My Top 12 Favorite Books Read in 2021

I posted all the books I read this year, but I also like to share my top ten or so favorites. (Forgive me for doubling posts today—I’m trying to fit a few things in before year’s end. Plus I don’t know how many people are interested in the list of every book read this year. 🙂 )

It’s hard to narrow the list down, but I came up with twelve favorites. A few were published this year, but most were just discovered this year. I had an even list of fiction and nonfiction this year. The titles link to my reviews.

Favorite Nonfiction Read in 2021:

  1. Ten Words to Live By: Delighting In and Doing What God Commands by Jen Wilkin. This is my overall top favorite this year. Jen deals with the Ten Commandments overall and individually, what they meant to the original audience, and how they apply today.

2. The Good Portion: Scripture: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman by Keri Folmar. As I said in my review, most of us don’t get excited about doctrine. But right doctrine is our bedrock. Knowing what we believe and why comforts us and keeps us on course. This book was written “to shed light on the treasure and sweetness of the sacred Scriptures. The book attempts to summarize the doctrine of the Word of God in a way that keeps the relational nature of the Bible at the forefront. After all, the Bible is God speaking to us. It is God revealing Himself with words and calling us into relationship with Him.”

3. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund.

I wasn’t familiar with Dane Ortlund before reading this, and I was a little wary. Some who emphasize the gentleness and meekness of Christ de-emphasize His other qualities, such as righteousness and holiness and purity.

Yes, he is the fulfillment of the Old Testament hopes and longings (Matt. 5: 17). Yes, he is one whose holiness causes even his friends to fall down in fear, aware of their sinfulness (Luke 5: 8). Yes, he is a mighty teacher, one whose authority outstripped even that of the religious PhDs of the day (Mark 1: 22). To diminish any of these is to step outside of vital historic orthodoxy. But the dominant note left ringing in our ears after reading the Gospels, the most vivid and arresting element of the portrait, is the way the Holy Son of God moves toward, touches, heals, embraces, and forgives those who least deserve it yet truly desire it (p. 27).

.4. The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo. This is a true story that reads like a novel. A man in Rebecca’s father’s congregation disagreed with him and began terrorizing the pastor’s family in unbelievable ways, leading to tragedy. Though that makes the book sound depressing, Rebecca’s journey to forgiveness and the aftermath are quite inspiring.

true story of reigious persecution and forgiveness

5. The Secret War of Charles Fraser-Smith, the “Q” Gadget Wizard of World War II by Charles Fraser-Smith. A missionary with a penchant for thinking outside the box and rigging up what he needed was tapped to design or find items soldiers and spies needed during WWII. He needed not only to provide gadgets, tools, and maps, but he had to come up with ingenious ways to conceal them from enemy searches. This was a thoroughly fascinating book.

6. Write Better: A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality by Andrew T. Le Peau. I try to read at least one book on writing each year, and this was my choice this year. It catapulted to my top favorite writing book, one I need to reread regularly.

Favorite Fiction Books Read in 2021:

1. Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson. In this time-slip novel, two children escape Nazi Germany but then get separated. The one has spent his life trying to find the other. He enlists the help of a reporter because of the heart revealed in her stories.

2. Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson. Another WWII time-slip novel, but with different characters and settings. Four friends in Amsterdam face different fates as the war escalates. Some fight secretly for the resistance. One, a Jewess, is caught in an impossible situation, but rises above her fears to help as much as she can. In modern times, a woman who was reunited with family she didn’t know she had after her mother died looks into history the family tries to keep hidden. One thread of the storyline was based on true events.

3. Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof. This post-Civil War story involves a widow who goes to help her husband’s cousins thinking they were children. But they are grown men. One is deaf. Two are attracted to her, causing strife, but she had not planned to remarry. The men strive to keep the farm going, protect escaped slaves, and battle the Klan. There were a lot of interesting layers to this book. I had not read this author before, but I look forward to reading more from her.

4. The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli. Another time-slip novel, this one involves Louisa May Alcott and her home along with two modern women who work there and investigate a packet of letters they found there.

5. Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. This story is made up of letters, mainly between two childhood friends. Two brothers and a sister and her friend make plans to meet in Paris for Christmas, thinking the war will be done by then. Of course, that doesn’t happen because the war wears on for years. The book opens and closes with one of the men at the end of his life going to Paris for Christmas to read the last letter from his friend’s sister. This was so poignant and beautifully written.

6. Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien (not reviewed yet). Tolkien wrote letters to his children as Father Christmas for several years. He wrote in a wobbly script because Father Christmas was so old (and probably to disguise his handwriting. Sometimes he would include drawings of happenings at the North Pole. North Polar Bear would add a few lines sometimes. The poor bear was the accidental cause of a lot of mischief. Of course, this being Tolkien, there are battles with goblins and a little dabbling in made-up languages. I loved the delightful imagination in these letters. Plus it was interesting learning differences between a British Father Christmas in that time and our modern American version (fourteen reindeer, two white ones for when he was in a special hurry). The audiobook narrated by Derek Jacobi is delightful, but the Kindle or paper version is a must-have for copies of the letters and pictures themselves.

It’s been fun reminiscing over my reading year. What were some of your favorite books read this year?

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