I meant to post the next third of the books I read this year in September, but who was I kidding—I should have known that with school starting, I wouldn’t have had time for a book post then. So now that the year is ending, I figured it’s time to tell you about the rest of the books I read this year, from May to December.
I wrote about the books I read from January to April in this post, “2021 Reading Challenge, Part 1,” and as I stated in that one, my goal this year was to read four books a month from each of these categories: spiritual growth, classic, current events, and young adult. Some months that goal was accomplished, and some months, I only got two or three read. Thus, my final tally for 2021 (providing I finish the one I’m on by Friday!) will be 40 books read.
It took some retraining of my brain to focus on making time for reading, rather than viewing it as a time filler, but I’m grateful I did. I learned so much this year about a variety of topics, and it helped me become more grounded in truth and what I believe. And now that I’m on a roll, I can’t stop—I already have a long list of books to read next year!
Because I have more books to write about in this post than the last one, I’m not going to go into too much detail on most of them unless I felt like they were particularly noteworthy. If you have questions about any of them, I’d love to discuss them with you further!
- The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt [Current Events]
This was by far one of the best books I read this year. This book goes into detail about how the minds of our young adults have become “coddled” in the past few decades and what we can do about it. If you are a parent with young children or a teacher or professor, I strongly recommend that you read this and see how you can help our young people have more resiliency and more openness to discussing things that they disagree with.
- Another Gospel? By Alisa Childers [Spiritual Growth]
If you’re wondering what is going on with progressive Christianity and well-known people “deconstructing” their faith, this book gives huge insight into this trend. It helps believers recognize the signs of progressive Christianity and how they can fortify their own faith with the truth.
- Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli [YA book]
Great book for ages 10-13. Helps give perspective on kids who come from broken backgrounds and their longing to find a family and a place to belong.
- Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher [Current Events]
Also, by far one of the best books I read this year. Rod Dreher shows how “soft totalitarianism” is beginning to creep into America, drawing on the experiences of those who lived through the Communist regime of the Soviet Union. He shows how believers who made it through that time without losing their faith or giving into the ideology of Communism did so by “living not by lies” and by building communities with other believers to help them do the same. Definitely a message that we need as believers in a day and age when lies seem to surround us constantly.
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner [Classic]
This was the sad tale of a family in the South going back to their hometown to bury their mother, and in the process, telling each of their stories with their hopes and struggles. I didn’t love Faulkner’s style in this book—it was pretty confusing in parts—but it did show clearly the depressing view of a life without God in it.
- Hidden Figures (Young Reader’s Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly [YA book]
Absolutely fascinating story about four of the African-American women who helped work on aircraft during WWII and then the space shuttles afterward. I cannot fathom the intelligence that some people have—I’ll never be that smart!
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway [Classic]
There is no doubt that Hemingway is a classic author for a reason. He masterfully tells a story and sheds light on humanity in compelling ways. This story was also a depressing read for me as it revealed the emptiness of lives lived in a constant cycle of drinking and sexual promiscuity while clearly longing for more meaning; however, I’m glad I read it.
- The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan [YA book; part of the Ranger’s Apprentice series]
I started this series awhile ago and have read the books off and on over the years. I love this series with its action-packed adventures, focusing on bravery and sacrifice in the pursuit of good triumphing over evil. An excellent series for boys or girls, ages 10 to teen [and adults who appreciate good, wholesome stories!].
- Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein [YA book]
I read the first book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, a year or so ago, and really enjoyed it. This one is the third or fourth book in the series, and I, unfortunately, didn’t like it as much as the first. The plot line seemed too cliché and the problem/solution not realistic enough. It was still a great kids’ story, though, and kids who like puzzles and mysteries would probably enjoy it.
- Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin [Spiritual Growth]
This is a book on how to study the Bible, which I went through over the summer with a group of college girls from our church. She has excellent methods for studying the Bible, and for those who are new to the process, it is an excellent resource.
- The Rise & Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl R. Trueman [Current Events]
Probably the most challenging and insightful book I read this year. I’m glad I read it during the summer when I had plenty of time to focus, and even then, I had to set daily goals of about 20 pages a day. I felt like I truly discovered the reasons for how we’ve gotten to the place we are today in our culture, and I’m grateful for the research and depth of wisdom that Trueman provided. I’d strongly recommend this book if you’re up for a challenge!
- A Boy’s Will & North of Boston by Robert Frost [Classic; Poetry]
I picked this up at an old bookstore in Fredericksburg, thanks to a friend’s recommendation, and it was the perfect squeeze in at the end of the month. Beautiful poetry that shows everyday life and the contemplations that surround it.
- A Tangled Web by L. M. Montgomery [Classic]
It’s not often I find a book by my favorite author that I haven’t read, but this was one of them. I discovered it while thrifting for classroom books with my mom (a favorite summer tradition), and quickly devoured it. It wasn’t my favorite story by Lucy Maud, but I did enjoy seeing how the problems and victories of people’s lives haven’t changed much over the decades!
- Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham [Current Events]
An excellent insight into critical race theory and how it’s diametrically opposed to the beliefs of the Gospel. Voddie Baucham breaks it down in ways that are easy for Christians to understand and recognize as it’s popping up in our culture all around us. Spoiler alert: when schools insist that they’re not teaching critical race theory, they may not be doing so explicitly, but the tenets of CRT are creeping in like wildfire. I should know since my very dear friend teaches in the public school system and has all sorts of materials from trainings that are laced with aspects of critical race theory.
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne [YA book]
A WWII story of a boy (son of a high-ranking Nazi official) who lives on the outskirts of a concentration camp in Germany and befriends a Jewish boy on the other side of the barbed wire fence. Would not recommend this one. First of all, it’s historically inaccurate. Second of all, the story wasn’t well told. And that’s all I need to say about that one!
- The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper [Spiritual Growth]
In short, easy chapters, Piper gives us fifty reasons why Christ came to suffer and die. A beautiful portrayal of Christ and his reasons for living and dying here on earth.
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe [Classic]
September was my slowest reading month, as usual, with the exhausting start of the school year again, so I spent most of the month on this book. However, it was a classic worth reading again and again. It’s important that we never forget the horrors of slavery so that such grave tragedies never happen again. And it’s also important to see the calloused justification that was made for slavery because it’s showing up again in our time, except this time it’s being used for justifying abortion [see my post “The Fight to be Called Human”].
- Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix [YA book]
Yes, I did read this in a day to squeeze it in for the month of September! This is from an amazing series called “Among the Hidden,” which is the name of the first book. This is a science fiction book where a futuristic society has made it illegal to have more than two children. It centers around a main character named Luke, who is a “third child,” also known as the “Shadow Children” and his fight to help Shadow Children be allowed to live normal lives. Definitely a series I would recommend.
- The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis [Spiritual Growth]
There’s no one quite like C. S. Lewis to help us understand the hard things in life. This book came at the perfect time in my life with the anniversary of my dad’s death on September 30th, and the poignant points that Lewis made were exactly what I needed to hear.
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell [Current Events]
I have been a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan for years, but I have to say, I was a little disappointed by this book. While the points he made were interesting, I didn’t feel like there was a strong resolution at the end of his book. It seemed like he was just making observations, but didn’t really give a solution to the problems we have with dealing with strangers. Maybe I missed it, but that was my impression of the book.
- Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse [YA book]
Beautiful story about a Jewish family fleeing Russia right after WWI. Brought back so many memories of being in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and gave such a good perspective on the plight of refugees and immigrants.
- The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller [Spiritual Growth/Current Events]
I read part of this book awhile ago but picked it up again to read it in its entirety. Such a powerful and insightful exposition on what marriage means, which is desperately needed in a culture trying so hard to redefine marriage. I also think everybody should read this before getting married to help shape the right expectations for marriage.
- Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson [YA book]
This was the last book in the “Seeds of America” trilogy (I read the second one, Forge, earlier this year), and it was just as beautiful as the two that came before it. It was a powerful story told about the Revolutionary War from the perspective of two formerly enslaved black people. These were two of my favorite quotes from it:
“To admit love opens the door to the possibility of pain and sorrow. However, to ignore love, to pretend that it does not exist, though you feel it every waking moment, guarantees not only pain and sorrow, but a withering of your very capacity to love, blaspheming the holy purpose of our days on this earth.”
“ ‘This land …’ A half dozen voices spoke with Henry, strong black men sharing the preacher’s words like a hymn or a prayer, ‘which we have watered with our tears and our blood, is now our mother country.’ The words drifted up to the stars with the sparks from the fire.
“ ‘We go to war, Missus Isabel,’ Henry added, ‘in order to make our mother country, this land, free for everyone.’”
- God’s Gift of Christmas by John MacArthur [Spiritual Growth]
A quick read elaborating on the different aspects of Christmas and how they are all God’s gift to us.
- Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier [Current Events]
The subtitle of this book is “The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” and it goes into great detail on why there has been such a rise in pre-teen and teenage girls seeking to become male. I have noticed this phenomenon myself as a teacher (as have my teacher friends) and was grateful for Abigail Shrier researching and reporting on this dangerous trend. I think this is a must-read for all parents and for any believer seeking to understand the transgender movement happening in our culture right now.
- Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey [Spiritual Growth]
I discovered this book of liturgies in November and knew I needed to have it. Thankfully I received it as a birthday present, and my heart has been so encouraged by the liturgies, or prayers, for all sorts of occasions and moments. It’s a beautiful and practical way to align our hearts with the Lord’s through all of the ordinary moments in life.
- The Lost Stories by John Flanagan [YA book; Ranger’s Apprentice series]
This is the last book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series, and I’m aiming to finish it in the coming week before Jan. 1st! It’s a collection of short stories that help explain different events between or after other books in the series, and I’m loving it—just as I loved all the other books. Time to start on the companion series next called The Brotherband Chronicles!
I know this was a long post, and I don’t expect that you read all of it. But hopefully this gave you some recommendations for books to read in the new year. If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them—and if you have any book recommendations for me, I’ll gladly take them.
Here’s to even more reading in 2022!