

Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, and Sarah Penner’s The Lost Apothecary was a really great example of it.

This book stayed with me after I finished it, and that’s what made me realize I ultimately liked it even more than I initially thought I did.

I loved the dive into the world of women’s professions in this time period (the 1790s) and I especially enjoyed that the main characters were all women.  All in all, an enjoyable, thought-provoking, engrossing read.

Fun Fact: I read a lot of this book while I was waiting for the athletes I was coaching at IRONMAN Maryland to come in off of the bike course that day.  The life of a coach is so glamorous, isn’t it? ;)

#4 - The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept is Lara Prescott’s debut novel, and what an entrance into the world of books this was for her!

The pages felt like they were turning themselves as I read this.  This novel is beautiful and is set in an interesting and important time in world history.  I thoroughly enjoyed the narration style and how the narrators evolved along with the story.

Doctor Zhivago is referenced significantly in this novel, and I knew nothing about it prior to reading The Secrets We Kept.  After reading it, I actually purchased Doctor Zhivago to read for myself.

#5 - The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library was the second of Matt Haig’s books that I’ve read (I read How to Stop Time in 2020 and LOVED it).

The Midnight Library was original, enchanting, and completely engrossing.  The Midnight Library itself is a place between life and death where every book provides a chance to “try” another life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at various points in your life.

I loved the premise of the book and thoroughly enjoyed every chapter, from the first to the last.

#6 - The Book of Lost Names

The Book of Lost Names is yet another historical fiction addition to my list (surprise, surprise ;) ).

Set in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, author Kristin Harmel explores some unsung heroes of the war; the people who forged documents to help Jewish people escape from the Nazi-occupied zones to free countries such as Switzerland.

While this particular story is fictional, Ms. Harmel did a lot of research for this novel and many of the details of the novel are based on real events.  The story itself drew me in; as a result, I finished this book in just a few sittings.

Like so many historical fiction novels that I read, this prompted me to dive deeper into the actual history that inspired this story, and as a result, I learned a lot.

#7 - The President’s Daughter

I’m always so interested in what the Presidents of the United States do after they are no longer in office.  Bill Clinton became a writer of novels?  Well, I think it’s wonderful. 

Joining forces again with James Patterson, these two co-authored their sophomore novel together, The President’s Daughter(Their first was The President is Missing, which I also recommend.)

This is a long read (the second-longest book I read in 2021!), but it is worth the pages.  It kept me engaged and interested, and it wasn’t always predictable.  Overall, I definitely recommend this thriller.

#8 - Cilka’s Journey

Cilka’s Journey is Heather Morris’s sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  (Yes, yes, another historical fiction addition to my list!)  I definitely recommend reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz first, but Cilka’s Journey was, for me, just as great as its predecessor.

It was like history repeating itself; when I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz in 2020, I read it in a single day.  I finished Cilka’s Journey in about the same amount of time.

The story was engaging and was one I could (horrifyingly at times) visualize in my mind.

The horrors that people endured during the Holocaust are important to remember so we don't, as a species and society, repeat those same atrocities.  It's also, in my humble opinion, important to honor those who did survive and were brave enough to share their stories.

While this is a novel, it is based on a real person's experience, and I think the author does a lovely job of honoring the real Cilka Klein and all of the other unnamed Cilka's who lived (and died) during the Holocaust.

#9 - The Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles was a surprising love for me this year.  

I have tried to read Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, but I haven't ever been able to get through them in their entireties. I do remember reading sections of them in high school, but that memory is vague.

I loved this book because it's true to the story told in those epic poems (especially Achilles’s relationship with Patroclus), but in the much more digestible format of a novel.  It's different from most things that are popular to read now, which I also enjoyed.

Overall, I'd say that this is absolutely worth a read for anyone who enjoys Greek storytelling and for anyone who is looking for something different to read.

#10 - The Morning Star

The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard was the longest book I read in 2021, coming in at (a deliberate and significant) 666 pages.  Originally written in Norwegian, it was translated into English by Martin Aitken.  I note this because I think Mr. Aitken did a superb job with the translation.

Another interesting (and random) tidbit: The quality of the paper in this book was the best I’ve ever felt in any book I’ve ever read.

ANYWAY.  Moving on…

This was such an interesting book, as it is so different in how its plotline is structured and how the story moves.  

Folks who are fans of "wrapped up" narratives will be left disappointed, as this book doesn't conclude neatly and is pretty darn dark when it comes down to it.

I found myself very drawn in despite the mundaneness of the story. I think that speaks to the author's ability to write well and explore how the mundane relates to the existential.

Some of the diversions into deeper philosophy were not as intriguing as other parts of the book, but overall I felt that this provided many tidbits for thought and was rather beautiful.


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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