Best books of 2021 + yearly round up

2020 favourites | 2019 favourites | 2018 favourites | 2017 favourites 2016 favourites | 2015 favourites | 2014 favourites

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers – set in a future world where humans live alongside nature in green, adaptive cities with vertical farms. Out in the wilderness, the descendants of robots from the ‘factory-age’ live in freedom, after developing sentience. This is sci-fi I’ve been craving for years. It was such a breath of fresh air to read about goodness and human kindness, while addressing our flaws and failings as a society running on fossil fuels.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones – From the Queen of fantasy, this 1985 release is a weird and wonderfully unique fairy tale remix. It’s dreamy and romantic, and worthy of an annual reread.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – Writing so good you can taste it in this historical fiction about the children and wife of Shakespeare during an outbreak of the plague. Slightly magical, and very dryly aware of Shakespeare’s historical impact without ever directly referring to it, it’s brimful of herbal witchery and country folklore.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell – A incredible sci-fi romance with royal fake dating, ice-torn wilderness survival and sneaky political manoeuvring. This one is for fans of Lois McMaster Bujold (AKA, I adore it and need 17 more…)

Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz – I’ve made so many of the recipes from this book multiple times, including the apple cider tart, oat and pecan cookies, coconut thumbprint cookies, and gruyere cheese puffs. Really delicious and well written recipes.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard – A noblewoman in a fantasy pre-colonial Vietnam falls in love with a princess, befriends a fire spirit and has to decide what her future will be. I loved the inter-country political negotiations. A novella with bite.

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske – I was super excited to read Freya’s debut, since it hits all of my favourite tropes – country houses, historical magic, evil nobility and interior design. It truly surpassed my expectations – Freya’s writing is so beautiful on a prose level, with sentences sparkling like poetry.

Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe – I read the entirety of this long-running graphic novel series in three days. It was immense (there are over 180 ‘episodes’). A retelling of Hades and Persephone where all the Greek gods live in a modern, tech filled version of Olympus, while mortals live in classical times on Earth. This is so cleverly done, with some great takes on the more problematic elements of mythology. It doesn’t shy away from the sexism and immorality of the gods, and treats the trauma with respect and dignity. So creative, romantic and immense!

In 2021, I have:

  • published the climate thriller Green Rising (September) and the dyslexia-friendly sci-fi adventure novella The Deep-Sea Duke (February)
  • sold two new projects (more on those soon – one is the novelisation of An Unauthorised Fan Treatise!)
  • sold four backlist title options/rights in various formats
  • developed two original concepts for screen with speculative scripts/treatments
  • developed proposals for two new novels ready for submission

I was expecting that list to be really short, because it feels like 2021 was another year spent mainly working at home and trying to avoid going anywhere with high COVID levels. But actually, I did a lot! And set up the groundwork for a lot of huge projects which I can’t talk about, but are deeply exciting. Like, insanely, massively exciting.

Here’s to hoping that 2022 brings better health for everyone. Merry christmas and a happy new year, all!


Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

5 thoughts on “Best books of 2021 + yearly round up

      1. You’re most welcome, Lauren: thank you for this review! I hope you may find some of my stories or other work interesting, if you have time to stop by my side of the blogosphere, particularly tomorrow, if you like Historical Ficion.

        Best regards,


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