No, I did not do that intentionally. I’d love to be able to read closer to 35 books each year, which would work out to about a book every 10 days or so. For me, at least — I’m a pretty slow reader. It also depends on the type of book I’m reading. I tend to read novels faster than non-fiction books. At the end of the day, it does really matter because no one is timing me or assigning deadlines … but the more you read the more you can learn and that’s my main goal.
This year I landed on a total of 21. I suspect the biggest reason I didn’t read more was due to my fascination with all things mountain biking, which I renewed in earnest in January with the purchase of a new bike. In addition to expanding my mind by reading books, riding my bike expands my soul so its a trade-off I’m ok with.
I like to read all different types of books. I prefer novels, but I also mix in books on topics that interest me: biographies and historical accounts, social psychology, rethinking religion, and web design. Novels and fictional stories typically make up significantly more than half of the books I read each year, but in 2021 only 9 of the 21 were in that category.
I keep track of what I’m reading on Bookstack. You can, too, with this handy little app I designed a couple of years ago. It’s definitely due for some feature updates, but for now it gets the job done. And here’s my list for 2021:
- The Secret Dead, by S.J. Parris
- Inspired, by Marty Cagan
- Unraptured, by Zack Hunt
- Endurance, by Alfred Lansing
- Execution, by S.J. Parris
- Everything is Spiritual, by Rob Bell
- Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
- The Bomber Mafia, by Malcolm Gladwell
- A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash
- This is How I Lied, by Heather Gudenkauf
- Faith After Doubt, by Brian McLaren
- Reading While Black, by Esau McCaulley
- David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
- The God of War, by Marisa Silver
- Last Words, by Michael Koryta
- Jesus, Interrupted, by Bart D. Ehrman
- Inventing Hell, by Jon M. Sweeney
- Jesus and John Wayne, by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
- Foregone, by Russell Banks
- Better Onboarding, by Krystal Higgins
- Think Again, by Adam Grant
The Top 3
Endurance, by Alfred Lansing
I didn’t know the true meaning of the word “difficult” until I read this book. This is the story of failure, but also of survival in the worst conditions imaginable for humans. The book recounts the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, in its attempt to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914. Endurance was the name of the ship that transported 27 men, 69 dogs, 3 smaller boats, and not nearly enough supplies. This is a story of how even the most well-funded, well-planned journeys can go off course. It chronicles Shackleford’s unique leadership skills and the patience, resilience, creativity, determination, and downright skill he and his men exhibited in the face of the most formidable circumstances.
Jesus and John Wayne, by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
The subtitle of this book says it all: “How white evangelicals corrupted a faith and fractured a nation.” Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was parented, taught, and mentored by white evangelicals. Until my mid-30s I was one myself. Evangelical is not a label I thought much of and even as I began deconstructing my faith about 15 years ago, I wasn’t purposely trying to distance myself from that term. But reading this book taught me so much about the history of this religious (and yes, political) movement that now I want to actively and whole-heartedly avoid being associated with the term “evangelical”. I want nothing to do with the version of Christianity that is more about Christian Nationalism than it is about following and emulating Jesus. For a while now, I’ve not been able to reconcile a faith that purports to be “pro-life, family values, and morality” on one hand, but then turns around and vehemently supports Donald Trump, blindly champions a military engaged in unjust wars, and engages in all sorts of social hate toward African Americans, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants. This book crystalized a lot of those thoughts for me.
Think Again, by Adam Grant
Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there's another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. This book cites numerous studies and real world anecdotes that highlight the importance of looking beyond the surface and thinking differently, thinking deeper, or just plain rethinking altogether. Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He teaches people how to challenge assumptions and how to disagree in a different way. He explains that most of us approach life as either a preacher, a prosecutor, or a politician. Think Again is an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and favor mental flexibility over foolish consistency.