I read 56 books in 2021, and here are my favorites

So I read some books last year

(If you would prefer to listen to this blog post, you can do that here.)

In 2015 I made reading books a priority in my life. Since then, the least number of books I’ve read in a year is 33, and this year I broke my previous record of 52 by reading 56 books. I have a basic 5-star rating system, and usually, there are a handful, maybe seven or eight, that receive all five stars. But looking back at this year, I almost quadrupled that number.

As you’ll see from checking these out, many of the books I loved this past year dealt with race, a topic I’m still (and assume will always be) studying. I listed the books in the order in which I read them during 2021.

The best books I read in 2021

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America This book, by Ijeoma Oluo, is one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. Don’t be scared by the title (talking to my white male friends), it’s a must-read for us.

Caste Another all-timer…the amount of highlighting I did in this book reminded me of college. Heavy topic, for sure, but undeniably necessary.

So You Want to Talk About Race This was Oluo’s first book and, while I liked Mediocre better, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t one of the best books on race that I’ve ever read.

Good Company I’ve long been a fan of Arthur Blank, and this autobiography of his business journey did not disappoint.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Why it took me so long to read this, I’m not sure. Hat tip to Rachelle for recommending it.

Braiding Sweetgrass This book was one of the most recommended books from my podcast guests, and I know why. Brilliant deep dive into Indigenous wisdom and culture, and the way they love and protect our earth.

My Exaggerated Life If you are a Pat Conroy fan, this book is a MUST…otherwise I doubt it will be too interesting. But since Conroy wrote my favorite book of all time, I loved reading about his actual life.

A Promised Land (Barack Obama) I listened to this – Obama reads it – and it was one of my favorite audiobooks of all time. He’s just…the best :)

When We Stand Not surprisingly, Terence Lester again writes a terrific, must-read book!

It’s in the Action A great look at Dr. C.T. Vivian’s life, in his words.

To Kill a Mockingbird I decided to re-read this book (I think I read it in high school?) and it really is a work of art.

The Way of Kings So freaking pumped to know there are three more books in this series, and then many other spin-offs…was a truly epic fantasy novel. And I’m not a big fantasy guy, but this one grabbed me and never let go.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race Exceptional and moving book.

No Country for Old Men I believe I’m about to be a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy after reading this one…

Moriarty Really fun Sherlock Holmes genre novel. I don’t read a lot of fiction, and they rarely get 5 stars from me, but this one was too much fun not to include.

The Road My second McCarthy book…truly exceptional.

All the Pretty Horses A third McCarthy book…does this guy ever not crush it?

They Called Us Enemy Brilliant, eye-opening graphic novel by George Takei about his family’s experience in the Japanese Internment camps. It led me to subsequently record this podcast with Kenji Kuramoto about his family’s similar experience.

Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive (Book 2) Absolutely in love with the Stormlight Archives series. Again, I’m not a huge fantasy guy, but if you are you should check these out.

The Diversity Gap Terrific first novel by local leader, Bethaney Wilkinson. I recorded a podcast with her about the book and her journey.

Becoming I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was so great to hear Michelle’s voice reading it.

Empire of the Summer Moon I’ve begun studying Native American and Indigenous history, and this book was the second into that journey for me (with Braiding Sweetgrass being the first). This book taught me a great deal, as, like most of you, I didn’t learn much about these stories in school.

All In (Billie Jean King bio) It’s possible a non-tennis fan wouldn’t rate this as high, but I loved hearing about her journey – and boy did she have one! Plus, she reads the audiobook and hearing her voice (her laughter and her tears) along the way was extremely moving.

Will Hands down the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to, and one of my favorite autobiographies. His story is very inspiring and he is extremely vulnerable in this book. I’ve already recommended this one to so many people.

What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? Such a motivating, uplifting, and funny book by first-time author, Adam Albrecht. We recorded a podcast interview about the book. I’m already asking him when he’ll write his second book.

On Writing I re-read this hybrid autobiography / writing how-to by Stephen King before I write each of my books. So I guess that makes this the fourth time I’ve read it 👍

What about you?

Did you read any books last year that I should put on my list for 2022? Please share as I’m obviously a book nut ;)

I hope you’re happy,


  1. Todd Slutzky on January 5, 2022 at 11:27 am

    Thank you for sharing this list. I used to be a voracious reader. (Roughly 200 pages a week for 20 years.) And then in 2016 for a number of reasons, I kind of stopped. I read 2-3 books a year since. One of my goals is to get back into it.

    This list has some wonderful books that I hope to experience. And i appreciate the recommendation around listening to audio books while running. I’ve never tried it, but it seems like a wonderful idea.

  2. Stephen Venable on January 10, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    Great list.

    Here are a few I enjoyed:

    Wildland, by Evan Osnos
    The Sellout, by Paul Beatty (if you’re into heavy satire)
    Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (back to the Martian in quality)
    Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

  3. Mona on April 15, 2022 at 8:30 am

    Just finished The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd (ironically finished it on Good Friday), which was an awesome fictional story of Ana, the wife of Jesus. Very interesting story through the voice of a female protagonist.

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