2021 is in the books, and I spent a lot of 2021 in books. Reading is definitely a way I relax and unwind, so no wonder I hit my reading goal of 100 books and then some!
Out of the 112 books I read, below are some of my favorite, five-star reads from the year (categorized by topic).
I’d love to hear about yours in a comment below!
Cherish by Gary Thomas
My husband, Devin, and I attended a marriage conference several years ago with our church and left with an assignment: to read this book! Just this last year I reread this book with a few friends and loved it even more.
Gary Thomas presents a solid argument for the importance of understanding the difference between love and cherish (stick with me; he uses this verb as a noun). Love is the commitment in a marriage; but cherish is the spark, the romance, the in-love feeling.
If you cherish someone but don’t yet love them, you have an infatuation. If you love someone but don’t cherish them, you have a partnership. Both love and cherish are required for a successful marriage.
I especially enjoyed the questions included at the end of each chapter that prompted conversation around how we wanted to apply what we learned.
My favorite chapter was titled, “This is how your spouse stumbles.” Written from a Christian perspective to Christian couples, this chapter delves into sanctification and the fact that we’re all married to sinners who stumble, sin, and make mistakes on a daily basis. Since none of us are perfect, learning to give grace like Christ can mean the difference between a ruined date night and a forgiven conflict that brings spouses closer together. (The author deals well with the tension of unrepentant sin). He gives the example of his wife losing his keys. She didn’t mean to, and although it inconvenienced him, he had the choice of becoming frustrated with her because of it causing him to be late to work … or giving her grace.
A gifted writer who uses funny, relatable anecdotes, Thomas has crafted an easily readable book that is perfect for reading together with your spouse in the evenings.
Or listen to it on audiobook during your next long road trip together!
No Better Mom for the Job by Becky Kiefe
Every mama should read this book.
Last year the two books that changed my motherhood were Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday and Sacred Parenting. This year it’s Love-Centered Parenting and this book right here!
Not only is Becky a talented writer whose prose is poetic, but each chapter is steeped in Scripture. As a toddler mom, I needed to hear her perspective of the little years. With elegant understanding, she points to Christ amid the crusty frustration-joy of caked-on Cheerios. This will be a reread for me.
Devotions for Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
No one can be a perfect parent, but what if it’s never been about perfection at all (or even doing the “best we can” with our children)? This practical book of devotions for parents was so life-giving.
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegal
Really insightful! Scientific but not intimidating. And in the back are cheat sheets to help you remember what you learned (or to hand to your spouse as a cliff notes!).
Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies by Hillary Morgan Ferrar
I so enjoyed reading this book with a small group of mamas at my church! Biblical truth plus practical application but with grace and humor mixed in? Yes please! I’m lokoing forward to reading the next book in the series!
Love-Centered Parenting by Crystal Paine
I recommend this book to parents of littles everywhere! I was blown away by Crystal’s thoroughly biblical philosophy of parenting from a place of love and attachment rather than behavioral modification (in the past something she strove for to the detriment of her relationships with her kids). This book read much like a memoir, as she outlines her personal transformation and recent deepening of her understanding of the love of God. If you’re looking for a ten-step parenting plan, this isn’t the book for you. But if you feel the weight of your child’s behavior and future resting entirely on your shoulders, find the freedom in this book to lean in and love, listen well, lead with humility, let go and leave the rest to God.
Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp
Ah, Tripp. If you read no other parenting book, read this one!
Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller
As always, Keller makes me think … this time, about Christmas, in new ways!
Related: Looking for more Christmasy reads? Here are some of my favorite festive titles for the holiday season!
Food Saved Me by Danielle Walker
I picked up this book on a whim and loved it! I’m not usually much for memoirs but couldn’t put this book down, especially since because of my husband’s food allergies we’ve eaten Paleo-ish for years. Now I’m even more inspired to be more creative with meals.
Another Tim Keller book! I really enjoy his deep but accessible, theologically rich writing style.
What is a Girl Worth? by Rachel Denhollandar
Wow. This book sucked me in. Into the story. Into the stellar writing.
The first thing that stunned me was how much Rachael and I have in common. Small town. Small church. Small home. Homeschooling family. A “late” start in gymnastics. A love for the coaching career that follows.
There the similarities end. Rachael outlines in painstaking, riveting detail her story of fighting to stop an abuser. I could not put down this autobiographical memoir written in such a compelling style and always with the depth of depravity she dealt with contrasted with the true hope and light of the gospel. Amazing, amazing book.
Where the Stars Meet the Sea by Heather Kimball
Oh my goodness, what a breathtakingly beautiful story (just as gorgeous as the cover!). I stayed up late because the suspense of what was going to happen got to me.
The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz
Laura Frantz is one of my very favorite authors and so I couldn’t help but reread my very favorite book of hers last year.
Except I didn’t read it.
I listened to it. Such an exquisite story and such a talented audiobook narrator!
When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin
Exceptional. Awe-inspiring. This vivid look at pre-WWII Germany in 1938 stunned me and left me speechless. The description of Kristallnacht had me on the edge of my seat and reminding myself to breathe.
And the main characters—my heart. Peter and Evelyn are amazingly flawed and lovable. I couldn’t get enough of this breathtaking story. I may just have to flip it over and read again! (I did indeed do just that.)
Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham
I really, really loved this book and thus went on to read a lot of Pepper’s backlist throughout the rest of the year, including her newest Mistletoe Countess which is such a sublime Christmasy read for the holidays! Pepper’s skill at weaving historical romance into lovely settings speaks for itself!
Autumn by the Sea by Melissa Tagg
If you love autumn … mysteries … long-lost loves … sweet grandmothers with secrets … adoption … small-town shenanigans … family that goes beyond blood … or blueberry pie, you’re going to love this book.