This was a bit of a crazy year. First of all, I want to announce the impressive but pathetic news that I broke my own personal record. I read 197 books this year. I am both proud and ashamed.
Because of that, I've actually already set a stupid New Year's goal for 2022 that I will not read more than 100 books. It's actually dumb that I have to cap myself, but that's where we are.
I ended up reading a TON of non-fiction (like double what I've read in any other year since I started tracking in 2014; thank you, Holy Post podcast), so I decided I needed a top 10 fiction list AND a top 10 non-fiction list. You're welcome.
Fiction (This isn't my best fiction list. I read a ton of YA which surprises exactly no one, and then I went on a total Christian thriller tangent again and read series after series by Christy Barritt and Susan Sleeman, which are good, but maybe not good enough for a top ten list):
10- Restart by Gordon Korman
Is there a chance this book is only on the list so that I have something for boys? Maybe. But also, I really liked it. It's about a middle school boy who gets amnesia and discovers that he wasn't a nice guy before his head injury, but he's not sure if it's too late to change things.
9- The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
This was a duology, actually, and it's YA mystery. I like all things YA, mystery, and puzzles, so this was right up my alley. Think Westing Game meets Truly Devious.
8- I'm Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
This was kind of fascinating. It's told from two points of view, a white girl's and a Black girl's, and it's all set in one night when their paths cross during a racial riot.
7- On a Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Did I stumble upon this trilogy after a bout of Amish books? Yes. (It's not an Amish trilogy.) Did I include it in my list to prove I read more than just YA this year? Also maybe yes. Plus I'm a sucker for feel-good chick lit books, especially on islands in Maine.
6- 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston
I won't lie. I will always try to include YA books that are clean because they are so dang rare! But this was fun, and it was part of a duology about this big, amazing family and they way they all love each other. Plus, you know. Teen romance.
5- Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Jack meets Kate at a party and they have a whirlwind romance, until she dies. But when she dies, he gets thrown back to the day they met, and he relives their romance over and over. Less annoying than Groundhog Day, Jack has to decide what choices he can live with as he moves forward (and backward).
4- Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau
A teenage girl gets a dance scholarship to a ballet company in Paris and experiences all the magic of the city, like kisses and croissants! Super light. Super fluffy. Super fun. Super clean. All the best of YA chick lit.
3- The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Did this make my list because I loved it or because it just stayed with me for so long? I can't decide. (But hey, it's an adult novel!) Hannah is a great writer, but her books are hard, man. They are haunting. This one is about surviving in Alaska in the 70s, but there are themes of abuse that run throughout, too.
2- Framed! by James Ponti
This is a middle-grades trilogy about a boy who has a somewhat photographic memory and is tapped by DC to help solve crimes. Plausible? No. Fun? Yes. Similar to Mr. Lemoncello's Library in mood but with a better mystery and characters vibe.
1- The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo
I didn't read any fiction this year that made me go, "THAT'S MY NUMBER ONE!" But this one climbed to the top simply because I got on a Goo kick and tore through all her books. They're YA Korean lit, which isn't my typical genre, and I ended up loving them. I could have put any of her titles here, but this was the most recent one I read and remembered.
Non-Fiction (I won't lie. These are my true top ten for the whole year. Maybe I need to set more non-fiction goals in my life.):
10- You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union
I read a few memoirs by actors this year, but Gabrielle's made it because 1. Who doesn't love Bring It On with a cult-like passion? 2. She blends funny stories with her heartwrenching journey of infertility and surrogacy and parenting and 3. She really speaks out about matters of justice in such a loving, truth-telling way. She likes her language, though.
9- It's Not Your Turn by Heather Thompson Day
I didn't just include this because I got to interview her for our podcast; I actually reached out to interview her because I read and liked this book. She talks about how to let seasons of waiting shape us into the people God has called us to be.
8- The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore
Okay, technically this is a somewhat fictionalized account of a true story. But it's not exactly a novel, either. So I made the executive decision to include it in my non-fiction list. This chronicles the journey of Elizabeth Packard who was thrown into an asylum (here in Illinois) by her husband simply for disagreeing with him about his practice of religion. But Packard goes on to write her way out (after years) and even effect asylum laws throughout the country. Moore also wrote Radium Girls, which was on my list a few years ago. If she keeps writing about these lesser-known women who rose to change the world despite enduring horrific abuses, I'm all in.
7- The Gospel For Individualists by Tyler Zach
Tyler is my Instagram friend; he runs an enneagram account like mine. He also writes devotionals for each number. I've only read this one (for Fours), but I've purchased several other numbers for friends. Of all the enneagram devotionals I've read, this was my favorite by far. I think he's release the devotionals for Threes, Fours, Sixes, and Nines so far.
6- Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Can we just assume that numbers 6-2 are completely arbitrary and interchangeable? All of these books were so amazing. I wrote a whole long thing on instagram about this one. Sow and Friedman chronicle their relationship, putting a name to something that is more than friendship but platonic and vibrant. They don't hold back how difficult it is to prioritize their relationship, either, but the central message is that it's worth showing up for, over and over.
5- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
I'll admit it. I wrote Doyle off a few years ago when our social/political/theological beliefs seemed to branch away from each other. But on a whim, I picked up this book, and her writing speaks to me. Do I have to agree with every single belief she has or point she makes to appreciate her writing and the way she empowers women? No, I don't. I choose to believe that the Lord can speak through all truth, and like it or not, we are all imperfect vessels.
4- The Liturgy of Politics by Kaitlyn Schiess
Meeting Kaitlyn Schiess was one of my favorite parts of 2021! What a bright spot in a weird year. I first heard her on the Holy Post podcast, but she was kind enough to be a guest on my podcast, and she's exactly as smart and sweet as she seems. I could listen to her connect political and theological concepts all day long. Her mind is brilliant!
3- The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary McBride
Ahhh. This book (and Dr. McBride) got me through much of the fall as I learned about embodiment practices and how connecting with our bodies is central to being an integrated, whole person as we were created to be.
2- The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr
If you believe women can be pastors, read this book. If you don't believe women can be pastors, read this book. Barr isn't a pastor or theologian; she's a historian who specializes in medieval history. She unpacks the history of women in all societies and how women's roles have changed over time. She also dives into the ESV translation of the Bible and compares it to other translations, and I promise you will learn things you've never heard before. This is a powerful argument about how our current society shapes our every belief, and until we know the waters we are swimming in, we will remain unaware even as it slowly poisons us.
1- Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
Oh hey. Maybe you've heard of this one? I mean, Deedra and I have only talked about on the last five or six podcast episodes. But that's because IT IS SO GOOD. It's a reference book for 87 emotions and experiences, and it gives us language and a map to all of it. Just the chapter titles alone were enough to geek me out, but then when I read about how she set up her research on it, stop it. I was gone forever. Take me away, Dr. Brown.
Bonus- Called to War by Dawn Amsden Stark
I technically read this book in 2020, but it released in 2021, so I'm including it in this year's list. Also, since I led the launch team, it felt unfair to rank the book, so I'm adding it as a bonus and a must-read for you all! If you don't know what this is about yet, I can't help you. You should follow me more.
So there ya have it. My longest list there will ever be. Next year's will be back to a combined top ten list because of my self-imposed cap of 100 total. Au revoir, personal record. It's been fun.