My Favorite Books of the Year

It’s that time of year for reflection and ranking. For clarification, these are books I read in 2021, yet it does not mean they all came out in 2021. Please let me know what your favorite books of the year were. And here’s to hoping 2022 will be the best year of reading yet!

In no particular order:

1. Festival Days

by Jo Ann Beard 

I am deeply bias because Jo Ann is the best writing mentor a girl could ask for, and she is also one of the most lovely humans on the planet. Apart from that, this book of essays is a stunner! At her launch, she talked about how she averages about one book every ten years, and a few sentences in you will know why.

2. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

by Heather McGhee

McGhee argues that our nation was built on the zero-sum game of slavery and indigenous genocide and shows us how not only is that mindset still alive and well, but also that the mindset is hurting us all economically. It is simply not true that if you do better I must do worse. With accessible writing and great storytelling, her data is so clear. We do better when we all do better.

3. Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

by Emily Nagoski PhD and Amelia Nagoski DMA

It is hard to find a woman who is not perpetually tired and overwhelmed. This book explains why and gives tangible tools for how to address burnout. From clearing the stress cycle to challenging gaslighting, this book is refreshing and empowering in its research and delivery. It is a delightful and profound read.

4. Heavy: An American Memoir

by Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon’s writing style is immediately enchanting, fresh. It is not every day you get to read something and feel like it is nothing you have ever read before. Generational trauma, racism and addiction are presented brilliantly. He tells stories in a way that gets into your bones and stays with you for days.

5. The Nightingale: A Novel

by Kristin Hannah

I tend toward think nonfiction books for work. My friend handed me this novel and told me to enjoy turning the pages, which is exactly what happened. It follows two sisters who take very different paths of dissent through WWII. This novel is well known for good reason. If you have not picked it up yet I’d recommend it!

6. Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

by Amanda Montell

I love words. I love thinking about words. In this absolute gem of a book, Amanda Montell does a deep dive into the history of language and allows you to come along for the ride. She successfully argues that the ways women get trouble for how we talk are actually our superpower. I’m in.

7. I Bring the Voices of My People: A Womanist Vision for Racial Reconciliation

by Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Chanequa Walker-Barnes rightly presents how Black women have been kept out of the conversation about religious reconciliation. It is, then, she says, an interracial playdate between White men and Black men about how to redistribute patriarchal power. She is a brilliant womanist theologian whose voice is essential.

8. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King

I have not read much Stephen King, but this was recommended to me often enough that I picked it up and loved it to bits. He is funny and can write like hell, spanning his hatred of adverbs to touching childhood stories to his climb to paid writing and his dedication to the craft.

9. Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

by Claire Dederer

Yoga is a metaphor for life and Claire Dederer nails it. As a woman, mother, spouse, writer and yogi, this book felt like it was written directly to me page after page. Her humility and vulnerability are palpable, making a lovable, believable, flawed hero who grows in inspiring ways.

10. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir

by Haruki Murakami 

Writing novels and running marathons are no small feats. Haruki Murakami writes about both here is a meditative, almost mystical way. I am still musing on one of his marathon mantras: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Both writing and running are fairly solitary for him, working with a realistic view of his talent and shortcomings, putting his body in motion one step at a time while having his gaze on the horizon. As a runner and writer myself, his endurance and focus are inspiring and if possible, contagious.