Books · For Your Life · For Your Walk with Christ · My Life

A year in books: 2021

I was planning on sitting down to write a reflection on and some reviews of everything I’ve read this year, and then Amanda from Mud and Ink Teaching threw out the idea on Instagram, inviting other teachers join her, so that was just the push I needed to get going!

So this actually turned out super long, and I can’t imagine anyone sitting and reading the whole thing. But maybe just scan for titles you might be interested in, or take a look at your favorite genre.

I’m surprised to see that I’ve read two dozen books this year. That’s more than most years for me.

I didn’t get to everything on the original “to be read” list that I started out with, but I also spontaneously added things along the way. So overall, I’m pretty pleased. There are a few books on this list I’m still finishing, but I do hope to finish them by the end of this month and count them for 2021.

I firmly believe that every book we read becomes a little piece of who we are. As I look back over this list, I’m really proud that I let these authors speak into my life, and I’m positive that I’ve grown from all these pages.

How blessed are we to live in a country with libraries and internet access?? We have endless education available to us, most of us for free. Amazing.

Anyhow, without further rambling, here’s everything I read this year and what I thought about it.

Personal / Professional Development

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear

  • I almost didn’t read this book because it was trendy. Most trendy things annoy me for some reason. But after reading just a few chapters of Clear’s book, I realized it was trending with good reason. He tackles why we do what we do, and how to do better with such clarity and amicability. This book helped me put together concrete mini-plans for bettering different practical areas of my life, and created mental reference points for me to refer to when I’m stuck. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone.
  • Life is Tremendous – Charlie Jones
    • I just… I didn’t like this book. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t written for my generation. In its day people tried to call it a classic, but I don’t feel that it’s standing the test of time very well. There are a few good ideas and some general encouragements, but I didn’t feel like I took away anything concrete from this one. There is a list of suggested reading in the back that I found more interesting than the book itself.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry – John Mark Comer

  • Now this book I did like. I loved it, actually. Comer is a pastor who’s tackling the church’s struggle with burnout culture head on. He discusses the concept of Sabbath and why it’s still so relevant for today’s Christians. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry was well-researched, witty, and timely. Unless you feel like your life is totally calm and balanced, you should definitely read this one.
  • Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives – Richard A. Swenson, MD
    • This was a good book, but it was pretty similar to The Ruthless Elimination. I appreciated the extra perspective provided by a medical doctor. It’s worth reading, but if you’re only going to read one, read The Ruthless Elimination.
  • Ca$hvertising: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone – Drew Eric Whitman
    • At first this book looked and sounded like another one of those gimmicky “business” books written by an “expert.” But turns out, it was pretty legit, and I marked a lot of pages for reference later. If you have a small business, or work in marketing, this is a helpful read. It was also really easy to read, which I appreciated.


Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening – Louise Riotte

  • This is more of a reference manual than anything, so I skimmed a lot of it, but if you’re interested in vegetable gardening, it’s a great book to have!
  • Growing Vegetables – Jessica Sowards
    • I’ve been following Jess of Roots & Refuge Farm on social media for a while. She has tons of vlogs and her carrot sowing method worked perfectly for me, so of course when her first book came out, I had to have it! It’s filled with so much encouragement for the mindset of new gardeners, and gorgeous photos of Jess’s garden and homestead. I especially loved her tips on when to harvest.
  • Keeping Bees with Ashley English – Ashley English
    • I attempted beekeeping this year, but I was super nervous, so of course I was researching all the things before I got my bees. Out of all the books I looked at/ read, I think this one was my favorite. Just the right info. for beginners, and lots of pretty pictures.
  • Self-Sufficiency: Beekeeping Definitive Guide to Keeping Bees – Joanna Ryde
    • This was another good apiary book. I felt like I learned new things that weren’t in English’s book. Really clear diagrams and illustrations.


  • Forever – Karen Kingsbury
    • This is one of the books in her Baxter Family Series. If you like modern Christian fiction, you’d probably enjoy the Baxter Family books. They follow the saga of a big family in Indiana, with different books focusing on each of the children and other characters.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
    • Honestly, I think just the title sold me on this one. And the fact that it’s set in the South. Even though I’ve really been remiss on reading fiction the past few years, historical fiction is my favorite. I really enjoyed all the layers and twists to this story. The nature motifs were just beautiful, and Kya is a wonderfully complex and dynamic character.  (It does have some material that’s not appropriate for everyone. If you’d like more detail, check out the “Rated: Moderate” paragraph near the bottom of this page.)
  • Colorado – Rosey Dow
    • I started this book begrudgingly, ready to give up on it at any time, thinking it would be cheesy. Truth be told, maybe it was a tad cheesy, but I ended up really liking it. It’s actually 3 different stories, set in the late 1800s on the prairie, and they were all quite interesting and heartwarming.
  • Hattie Big Sky – Kirby Larson
    • This is a young adult historical fiction novel that I happened across when I was a teen and loved. I found a copy at Goodwill recently, and I’m just reading it for fun. It’s a sweet story about a teen girl who moves out West by herself to prove up on a homestead left to her by her uncle. It explores friendship, patriotism, and perseverance.
  • The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
    • It feels funny to put this one just in the “fiction” category, but I guess that’s technically what it is. I feel like this entire concept is one that only a mind like Lewis’s could come up with. If you’re not familiar with this Christian classic, it’s a series of letters written from the demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a young demon training in the art of temptation, discouragement, and distraction. While it sounds dark, it’s really a powerful exposition on the methods used by the Enemy to destroy Christians or would-be Christians. I’m not finished with it yet, but what I’ve read so far has been convicting and eye-opening. I would definitely recommend it.

Non-fiction / Devotional

  • Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
    • Maybe one day I’ll get to teach an apologetics course, and if I do, this will be my textbook. Every Christian should read this book. I’ll admit it’s pretty deep in places and it took me longer to read than most things, but I’m confident it strengthened my faith and challenged me to see so many facets of my Salvation and spiritual life in a new light.
  • The People of Prayer Journal – Kenneth Kuykendall
    • This is a devotional journal that my precious pastor wrote. God has given him a burden for exploring prayer the past couple years, and I have benefitted from his sermons and books on prayer. Working through this journal during the first part of year gave me a renewed desire for real prayer, not just going through the motions.
  • God’s Smuggler – Brother Andrew
    • If you only read one book in 2022, let it be this one. People have recommended this book to me for years, but I kept putting it off. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. It’s such an incredible true story of a man dedicated entirely to building the Kingdom of God. I feel like I gained so much by reading Brother Andrew’s story.
  • Believing God – Beth Moore
    • To be frank, I’m not a big Beth Moore fan. This is the only book of hers I’ve ever read. But to give credit where credit is due, it is a very good book. I read it during a time that I was really looking for God to move in my life, and the principles Moore lays out were really motivating to me. I believe God used this book to show me some things, and I’m thankful for it. I’d recommend it to any ladies looking to strengthen their faith. Just be prepared to read with an open mind.
  • Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible – Brandon J O’Brien and E. Richards
    • This is a must-read. Especially if you teach the Bible in any capacity. It opened my eyes to countless principles that I never considered. Just the simple concept of acknowledging that we’re reading the Bible through our own Western, modern lenses, and remembering that we shouldn’t be trying to interpret Scripture purely from those paradigms is really helpful to me.
  • Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds – Jen Wilkin
    • This was another gem. Wilkin shares her philosophy and easy-to-use systems for deeper, more meaningful Bible study. Again, if you’re a Bible teacher (or just someone who loves Bible study), this book will benefit you. I’m excited to use her system for my own Bible study this year.
  • When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty – Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes
    • I’d had this book on my shelf for years, but had never felt like I really needed it. This summer, I had a couple of experiences back to back that really shook me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and I found myself in a tough place with way more questions than answers. This book brought a lot of comfort and spiritual strength to me. I would say it also offers a lot of practical theology. Its format is pretty unique, but I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. Tada and Estes don’t pretend to have all the answers, but they do a great job of pointing out what the Bible says about suffering, and encouraging their readers that it is never without purpose.
  • The Battle for the Mind – Tim LaHaye
    • This is a really important book that I wish they would publish a new edition of. It was written in the early 80s and is very dated, but if you overlook the 80s-specific details, the bigger concepts are indispensable. LaHaye exposes humanism in a way I’ve never considered. It’s caused me to reevaluate the media in my life and my own way of thinking.
  • Spirit-Controlled Temperament – Tim LaHaye
    • I’m really fascinated with personality types. This is a really good treatise on how to submit your personality to the Holy Spirit and let God work through you, instead of blaming shortcomings on your temperament and stunting your growth.
  • Lies Women Believe – Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
    • Some friends and I got the accompanying study guide, and we’ve been working through this book together. It’s amazing! It revealed to me some of the ways that my thinking or perception has been unbiblical, and steered me in the right direction. It’s been super encouraging and helpful. I know I’ve recommended nearly every book on my list, but I’d also recommend this one.
  • Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional – Asheritah Ciuciu
    • I’ve never formally celebrated Advent (or even really understood it). I thought it was just an overly liturgical addition to the holiday season that distracted from Christmas. But since I’ve been researching Advent, I’m ready to make a strong statement: I think Advent is actually more biblical than Christmas (not that I’m looking to not celebrate Christmas). Advent just means “coming,” and is simply a tradition that directs our attention to our need for a Savior and prepares our hearts to rejoice on Christmas day for God’s unspeakable gift! This devotional has prompted so many moments of worship, just in the first few days I’ve been using it. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’d highly recommend this one too.
  • Hymns Study 1 from Daily Grace Co.
    • This was a great devotional for a short season when I just needed something uplifting and a little lighter. Each day was a brief study of a hymn, the story behind it, and the Scripture that relates to it. Definitely encouraging and enjoyable, but not super challenging or deep.

I’d love to hear about what you read this year and what you thought of it! Tag me @thelittlestteacher on Instagram or Facebook and share your list!

I'd love to hear from you!