book covers

Erica’s Favorite Reads – 2021

I hope the post title isn’t misleading: these are the top books I read in 2021, not just books that were published in 2021. I wasn’t quite sure how to convey that concisely in my title.

I generally gravitate towards nonfiction and self-help books – I have been on a big personal growth kick for like the past 5 years! However, this year I tried to challenge myself to read some fiction this as well, thanks to some recommendations from one of my best friends.

I read about 30 books total this year, which is a number I’m proud of. (Honestly, no matter what your number is, you can be proud of it!) I use Goodreads to keep track of everything I’ve read. You can find me on there if you want to see my entire reading list for 2021.

Two years ago I published a post of my favorite books for 2019, but I never posted my list for 2020. As I was trying to figure out why, I realized (with the help of Goodreads stats) that I read far fewer books in 2020 (hello pandemic!) Obviously we all had a lot going on in 2020… I’m glad to have been privileged to have time to be a more avid reader this year.

The Great Sex Rescue book

The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You’ve Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended
Nonfiction, Marriage, Christian

This book is the only book I have ever taken time to write a review for on Goodreads because I thought it was so good! I want to write an entire post on this book alone, but for now, I’ll share what I wrote on Goodreads:

I found this book to be very validating to my experiences. It was nice to be able to have it be so well articulated by someone. I appreciate how the authors took a critical look at what many other Christian books on marriage and sex are saying, and spelled out how certain messages could actually be harmful to women, and not even really what the Bible intended. I wish this book had been written years ago before I had gotten married, I wish it had been around when I started dating. I think it offers one of the healthiest perspectives on Christian marriage and sex I’ve read in a long time.

Frientimacy book

Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness
Nonfiction, Relationships, Psychology

I am not even finished with this book, but it has already made it to my list of top books for 2021! I am reading this with a coworker, and each week we read a chapter and then discuss it. This book takes a look at friendships and describes our basic need for being fully known and loved for who we are. It gives suggestions for ways to “close the intimacy gap” with friends by determining what areas of your relationship you need to invest in. The author states that each relationship needs 3 elements to be mutually shared in order to have a deep level of friendship: positivity, consistency, and vulnerability.

My one qualm with this book is that it is solely about female friendships – which I think is a shame because men need healthy friendships too, and I’m sure it would be off-putting to many men to read it when it is so geared towards women. However, many of the principles can be easily adapted for other types of relationships, and honestly it is really good information. If you’re a psychology nerd like me, you will find this book interesting!

The Art of Gathering book cover

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters
Nonfiction, Leadership, Sociology

I confess, I am not finished with this book either, but I am really enjoying it! It was recommended to me by my counselor, and I always trust her opinion on books.

If you are a group leader of any kind (whether you host events at your home, lead meetings at your place of employment, or facilitate small group gatherings), you should read this book.

One of my favorite concepts from the book so far, is the idea of “generous authority.” The author encourages you to use your power as a host to serve your guests and make the group gathering the best it can be. For example, have you ever been in a group meeting where one person talks WAY too much? Unchecked, this frustrates other group members and makes the group less effective. But often, the host won’t do anything to stop this for fear of “not being nice.” Protecting your guests and their right to a good experience, argues the author, is of utmost importance. As a host, you need to be willing to use your authority and risk being disliked by a few for the benefit of many.

Mark of Lions series

Mark of the Lion Trilogy
Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

I honestly was not expecting to like these books, because I’m not a big Christian fiction fan, or a Francine Rivers fan. Back when I was in college, the book Redeeming Love was all the rage, and I just didn’t really connect with the story. I also think many Christian fiction books and movies are trying way too hard, and end up being too preachy and low-quality.

The only reason I decided to try reading book one in this series was because they were listed as a favorite on one of my closest friend’s reading list, and I respect her as a reader, writer, and Christian. I figured if I hated book one, I would not read the rest. Well, I ended up actually liking it!

It is historical fiction, set in the time period after Jesus has died and risen. The main protagonist, Hadassah, is the daughter of a man Jesus raised from the dead, and now she and her family are all believers and participants of this new religion: Christianity.

I’m not doing a great job summarizing it concisely, but essentially, it’s the story of how Hadassah maintains her faith despite being sold into slavery and persecuted by Romans. While the story does have a few over-the-top Bible-y moments, overall it challenged me to think about my own faith and realize some areas where I was weak in my beliefs. Due to it fostering some personal self-reflection, I felt like this series was beneficial for me to read.

Honorable Mention

This post is getting long, so I’ll just mention a few other books that I really enjoyed this year, and you can look them up on your own!

  • Ready Player OneSci-Fi, Fiction, Dystopia
  • Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love (here’s a previous post I wrote on this book!) – Nonfiction, Marriage, Relationships
  • Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad OnesNonfiction, Self Help, Psychology

Here’s hoping 2022 proves to be another great year for reading!

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