In response to a, uh, certain annual book awards that’s just a glorified popularity contest, I’ve decided to approach my end-of-year reading wrap up a little differently than usual. So, welcome to the inaugural Maggie’s Musings Choice Awards! This is the best of the best (and occasionally the worst of the worst) books that I read over the past year. Each award winner has its own incredibly specific category, because we don’t do things by halves around here.
Without further ado: The 2021 Maggie’s Musings Choice Awards!
Best Audiobook (and Audiobook Narrator)
The Poet X (2018), With The Fire On High (2019), and Clap When You Land (2020), all written and read by Elizabeth Acevedo
I read all three of Acevedo’s YA novels this year, and every time I was blown away by her skill with words and language: both writing and reading it. This is the best way to read her books, if you ask me.
Best Book to Binge Read
The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He (2021)
I thought I was done with dystopian fiction and OH BOY WAS I WRONG. I never knew what to expect when I turned the page and I devoured this in a matter of days.
Most Unexpected Delight
Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia (2019)
Paranormal stuff is usually not my cup of tea, but I couldn’t put this one down. Little bit campy, little bit horror, 100% a good read.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (2020)
With such an intriguing title as this, what can possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, the answer is “a lot.”
Best Myth Retelling or Reimagining
Lore by Alexandra Bracken (2021) and Legendborn by Tracey Deonn (2020)
This category gets a tie because both Lore and Legendborn had fresh approaches to Greek mythology and Arthurian legend respectively. Highly recommended for anyone who loves old stories with a modern twist.
Best Other Retelling
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (2020)
It’s Romeo and Juliet with more sea monsters and stabbing, which is precisely what Shakespeare would’ve wanted.
Best Book for Long Drives
She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (2021)
This audiobook kept me company during many long drives his fall. I couldn’t ask for a better companion.
Book With the Best Siblings
For The Wolf by Hannah Whitten (2021)
It’s so rare to see siblings portrayed realistically in fiction, so I just fell in love with the dynamic between the twin sisters in For The Wolf. And it’s a deliciously dark fairy tale story, so what’s not to love?
Best Recommendation From a Friend
The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen (2019)
Rachel all but thrust this book into my arms (not really, I got it from the library) and I am forever in her debt for it.
Best Book That Left Me Sobbing on the Floor
The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews (2019)
I knew this book would make me cry and I still wasn’t prepared for the absolute deluge of tears that overtook me when I finished.
Worst Book to Be Seen Reading In Public
Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper (2021)
Mostly because people will give you weird looks. But still, a very good tool for anyone planning on an ill-advised trip to the English countryside.
Best Twisty Book
One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (2017)
This murder mystery kept me guessing at every turn – every time I thought I had it figured out, something new entered and changed the whole game.
Best Book I Thought I’d Hate
Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (2020)
To make a long story short: I read Turner’s The Thief a while back and didn’t care for it. Then everyone told me to read the rest of the series and you know what? I stand corrected. This finale to the series blew me away.
Most Beautiful Cover Designs
Skyhunter (2020) and Steelstriker (2021) by Marie Lu
Just look at them!! They are STUNNING. (Also, good books in their own right!)
Best Book That Made Me Feel Smart
Code Girls by Liza Mundy (2017)
Obligatory nonfiction inclusion. But I did learn a lot from this one, and it made me weirdly happy to learn that a lot of English majors had been employed as codebreakers once.
Best Book to Read with Coffee or Tea
The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill (2017)
Even if you don’t have a cup of tea on hand, this graphic novel is so cozy it’ll warm you up from the inside out.
Most Hardcore Heroine
Kyoshi from The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee (2019)
Anyone who’s watched Avatar: The Last Airbender knows about the past Avatar Kyoshi, but these official Avatar universe novels dive into her backstory and how she became the legend we know her as.
Most Unexpectedly Amusing Book
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
This is not a “humorous” book, but I’d be lying if I didn’t cackle with amusement at the most random of moments. It also gets the designation of being the oldest book on this list!
Most Loyal Animal Friend
Kirby the ghost dog in Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (2020)
I don’t know what else to say other than the fact that Kirby is a Good Boy and Elatsoe is an absolute delight.
Best Book(s) to Defend Yourself With
The Scott Pilgrim color collection by Bryan Lee O’Malley, color by Nathan Fairbairn (2019)
These graphic novels are THICK and HEAVY. Which not only means the illustrations are extra-awesome, but they can also be used to knock out an intruder in a pinch.
Best Mystery That Kept Me Guessing
Truly Devious (2018), The Vanishing Stair (2019), and The Hand on the Wall (2020) by Maureen Johnson
It’s been so long since I read a mystery series that kept me in its clutches like Truly Devious did. Bonus points for a lovable cast of characters (yes, even David).
Book That Proves I’m An Incurable Nerd
Ask Iwata by Satoru Iwata, translated by Sam Bett (2021)
This collection of essays and articles is a fitting tribute to Nintendo’s former CEO, a man who left a lasting impression on the global gaming community. Rest in peace, Mr. Iwata.
Weirdest (But Not Bad) Book
What We Devour by Linsey Miller (2021)
I read this book several weeks ago and I still don’t really know what to make of it. You should read it.
Best Thing I Read That Wasn’t Actually A Book
The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures, developed and published by Capcom (2021)
Listen. I am fully aware this is a video game. But I did so much reading that it MAY AS WELL HAVE BEEN A BOOK. Not that I’m complaining. Someday I’m gonna count these towards my reading goal for the year.
Best Book of 2021
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen (2021)
I love this book so much I read it twice in a matter of weeks. It wrapped me up in the biggest, softest blanket. I adore these characters and their stories. Little Thieves is my favorite book of the year.