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52 Books I Plan to Read in 2021

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For 2021, I set a goal of reading 3 books per week —  1 fiction book, 1 non-fiction book, and 1 audiobook each week. I know this is an audacious goal, but reading is something I love and it’s a way I learn, challenge my mind, improve as a writer and communicator, and am refreshed and encouraged through inspiring stories.

I have a few shelves full of books (mostly that I’ve gotten free), so I decided to choose 52 books from off my shelf to read this year. I’ll also read other books that I find/am sent that pique my interest. Plus, I plan to go through a lot of audiobooks (I get mine free from the Libby app).

Each week, I plan to give an update on what I read/listened to + my honest reviews. We’ll see how I do with my reading goals. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to hit them, but it will be fun to try!

Note: I have not read any of these books, so my inclusion of them on this list is not an endorsement or recommendation of them.

Foster Care/Parenting Titles

Spiritually Encouraging Non-Fiction Titles

Fiction Titles

(I need some more title recommendations for fiction. I like clean titles that have good character development, depth, and meaning but that are also well-paced and engaging. Any suggestions??)

Marriage Titles

Biographical Non-Fiction

Business/Entrepreneurial Titles

Other Non-Fiction Titles (that don’t really fit into a category!)

Have you read any of these books? Which one should I read first?

Coming soon: the 12 books I plan to read to Kierstyn in 2021.

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  • Amy M. says:

    I read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog for one of my counseling classes. It was so good! Hard but important read.

  • Sarah says:


    I have read only a handful of her books, but I really enjoyed Jan Karon’s:

    I have some family members that are crazy over this author:

    I have a sister who adored “Laddie” (and other books) by Gene Stratton-Porter:

  • Margaret says:

    I’ve read the auschwitz escape and really enjoyed it. I think it is one of Rosenbergs better books. (And he is a fave fiction author of mine). Another fiction (political) thriller I loved (almost completely clean) was the Eighth sister by Robert dugoni. Thrilling!
    I also just finished a nonfiction biographical memoir called “shattered dreams” by Irene Spencer. It was fascinating, sad, but Gods beautiful redemption at the end. Based on your book readings over the years, suspect you would appreciate it.

  • Chrissie Thatcher says:

    Would you ever consider doing a weekly book club? A side note, we tell our kids just about daily to be so good they cannot be ignored. =)

    • Jessica W says:

      I would love a book club too!

    • What would a weekly book club consist of? Let me know. I can’t make any promises, but am happy to consider it.

      • Chrissie says:

        I am no expert, but I can speak for myself that one of my favorite things about MSM is the book recommendations I get from you. I follow another author and she picks a book a month, and it is a paid membership. With that you get a physical book, access to a FB page where she posts discussion questions and does a monthly FB live either with the author, or just with herself talking about take aways from the book. You could eliminate the book part and just put an affiliate link to the book to be purchased each month to make it easier. I love the interaction and the encouragement to read a variety of books.

  • Rachel says:

    Have you read The Mitford Series?

  • Katie says:

    So fun to see Made Like Martha and Stolen Jesus in the stack of books you’re going to read. Thank you! Of course those are my recommendations for reading first. 🙂

    • Kim says:

      The best book I read last year was When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal. There are a few scenes with mature content, which I know you and some of your readers may prefer to avoid, and also some mentions of abuse although not super detailed. I read it for a book club without knowing the content, but think the few mature scenes can be skipped without missing the plot.
      One I think you would like is The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (translated by Sonia Soto). It’s clean and sweet, just a touch of faith related content.

    • I loved Book Girl. It was a good read and a great reference book for adding more books to my list. I am reading the Wingfeather Series this year. I am also planning on reading Anne of Green Gables with my almost 8 year old. If you are looking for a fun family read aloud, The Phantom Tollbooth is a family laugh out loud book. We read it every couple of years. I could go on and on,but these are my favorites.

    • 😉 I’m excited to finally read them!

  • Profit First is excellent and completely transformed my husband’s small business. I’d recommend reading it early in the year so if you want to adopt the principles you can do that before too much of the year passes by.

    For fiction, I have loved anything by Tessa Afshar. Her books are set in biblical times and have very well developed characters and engaging storylines.

    Thanks for sharing your book list here and on Goodreads. I love following along and getting new book ideas. This year I hit my goal of 52 books and your tracking was my inspiration to do so. It was a highlight of 2020!

    • Wendy C says:

      I started my own business last year and read profit first early on. It was totally helpful as I don’t consider myself a numbers or money person. I have consistently paid myself, saved money for taxes and operating expenses plus given myself a quarterly bonus! All of these were because I read “Profit First” and it just clicked in my brain.

    • Thank you so much for the suggestions!

  • Connie says:

    I’ve read several of them, but I recommend Made Like Martha and Breaking Anxiety’s Grip.

  • Emily Glass says:

    I love the Mitford series by Jan Karon and the Harmony series by Philip Gulley. Both are wonderful.

  • Joanna says:

    Biography-Becoming Elisabeth Elliot
    Highly recommended.

  • Carol says:

    I love looking at your book lists! I just read a great historical fiction by Michelle Shocklee called Under the Tulip Tree. It’s set in Nashville and it’s about a woman writer in the 1930’s who interviews a 101-year-old former slave as part of a government project to give work to writers. I would say it has depth as well as a lot of history (looks like you enjoy historicals). You might need Kleenex for a few parts, but I was impressed with the book!

  • Kristin says:

    Made Like Martha!!

  • Pamela Marks says:

    I have read two of these and while looking through your pile I put a few on my list. From the few I have read from your list I would start with Underneath the scarlet sky. As for the book The boy who was raised as a dog please take time when you can to read Adam Resurrected by Yoram Kaniuk which is a story about a Jewish Circus performer who was forced to be a dog by the Nazis. It will fit in with your reading list well.

  • leah says:

    Mama Bear Apologetics was excellent!! Very practical and thorough for raising kids in today’s culture.

  • Sarah says:

    Lynn Austen for fiction, her Gods and Kings series. I’m also reading through the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and appreciate them much more now than I did years ago.

  • Deanna says:

    I read The Choice a couple months – so good! I really liked it.

  • Jen Whetten says:

    I loved the Company of One! Also I’m a big fan of Laura Vanderkams book, they’re so insightful!

  • Bethany says:

    Have you read The Nightingale, by Kristen Hannah? It’s WW2 fiction and I loved it.

    Also, marriage book recommendation, though it hasn’t come out yet: The Great Sex Rescue, by Sheila Gregoire. I haven’t read it yet, but she’s said so many awesome things in her blog that I expect it to be great.

  • Beth says:

    Middlemarch by George Eliot is probably the best character development novel I’ve ever read.
    I also really enjoy the Mitford series when I need kind, but humorous encouragement in the middle of life stresses.
    Don’t forget to read poetry to the baby. Thankfully my husband loves to read poetry to our kids because it’s not my favorite literary form and I know I would forget to prioritize it. But I can tell it benefits my kids linguistically and artistically.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Do you have favorite poetry to read to little ones?

      • Beth says:

        A quick explanation: my husband’s career has been in language arts. English teacher, writer, editor, translator, etc. So before my oldest was even born he would read Shakespeare or Milton or Chaucer to him. The rhythms helped baby and me go to sleep at night ;). After the baby was born and with our other infants he continued the classics until they started getting old enough to be interested in the words. Now things have switched to kid friendly authors like Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, and of course, Dr. Seuss :). My boys also like Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. But from what I’ve read, anything well written with rhyme and meter is beneficial to their linguistic and reading abilities. There are a lot of “classic” (favorites from our childhood) children’s stories that are written in rhyme.

    • YES to poetry! I love, love reading books that are rhyming to babies (although I usually stick with picture books and don’t venture into really sophisticated poetry!)

  • Julie says:

    A non-fiction book my family enjoyed recently is The Day the World Came to Town, the story of amazing hospitality in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, when 38 planes from Europe carrying over 7,000 people landed there on 9/11 after US airspace closed.

  • Evelyn Masters says:

    I have read most of Susan Meissner’s books. They are all very good.

  • Sandra Mosolgo says:

    I really liked We were the Lucky Ones & Beneath a Scarlet Sky.
    2suggestions News of the World
    & Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek

  • Kyleigh says:

    I highly recommend Penelope Wilcock’s The Hawk and the Dove series for fiction, though there is some theology I grapple with in it (usually it’s minor, but there is one that it takes up the whole book). But the character development is great and the stories deal with a lot of weighty things.

  • Emily F. says:

    I loved The Last Year of the War. I also recommend Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner.

  • Anna says:

    I am sitting through a class this week taught by Sharon Hersh, the author of Belonging. Her class has been so good, I can only imagine her book is great as well. I also recently read Parenting From the Inside Out by Siegel, and found it really helpful!

  • Lorraine says:

    I’ve read Made like Martha and Stolen Jesus. In the order I read then, I recommend Stolen Jesus as an entertaining and sincere account of one woman’s path to a relationship with Christ.

    Made Like Martha is a beautiful read – I related because I’m very “Martha-like” – I live to check off all the things on my list and get things done, sometimes at the expense of relationships. If you can relate at all, move this ine up to the top of the pile!

  • Katie says:

    Stolen Jesus is one of my faves! Please read The Nightengale by Kristen Hannah or All the Light we Cannot See. Both are AMAZING!

    • Lori Stevens says:

      One of the best books I read last year is All the Things We Cannot Say. It is based on a true story and switches off between present day and WWII. It is SO good that I read it twice. It is easily in my top 5 list of favorite books ever read. If you like Beneath a Scarlet Sky and We Were the Lucky Ones, you will love this book!

  • Laura Lee Ellis says:

    I think you would love Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. It’s a memoir that reads like fiction and it has a touch of apologetics, beauty, humor, and interesting relationship dynamics. I buy it for all my friends. Definitely draws you in!

  • Becky Roberts says:

    The Connected Child by Dr. Karen Purvis is one of the most helpful books I have read in the past two decades as an adoptive mom of a child with trauma and disabilities. I refer to it often and have taken several seminars on connected parenting. I also highly recommend anything you can get from TCU that shows her working with “children from hard places.”

  • Kelly says:

    Stolen Jesus was absolutely life changing! There are so many great books on this list.

  • Sandra Mosolgo says:

    I enjoyed We were the Lucky Ones & Beneath a Scarlet Sky. Two historical fiction I recommend, News of the World and The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek.

  • Banni says:

    If you’re looking for more fiction books, based on what you already have listed I’d recommend The Book of Lost Names and The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel.

  • Lea Stormhammer says:

    For fiction, I love Susan Wittig Albert. Most of her work is titled ‘mystery’ but I prefer to call it ‘a story with a real plot’. Ha!

    I love her Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series (fictionally based on Beatrix Potter’s life) and her Darling Dahlias series (set in 1930’s Alabama) as well as her Victorian Series written under the pseudonym Robin Paige with her husband. They’re very well researched, have great characters, and paint lovely word pictures. No foul language, no gore and nothing that I considered racy.

    I wasn’t as engaged with her contemporary series, China Bayles (the character’s name) Mysteries, mostly because it was contemporary (I prefer historical) and a bit darker/rougher than the others.

    I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of the books on your list – I haven’t read any of them!


  • Csandst1 says:

    Re fiction—Harry Potter; Gone With the Wind

  • Donna says:

    Two that are close to my heart are “stolen Jesus” and “made like Martha”….Self perspective changing !

  • Christine says:

    I LOVE the Connected Child. When I hear of anyone adopting or fostering, it’s the #1 book I recommend. Super helpful.

    And Daring to Hope is wonderful!

  • Vanessa Johnson says:

    Fiction – “The Silver Sword” by Ian Serrailler. Set during Poland in WWII. Parents are taken away by the Nazis, children must find their way to Switzerland.

    “A Ring of Endless Light,” by Madeleine L’Engle.

    “One Summer In-Between,” by Melissa Mather.

    “Where the Lilies Bloom,” by Bill and Vera Cleaver

    Biography – “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide,” by Immaculee Illibagiza.

    Non-fiction – “Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen and the Chesapeake Bay”

    Non-fiction, religious – “The Power of Silence” by Cardinal Robert Sarah and
    “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster both changed my spiritual life in all the best ways.

    “Restless,” by Jennie Allen. Lots of practical, deep insight for young parents looking for deeper meaning.

    “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser taught me more about clear writing than three college composition courses.

    Also, you might try reading a few shorter pieces, like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which are masterpieces.

  • Teri says:

    Check out Connilyn Cossette for Christian historical fiction. She has several series, and they all take place in the Old Testament times. I couldn’t put her books down!

  • Amy says:

    For fiction recs:

    The Mountain Between Us & The Water Keeper –both by Charles Martin

    Mists of The Serengeti -This was really good…but I don’t remember if it was clean.

    • Amy says:

      Yes, The Water Keeper by Charles Martin was going to be my suggestion too, and you don’t have to be named Amy to read it or suggest it. 🙂

      Also, have you read any of Katherine Reay’s latest ones?

  • Ria says:

    Another Gospel – Alisa Childers
    Free of Me – Sharon Hodde Miller

  • Elisa says:

    I am re-reading book girl and even though I have read many titles suggested, I really love it and still am writing down new titles to read. It will give you lots of book ideas for your year as well!

  • The only one on your list I’ve read is Rest and that was interesting and had good tips, but could have been shorter. I skimmed through a lot of it.

    I do hope you enjoy The Ring when you read it! 🙂 Thank you for putting it on your list!

    • Elizabeth Thompson says:

      Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” and “My Name is Asher Lev” are two powerfully moving coming of age novels centering around faith and family. They are both about navigating some very poignant father—son dynamics.

      Also, C.S. Lewis’ “Till We Have Faces”—it’s a lesser known work of his, but I think it’s his best. Lewis somehow takes an old Greek mythology tale and crafts it into an allegory of grace and the incarnation. It’s brilliant. I remember reading it as a teenager and just couldn’t put it down.

  • Brittany T. says:

    Have you ever read any of Beverly Lewis’ fiction books about the Amish? They are actually really good! They usually have some twists and I cry in pretty much every single one. “The Shunning” is a good one to start with! I love how they show a much simpler way of life as well as the characters growing in deeper in their relationships with God.

  • Vanessa says:

    I read way more fiction than non-fiction but I LOVED Made Like Martha!! So good!

  • Courtney says:

    I have read 3 books by Fiona Valpy and have enjoyed all of them. There may have been one bad word total in the 3 that I read, and they are very clean. She writes historical fiction mostly from WWII. The titles I have read are The Beekeeper’s Promise, The Dressmaker’s Gift, and Sea of Memories.

  • Sarah says:

    I commented above and just realized I forgot a major fiction recommendation. This is historical fiction and taught me quite a lot while very enjoyable to read:

  • Anna says:

    The things we cannot say- by Kelly Rimmer
    Cilka’s Journey – by Heather Morris
    Karolina’s twins – by Ronald H. Balson
    Those are all about WW2 .
    I also really enjoyed My dear Hamilton and America’s First Daughter- both by Stephanie Dray and The Romanov Empress- by C.W.Gortner .
    Lynn Austin is a great Christian author and I enjoyed many of her books.
    And last but definitely not least : Before we were yours – by Lisa Wingate

  • Katrina says:

    Have you ever read The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser? It’s really good!!

  • Rachel says:

    I highly recommend Beneath a Scarlet Sky!

  • Cristina Wiyninger says:

    When People Are Big and God is Small is my recommendation to start out 2021. I really enjoyed many aspects of this book. While I did not always agree with the author, I found myself taking a much deeper look at places in my own heart wherein fear of God had been replaced by fear of man.
    I am currently reading Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner, as well as several others 😉.

  • Christy Cline says:

    The War that Saved Me” is an awesome read for the whole family!

  • Lauren says:

    “Another Place at the Table” is soooo good. If you like it, the same author also wrote “One Small Boat” and it’s just as good — or better!

  • Ashley says:

    You HAVE to read orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt. It is fiction and is about foster care! It is beautiful and heartbreaking and compelling. It is one of my favorites. I’m tearing up thinking of it.

    My other fiction recommendation is anything by Gloria Whelan. She writes such gorgeous historical fiction, and I’ve learned a lot about other cultures and time periods from her writing. Technically it’s juvenile or young adult fiction, but it is worth it!

  • Erica says:

    Faith to Foster is a great book! It was the finally push I needed to say yes to foster care. I also grew up with TJ! Such an amazing couple!

  • Christi says:

    Definitely read When People are Big and God is small by Welch early in the year. Then you might want to add Running Scared to your list also by him, it’s fantastic. One of my favorite things I love that Welch reminds us of is simple but powerful “We speak to the God who Hears, and Acts.”

    Also love Book Girl! I’m also really enjoying the read aloud family by Sarah Mckenzie.

    Other suggestions to add to your list:
    Fiction: Love’s executioner by Yalom. When Crickets Cry.

    Other suggestions: Parenting with Love and Logic. Desperate by Sally Clarkson. What did you Expect by Tripp if you haven’t read it. Also marriage matters is also good. Suffering by David Powlison radically changed my life.

    Business: Crucial Conversations by Vital Smarts there are 3 in the series.

    Also Do More Better by Challis.

  • Allison says:

    We Were the Lucky Ones was really good!

  • Dawn says:

    I absolutely loved The Last Year of the War. Susan Meissner has a new book coming out in February that I’m looking forward to reading!

    I noticed that you had My Dearest Dietrich in your nonfiction stack. I’ve read that one — it’s incredible but is fiction based on the true story.

    I’m naturally drawn to fiction, so one of my reading goals this year is to consistently read more nonfiction. Audiobooks have become my favorite way to read as I can listen while I’m doing other things.

    I’m looking forward to reading your reviews and seeing what you read this year!

  • Fiction recommendation: “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate

  • Loey says:

    For Christian historical fiction, “Ruby’s Redemption” by Edwina Kiernan is a hope-filled tale of forgiveness and grace with a sweet romance, too!

  • Julie says:

    For fiction, I enjoyed If I Were You by Lynn Austin.

    I saw someone else comment about A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner and I second that!

    Book Girl is great and will give you plenty of great fiction ideas 😊

  • Jenn says:

    I read Keep Showing Up by Karen Ehman. Excellent book!!!! I was on the launch team for it.

  • Sharon Taylor says:

    Daring to Hope is a life changer. It is an amazing story. Enjoy it. Being a foster Mo, as well as an adoptive Mom, you see how you can change a life, or two or three…..

  • Joan says:

    I just read The Last Year of the War, it was everything you said you liked for fiction. Any of the rest of Susan Meissner’s titles would be great to fill out your fiction. Also, I think you’d like anything by Roseanna White

  • Kathryn Egly says:

    I would read Your Hospitality Personality first because that sounds intriguing to me! Will you be giving your books away after finishing them? I haven’t read any of those books and they look great!

    I enjoy reading your reviews and recommendations.

    I read 50+ in 2020 and here are my top ten recommendations:

  • Gin T says:

    Beneath a Scarlet Sky is on my top ten list of favorite books! I have read it twice now and listened to it one time. It is beautiful and heartbreaking but well worth the read. We Were the Lucky Ones is also good. So many good choices on your reading list for this year!

  • Melissa Fornwalt says:

    I would highly recommend, if you haven’t read them already, two fiction books by Francine Rivers – The Masterpiece and Redeeming Love. They are both faith-based but phenomenal stories of redemption 🙂

  • Kelly says:

    Every time I look at this list of books I always want to read a bunch of them. I’ve taken screen shots of the piles for years just to make sure I never forget!

    I am making a reading goal for myself this year as well. I wanted to keep it simple since I am just starting this habit (so it’s achievable); 12 books a year (minimum). My other goal is to read the books I already have so I’m not buying many but did have a couple on my list that I needed to purchase.

    A few of the books I’ve going to read are: Burn Out. Untamed. Think like a monk. The Budda and the Bada$$.

    Because my husband is going to be deployed for the next year+ I’ve been debating on startnling up a blog again as a record of his time away. It’s been a dream of mine to have so why not start now when life is upside down.

    Do you have any tips for how you wrote your book quickly? (Which I am going to buy too!)

    • Kim says:

      I hear you on not buying more books. If you have a local library you should see what they have to offer. Ours has pretty much every book I ever want either in a physical copy or ebook format. They have an app for the ebook ones or a lot can be downloaded in the Kindle app after you check them out. You can download a Kindle app to most devices including an ipad or laptop – you don’t have to own a Kindle specifically. I still prefer physical books but ebooks are good for travel.

  • Karra says:

    I love this list! It’s getting me all fired up to make my own reading list for the year. Suggestions: Don’t read Book Girl first…unless you’re okay with changing up your list for the year. You’ll get great ideas there! For fiction titles, I *love* Lynn Aunstin’s Gods and Kings series (biblical historical fiction set during the reign of Hezekiah and his son). Intense and I couldn’t put them down. Also, Randy Alcorn’s suspense novels (clean, can’t-put-down, as well). Happy reading!

    Also, when do you plan to read, to finish 3 a week?

  • allison says:

    fiction book recommendation: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. it’s set in nazi germany about a little girl. VERY good. it was the book that got me out of my reading rut.
    and if you want a sad fiction book that will make you cry your literal eyes out: Suzanne’s Diary to Nicholas by James Patterson is wonderful.

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