Hi, friends! Thanks for joining me today; I’m so glad you’re here 💙. First of all, I know what you’re probably thinking right now. Does that title say 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards Reading Challenge? Does Tassara realize it’s 2022? Yes, I am keenly aware — and increasingly distressed — that it’s already 2022. But this DIY reading challenge I’ve created for myself is about the 2021 winners. So we’re just going to have to make peace with the confusing dates. Keep reading to see which books made it on my list for this challenge!
Last week, I shared my 2022 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge list. That was an absurdly humongous post, only partly warranted because the challenge has fifty unique prompts. Fear not; this week’s post won’t be nearly as long. I’m sharing my list for my personal, abbreviated 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards Reading Challenge. I’ve chosen to read the winners of five of the seventeen categories. Essentially, I want to know: are Goodreads users’ favorite books of 2021 worth the hype? Let’s find out!
What is the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards Reading Challenge?
As I mentioned in the intro, this homebrew reading challenge I’ve cooked up for myself centers around the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards winners. Despite my frequent commiserating that I have neither the money nor the time to read lots of new releases, I do like to check out a few movers-and-shakers each year. That is why I decided to create a mini-reading challenge to help me read a couple of last year’s most popular releases. Now, I am not claiming that I’m the only person who does a challenge like this. Personally, I took inspiration from Booktuber Emily Fox when I first attempted a version of this challenge in 2021. But everyone does it a little differently, so I wanted to make my own post breaking down how I’ll be approaching the challenge.
Last year, I attempted to read the winners in eight of the then-twenty categories: Fiction, Mystery & Thriller, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Horror, Poetry, and Debut Novel. I say “attempted” because I still haven’t finished To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.
However, this year, I’ll be choosing from only five out of the now-seventeen categories. The genres I selected were: Fiction, Mystery & Thriller, Science-Fiction, Horror, and History & Biography. These are genres that either, 1: I am already a fan of (e.g., Science-Fiction, Mystery & Thriller); or 2: ones that would get me out of my comfort zone (e.g., Horror, History & Biography). I downsized the number of categories this year because I didn’t feel like forcing myself to read something I wasn’t remotely interested in.
cough Sarah J. Maas cough.
So, without further ado, let’s jump in and see which books I’ll be reading for my DIY 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards Reading Challenge!
2021 Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Fiction
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s latest release is a slice-of-life novel following a group of young(ish) adults as they navigate their varied and complicated relationships. Eileen is an editorial assistant at a literary journal in Dublin. Still recovering from a painful break-up, Eileen seeks refuge with her childhood friend, Simon. Though grateful for the emotional support, Eileen worries that her lifelong friendship might be ruined if this relationship doesn’t work out. Alice, Eileen’s best friend from college, has relocated to a remote coastal town after having a nervous breakdown. Following a not-entirely-successful date with a local man named Felix, Alice takes a chance and asks him to travel to Rome with her. Beautiful World, Where Are You explores how platonic, emotional, and sexual relationships are affected by a world growing more emotionally, economically, and ethically inhospitable by the day.
I don’t tend to read a lot of literary fiction, so this is already a bit outside my comfort zone in genre alone. This will also be my first Sally Rooney novel. While this book and her two previous releases have generally positive ratings, the most-liked reviews on Goodreads show a smattering of one- and two-star ratings among the praise. “Controversial” seems too strong a word, but it doesn’t seem like everyone is in love with Sally Rooney. Additionally, friends with whom I have similar taste didn’t love her previous work. All this is to say I am going into Beautiful World, Where Are You with an open mind, but I’m also prepared for this book to just… not be for me.
Support a local bookstore (and this blog!) by purchasing Beautiful World, Where Are You on Bookshop.org.
2021 Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Mystery & Thriller
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Laura Dave’s 2021 thriller follows Hannah Hall, a wife and step-mom, when her life as she knows it is turned upside down. The story begins when Hannah receives a cryptic note from her husband, Owen, with two words: Protect her. Hannah knows the message is referring to Owen’s daughter, Bailey. The question is, why does Bailey need protecting? Hannah doesn’t get a chance to ask Owen what’s going on, as he’s disappeared and won’t return her calls. Soon, Owen’s boss is arrested by the FBI, who turn up at their Sausalito home shortly after, looking for Owen. Hannah and Bailey set out to discover his secrets — and his past. The truth, as it always does in these novels, will shock them. [insert dramatic music here.]
My track record with contemporary thriller novels is spotty, to say the least. While I love a good mystery, I am frequently disappointed in otherwise-popular thrillers such as Gone Girl, The Silent Patient, and The Guest List. The latter of which was last year’s winner in this category. Yet, I can’t seem to help myself in continuing to pick up these books; their marketing is always so intriguing! Plus, as a Bay Area native, I’m legally have to read this book. Knowing my past with domestic thrillers, I’ll try to manage my expectations, but I really am looking forward to this one!
Support a local bookstore (and this blog!) by purchasing The Last Thing He Told Me on Bookshop.org.
2021 Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Science-Fiction
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Andy Weir’s latest release is the story of Ryland Grace, the sole survivor of a mission tasked with saving humanity and Earth itself. The story begins with Ryland not knowing who, where, or even when he is. Nor does Ryland understand why he was sent to the outer reaches of space. As Ryland puts the pieces together, he begins to realize that it’s up to him to stop whatever it is that threatens the future of the species — and perhaps the planet.
This will be my first Andy Weir novel; I’ve never read The Martian, and I was warned about his ability to write female protagonists (as seen in Artemis). I am incredibly optimistic, though. Project Hail Mary has a staggering average rating of 4.53 out of 5 stars on Goodreads; meanwhile, most of the other books on this list have 3.75ish stars (give or take a few points). I also really love hard sci-fi, even if I don’t read enough of it. All things considered, I am very excited to pick this one up!
Support a local bookstore (and this blog!) by purchasing Project Hail Mary on Bookshop.org.
2021 Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Horror
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
The Final Girl Support Group is horror-writing up-and-comer Grady Hendrix’s latest release. In this meta-horror, six real-life final girls attend group therapy sessions to uncover and recover from their respective traumas. One night, one of the girls doesn’t show up to therapy. Protagonist Lynnette Tarkington’s worst fear appears to have come true. Someone knows about the girls, and they are determined to finish what other killers started so many years before.
In my post detailing my selections for the 2022 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, I chose the Halloween-themed short story collection, Haunted Nights, for Prompt #28. In discussing that prompt, I mentioned that I’ve been trying to read more horror after dabbling in a few classic and contemporary spooky stories. So, it only makes sense to include the horror category in my list of 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards winners to tackle this year. I’ve not read Grady Hendrix’s work, but I know his previous release was the runner-up in the horror category last year. That has to bode well, right? I also love the self-referential premise here, so I’m excited to see what’s in store!
Support a local bookstore (and this blog!) by purchasing The Final Girl Support Group on Bookshop.org.
2021 Goodreads Choice Award Winner for History & Biography
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Patrick Radden Keefe’s latest narrative non-fiction takes a look at the prolific Sackler family. Once known only for their exhaustive philanthropic pursuits, the Sacklers are now perhaps better known for their role in the making and marketing of OxyContin. Thereby, they are also now better known for their role in creating the opioid crisis that is still wreaking havoc in millions of lives. The full title of Keefe’s book is Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. And it truly is an extensive history. PRK details the events that brought patriarch Arthur Sackler into the pharmaceutical world and everything that came for generations after.
I’ve already started reading Empire of Pain at the time of writing, and I love it. Although, “love” feels like an inappropriate word, given that every other chapter makes me want to rip my hair out. I read PRK’s previous release, Say Nothing, for my 2021 reading challenge. While the story inside that book was interesting, I didn’t feel it matched what the jacket copy promised. However, this time, I am finding much more congruity between the book’s marketing and its contents. Empire of Pain has an excellent average rating of 4.58 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, and I can already see why. I can’t wait to continue reading this one — even if it does make my blood pressure go up.
Support a local bookstore (and this blog!) by purchasing Empire of Pain on Bookshop.org.
Will Any of These 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards Winners Become 2022 Favorites?
See, I told you this post wouldn’t be as long as the last one! That is everything I plan to read for my DIY 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards Reading Challenge. I won’t be reading all of the runners-up or nominees because, honestly, ain’t nobody got time for that. The only category I’ll be reading a runner-up for is Mystery & Thriller. And that’s just because I happened to find The Maidens for a great price at my local used bookstore.
If I had to say which of these five books I’m most excited for, it would have to be Empire of Pain. But maybe that’s a cop-out answer since I’ve already started reading it. In that case, I’ll say I’m most anticipating Project Hail Mary because, duh, it’s sci-fi!
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today! I’ll be back next week with my January Wrap-Up
(what?! It’s already almost February?! Who let that happen?!), so keep your eyes peeled for that!
As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon. 💙
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