Best Books of 2021

man reading book while sitting on pile of booksWe read a lot of books this year in Topeka and Shawnee County. Peruse these booklists to discover which books had the highest checkouts or made the cut as reader favorites. 2021 titles top the checkout numbers, but readers also continued to work on to-be-read lists from previous years. Good thing we still have two more weeks of December left for reading. You might just find your best book of 2021 listed here! 

Top Checkouts

Fiction

Our community of readers checks out a lot of print mystery, thrillers and romance, with bestselling authors such as James Patterson, Kristin Hannah and Lee Child in the lead for top checkouts.  

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A number of popular books that did not make the cut for the print list had high ebook checkouts, such as Fortune and Glory by Janet Evanovich, The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave and The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner. The list also includes State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, which was our June community read.  

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Digital audiobooks continue to get more checkouts each year. Readers enjoy listening while walking the dogs, doing chores or crafting. The top checkouts in audiobooks are similar to the ebook and print fiction lists, but there are some titles that only made the cut in audio, such as The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and The Searcher by Tana French. 

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Nonfiction

In nonfiction checkouts of ebooks and print books reflect a big interest in politics, celebrity biographies and true crime.  

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Middle grade and YA

Graphic novels and television tie-ins are popular with middle grade readers. Teen readers checked out a lot of fantasy and mystery titles. 

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Community & staff recommendations 

Join our Top City Reads Together Facebook group to chat with other readers about books. The most talked about books are often books that don’t make the list of top checkouts. Here are the books our community of readers named as their favorites from 2021. 

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Staff picks

Of course I must share my personal favorite books of the year and other library staff favorites. Let me know if any of these amazing reads made your best-of list.  

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Check out teen librarian Angie’s top picks of 2021 for a diverse and eclectic list of YA reads, complete with personal pitches that will make you want to read every single one of them (or recommend them to a teen in your life).  

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We love picture books! Here are youth librarian Sherry’s must-read picture books of 2021.  

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It’s a podcast tradition to chat about the Goodreads Choice Award nominees at the end of the year. Listen in for our thoughts on the best books of 2021 on The Bookmark podcast.  

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More reading recommendations 

Find reading recommendations all year long in the library catalog, BookPage, books blogs and weekly episodes of our library’s podcast The Bookmark. If you’re looking for a personal recommendation, we can help! Answer 10 easy questions and then pick up your books with our Browsing Just for You service.

Happy reading in 2022!

Miranda is your Readers Librarian. She loves to talk books, and to connect readers with their next great reads. Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions, co-leads the BookBites book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's Top City Reads Together team.