50 Books of 2021 and Their Underrated Meaning in 1 Phrase

Pink background with 3 screenshots from Goodreads of the 50 books read by the author in 2021.

We’ve reached the end of one of my best reading years to date. I set myself the challenge to read 50 books this year and I succeeded with flying colours and time to spare.

Reading adds incredible value to your life, sometimes in the most understated ways. As a writer, reading is what I count on to keep my mind running wild with content every day.

I’ve experienced the disappointment of hearing people around me dismiss reading as just a waste of time. “Why would you like staying still and in complete silence, staring at words telling a story that’s not even real?”

There’s great potential in reading and it quite literally can change your life. Books add to your life more than you can think of, from the possibility of living thousands of stories, the power of deep empathy, the happiness of laughing when you feel down or the hope that love and kindness still shine through all the heartache.

I’m not a harsh reader. I know people who hardly ever rate a book 4 stars or above, and who mostly lurk in the 1- and 2-star ratings because they’re so picky. I don’t like to be a picky reader. Instead, I love looking for value in everything I read.

Of the 50 books I’ve completed this year, I had one 1-star rating, one 2-star rating, seven 3-star ratings, 24 4-star ratings and 17 5-star ratings. 17! All of them had a lesson for me though, and I’ll share those with you in a snappy phrase for each book.


1. ‘Written on the Body’ by Jeanette Winterson

Finished: 1 Jan 2021; Rating: 1 star

Key takeaways: Love doesn’t always mean closeness and it can work even when it’s not a perfect fit.

2. ‘How to Sleep Well: Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Good Night’s Sleep’ by Dr Chris Idzikowski

Finished: 12 Jan 2021; Rating: 3 stars

Key takeaways: Insufficient sleep won’t damage your health as much as your own anxiety caused by insufficient sleep, so trust your body more that it can adapt to your changing circumstances and stop worrying so much.

3. ‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston

Finished: 22 Jan 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: A classic story of impossible love across political ideologies with an entertaining presidential election sub-plot; always a feel-good book I return to.

4. ‘Why Is Romania Different?’ by Lucian Boia

Finished: 30 Jan 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: As a Romanian, I know the shared feeling that something about us is off, like we’re doomed and can’t get over it, which Boia analyses from a cultural and historical perspective and gives logic to a gut feeling shared by an entire nation.

5. ‘Every Heart a Doorway’ by Seanan McGuire

Finished: 25 Jan 2021; Rating: 2 stars

Key takeaways: An atmospheric novella with dark academia vibes and quirky characters who are all disappeared children who travelled in alternative worlds; too short for the promising premise, so it didn’t deliver for me.

6. ‘Beyond Mars and Venus’ by Dr John Gray

Finished: 20 Feb 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Understanding our contrasting traits is key to mitigating conflicts within couples; this is a useful book that explains relationship dynamics and how to make them work.

7. ‘The Cheerleaders’ by Kara Thomas

Finished: 12 Jan 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: A gripping multiple-death mystery told through the grief of a high school student who doesn’t believe her sister took her own life.

8. ‘Sadie’ by Courtney Summers

Finished: 3 March 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: A stunning disappearance mystery with an investigative podcast element and very well-handled multi-perspectives, showing the lengths to which a child can go to for justice.

9. ‘The Music of What Happens’ by Bill Konigsberg

Finished: 20 March 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: This YA romance shows that young relationships aren’t always superficial, but formative and profound too; a great lesson in parenthood and friendship.

10. ‘Act Your Age, Eve Brown’ by Talia Hibbert

Finished: 25 March 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: The last Brown sister did not disappoint in this steamy, wholesome and relatable romance that shows life has the right thing for us set aside and no matter how much we struggle, we’ll see the light sooner or later.

11. ‘What Happens in Tomorrow World’ by Jordan Gross

Finished: 1 Apr 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: A short and sweet fable that depicts all kinds of human reactions and how we can adapt them to everyday situations to maintain our peace and happiness.

12. ‘The House in the Cerulean Sea’ by T.J. Klune

Finished: 4 Apr 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Don’t underestimate the power of kindness and connection, even if it comes from the Antichrist.

13. ‘The Hating Game’ by Sally Thorne

Finished: 6 Apr 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Classic hate-to-love trope, handled pretty well, with some good, believable characters — I’m so over the small woman, big, gym-fit man scenario, though.

14. ‘Uzumaki’ by Junji Ito

Finished: 10 May 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: A very original horror depiction of spiral elements, with disturbing plot development and hypnotic art.

15. ‘Nothing to Lose’ by Clare Lydon

Finished: 18 May 2021; Rating: 3 stars

Key takeaways: A sweet, lesbian romance with more mature characters and a great representation of getting over trauma and coming to terms with yourself.

16. ‘Into This River I Drown’ by T.J. Klune

Finished: 25 May 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: Trust T.J. Klune to make you grieve, cry, hope, scream in excitement and believe in an angel-human romance all in one book.

17. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ by Andre Aciman

Finished: 30 May 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: A heart-breaking story of wrong place, wrong time, and an excellent portrayal of the short-span, flame-like qualities of love that still lingers.

18. ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Finished: 3 June 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: Great intersection between fame and family life and an amazing discussion on ethics and female traits in rapport with career, motherhood, society and love.

19. ‘M Is for Mother’ by Alexandra Antipa

Finished: 4 June 2021; Rating: 3 stars

Key takeaways: Motherhood really is something you have to experience for yourself and cultural bonds shine through candid stories.

20. ‘Away With the Penguins’ by Hazel Prior

Finished: 5 June 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: It’s never too late to fight for a cause you believe in and make an unexpected change in your life.

21. ‘Soho’ by Richard Scott

Finished: 9 June 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: Double-check around you and within you for internalised homophobia — or any other kind of discrimination; we don’t live in such a tolerant world as it may seem.

22. ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller

Finished: 18 June 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: Love can transcend prophecy and deity intervention, but especially war and aversion.

23. ‘Why Buddhism Is True’ by Robert Wright

Finished: 19 June 2021; Rating: 3 stars

Key takeaways: Negativity, fear and anger are altered mental states, otherwise delusions, we can remove ourselves from.

24. ‘Radio Silence’ by Alice Oseman

Finished: 21 June 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: This is an incredibly real account of how the one-size-fits-all nature of the education system can break young people.

25. ‘Where the Stork Flies’ by Linda C. Wisnievski

Finished: 9 Jul 2021; Rating: 3 stars

Key takeaways: Female strength shines through generations — a wonderful time-travel plot that reinstates the importance of women supporting women.

26. ‘The Gravity of Us’ by Phil Stamper

Finished: 10 Jul 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Came for the internet journalist trope, stayed for the wholesomeness: another cute romance with a very unique setting and plot.

27. ‘You And Me on Vacation’ by Emily Henry

Finished: 14 Jul 2021; Rating: 3 stars

Key takeaways: It’s important to make the first move if the connection you’re trying to salvage is worth it.

28. ‘Pansies’ by Alexis Hall

Finished: 15 Jul 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: This is a very steamy and apparently superficial romance, but the character analysis really just shows how important it is to be yourself in the face of aversion.

29. ‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett

Finished: 26 Jul 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: There are many layers to the discussions about race; a stunning and insightful family and identity drama everyone should read.

30. ‘The Summer of Everything’ by Julian Winters

Finished: 5 Aug 2021; Rating: 3 stars

Key takeaways: This is the perfect book for geeks and it just felt very familiar and comforting; the romance is adorable.

31. ‘Sometime After Midnight’ by L. Philips

Finished: 15 Aug 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Music is everything; if you want a romance with musicians who just click through their art, read this.

32. ‘The Extraordinaries’ by T. J. Klune

Finished: 17 Aug 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: Representation is vital: finally finding a protagonist who thinks and acts like me showed me that maybe I’m not just clumsy, rushed, annoying or unfocused.

33. ‘Flash Fire’ by T. J. Klune

Finished: 26 Aug 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Keep loving with your whole, entire heart and believing in yourself and those who matter.

34. ‘Eliza and Her Monsters’ by Francesca Zappia

Finished: 11 Sept 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: There are people out there for you, no matter how hard you’re finding it to fit in. Also, keep creating and protecting your craft.

35. ‘Cemetery Boys’ by Aiden Thomas

Finished: 26 Sept 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Traditions are worth breaking to protect identities and love can transcend death.

36. ‘Beach Read’ by Emily Henry

Finished: 5 Oct 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Writers go through a lot to make a story good — and not everything works, sometimes a change of perspective is necessary.

37. ‘In The Dream House’ by Carmen Maria Machado

Finished: 10 Oct 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: It’s about damn time we start talking about and documenting domestic abuse within queer couples.

38. ‘History Is All You Left Me’ by Adam Silvera

Finished: 11 Oct 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: Loss can mend and fill up the gaps between those left behind.

39. ‘One Last Stop’ by Casey McQuiston

Finished: 21 Oct 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: If someone’s worth fighting for, go as far as fighting the law of Physics to get them.

40. ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde

Finished: 22 Oct 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Vanity can quite literally kill you.

41. ‘The Meaning of Pain’ by Nick Potter

Finished: 23 Oct 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: I haven’t lost against chronic pain, I still have a chance to redeem myself and regain control over my body.

42. ‘Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe’ by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Finished: 23 Oct 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: Teenagers can be as profound and wise as any well-built character and deserve to be listened to. Also a great lesson in parenting.

43. ‘A Study in Scarlet’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Finished: 27 Oct 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Never underestimate the twists and turns of a good Sherlock Holmes story.

44. ‘The Queer Principles of Kit Webb’ by Cat Sebastian

Finished: 27 Oct 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Regency romance is much more entertaining when it’s queer and has a fierce female supporting character.

45. ‘Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World’ by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Finished: 31 Oct 2021; Rating: 5 stars

Key takeaways: It’s never too late for a coming-of-age story.

46. ‘How to Kill Your Family’ by Bella Mackie

Finished: 2 Nov 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Excellent characters come with heavy baggage and make you root for them…even if they’re a serial killer.

47. ‘Fear No Evil’ by James Patterson

Finished: 23 Nov 2021; Rating: 3 stars

Key takeaways: Political thrillers can be just as thrilling as your average crime story, sometimes even more so.

48. ‘These Violent Delights’ by Micah Nemerever

Finished: 29 Nov 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: The best villains are those who you could befriend if they were real.

49. ‘Underneath the Christmas Tree’ by Heidi Swain

Finished: 24 Dec 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: It takes courage to return home, but if you just take a step forward, you might be showered with surprises.

50. ‘The Christmas Murder Game’ by Alexandra Benedict

Finished: 31 Dec 2021; Rating: 4 stars

Key takeaways: Don’t underestimate festive family dramas and their gripping potential.


Eliza Lita is a freelance writer based in the UK. She covers books and reading, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. For more of her stories, please consider signing up for a Medium membership through her referral link.

Published by Eliza Lita

Founder and editor-in-chief: Coffee Time Reviews. Freelance journalist covering breaking news, business, politics, books, and fitness.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: