For the first time in quite a while, I didn’t think I’d make a list of my favorite books this year . . . because quite honestly, although I read 75 titles, the majority were just fine. I looked over my 2021 book list today, though, and a dozen 4.5 and 5 star books stood out, so I thought I’d pass along my Top 10 Favorites!
I’ve pulled a little blurb from the Amazon description as well as shared my own thoughts on each book below. Most released in 2021, but a couple are older and two release in February 2022 (I read an early copy of each).
The “Can’t-Miss Books list for January-April” will be out in the next week or two, but if you’re looking for a great read over the Christmas break, check your local library, independent bookstore, or order the ebook for immediate access to these favorites!
My 10 Favorite Books of 2021 . . .
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers :: Dane C. Ortlund
About: Christians can easily feel that Jesus is perpetually disappointed and frustrated, maybe even close to giving up on them. They know what Christ has done for them―but who is He? How does He feel about His people amid all their sins and failures? In Matthew 11, Jesus describes Himself as “gentle and lowly in heart,” longing for His people to find rest in Him. This book reflects on His words, diving deep into Bible passages that speak of Christ’s affections for sinners and encouraging believers as they journey, weary and faltering, toward heaven.
My thoughts: This is my very favorite book of the year. My poor friends and Bible Study have heard me talk about it approximately 2,371 times. It’s slower in the middle but picks back up. I’ll definitely re-read it several times.
About: Rather than the source of joy it was intended to be, the law is often viewed as an angry god’s restrictions for a rebellious people. In Ten Words to Live By, Jen Wilkin looks at each of the Ten Commandments, showing how they come to bear on our lives today as we seek to love God and others, to live in joyful freedom, and to long for that future day when God will be rightly worshiped for eternity. Learn to see the law of God as a feast for your famished soul, open to anyone who calls on the name of the Lord.
My thoughts: Jen’s teaching is sound and insightful, wise and clear. This is another title I’ll re-read, but it’s also one I want to give to a few of my friends who have said they struggle to read the Old Testament.
About: Taylor invites readers to see what it means to be a survivor after the news vehicles drive away and the media moves on, weaving her own story of survival and recovery into a larger conversation about gun violence in our country. With compassion and honesty, she encourages readers to reconsider their own engagement with the issue and to join her in envisioning a more hopeful, safer future for our nation. Move beyond thoughts and prayers and enter into grace-filled dialogue and action.
My thoughts: Perhaps one of the greatest compliments I can give a book is that it truly made me think. For such a polarizing topic, it strikes me that the first words I thought of after reading the final page of When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough were: vulnerable, honest, well-researched, gracious. It’s heavy, but I found it to be compelling, not condemning.
About: While her husband orbited the Earth for nine months, Stacey experienced her own adventure at home. With behind-the-scenes glimpses into space flight and honest stories of loneliness, rediscovering fun, choosing hope in the face of fear and uncertainty, and trusting God, The Astronaut’s Wife encourages readers to live life to the fullest―no matter where you are.
My thoughts: Stacey speaks to the importance of community, the joy found in trying new things, and the power of choosing hope through changing circumstances. While she does take the reader behind-the-scenes into part of her family’s NASA experience, The Astronaut’s Wife is about much more than that. This one kept me turning the pages
Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace :: Osheta Moore
About: Dear White Peacemakers is a breakup letter to division, a love letter to God’s beloved community, and an eviction notice to the violent powers that have sustained racism for centuries.Rooted in the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus, this book is a challenging call to transform white shame, fragility, saviorism, and privilege, in order to work together to build the Beloved Community as anti-racism peacemakers.
My thoughts: Drawing on the Sermon on the Mount, Pastor Osheta Moore kindly teaches and guides readers toward shalom and the important work of anti-racism peacemaking. Osheta’s is a voice you can trust to tell the truth, to speak with grace, and to kindly but firmly point readers back to the words of Jesus.
Hope Anyway: Welcoming Possibility in Ourselves, God, and Each Other :: Leeana Tankersley
About: With an openhanded spirit and openhearted vulnerability, Leeana Tankersley reveals the darkest chapter of her own story, the thing she never thought would happen. Along the way she shares how waiting patiently in the darkness allowed something incredible to take root within her: a defiant and hard-won hope that is not dependent on happy endings, and the powerful truth that it’s in the darkness that new life begins.
My thoughts: This is a hope-full and honest love letter to those who are experiencing unwanted change, loss, or disappointment. If that’s you or someone you love, this is your next right book to read in 2022.
About: Stress is inevitable, but letting it control your life is optional. This 60-day devotional offers spiritual truth alongside practical tools to apply that will truly make a difference. Each day, Holley shares a devotional entry, Scripture, a prayer, questions for reflection, and inspirational quotes to help you learn to live with more peace and less pressure, more calm and less chaos, more worship and less worry.
My thoughts: I’ve read all of Holley’s devotional books and this one was my favorite yet. The topic is especially timely and the content is approachable, thoughtful, well-written and encouraging. I’ll definitely re-read this one again and will gift to friends as well.
I Love Jesus, But I Want to Die: Finding Hope in the Darkness of Depression :: Sarah J. Robinson
About: With unflinching honesty, Sarah shares her story of battling depression and fighting to stay alive despite toxic theology that made her afraid to seek help outside the church. Pairing her own story with scriptural insights, mental health research, and simple practices, Sarah helps readers reconnect with the God who is present in our deepest anguish and discover that they are worth everything it takes to get better. Beautifully written and full of hard-won wisdom, I Love Jesus, But I Want to Die offers a path toward a rich, hope-filled life in Christ, even when healing doesn’t look like what you expect.
My thoughts: Vulnerable, generous, honest, compassionate, truth-filled. This is not a “just choose joy” message, nor does Sarah preach at you. Instead, it’s a shame-free guide for those who are struggling―and for those who love someone who is struggling. Truly, it’s one I hope thousands upon thousands of people read because it has the power to change the conversation and potentially save lives.
Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection :: Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie
About: In a self-help culture that promotes endless progress, Good Enough is a permission slip for those who need to hear that it’s okay if the best you can do today is to simply show up. Bowler and Richie offer fresh imagination for how truth, beauty, and meaning can be discovered amid the chaos of life, and their words celebrate kindness, compassion, and honesty in a culture that rewards ruthless individualism and blind optimism.
My thoughts: Honest and approachable, I appreciated the daily reflections, blessings, and “good enough” steps readers can take. I’d particularly recommend this to anyone who is grieving, walking through loss or a difficult diagnosis, or overwhelmed.
About: One day, Lori is a therapist who helps patients in her practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. As she learns more about her patients’ lives, she finds that the questions they’re struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to her own therapist. With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites readers into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.
My thoughts: Funny, honest, unexpected and insightful, this was a delightful surprise. Months later, I still find myself occasionally thinking about how smartly Gottlieb wrote each person/character. There are also a handful of great nuggets of wisdom from Lori’s sessions.
Your turn! What is one of the best books you read in 2021?
P.S. If one of your goals in 2022 is to read more books, I’d suggest downloading the (free) Kindle app or getting Kindle Unlimited! I finished a dozen books by reading a few pages at a time, whenever I had a couple minutes to spare. I don’t always have a book with me, but my phone is usually nearby. With the app, a book is always within reach! At the time of this post going live, you can get one month of Kindle Unlimited for free here or, if you prefer audiobooks, get a free month of Audible.
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