Out of the 34 books on my list last year, here are my recommended books in historical fiction, Bible studies, memoir, and self-help.

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I thought this would be the year I read the most. We spent seven and a half months at home–but I felt busier than ever. I had big plans to get so much work done, but having a husband who suddenly started working from home and took over the office, and kids who needed me to become their substitute teacher, demanded more attention than I had planned on giving.

However, I did get a lot of work done, and managed to fit in some reading, but sadly, I missed the mark on my 40 book goal for the year. I made it to 34 (and I counted a few of the read alouds with the kids to make myself feel better…)

But the point of setting any goal is personal growth. And this year taught me more than I could find in a book. I had to learn to let go of my plans and become more spontaneous. To be more present with my children (still working on that) and to practice gratitude and keep my fears in check. I may actually have done more writing than reading this year, which is also a personal win!

So if you are beating yourself up about some unmet goals from last year—stop and give yourself some grace.

Remember why you set these goals in the first place, and pat yourself on the back for the things you did accomplish over 2020 (most insane year ever).

You made it. We made it.

Now let’s get get to the good stuff…

1. “The Artisan Soul” by Erwin Raphael McManus

Two things I love–creativity and Jesus. This unique book explores the concept that every person has creativity within them, whether it’s through a paintbrush, your people skills, or the way you manage a classroom. McManus empowers you to discover what makes you creative and use it in a way to bring glory to God.

2. “The Perfect Couple” by Elgin Hilderbrand

This was a fun summer read by an author I’ve never tried. I really enjoyed this fictional murder mystery that kept me guessing the whole way through. Not gory and disturbing like most fiction books out there, this one won’t leave you traumatized after you finish it…

3. “The Store” by James Patterson

Another quick read, but the ending was a little flat for me. I still wanted to add it to the list because it kept you interested and was based on the concept of an online store that basically takes over the world, making you wonder if convenience is really worth the privacy you lose…

4. “Daring to Hope” by Katie Davis

If you know me, you know I rave about Kisses from Katie which I discovered years ago. A beautifully written memoir, this sequel follows Katie’s journey from gap year college student turned mother of 13 living in Uganda, to a wife, missionary and founder of Amazima ministry.

5. “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

Probably the best book I read last year, but one of the hardest I’ve ever read. This historical fiction novel tells the story of two German sisters living in Germany during World War II. I’ve never read a book from the perspective of the women left behind and what they had to endure. No one was safe back then.

6. “The Princess Diarist” by Carrie Fischer

This is the personal diary (and her later commentary) of Carrie Fischer when she was hired for the first Star Wars movie. What made this book so popular (and the reason I picked it up) had nothing to do with Star Wars, but the affair Harrison Ford had with her at the time. Before this book, I reluctantly watched a few Star Wars movies when others put them on. Let’s just say I’ve worked my way through everything on Disney+ in the Star Wars section after reading this…

7. The Complete Alice Series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

When I was in elementary school, I discovered a series about a girl my age named Alice and fell in love with it. These books were not only funny, but they talked about a lot of taboo coming-of-age topics that I was afraid to ask my parents about. I followed Alice through middle school and then lost an overall interest in reading for years. When I got back into it after college, I discovered that not only did the series continue, but the author wrote out the rest of Alice’s life all the way through retirement! While I honestly don’t know if I will recommend these later books for my daughter because of the sensitive material, it was like going through a time machine reading these myself. I loved that I got to see Alice grow up over the years.

8. “The Mindbody Prescription” by John Sarno

I discovered this book when I tried out an app called Curable, looking for something to combat my chronic pain. While I know Lyme pain isn’t in my head, this book explores the reality that a lot of chronic pain is “learned pain” and we have to retrain our brains to deal with it in a way that diminishes its power over our lives. I learned a lot about myself and my tendency to catastrophize my pain.

9. “The Mindbody Workbook” by David Schechter

After I finished the Mindbody Prescription, I found this workbook in the appendix and decided to give it a try. While I am not completely pain-free, I learned a lot about myself in completing this workbook and felt like I had a daily therapy session through writing while working on this. I still use the prompts and things I learned to deal with my pain from this on a daily basis. Highly recommend these resources for chronic pain sufferers.

10. “Women of the Word” by Jen Wilkin

This Bible study/Christian living book is short and simple, but packs a punch. Wilkin walks you through how you approach your Bible study and challenges you to take it further and question whether you’re truly studying the Bible, or feeding into your own personal beliefs. I enjoyed this so much, I completed it with a group and then led another zoom study group on my own afterward.

11. “Out of the Woods” by Katina Makris

The most uplifting book I’ve ever read about Lyme disease, this book follows the theme of the previous chronic pain books I read this year, in that in order to address real, physical pain, we have to address what’s going on in our minds. Half-memoir, half-medical advice, this book is written by a fellow Lymie and follows her path to healing. Definitely top of my list for recommended books for Lymies.

12. “Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis

I know there are mixed reviews of this girl in Christian circles, but as a woman who has been through the trauma she’s been though, you start to understand why her emphasis is so much on self. If you find yourself reading this self-help, empowering book through a lens of judgement, maybe it’s not for you–but I personally loved her message and story and practical tips to learn to love yourself and dream big.

13. “The Power Project” by Brandi Voth

I have a confession, I only read this book because I know this person, but seriously—it was so good! Fans of Rachel Hollis will love this one because it’s messages are similar, but presented in very different ways. Brandi tells her story of her back surgery and recovery from scoliosis as a child, the complications that came after, the perseverance it takes to make a marriage work, and learning the practice of being confident in who you are and using the gifts you have. Inspiring, encouraging, loved everything about this one.

14. “Meditation and Mindfulness” by Andy Puddicombe

Written by the founder of Headspace (my favorite app!), Andy tells the personal story of his journey from college student to circus performer turned monk. Yes, you read that right. His simple down to earth approach to meditation takes the “weirdness” out of this practice and makes it applicable to anyone, anywhere. The biggest thing I took away from this book were skills to help me become more present in what I was doing outside of my meditation practice. Definitely a recommended book if you struggle with anxiety or distractions while being with your family.


Check out these other posts on recommended books I love:

Happy Reading!