The Best Books I Read in 2021

Choosing the best books of the year each year is never easy, and 2021 Best Books of the Year is no different. Nevertheless, here’s my top five books of 2021 to consider adding to your 2022 reading list.

At the beginning of 2021, I created a book list to work through during the year that related to my goals I had set at the beginning of the year. I hadn’t created a specific list of books to read in many years, so this was a big adjustment for me.

The year before (2020) I had set a reading goal to read more fiction than non-fiction. I did this for a number of reasons, but the main reason was to break the cycle of “do better Christianity” that I had cycled back into in years past.

So, easing back into more growth-minded books while keeping my rhythm of restful reading was not an easy task this year. But I’m ending the year having read 50+ books and about half of those were fiction and maybe ten percent from the original list I laid out for myself.

Overall, it was a good reading year, and by year’s end I found a good rhythm to my reading routine that I will take into my 2022 reading year.

The Best Books I Read in 2021

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Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass

I chose this book as my book for the Gratitude Action Plan I worked through for this year during the fall season. I’m convinced that gratitude is a cornerstone of Christian living, so it’s something I want to keep learning about. This book was a fantastic book on cultivating gratitude in our lives without being fluffy. I think Diana Butler Bass hit the nail on the head in a lot of ways in this book on gratefulness. However, be warned, it does turn political (and whiny) at the end. I will never understand how one side of the political spectrum cannot see their own hypocrisy toward the other side of the political spectrum; nevertheless, I refuse to throw the baby out with the bath water (how many idioms can I use in this short blurb?). This book is well worth the read (even if you choose to skim the last quarter of the book).

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

This book has been on my list for quite some time. I read Jayber Crow a few years ago, and it wasn’t my favorite book. I don’t know if I wasn’t in the right frame of mind or what when I read it, but I almost talked myself out of reading this one in light of my first Wendell Berry experience. However, the Clarksons (whom I admire tremendously and can relate to in so many ways, especially Sarah Clarkson) has recommended and referenced this particular work of Wendell Berry’s so many times that I couldn’t resist giving it a try. I’m so very glad I did! This is a book I will return to again and again and again. I imagine it will partner with me through the seasons of life much like Stepping Heavenward has. Hannah Coulter helped me unearth some sticking points from my childhood and make peace with them as well as help me lean into the simple, quiet life of a woman who chooses faithfulness year in and year out. This is not a fast read, but it’s a well worth it read.

Deep Discipleship: How the Church Can Make Whole Disciples of Jesus by J.T. English

Over the last several years I’ve been contemplating community and discipleship deeply. The pandemic has really propelled my thinking into hyper-focus as I’ve watched the systems we relied on as a church fall apart in so many ways. Deep Discipleship outlines a beautiful framework for discipleship within a local church, one that I plan to spend more time pondering and studying in 2022. I found this book deeply practical while not at all formulaic. It was a refreshing look at discipleship within a local church body, be a large or small body of Christ.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

This last year has been a true journey for me in finding my way back into writing as a form of art and ministry (but mostly art). Until this year, I never really saw myself as “a writer” and as a result, I pushed this part of myself into the fringes of life. But the need to create beauty in many ways, and through words being one way, I picked this book up to help me reconnect with my writing life. This book truly met me where I am and helped give me the boost and confidence to launch back out into the world of writing again. This is a must-read for anyone looking for perspective on creativity and artful living.

Until Unity by Fancis Chan

I took copious notes while reading this book. It resonated so very deeply with me. I actually started listening to it for free on my library app, but quickly realized that this is a book I wanted to purchase. Francis Chan addresses head on the divisions we are allowing into our midst as Christians (and he gets really honest about his part in adding to the divisions). I believe this is a difficult book to read, and maybe even agree with, but it’s a book we need to read and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our personal lives as we seek to love the church as Christ loves His church. This is a must-read for Christians, especially in the American church.

Honorable Mentions:

The following are books worth mentioning because even though they didn’t make my “best of” list, I think they are still worth reading:

Join the 2022 Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge

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What were your favorite books of 2021?

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