Wednesday, December 29, 2021

My Top Books of 2021

 I have to admit, this has been a very unimpressive year of book reading for me. In past years, I've read as many as 40-50 books in a year, and this year I only managed 21. I blame it on a combination of a really hard year in multiple ways that left me without much heart to read, and my newfound love of learning Greek on Duolingo. I now spend a good chunk of the time I would have spent reading on Duolingo instead, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I'm really proud of how far I've come with my Greek in the past few months!

I realize that even though this is a low year compared to others, it's still 21 more books per year than I was reading before I decided to resume reading for pleasure a few years ago! And that's still great! Honestly, any reading is better than no reading. I still enjoy doing most of my reading via audiobooks while I'm running, doing laundry, driving, or showering.

I also read to the kids every night at bedtime, alternating between the boys and the girls (Josh does too, so one of us reads in each kids' room each night). I spent almost the entire year reading through The Green Ember series with the boys, and have just recently started a different book that will be on my 2022 list. I read more grown-up books with the girls; this year we covered Fahrenheit 451, The Little Prince, Seabiscuit, and we're about halfway through with a biography of C.S. Lewis. But this year the girls and I have started frequently having "chat nights" instead of reading, so we haven't gotten through as many books together as we have in the past. It's totally worth it, though.

So without further ado, here are my top five books of 2021:

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn: This is a fantastic biography of a woman I have long admired. What I loved most about it was that it didn't just show her as the perfect missionary woman that most of us think she was, but it also showed her struggles. It was profoundly encouraging to me as a missionary, but would be a great read for anyone.

The Spy and The Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre. This is a true story of a cold war era spy, and it was really hard to put down! I loved it even more knowing that it was all true.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. I admit I knew pretty much nothing about President Garfield before reading this book. It was really interesting to learn about him as a person, his presidency, and all of the other well-known people whose lives intersected with his.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. This is one of the most highly recommended books for foster and adoptive parents, and I honestly have no excuse as to why it's taken me this long into adoptive parenting to read it. I was surprised to find that it is really helpful for so much more than just adoptive parents, and the majority of his work has been with war veterans or people who have experience some other kind of trauma. Highly recommend.

Me, Myself, & Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer. I enjoyed this book so much. Our family has been VeggieTales fans for over a decade, and it was fascinating to read this history behind our favorite vegetables. Did you know that Phil was a pioneer in the computer animation field? Phil is also really funny, and I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit. 

Honorable mention:

The Green Ember series by S.D. Smith. I'm just including the whole series as one "book." I read this series to the boys at bedtime this year, and they are just so good. Read them with your kids. You will enjoy them as much as your kids will, I promise.

Books I didn't like:

The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman. It's the actual journals of someone who crossed the Oregon Trail, which I thought I would love, having grown up playing the iconic game in elementary school. But it was honestly just so boring.

That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs. I wanted to love this book. We are both enneagram 7's, and I was at a point where I felt like I needed a reminder of how to find the fun in life. If you're familiar with Annie Downs, you probably know that she got famous from hosting a podcast. I just cannot for the life of me understand how this happened, because I found her voice so difficult to listen to that it was honestly really hard for me to persevere with this audiobook. Also each chapter is just some story about a thing that happened to her, and then a lesson that she learned from it. That was interesting for about the first 5 chapters, but after that it started to get redundant and boring.

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. This book is well-written and good as fiction books go, but it's about two men who are pastors, and the overall message of the book is just so unfulfilling. I feel like the main takeaway from it is the profound emptiness of liberal "Christianity" (I put it in quotes because, although we call it Christianity, there was no Christ at all, one of the pastors didn't even believe in God). The story lines of infertility and learning to cope with having a severely autistic child obviously hit very close to home for me, and were moving and well-described. And then it ended so abruptly, still feeling so empty from a Christ-less hopeless so-called faith. I am so glad that true Christianity is so much more than how it is described in this book. I'm so thankful for the hope and peace Christ offers us.

Now here's the full list of everything I read this year, organized by category: 

Nonfiction - Biography

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn
Me, Myself, & Bob by Phil Vischer
The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs
The Spy and The Traitor by Ben Macintyre
Dolly Parton Songteller by Dolly Parton
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
Boone by Robert Morgan

Nonfiction - Other

Brainstorm by Daniel Siegel
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
The Body Keeps the Score Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
The Bible - I read through the Bible this year using a plan on YouVersion called "Reading God's Story: One-Year Chronological Plan."

Fiction - Adult

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Fiction - Kids

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
Ember Falls by S.D. Smith
Ember Rising by S.D. Smith
Ember's End by S.D. Smith
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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