Reading is my favorite thing to do, and this year I read over 75 titles! Narrowing down my favorite reads each year is torture, but I’d love to share my favorites with you here. I used the following categories to make it simpler: top fiction, top historical fiction, top Christian nonfiction, best of memoir, and specific recommendations.
A disclaimer first: I tend to enjoy beautiful and redemptive stories that also include heartbreak, and I don’t shy away from heavy topics! And since everyone has different tastes, please check out the books for yourself before assuming that you will love it as much as I did :). I also wanted to mention that just because I loved a book doesn’t mean I agree with or condone every word or plot point in the book!
Talking about books makes me so happy, and if you’d like to connect further, find me on Goodreads and we can be book buddies! In the meantime, enjoy this roundup of the best books I read this year!**
Top Ten Fiction Reads
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Beautiful and immersive, a true joy to read!
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt – I enjoyed this story told from different points-of-view (especially the octopus!) This is absolutely a feel-good story and though grief is a backdrop, this book is light-hearted.
Lucky by Marissa Stapley – A thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying read, from start to finish. I loved rooting for the complex main character through all of her ups and downs.
The Maid by Nita Prose – A true page-turner with such a capable but sympathetic main character. This one was an absolute delight to read and perfect for mystery-lovers!
Late City by Robert Olen Butler – An old man looks back on the span of his life in a conversation with God. I’ve never read anything like this. Incredibly well-written, the story made me think, and I especially loved with the God character was portrayed!
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr – A fascinating, interweaving tale spanning across centuries, expertly written with realistic and sympathetic characters. In essence, this was a love letter (in fiction form) to the power of books. I couldn’t put it down!
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson – A bit of a slow start, but a beautiful story featuring strong women. It explored the intersection of identity and food, identity and displacement, and identity and loss.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows – Don’t read this one: LISTEN to the phenomenal audio version! This was a very fun and entertaining read, a truly funny love story and a delightful but ridiculous retelling of the life of Lady Jane Grey.
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh – A suspenseful and enjoyable read! There was a wonderful cast of characters, who were full of nuance and kept me turning the pages.
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin – I’m still trying to understand how such a charming and quirky story managed to handle such heavy topics with such grace, insight, and downright wit. I laughed and I sobbed.
Top Historical Fiction Reads
The Last Rose of Shanghai by Weina Dai Randel – Phenomenal storytelling and not your typical World War 2 book as the setting was so different! I was so invested in the lives of the characters and was sad to see this one end.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles – There was masterful storytelling and pacing in this coming of age story. Every chapter was delightful and I enjoyed every narrator. I was rooting for each and every one of these lovable characters!
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – A story about a woman pushing back against societal and cultural norms in the 1950’s and ’60’s, overcoming limitations placed on her by others. This was a fantastic story with a strong female lead I fell in love with! (Content warnings apply.)
Best of Memoir
No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler – I loved Kate’s breathtaking depth of insight in this book. These were such poignant reflections on what it means to live well; devastating and brilliant in its truths.
Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott – This one lived up to all the hype! This is a memoir about parenting and anxiety, about love and loss that inevitably grows with time. Beautifully written, smart, funny, with plenty of poignant insights. Highly recommended!
Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri – An incredibly profound and moving story about family, loss, faith, and the refugee experience, told through the charming eyes of a 12 year old boy. These beautiful words are truly a gift to us all and I can’t recommend this one highly enough!
Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly – These were poetic and poignant micro-memoirs of a wife and mother, easy to pick up and put down or to read on the go. Brilliant and relatable.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner – Full of powerful imagery and sensory detail, this moving memoir explores a mother-daughter relationship through the lens of culture and food. I loved the powerful themes of identity and loss.
Best Christian Nonfiction
Freeing Jesus by Diana Butler Bass – This book blew me away! Her depth of spiritual insight is astounding. Her words both inspired and challenged me, at times leaving me speechless, at times cheering, and at times in tears. This book touched me deeply and helped me draw closer to Jesus. Highly recommended!
Getting Involved with God by Ellen Davis – Her knowledge of Hebrew and deep theological insight made this a must-read! I especially appreciated her thoughts on Genesis 22 and the Song of Songs. She’s a wonderful writer who made difficult concepts easy to understand and read.
The Listening Life by Adam S. McHugh – This book blew me away! I’m still chewing on the profound insights within the page. If you are interested in deepening your relationship with God, in living in true relationship with others, in true belonging, this is the book for you!
Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson – I couldn’t stop highlighting all the gems in this wonderful book! Part memoir, part theology, I deeply appreciated her insights on the necessity of happiness in the Christian life.
Wearing God by Lauren Winner – If your walk with God is feeling a bit stale, I highly recommend this book! Winner explores often ignored biblical metaphors for God which will encourage you to to think of God and approach God in new ways. I really enjoyed this thought-provoking and insightful read!
For every writer out there: Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday – This one is a must-read for any creative who wants to make work that stands the test of time. One part a cold glass of reality to your face, another part very doable encouragement!
For those who are disenchanted with faith: When Everything’s on Fire by Brian Zahnd – A must-read for anyone who has been disillusioned by their faith. These words are a balm to those who are trying to hold on to God while processing doubt and uncertainty.
For help silencing negative thoughts about themselves: Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen – Gentle and beautiful truths written in simple language. This book is a hug. It made me feel grateful to be living life with God1
For encouragement to seek out the tiniest of joys: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay – I had to slow myself down on this one, best enjoyed one short essay at a time. Easy to read, and filled to the brim with charm, whimsy, and delight. It will help you train your eyes to see delight wherever you go!
For moms who want to steward their time faithfully: Around the Clock Mom by Sarah K. Butterfield (yours truly!) – This inspiring and practical guide will help you set boundaries around your time, prioritize your days, deal with interruptions, and model your perspective on time management on the life of Jesus.
Still looking for more book recommendations? Check out my list for 2021 and 2020!
What have you read and loved this year? Let me know in the comments, I’m always looking for recommendations!
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**The links I share are from Amazon, where I’m an affiliate. This means if you happen to purchase through my link, I’ll earn a few pennies on the dollar at no extra cost to you!
***Picture taken by the author at Verbatim Books