2021 was the second year of pandemics, quarantine, and having lots of time to kill indoors. As a result, it was the year I set a personal record for “most books read in a single year.” They were a mix of fiction, non-fiction, mainstream, indie, paper, digital, and fatal in too large a dosage.

I’ve seen blog posts where someone lists each book they read with a quick review. But I’m not doing that since there are too many for me to remember well enough. Instead, I’m going to give out some personal book awards! These are well-known categories and genres we all know. I was lucky/bored/lounging enough to read at least one book from each.

So let's begin my 2021 book awards!

The 2021 Best Book Awards #

Best Romance: The Bromance Book Club brought a solid romance from the perspective of "men with masculine jobs chatting about feminist values over pumpkin spice lattes." It's familiar, fresh, and fairly fun.

Satisfaction Guaranteed gets an honorable mention. It's more formulaic but wins on sheer charm and silliness.

Best Graphic Novel: I nabbed On a Sunbeam at the library but it holds up well. It's part space odyssey, part romance, part drama, and part western. If you told me this book was in the Firefly universe, I'd believe you.

Biggest Letdown: Ready Player Two had the longest library wait time and felt the least worth it. I loved how Ready Player One was full of trivia without losing the characters or epic saga. The sequel lost that in a haze of Flanderization, Dan Brown worship and terrifying forms of the musician Prince.

Most Refreshing: How Do We Relationship? has an easy victory here. How many romances are there where the lead couple gets together at the start? This manga tackles obstacles like learning about your partner, anniversaries, sex, fights, and general dysfunction. All while still being a likeable romance.

Best Classic Remix: Cinderella is Dead takes apart, reverses, and mixes in unexpected elements to the Cinderella story. The premise is literally how a story gets bastardized over decades so one group can keep power over another. Seeing how that happened is both fascinating and terrifying. It does all this while delivering romantic leads that sometimes feels almost too cute.

Best Science: Project Hail Mary is by the same author behind The Martian and Artemis, so this shouldn't be a surprise. It's wilder while still feeling science-y enough that you feel smarter as you read it. Some parts of it stall and go too slow, but there are more than enough ideas to satiate you through the dry spots.

An honorable mention here goes to What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. I'll never swim in a nuclear reactor pool. But now I know it would be possible if I wanted.

Most Reread: What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions gets its victory! I'll swim in that nuclear reactor pool yet.

Most Epic: House of Earth and Blood is by Sarah Maas, the same author behind the epic Throne of Glass saga. Need I write any more? You've got well-developed characters, entertaining dialogue, and an intriguing setting blending together modern society and fantasy. I can recommend reading the climax with an "Epic Instrumentals" playlist going in the background.

Best Manga: From Now On, We Begin Ethics is quite unique. It shows the many different lessons philosophy can give students for friends, family, self-expression, sex, and what we do with our lives. There are few to none typical manga tropes here, only lessons and coming-of-age stories.

Best Comic That’s Not a Manga: Lore Olympus: Volume One is the start of one of my favorite webcomics, and worth getting a physical copy. Especially if playing Hades put you in the mood to immerse yourself in more Greek mythology and/or modern romance.

Most Revealing: Trashed told me things about the world of garbage I never knew, and may have never known. Trash is something in all our lives but we never think about it much. I learned so many new aspects of it, most of them foreboding or outright scary.

Most Gross: Trashed again. Did I mention this book on garbage is a crude graphic novel? Here's a taste of it: maggots, dog poop bombs, urine bottles, and roadkill thrown into trucks.

Best New Perspective: Cemetery Boys follows a gay, transgender boy pursuing his dreams against a traditional Latinx family. There are also ghosts and magic and all that, but it's secondary to the lead's unique coming-of-age. I don't have direct experience with these struggles, and reading is no substitute for experiencing them. But it at least helps me try to understand more and broaden my horizons. Plus it's funny, simple as that.

The manga Love Me For Who I Am was a close second. It's more focused on gender and sexuality but from many different perspectives. All while still being a cute and charming high school romance.

Best New Perspective on Tougher Subject Matter: Say You’re One of Them is a short story collection about kids. These kids deal with poverty, war, child slavery, and religious tensions in different African countries. There are some brutal scenes heartbreaking events, and then more brutal scenes. Inspiring but not for the faint of heart.

Women Talking deserves a shoutout here. What are the women talking about? Living in an isolated community after a series of assaults while the rapists are on their way home. It seems like a no-win situation, and it's written with even more depth (and humor) than you'd expect.

Best Navel Contemplater: Anxious People had little competition. It has enough wry humor to offset some of the most anxiety-inspiring quotes I have ever read. The older you are, the more this book will make you feel helpless with a touch of optimism. But mostly helpless.

Best Battle of Wits with the Reader: Five Total Strangers has a lead stuck in a snowstorm with four others, and one is out to get her. Which one is it? Try to guess, it's a fun challenge!

Most Fun Characters: Into the Drowning Deep has Mira Grant's reliable selection of characters that are entertaining, colorful, and still deep enough so you connect with them. You've got sexy yet conflicted research scientists, deaf deep-sea diving siblings, bloodthirsty hunters, and mermaid-esque creatures with the deadliest hair I've ever seen. I kept reading just to see how they'd keep responding to the shit as it hit the fan.

Best Book I Read After the Movie: I didn't know Jurassic Park was a book first until some friends mentioned it to me. Then one got me the book for a Secret Santa. It should be no surprise that the book was better.

Shutter Island was a close second, but it's not as engrossing when you already know that final twist.

Most Confusing Book: Rabbits has a lot of good qualities. It's tense, engrossing, creative, and vivid. But any book with either time or dimensional travel gets too "out there" and may not be worth the complexity. But if a deep, conspiracy-filled book is your jam, it's worth it.

Best Visual Novel: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles gave me even more Ace Attorney when I thought there was nothing left. It's impressive how well it still works in an era without modern technology. I give most of this credit to Herlock Sholmes, although sometimes it still got...weird.

Robotics;Notes Elite is an honorable mention. It's another good conspiracy story, and great for fans of Steins;Gate like me. You wouldn't think a high school robot club could connect to a massive, world-threatening conspiracy. But it does. Most of the charm also comes from one lovably quirky character here, Frau.

Best Visual Novel with Social Deduction Gameplay, Time Loops, and Cross-Dressing: This was a hotly-contested category, but Raging Loop narrowly beat out Gnosia. Both had compelling and complex tales with great characters. Plus it's fun to kill folks one by one in Gnosia. But Raging Loop's more structured story and enjoyable depth put it over. I look forward to seeing which game wins this year!

Best Book I Couldn’t think of a Category for but Wanted to Mention Anyway: Macbeth, the contemporary English manga version, is the book everyone wants to read but doesn't know it yet. It made me finally see and appreciate the true power in so much of Shakespeare's work. I plan to formally petition all English classes to use this version instead. You say I'm crazy now, but in ten years you'll say I was a prophet!

Best Video Game That's Not a Visual Novel But Still had a Ton of Reading: The Inner World is a point-and-click. To me, that's a visual novel that takes too much work to read more of. But the game and its sequel have enough humor and creativity to make it worth it for most.

Here's to another good selection of books in 2020!


  1. But not as alliterate as this sentence, sadly.
  2. Unless you're not a science book reader, in which case you have my pity.
  3. Not all at the same time. I put this in a footnote so fewer people have that situation flash in their minds, even for just a moment.
  4. To be fair, I didn't expect any humor from this book. But it was there, and sometimes at the same time as totally justified murderous rage.
  5. Life has this same effect on people, just more slow over time.
  6. Full disclosure: I called who the villain was but not how they pulled it off. I'm going to tell myself that's a 'draw' with the author.
  7. It's not like the chess club. Those nerds risk their lives at each after-school session.