best books of 2021 (and other highlights)

I really should have posted this at the end of December. Or at least planned it for the beginning of January. But life happened, as it always does. Things were rather hectic over the holidays. And maybe I was tad bit less than organized. Regardless, I’m doing this now because, well, better late than never (at least that’s what they say).

In all honesty, I’ve always wanted to do this – that is, gab about my favorite books of the year, tell you to read them or be miserable, and all that jazz. Ever since I read my first bookish-recap-of-the-year post eons ago on another’s blog, how could I help but think at the time that I, too, had something to contribute to my fellow booknerds’ already toppling TBR lists? It was inevitable that one day I’d find a way to do it… and now, I just so happen to have a blog…

In past years, I’ve been a stickler for eleven (and only eleven) books allowed on my “best of the year” list. It also happened that in the past, I certainly did not read 106 books in the space of 365 days… (I’m still wrapping my mind around that figure). Consequently, I’ve decided to up my allowance of book slots for the year to fifteen. Because really, there were so many wonderful books I read for the first time last year, it was painful to try and pick which ones to cut from the featured favorites.

In order of date read, here are my top book discoveries from 2021

1. Born Again – by Charles H. Colson

There are a very few books among last year’s reads that hit me deeper than most and tangibly changed my life. This is one of them. Colson’s story hit hard and hit home. Aside from the historically fascinating look behind the Watergate scandal, Born Again offers a resounding reminder of God’s grace and sovereignty even in the darkest of times, when it seems like he’s absent. A truly powerful read.

2. Howl’s Moving Castle – by Diana Wynne Jones

A charming, humorous fairytale, with quaint oddities for characters and a twisty, whirlwind plot… have I ever enjoyed a romp so thoroughly? This little book is pure delight. You really should do yourself a favor and read it.

3. On the Horizon – by Lois Lowry

I don’t have enough words to describe how deeply this book has touched me. Based on the author’s own experience in WWII, On the Horizon is a poetic reflection about mending after war, and more broadly, in Lowry’s own words, about finding “meaning in the way lives intersect – or how they fail to.” The lilting poetry, the contrasting perspectives, and the fact that it all really happened, give a unique depth and beauty to this book. Being half-Japanese myself, it touches a special chord in my heart.

4. Deeplight – by Frances Hardinge

Here’s one that took me by surprise. Frances Hardinge writes in a way that lives and breathes. This book takes deep philosophical questions, real characters, an amazing fantastical setting, and a compellingly twisted story – and packs them into one raw, beautiful, crazy ride. One of the best works of young adult fantasy I’ve ever read.

5. Unbreakable – by Sara Ella

I discovered Sara Ella’s Unblemished series this year, and though the other books were wonderful, the third and final book was by far my favorite. It’s the full culmination of a long journey… and how noble, how bittersweet, how utterly satisfying that ending was. It felt totally complete. Endings like that should happen more often.

6. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering – Timothy Keller

This book is an incredibly comprehensive, theologically rich, well-reasoned approach to the reality of pain and suffering. The sheer volume of content – from philosophical defense, to theological exposition of Scripture, to shepherding exhortations and guidance – sets this book apart as one of the most well-rounded on the topic of suffering that I have read. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is something quite unique, and also much needed. Keller writes with wisdom and solid reasoning, yet with a heart of compassion and understanding that’s like balm to a weary spirit. 

7. The Whole Christ – Sinclair B. Ferguson

The Whole Christ is one of those books that’s packed theologically with Biblical truth that flows into practicality. It’s a book that made me think deeply as I read and test every point that was made against the Scriptures… only to find that the conclusions drawn along the way are wholly in sync with the Word. It’s a book that exposed tendencies toward ungodly thinking and living in myself that I scarcely recognized before, much less understood. It uncovers the root of legalism/antinomianism for what it is – a misunderstanding of who God is and consequently the divorcing of God’s law from his character. It digs deeply into the Gospel for its truest treasure – Christ himself.

Saturated in the Truth, masterfully laid out, and incredibly relevant. Quite possibly my favorite read of the year.

8. 7 Myths About Singleness – Sam Allberry

Compassionate. Edifying. And impeccably Biblical. This book speaks to both the married and the single believer, and was so convicting and encouraging to read. Allberry is a credible author, in a unique position to be writing 7 Myths as a single pastor, but with all the Truth of Scripture to back his points. I closed this book with a deeper understanding and appreciation not only of God’s purposes through singleness and marriage, but of the Gospel itself.

9. Humble Roots – Hannah Anderson

Reading this book was like taking a drink of fresh, cold water after a long and weary trek. This book not only teaches about humility, it uses the humble things in life to do so, weaving anecdotes and life experiences with truth and Scripture in a way that’s soothing, convicting, and edifying all at once. Humble Roots is so full of compassionate wisdom presented in such a unique way… it’s a book I wish I had multiple copies of so I could hand them out to all my friends. 

10. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

I read The Hunger Games series this year for the first time, including the latest addition, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. To my surprise, I loved them all. They are not your average YA adventures. These are not your average YA characters. This is a series about suffering and war; it’s about surviving, and fighting, and being broken, and surviving again. There’s no glory at the end. The true heroes are the forgotten ones. The power in these books is in how real and raw they get. Mockingjay in particular brings this home in the most bittersweet, perfect way.

11. Living by the Book – Howard G. Hendricks & William D. Hendricks

Easily the most practical, and certainly one of the most accessible books I’ve read this year. Living by the Book left me refreshed, properly convicted, and well equipped to more effectively study Scripture. It would be hard to read it and walk away unaffected.

12. Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans – compiled by Robert Elmer

There’s a prayer for every season of life in this book, some poetic, some long, some short and to the point – all honest and saturated in the Truth. There were many days I sat down to read, not feeling particularly worshipful, and ended up closing the book with a heart overflowing with repentance and gratitude. When I do not know what to pray, the prayers of these faithful men remind me of the truth even while giving words to my many wordless thoughts.

13. How Should We Then Live – Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer offers a highly relevant and perceptive analysis on the shift in Western thought and culture over time. It was fascinating and eye-opening to see different trains of thought so pervasive in our world today traced back to certain basic assumptions about God and about man. A penetrating, thought-provoking read.

14. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This book is pain and beauty rolled into one… I think I cried.

15. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

A classic through and through. Bradbury’s peculiarly poetic style instantly had me captured. In this book, he wrestles with certain “what ifs” and the philosophical dilemmas and conclusions that follow. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. It’s terrifying and fascinating and noble and resolute, this book – and it’s about books. How could I not fall in love?

Other highlights of 2021 include (I’ll make this short and sweet)….

The following movies:

And the following songs:

  • Oxygen – Kings Kaleidoscope
  • Instruments of Mercy – Beautiful Eulogy
  • Father, You Are All We Need – Citizens and Saints
  • Rest – The Gray Havens
  • Anchor for My Soul – Josh Garrels
  • Does Your Heart Break – The Brilliance
  • Atlas – Coldplay
  • Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me – City Alight

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. You’re one long-suffering person and I applaud you.

So, tell me about you. Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favorite reads of 2021? Songs? Movies? Other highlights? I’m always up for recommendations, so fire away!

Cover photo by Min An from Pexels

2 thoughts on “best books of 2021 (and other highlights)”

  1. AWESOME post, Libby!!! I read The Little Prince last year too, and YES, it definitely goes down for one of the best books of 2021 for me too!!!! It’s beautiful! I haven’t read any of the other books on your list but I did read Unblemished last year. Oh, some of my favorite reads of 2021? *has to think for a while cuz apparently I don’t have a very good working brain, lol* I guess that’s what Goodreads is for. XD I know one of my reads was the final book in Jennifer Nielsen’s Ascendance Series and Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. SO good!!! Anyway, really enjoyed reading this post!!!!!! (And hey *waves* I know I never came over to welcome you to the blogosphere, so here is my VERY belated WELCOME TO THE BLOGOSPHERE!!!!!!! *sends welcome goodie basket* I LOVE YOUR NEW BLOG and can’t wait to see all the awesome posts in store. <333333

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Issabelle! Yes, The Little Prince is so lovely…
      Haha, yes, Goodreads is so useful for keeping track when my brain can’t keep up with what I read.
      Fawkes is definitely a blast! It makes me so happy that you liked it so much. And I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the Ascendance series… I’ve heard so much about it, I really ought to move it up on my tbr : )
      THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your sweet welcome, my friend. You are so kind and encouraging ❤ (and thanks for the goodie basket! *sends hugs in return*)

      Liked by 1 person

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