My Favorite Books of 2021


New Year’s Day 2022 propelled Goodreads beyond their server limits as over five million existing users reviewed last year’s reading challenge and new users signed up to join them in setting new reading goals. I love the Reading Challenge, with its ratings and reviews to remind me what I’ve read and what I liked – or didn’t like – each year.

I added 45 books this year. Several were Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees, which I read with my son each year. Other titles come from review copies from publishers, previews through NetGalley, or titles that caught my eye while browsing through a bookstore. A few came from Once Upon a Book Club. Another reliable source for new titles is The BookPage, a monthly independent recommendation guide offered at our local public library.

My 2021 Top Ten 

In reviewing the 45 books I added to Goodreads this year, I discovered 17 standouts. From those I chose these ten books as my “top reads.” Here they are in no particular order:


1. Finding Sanctuary: How the Wild Work of Peace Restored the Heart of a Sandy Hook Mother, by Jennifer Hubbard

Ok, I lied when I said, “no particular order,” because this one stands out above all the others. While it was a hard book to start, it was absolutely the most fulfilling. Don’t be afraid to read this if you’re holding onto something painful and wondering if God sees you.


2. Damn Lucky: One Man’s Courage During the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History, by Kevin Maurer

Add this one to your 2022 reading list and pre-order it now, because this true story releases on April 19, 2022. I received a review copy via NetGalley and was immediately drawn into this biography of John “Lucky” Luckadoo, a World War II bomber pilot who survived twenty-five missions. Now 99-years old, Luckadoo provided first-hand accounts for author Kevin Maurer to capture his experience from war to peacetime. A must-read for anyone interested in World War II experiences.


3. The Lost Love Song, a novel by Minnie Darke

This arrived from Once Upon a Book Club and it was such a positive, uplifting story. You know, the kind that leaves you with a good happy feeling long after you finish. As one man mourns his fiancée’s death, her exuberant spirit carries on though an unfinished love song. The melody weaves from person to person, cultivating a sweet, strong love. Read this when you need a pick-me-up.


4. Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood, by Dawn Turner

A rich memoir of three girls growing up in the historic Bronzeville section south of Chicago. They are inseparable until life draws them on three separate paths to adulthood. Powerfully written, with a poignant message that it is up to each individual to find and adhere to a plan for their life. Read this if you liked Hilbilly Elegy.


5. There There, a novel by Tommy Orange

I’m struggling to sum up this title. It was the most challenging and uncomfortable book I read, but because of this it makes my list. Definitely check out my Goodreads review, which contains much more detail. Read this if you want something to make you think.


6. The Wordless Weaver, by Claudia Cangilla McAdam. Illustrated by Caroline Baker Mazure

A beautiful Easter story seen through the eyes of a young mute girl in Jerusalem. See my review at Catholic Mom that includes previews of the illustrations. Read this if you are seeking the glory that come on Easter morning.


7. The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn

This robust novel follows the lives of three unlikely friends who meet at Bletchley Park, the principal center for Allied code-breaking during World War II.  With characters loosely based on real people and real tragedies, the story captures your attention all the way to a satisfying ending. Read this for fun.


8. The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America, by Elizabeth Letts

In 1954, sixty-two year old Annie Wilkins buys a horse, brings the dog, and leaves her failing family farm in Maine to fulfill a dream of seeing California. A true story, the author relied on primary documents and newspaper accounts to bring it to life in a comfortable writing style. Read this if you’re feeling stuck in one place.


9. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

Andy Weir once again captured my attention with this science-driven story of a man who wakes up alone onboard a spaceship with two dead crew members and no memory of how or why he is there. I don’t want to give anything away, but will say I enjoyed the back and forth flashbacks of his memory returning as he struggles to stay alive and complete the mission. Read this one before they make it into a movie!


10. Call Your Daughter Home, a novel by Deb Spera

A powerfully written story that captures your attention and draws you though. It follows three women of different background and stations, connected in 1924 South Carolina during the Boll-Weevil-induced depression. It is not necessarily a happy tale, but if you like strong women refusing to back away from what life throws at them, this book is for you.

Happy Reading!



Shelly Henley Kelly