Acts 8:30 – So Philip ran to catch up. As he drew closer, he overheard the man reading from the scroll of Isaiah the prophet. Philip asked him, “Sir, do you understand what you’re reading?”
This is one of my favorite posts to do: the best books that I read last year. Yes, I am a little behind on sharing these recommendations. But for those who LOVE to read, are we not always looking for good suggestions?
A couple years ago, I began keeping track of the books that I read. As silly as this sounds, it is very rewarding to have these lists. I LOVE to go back and see what I read; the books that I loved and the ones that were not as exciting. I know everyone has their own personal favorite type of books. I do as well. These days, I try to read a variety of books: non-fiction, fiction, fun books as well as ones that I relate with the work that I am doing. I read books that I hope will help me grow as a person; whether this be as a Christian, a woman, a person who wants to educate myself on a topic or period of history or how I can develop myself as a person. Some books fall into the self-help category, which may or may not be a person’s cup of tea. With any book, I approach it looking for a few nuggets that the author shares that I want to think about, contemplate and hopefully grow from. I know that I do not have every best thought out there and love to read what others are saying that can help me.
I share these books in case you or someone else you know are looking for book recommendations. Some of these books have been out for a while, so maybe you read it before I did. If you have recommendations for my “To Be Read” list, please let me know!! My list is long, but books personally recommended to me always get to the top of the list!
So, here are my 11 favorite books that I read in 2021, listed in no particular order.
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Nyquist
I started reading this book in 2020 and took my time with it. I didn’t want to read it like a firehouse. I wanted to savor it. Shauna is younger than I am, and I wish I had gained some of her insights and thoughts earlier in my life. She’s challenged me to look for my soul. To keep love at the center of what I do. To focus on what I feel is best for me and not what others are doing. I think I need to read this again in 2021. (P.S. – she has a new book coming out sometime this year.)
The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
This historical novel book tells the story of two English women who worked at the premier embroidery shop in London after World War II. One of the women’s granddaughters later discovers that her grandmother was involved in creating Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown. The story crosses decades and locations and is a delightful read, whether you are into embroidery or not.
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman
For those who feel stuck about what they should be doing or what is most important to do, Emily’s book is for you. She challenges readers not to look too far ahead. Focus on the most important next right thing to do.
I loved this book. I learned a lot from it. My implementation of her ideas has been awful with no discredit to Emily. She also has a journal to help you work through your next right thing. Yes, I have the journal as well. I WILL use it in 2022.
Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison
I purposefully read this book during Black History Month. With all the racism and challenges around this culturally lately, I feel like I do not know enough about this topic. I did some research and picked a book to help me learn. I wanted a book written from a black perspective. This the book I chose.
After I read it the first time, I asked two friends to read this book so we could discuss it. We are all pastors and learned so much from this book. My heart broke as Latasha shared personal stories of how white people, who went to the church where she worked, have spoken and treated her. Honestly, I was embarrassed.
If you want to explore a Christian perspective on racism, this is an excellent book to read. I learned so much. I’m embarrassed that I have not embodied more of what she taught in the book. I feel a bit more educated which is a first step.
Night by Ellie Wiesel
This is a haunting book about a Jewish person’s experience of the Holocaust. A teenager when sentenced to a concentration camp, Ellie shares how he tried to keep his Jewish faith while enduring the horrors of multiple camps. Because Ellie is so honest of his experiences, it can be a difficult read.
The book ends when Ellie sees himself in a mirror after the liberation of the concentration camp. This book spoke to me deeply and had me questioning if I could have withstood what he did. I’m not sure I could have.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
I describe myself as having a little bit of knowledge about a lot of different things and not mastering any of them. This book encourages people to focus on a few, really important things rather than doing everything. I should have read it years ago.
Minimalism is a popular concept these days. It’s the idea that having less stuff means you have more time for the things you love rather than maintaining and overseeing all of your stuff. Essentialism is minimalizing what you do so you spend your time on the really big, important stuff. It’s not easy to make the switch … and yet, we begin with awareness. I’m not sure that I will be able to fully embrace essentialism, but I continue to explore this.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
I “read” this book twice this year. The first time, on CD’s and the second time I the read it for a book club.
I LOVE THIS BOOK. My favorite book in 2020 was The Nightingale, also by Kristin Hannah. The Four Winds is set during the Great Depression. It tells the story of one family from Texas and their struggle to survive the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. It’s a heart-wrenching tale with threads of truth in it from families who lived it.
It is humbling to read this book and realize how blessed I am. Every time I throw away spoiled food now, I think of this book and how many people tried to survive during the 1930’s in the U.S. My grandparents were married right before this time period in Iowa and farmed. My Dad was born during the height of the Great Depression. While my Grandma Deaton spoke some of this period, I wished I asked her more questions. After reading this book, I read more books from this time period because it so fascinating.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I listened to this book on audio a few years back. This time, I read the book for a book club. Set in a North Carolina marsh, it tells the gripping tale of a young girl who raises herself in the marsh. It’s another harrowing story of survival. The ending is a bit of a surprise, and I won’t ruin it for you. It’s won a ton of awards.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
I’ve had this book in my “to read pile” for years. I was determined to get it read.
It’s another story about survival and awful conditions. An autobiography, the author shares how his family immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland. His family lived in great poverty and returned to Ireland after the “Great Crash,” only to find themselves in perpetual poverty. His mother’s family helped them, but his dad could not keep a job and drank away what money he made. He abandons his family and Frank’s mother tries to raise her mitt full of kids.
This book is an account of the first 19 years of the author’s life. It’s written in an Irish brogue and is brutally honest. The descriptions are not for everyone. Eventually, Frank moves to the U.S. and becomes a writer. It’s a highly acclaimed book with many awards.
Forgetting What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkerst
The author writes from her own struggle with forgiveness, prompted after she discovers her husband had an affair. Lysa has written several books and incorporates her Christian faith in them. Here, she provide a multi-layered look at forgiveness that incorporates a biblical understanding of forgiveness as well. If forgiveness is something you struggle with, please read this book.
The Feel Good Effect: Reclaim Your Wellness by Finding Small Shifts that Create Big Change by Robyn Conley Downs
This book is written for people who feel stuck in their lives and aren’t sure how to move on. (See some similar themes with what I’m reading right now?) Anyways, Robyn implemented a “feel good effect” in her life and shares how others can do the same. She encourages small mindset shifts and giving yourself permission to be gentler with yourself rather than expecting to be perfect. There is a wellness concept with this book as well but does not have a faith-based component included.
Another book reading revelation this year? Discussing what you read with another person can be so VERY, VERY, helpful. Seriously. I am part of a book club that means several times a year. It stretches me to read books I might not otherwise read and provides a discussion forum. For over a year, I have been virtually meeting with two friends nearly weekly. We take turns picking a book to discuss. Again, I’ve read books new books with them and find it such a great learning opportunity.
This happened in Acts early in the history of the Christian church. An Ethiopian man is riding in his chariot, reading scripture but doesn’t understand it. Philip reaches out to this man and helps him understand what he is reading. This man gets baptized and is heralded as the first non-Jewish person to come to know Jesus as his Savior.
This leads me to a thought: would some of YOU like to participate in a monthly or bi-monthly book club? We’d pick a book and virtually meet to discuss the book. We could cover a variety of books. Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in. If I have a few people that are, we’ll get one started in the very near future.
I hope you find joy with some of these books. If there is a book or two you think I should read this year, please let me know!
For the pleasure and joy of learning through reading, I am grateful.
Holy God – We learn in many different ways. I thank you for the opportunity to learn through other people’s written words. Your written word in scripture is so powerful and life-changing. Thank you for the opportunity to read other written words and books that is also impactful as well in my life. Amen.
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