91 Books in 2021

Another year of reading in the books!

Since the arrival of my son last month, my reading habits and interests have shifted some, but instead of holding rigidly to my old goals and patterns, I’m learning to take these new desires with me as I enter this new season of motherhood. The truth is I love reading and making a habit of reading will always be a part of my life (and now that includes reading to my son! Woohoo!) but how I accomplish that, and more importantly, how I think about that goal has my permission to shift as often as it needs to.

Photo by Feamster Photography

To start the year off, I found many of my fiction reads to be underwhelming but found some great reads later in the year. My interests shifted to include more non-fiction once again after a heavy year of fiction in 2020. Approaching my son’s birth and in the early weeks postpartum, I found I gravitated toward light-hearted and quick reads (novellas were my friend to close out the year!)

And as I expected, I’ve leaned more heavily towards audio this year and expect that to continue into 2022. Right now I’m using Scribd for my audiobooks. It’s $10 a month and has a fantastic selection of books, including newer releases.

For 2022, I’m focusing less on a number and instead, I plan to start the year off with categories I want to read in. That may shift after a few months, but right now, that goal feels way more accessible.

Of the 91 books I did read:

  • Audiobooks: 11
  • Re-reads: 8
  • Short stories/plays: 11
  • Physical books: 14
  • Kindle ebooks (mostly checked out through library): everrrrrything else!
A few books I’m looking forward to reading in 2022!

Favorite Non-fiction Books

  • The Seasons of God by Richard Blackaby
  • Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
  • The Art of Spiritual Writing by Vinita Hampton Wright
  • Quarantine Life from Cholera to COVID-19 by Kari Nixon
  • Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney

Favorite Fiction Books

  • A Castaway in Cornwall by Julie Klassen
  • The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
  • Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher
  • Falling by TJ Newman
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
  • Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson
  • Subpar Parks by Amber Share

Other Links You Might Like:

Favorite Books on Writing

2020 Book Round-Up

2019 Book Round-Up

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If you’re looking for a fun bookish community to be a part of, check out The Bookish BFFs on Instagram. I’ve gotten some great recs from them this fall and winter!

100 Books in 2020

Are we sick of the word unprecedented yet?

At the risk of overusing the word, I have to share this was indeed an unprecedented year of reading for me: it’s my first year to hit triple digits for my book count as an adult! I set the goal of 100 books when I was a naive thing in January of 2020 but quickly felt the pressure of trying to get to that number rather than just enjoying reading. So I adjusted. I moved the goal back down to 80, but over the months as I could better gauge my pace of reading, I readjusted it up to 90 and then back to 100.

I’m already a big mood reader, but the pandemic definitely influenced my reading habits. I delved into far more fiction (my mix is usually 50/50), and some of the stand-out gems were from the YA section. I found I couldn’t move through non-fiction at the pace I normally do; I read some top-notch NF, but I just found I needed to give myself more time to absorb the ideas.

As always, I struggled with how to pick/share my top reads. This year I’m grouping them into a few different categories such as YA finds and books that helped me process grief.

Bolded titles are my top top favorites out of each category.

I did read one pandemic historical fiction (As Bright as Heaven) which is about the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak in Philadelphia. I don’t know how I enjoyed the book as much as I did, because it starts off with a mom grieving the loss of an infant, then you have pandemic overtones (not escapist), and the protagonists are the town’s morticians (triple trigger). But I INHALED this book. Gah, Susan Meissner is amazing!

Of the 100+ books I did read:

  • Audiobooks: 7
  • Re-reads: 10
  • Short stories/plays: 5
  • Physical books: 27
  • Kindle ebooks (mostly checked out through library): everrrrrything else!

In the midst of everything else this year, I also was grieving the loss of my grandmother and the selling of her home, which had been the backdrop of our family’s gatherings for 35+ years. I found a quartet of books strangely cathartic in grieving those losses through reading:

Grief Reads:

  • The Dutch House (audiobook version) by Ann Patchett
  • The Switch by Beth O’Leary
  • The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Everything Beautiful In Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager


  • Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo
  • Bandersnatch by Diana Glyer
  • Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel
  • Master of One by Jordan Raynor
  • The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
  • Sent by Heather and Ashley Holleman
  • Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung


  • Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
  • The Last Train to Key West (read it while in the Florida Keys and it was so fun!)
  • Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkein
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Scythe by Neal Schusterman

YA Reads That Pleasantly Surprised Me:

  • The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
  • Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg
  • Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
  • The Unteachables by Gordon Korman


  • All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
  • The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Once Upon a Christmas Time by Thyra Ferre Bjorn
  • A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller

I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about how reading can or doesn’t fit into their daily schedule. When it comes down to it, you make time for what’s important, and that’s simply going to look different for different people. Reading is important to us individually and as a couple, and our reading totals this year reflect that value, but it definitely has taken a while to get to that point. I’ve been on an eight-year journey of rebuilding my reading habit since graduating from college, and it’s been in the last five years in particular that I’ve pushed myself to set reading goals.

As our cousin Daniel Ligon pointed out, as with anything in life, hopefully, a discipline moves to being a joy. Yes it takes discipline to build a habit, but then those habits can turn into sources of joy. Reading is a joy; I don’t view it as a chore.

Kurtis goes into more detail on his habit formation of reading, which I’ll link here, but here’s a snapshot at how reading works into my life:

Formats (almost always going at the same time). This is the main factor for me in being able to read more in a year!

  • Physical book
  • Kindle ebooks
  • Audiobooks

How My Reading Looks In a Day:

  • AM: Quiet time (spiritual focus book)
  • Afternoon: Could include reading a craft book for work or listening to an audiobook while going on a walk, driving, or doing chores. It’s been delightful listening to some audiobooks while we work on our home projects!
  • PM: Reading after dinner (instead of TV) and/or reading right before bed

I’d love to hear what books meant a lot to you this year!

Top Books from the Decade: All the Rest!

If you’ve stuck with me this far, congratulations! This final post rounds up my top books from the decade with some odds and ends: a memoir, books that have expanded my horizons, or taught me something I didn’t know I didn’t know. Most of these I read on my Kindle through Overdrive, so I only had one physical copy of all the books listed here. I’m trying to not buy ALL THE BOOKS, okay people? Help me out.

Top Books from the Decade

From food to murders to geography to wolves (YES we are going to talk about THOSE WOLVES again), these books took me by surprise in the most delightful way.

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir” by Ruth Reichl

Another Anne Bogel recommendation—this is a charming memoir from the editor of Gourmet Magazine. You get a little bit of everything in this book: recipes, insight into the publishing history, New York life glimpses. The chapter that took my breath away was the one on what it was like to be in New York during 9/11 and the harrowing days and weeks that followed. Really one of the most delightful books that I read all year.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann

Geez. Oklahoma. This book is a historical narrative that reads like a suspense thriller. Set in the 1920s, “Flower Moon” examines the systematic deaths of Osage Indians over their mineral rights. Why are all these rich Indians dying? Why is nobody doing anything? How can it be stopped? Woven in with this investigation was also the birth of our nation’s investigative office: the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was eye-opening and heartbreaking all at the same time. As soon as I finished reading it, I forced the book on Kurtis and made him speed-read it so we could talk about it. I originally read this on Kindle, but it’s definitely one I would consider purchasing a hard copy of and re-reading, especially since it has to do with state history.

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World” by Tim Marshall

Traveling by region/country, author Tim Marshall takes a brief look at the history of the country and its unique geography and then how that affects current day issues. This would honestly make a great addition to a high school geography/civics/government class—I wish I had read this in high school! But I would at least recommend reading it this year in particular as we head into an election year. I am for sure planning to re-read it this year. Spoiler: don’t skip the Arctic chapter at the end. More drama than you can shake a penguin at.

“The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary” by Simon Winchester

You know how you read a description of a book and you instantly know you’re going to love it? That’s how it was for me and this book. This book tells the history of how the Oxford English Dictionary came to be under the direction of Professor James and Murray and the mentally-ill prisoner who was one of its largest contributors, Dr. W.C. Minor. And it was one of the most fascinating books I read all year.

It’s an amazing look at the capabilities of the human mind and heart even when marred by illness and tragedy. Bonus: The film adaptation with Mel Gibson and Sean Penn is incredible!

Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone” by Douglas W. Smith

If you were around me at all late this summer, you probably heard me mention this book. I know. I’m sorry. We’re going to talk about wolves again. In preparation for our family trip to Yellowstone, I read this book about the wolf reintroduction program in the mid-1990s. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I can tell you I didn’t plan to become #teamwolf at the end of this book. Written by a scientist, the book reads like anything but a scientific report but like once again, a moving family saga. Except the family is a pack of wolves.

Tracing the beginnings of the wolf reintroduction movement to the release of the wolves in Yellowstone, to the triumphs and fallout of the following years, you’ll follow a family dynasty with more drama than Dallas. I was blown away by the ripple effects that this one species has on the rest of the ecosystem. I was moved by how unique each pack was. And I very much hope to spot a wolf in the wild one day, though I may have to settle for re-reading Smith’s book.

Well, that’s all of my top books from the decade! Thanks for indulging me across THREE blog posts. Gah, that’s a bit excessive, but whatever. I hope you found a few titles for your TBR list this year. Happy Reading!

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My top fiction books from the decade

My top non-fiction books from the decade

Top Fiction Books from the Decade

As I look back over my top fiction books from the decade, it got me thinking about the novels I’d read when I was younger. As a kid, it seemed like every novel I picked it up was a good one.

Adult fiction seems to be more hit or miss. I think that’s why I read so heavy in non-fiction for a few years because I couldn’t find solid writing that wasn’t full of sex or foul language. So I just re-read YA favorites, ventured out into historical fiction pick every once in a while, but mostly was disappointed with the fiction I came across.

However, my fiction luck has increased, mostly due to listening to Anne Bogel’s podcast, What Should I Read Next. So while there are some golden oldies on this list, I have discovered new favorites through her recs to cultivate these top fiction books from the decade.

As a point of reference, I enjoy mystery series and historical fiction picks, along with longer novels with complex storylines. I owned some of these books, but most I checked out through the library!

Top Fiction Books from the Decade

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

I discovered Jane Austen through my Granny Sherry at the beginning of this decade, so it’s been ten years of loving Austen and her work. What I love most about her work, as I know it is for most people, is the ability to completely lose yourself in the grand country houses and wide English fields in a time when longing glances across the room meant you were practically engaged. I first read them at a time when I could identify with the heartfelt but often tongue-tied heroines and their struggles to express how they really felt to their crushes (Anne Elliot anyone?) Now as I read them many years later, I appreciate Austen’s journey to become a female writer in a male-dominated arena, and the quiet rhythms of her life that supported her work. Wherever you turn, there is something to adore about her work.

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

I tried reading the first book a few times growing up but was bogged down by the slow pace and constant whining from the odd redhead. I finally decided to try again about four years ago, and immediately gobbled up four or five Anne books in a row. (Still have more to read!) I completely fell in love with Anne’s outlook on life and could eat Montgomery’s nature descriptions with a spoon. Anne matures through the books and seeing that character arc made me overlook her very whiny beginnings. I was reading them during a particularly difficult time and her words made me remember there are still good and beautiful things to hold onto

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

When was the last time you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning finishing a book? “The Hunger Games” was that series for me. This was one of Kurtis’ Christmas gifts to me for our first holiday together, and I got to indulge in reading through the series over Christmas break. It re-awakened my love for reading for pleasure and became a series that Kurtis could enjoy together. Looking forward to the prequel which comes out in May of this year!

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned more about history by reading historical fiction than by studying maps and lists of names and dates. There are many, many excellent books that take place during World War II, but this one stands out for me in that you see the effects of the war through German citizens. Liesel Memminger’s love affair with books and words pierced me, and some of my favorite literary quotes came from this book.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir

This was one of the books that awakened Kurtis and I to the magic of audiobooks. We listened to this on our road trip to Chicago about four years ago and remained riveted to the peril of the lone botanist on Mars. A thrilling adventure, cheering for the underdog, and a palatable amount of science make this a delightful read. Just know there is pervasive language throughout the book and the audio version would not be a good choice for little ears.

“The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” by Laurie R. King

A solid mystery series is my go-to when I just want to relax. Sherlock Holmes is 100% my favorite literary private eye, and I’m happy to read anything inspired by the reclusive, dysfunctional detective at 221B Baker Street. The Mary Russell series by Laurie King is no exception. I don’t even remember how I came across this book; I think it was in a random comment on Facebook, but I went on to chomp through seven of the fifteen in the series (and I’ve partially read three other). While the series does get repetitive (hence why I stopped reading), I absolutely loved the revival of the character with his taking on of a partner: the young Mary Russell. Their adventures are reminiscent of Doyle’s settings, but with a slightly edgier twist. Woven through their joint adventures is Mary’s complex, compelling back story, which comes to a head in Book 8, “Locked Rooms.” (My favorite after “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.”)

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah

I don’t know what it is, but I love a good Alaska story. There’s something about the weather and geography proving to be a sinister unnamed character that draws me in. And “The Great Alone” did not disappoint. It’s a moving look at the impact that PTSD* has on families and the will to survive. And like Hannah’s other novels, the characters draw you in from page one and don’t let up until the end.

*There are episodes of violence and abuse periodically throughout the book (not gratuitous but very present) so sensitive readers beware.

“The Gown” by Jennifer Robson

This was one of the most delightful books I read in 2019. Weaving two storylines into the making of Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding dress, this novel crisscrosses between England and Canada. You get a serving of the royal family, deep dive on dress-making, compelling storylines, and a dollop of wistful family history. It just hits a lot of right notes!

“Sensible Shoes” by Shannon Garlough Brown

Can you weave fiction and non-fiction together? Shannon Brown does so successfully. Following the storylines of four women and their various traumatic experiences, the “Sensible Shoes” series weaves together the spiritual practices of meditation, prayer, and solitude by seeing it applied in the lives of these women. When I first read them, I was immediately swept up in their stories and enjoyed trying out some of their reflection exercises. But after going through a spiritual discipline book in Sunday School, I realized that’s what’s at the heart of this series. Such a unique way to communicate the power and importance of time-honored spiritual disciplines. Four total books in the series!

Honorable Mentions:

“The River” by Peter Heller

“Celine” by Peter Heller

The Flavia DeLuce series by Alan Bradley

Enhance your reading life:

My top non-fiction books

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What Should I Read Next Podcast