I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2021

Jamie Erickson reading a book

Unprecedented. That seems to be the most overworked word in the American lexicon these days. It's been pulled into so many sentences that if it gets stretched any further it just might rip clean through.

But, in this case, unprecedented feels like the perfect label for the kind of reading year I had in 2021. 

In the past, I've been able to log about 40ish books by December's end. A solid number for a work at home, homeschooling mother of five, in my opinion. At the close of 2021, however, my book journal showed that I finished 87 titles, an unprecedented number for me, to be sure.

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Or is it?

Perhaps not. You see, in previous years, I never counted books I read out loud to my kids, Bible study books I was working through, or books I was vetting/pre-reading for my kids. For whatever reason, I didn't think those kinds of books should "count" in my personal reading log. 

But this year, after pre-reading several books for my son's tween/teen book club that I lead each month and reaching a phase in my parenting when many of the books I read out loud to my kids are hefty doorstoppers, I decided that I should begin adding up ALL the books I read, with the exception of standard picture books. 

So, when you add up the 50 print books I read for myself, the 32 audiobooks I listened to for myself, the 16 books I read aloud to my kids, the 1 audiobook I listened to with them, the 9 print books I read or vetted for the tween/teen book club, and the 3 audiobooks I listened to for the club and then you subtract the 13 books I did not actually finish because the content wasn't appropriate or the writing was boring and also the 11 books that I'm not quite finished with and will be carrying over into the new year, you get 87.

I finished  87 books in 2021. 

Here is a look at the ten I enjoyed the most. 

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The Best Books I Read in 2021 #bookstagram #clean&captivating #cleanbooks

Best of fiction

5. The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek

by Kim Michele Richardson

When Cussy Mary earns a spot in Roosevelt's 1930s Kentucky Packhorse Librarian Project, she stirs up a heap of trouble. As one of the outcast blue people of Appalachia, she's not always been welcome among the townsfolk. But, despite their prejudice, she's determined to help the struggling people of Troublesome Creek learn to read.

Inspired by the blue Fugates of Kentucky who suffered from methemoglobinemia, a rare skin disorder, this book was both fascinating and heartwarming. With a few mild exceptions, it was a relatively clean read. I listened to the book on audio through the free Libby app which made the Appalachian dialects come to life.

4. The Secret Keeper

by Kate Morton

Aging British actress Laurel Nicolson returned to her childhood home to say goodbye to her dying mother and to uncover the truth behind some long-held family secrets. I've never read anything by Kate Morton before, but I will definitely be exploring her back catalog. The book was relatively clean and extremely captivating, with unexpected plot twists in nearly every chapter.

This title was another exceptional book to listen to on Libby. The narrator's gift at both the British and Australian dialects made the story extra compelling.

3. To Whisper Her Name

by Tamara Alexander

This was the book I almost didn't listen to on Libby. In this case, it's hard not to judge a book by its cover. But while this historical romance looks as if it would deliver very little substance, it was actually rich in history and touched on some very timeless themes including the social struggles of the post-Civil War South. Tamera Alexander was a new-to-me author, but I will definitely be looking for more of her work in the future.

2. Salt to Sea

by Ruta Sepetys

When four civilian refugees on the German side of WWII converge along the docks trying to gain passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military troop transporter, their lives intertwine in ways that will affect generations to come. Based on the sinking of a ship that was six times more deadly than the Titanic, this was a fascinating look at the other side of a horrific war--a side that is not often talked about.
I highly recommend listening to this one on audio as I don't think the nuances of all the different dialects would come through as well in the print version. 

1. We Hope for Better Things

by Erin Bartels

This poignant and timely story is about the racial divide in America that sweeps through three generations of one northern family during pivotal moments of history- the Civil War, the 1960s civil rights movement, and present day.

I loved this book so much! Even after five months, I still find myself talking about it to whoever is willing to listen. 

Best of Non-fiction

5. Do Over

by Jon Acuff

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure why I chose to listen to an audiobook about starting over. I wasn't starting anything over this year, after all. But, I've followed Acuff on Instagram for a couple of years and have always enjoyed his dry, sarcastic humor. I guess I reasoned that it was high time I finally read one of his books. 

I expected the book to be funny. It didn't disappoint. But what I wasn't expecting is to come away with several practical ideas for pivoting when life takes a weird turn. The book is specifically written to folks who'd like to change direction in their careers, but I think it definitely offers some universal thoughts for someone going through any life-altering circumstance.

4. The Ruthless of Elimination of Hurry

by John Mark Comer

The theme and general points of this book were excellent. The author wrote with candor and conviction about the effects of a hurried life and put forth some actionable steps to help a reader slow down. However, his short tweet-like paragraphs felt rather disingenuous. On the one hand, he encouraged people toward a more mindful, unrushed life, and yet on the other, he pandered to their inability to read more than two sentences at a time. All in all, however, I highly recommend it.

3. The Year of Danishly

by Helen Russell

For most of the year, I was working on a writing project that required hours and hours of study about Denmark and the Danish people. This humorous memoir was the last fact-finding book on my lengthy list of research-related reads.

When Helen Russell moved from her inner-city flat in the UK to a small, coastal town in Denmark because of her husband's job transfer, she determined to spend twelve months immersing herself in the lifestyle of the "happiest people on earth" in order that she might discover how to live well.

Please note: There is some explicit language in this book.

2. Fault Lines

by Voddie T. Baucham

In this book, black pastor and missionary Voddie T. Bacham, Jr. addresses the church's response to the racial disparity in America by analyzing the social justice movement through a lens of Scripture and revealing his opinions of Critical Race Theory. 

I found this book to be a very compelling and balanced look at a complicated and nuanced situation.

1. Dead Wake

by Erik Larson

This was the first title I was assigned to read for the book club that I joined this past summer. Since I came to the group rather late in the month and had less than a week to finish all 480 pages, I decided to opt for the audio version from Libby. While I thought the book was fantastic, I was surprised to learn that no one else in the book club liked it even a little bit. Turns out, the print book read like a textbook. Somehow the narrator of the audio, Scott Brick, made the dry facts quite compelling.

This narrative nonfiction follows the lives of a handful of ticket holders on the passenger ship Lusitania during its final crossing before being torpedoed by a German U-boat during WWI.

2021 was a banner book reading year. But perhaps if you do a little retroactive adding to my previous years' totals and include all the sub-categories that I included in my 2021 list, it wasn't unprecedented after all. But I digress...

What about you? How many books did you finish in 2021 and which ones stood out above the rest? 


  1. I just finishing We Hope for Better Things yesterday and I loved it! Now I have to go find someone to talk about it with! This year I really enjoyed new to me authors Amanda Dykes (based on your recommendation) and Genevieve Graham. I'm going to check out Sarah Morton as well as some of your non fiction recommendations. Thanks, as always, for the recommendations!

    1. I've not heard of Genevieve Graham. I'll have to check her out. Thanks for the suggestion. As I mentioned, The Secret Keeper was my introduction to Sarah Morton. But, I've heard that her other books are relatively clean as well.

  2. I read 73 in 2021! And like you, I have several that carried over into 2022. My top 10 are Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes, Turning of Days by Hannah Anderson, Seamless by Angie Smith, The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner, Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan, The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel, This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, Seeking Him by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, and The First Songs of Christmas by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

    1. It looks like we have similar reading tastes! I love your list. There's a few new-to-me authors on it. So, I should definitely check them out. Thank you!

  3. I hate to be a downer, but I just started and quickly stopped reading Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I love the idea of learning about the Pack Horse libraries, but I did not expect it to have more rape than library in the first few chapters. I have to say, I was very disappointed to see such moderately graphic and dark subject matter in a book recommended by a Christian mom. I had expected the "few mild exceptions in this relatively clean read" to be a cuss word here and there, not rape! Maybe it's because you listened to the audio and you didn't really notice it, or maybe I'm just hypersensitive to rape because I was sexually molested as a child, but I was so disgusted once the cousin Frazier was introduced that I just couldn't read further. I might be more disappointed than anything because it sounds like a great story! But out of dozens of books that you read this year, this was one of your favorites? It was just really unexpected. A heads-up would've been nice. And now I have a huge list of recommendations from you--this was the first one that I tried-- and I'm afraid of what else I might find. Anything else I should be aware of in the other top books you've read in the last few years? I can handle a little sex, but I don't like it being overly graphic, and rape really is a no-go for me.

    1. Everyone will have different parameters for their reading life. I personally find any book with divorce or cheating spouses a no-go. I actually found this story to be a raw, honest look at humanity. Rape is unfortunately a part of our fallen world. Even the Bible includes instances of rape and incest. I can completely understand why some Christians would prefer not to read books that contain scenes of sexual abuse. I prefer not to turn a blind eye to it. This book built in me a tremendous empathy for the character who is a reflection, I've no doubt, of real rape victims.