My 2021 in Books

This year was one of the best years of my life when it comes to reading. I worked my way through over 19,200 pages this year (and i’m still in the midst of several). As a result, chopping the list down to the top ten books of 2021 wasn’t exactly easy (five each for fiction and nonfiction), but what follows is my decision for my top ten books of 2021. Enjoy!

To see the full list of books i read in 2021, click here: Fiction, or here: Nonfiction.

To jump to Fiction, click here.

Nonfiction

The Pastor’s Justification

Main topic: Pastoral Ministry

Year Published: 2013

180 pages

I received this book as a gift either in late 2015 or early 2016. However, due to it being given to me by a girl who broke my heart into a million pieces within six months of giving it to me, i had kept it on my shelf for about 5 years before finally picking it up in January 2021.

This book increased my desire and drive to be a pastor (along with The Pastor Theologian and Those Who Must Give an Account this year), challenged me to be more humble in theological arenas, and ultimately set me on a trajectory of study i am still pursuing: Love and unity and reconciliation in the church.

As a result of reading this book, and writing a blog post about it, i was able to reconcile with several individuals from my past. I hope and pray that it leads to even further reconciliations in the church at large.

A memorable quote:

“Young men, wield your influence peaceably, respectfully, and patiently. You have not been put in your position to establish vision or direct the pastor’s preaching focus. Do not seed division or discord. Shut up and listen a lot more, or get out.”1

Wired for Intimacy

Main topic: Purity

Year Published: 2009

190 pages

This book was purchased on sale on Kindle more than a year prior to reading it. I finally decided to read it for research for a presentation on pornography addiction for my Counseling class at Gateway Seminary in Spring 2021. It also helps speak to future posts like these.

The science of this book is fantastic. It talks about how habits are formed, and how extreme care must be taken when trying to break a habit.

The Scriptural, Christian perspective is not as heavy in this book, but the author is a Christian neurobiologist, so he focuses primarily on his specialization, and it is much appreciated. There is still much good for the struggling Christian though. As possessors of the Holy Spirit, we have supernatural power to break our old habits and rewire our brains.

A memorable quote:

“As men fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on these images, the exposure to them creates neural pathways. Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed. Over time these neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with women are routed. The neural circuitry anchors this process solidly in the brain. With each lingering stare, pornography deepens a Grand Canyon–like gorge in the brain through which images of women are destined to flow. This extends to women that they have not seen naked or engaging in sexual acts as well. All women become potential porn stars in the minds of these men. They have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image.”2

Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition

Main topic: Hermeneutics

Year Published: 2018

251 pages

This book blew my mind. After spending 11 years studying the Bible and studying how to study the Bible, this book was a breath of fresh air. After starting to feel like i was close to mastering the Scriptures, this book kicked me down several pegs and showed me that Scriptural interpretation is so much more than just a science you can practice to get it right every time. The whole Bible is alive, and it must be treated as such.

The next book (within the next 5 at least) that i plan to read is his follow-up book, Contemplating God with the Great Tradition. Additionally, this book has helped spur my Bible reading plan for the next 29 years. My focus in 2022 is Genesis and how Genesis speaks to the rest of Scripture.

A memorable quote: (This is hard for this book, as i highlighted almost the entire book as i read it.)

“For me, theological interpretation of Scripture means interpreting the meaning of each passage in the context of the overall theology of the Bible as a unified whole centered on Jesus Christ.”3

Homilies on the First Epistle of John

This is not the edition i read, but it is a far superior cover to the version i read. I read it in Philip Schaff’s NPNF 1.7.

Main topic: Sermons

Year Published: 407

76 pages

This set of ten sermons is one of the most edifying and encouraging things i’ve ever read. Division in your church? Let Augustine’s call for unity and love encourage your soul as it did mine.

Preached during the Donatist Controversy (a sect that claimed they were more spiritual than the mainstream Catholic church), Augustine called for humility and love, arguing that even though the Donatists dot all their theological i‘s and cross all their theological t‘s correctly, they deny Christ by not recognizing and uniting with His body–the Church.

As such, they must learn to love, or else reveal that they are not true Christians.

This is the theme of this blog, and as such was an obvious choice for top book of 2021.

A memorable quote: (Note: “Charity” means “love.”)

“This, if ye remember, we gave you to understand in beginning to read this Epistle, that nothing in it is so commended as charity. Even if it seems to speak of various other things, to this it makes its way back, and whatever it says, it will needs bring all to bear upon charity . . . there is no discerning of the children of God from the children of the devil, but only by charity. They that have charity are born of God: they that have it not, are not born of God. A mighty token, a mighty distinction! Have what thou wilt; if this alone thou have not, it profiteth thee nothing: other things if thou have not, have this, and thou hast fulfilled the law. ‘For he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law,’ saith the apostle: and, ‘Charity is the fulfilling of the law.’”4

Praying with Confidence

Main topic: Prayer

Year Published: 2010

105 pages

I’ve often struggled with prayer. As such, this book raised my eyes to the heavens, in praise of our glorious God who condescends to listen to us. He wants to hear us pray. And if the Christian life is a life of faith, then our prayers should be saturated with evidence of faith.

As Paul Murray walks us through Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of the Lord’s Prayer, the reader’s faith is increased implicitly.

This book has inspired me to make prayer one of my main focuses for 2022. I want to read as many old expositions and modern expositions of prayer as possible and put them into practice.

A memorable quote:

“So efficacious is the Lord’s Prayer, and so surprisingly inclusive in what it embraces, that St Thomas does not hesitate to declare that ‘anything that can be contained in other prayers is contained in this one.’”5

Fiction

The Bloody Ground

Genre: Historical Fiction

Year Published: 1996

416 pages

I read the entire 4 book series this year, but each book was better than the prior. As such, this one was the best. It follows the adventures of Nathaniel Starbuck, a northerner who fights for the south during the Civil War.

Cornwell is an amazingly careful historian and an even better storyteller, and you truly feel like you are there with Starbuck throughout all the action.

My only complaint is that there are no plans for a book 5, even though there easily could be.

A memorable quote: (Unfortunately, this book is sitting in storage, so i don’t have access to it to find a quote. Take my word for it though, this book series is fantastic!)

The Plot

Genre: Thriller

Year Published: 2021

322 pages

As a writer, books about writers are fun (the main character in Stephen King’s The Shining is also a writer). As such, a writer who’s struggling with his calling to be a writer instantly grabbed my attention.

Would i ever steal another author’s idea?

Jacob Finch Bonner would. And that’s only the beginning of the crazy ride that is this novel.

A memorable quote:

“Good writers borrow, great writers steal. –T. S. Eliot (but possibly stolen from Oscar Wilde).”6

Where the Crawdads Sing

Genre: Mystery

Year Published: 2018

374 pages

A local boy turns up dead, and all eyes turn to the strange, misunderstood “marsh girl.”

It’s a tale of love and of lust, of innocence and the death thereof. It’s the story of abandonment and belonging. It’s a mystery and a celebration of nature. It’s an utterly beautiful book.

A memorable quote:

“Kya remembered, those many years ago, Ma warning her older sisters about young men who overrevved their rusted-out pickups or drove jalopies around with radios blaring. ‘Unworthy boys make a lot of noise,’ Ma had said.”7

An Unreliable Truth

Genre: Thriller

Year Published: 2021

341 pages

This is the third book in the series, and even though i was a little sad it moved away from the primary characters of books 1-2, this was quite the ride.

When a mentally unstable man is accused of murder, and he insists that he is guilty and that his conviction will help people know who he is, a defense attorney’s immediate impression is that this guy needs to be rescued from a guilty verdict. But how do you know if the accused is telling the truth?

A memorable quote:

“‘You wanted to believe,’ she said gently. ‘That’s okay to want to believe the best of people. It’s an admirable trait that many people lose when they go from childhood to adulthood.'” 8

The Good Samaritan

Genre: Thriller

Year Published: 2017

389 pages

A woman who works for a suicide hotline has a dark secret.

A man whose wife recently committed suicide (also killing their unborn child) makes a startling discovery.

When their paths cross, the results are about as thrilling as they can get.

This was my second time reading this book (this book introduced me to the author and i’ve since read every book he’s ever written), and it was just as good the second time as the first.

A memorable quote:

“Her friends fell into two camps, each connected to the other by a common loss. On one side were the people racked with guilt for not recognising or reacting to how much pain Charlotte was in. Without fail, they wanted me to know how responsible they felt for letting her slip between the cracks. They pitied me and my loss, and in return I hated them for it. Then to the others, I was an object of suspicion: a convenient get-out clause for their own failings. Blaming me was much easier than blaming themselves or Charlotte.”9

Conclusion

That’s all i have for today. I hope one of these books might strike your curiosity and lead you to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one. Thus, my top books of 2021.

Until next year!

Soli Deo Gloria

Thanks for reading.

References

  1. Jared C. Wilson, The Pastor’s Justification (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 62-63. Emphasis added.
  2. William M. Struthers, Wired for Intimacy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 2009), 85.
  3. Craig A. Carter, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018), 244.
  4. Augustine of Hippo, “Homily V,” in St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. H. Browne and Joseph H. Myers, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 7 (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 490.
  5. Paul Murray, Praying with Confidence: Aquinas on the Lord’s Prayer (New York: Continuum, 2010), 98.
  6. Jean Hanff Korelitz, The Plot (New York: Celadon Books, 2021), iii.
  7. Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018), 183.
  8. Victor Methos, An Unreliable Truth, Desert Plains, book 3 (Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2021), 319.
  9. John Marrs, The Good Samaritan (Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2017), 135.

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