2021 - Standout Books of 2021

An unforeseen benefit of a pandemic requiring social distancing and some extended time working from home is that I have found significantly more time to read books this year than in previous years. My “To Be Read” pile visible diminished this year. Of that pile of books, what ones really stood out to me? This is not a top 10 list of new books this year, nor my all-time favorite books. These are books I read in 2020 that impacted me personally, no matter when they were originally published. Why did these books have such and impact and thus stand out for the year? As I share about my standout books of 2020, I hope you will gain some insights into my interests and passions.

Audible books of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter audible book covers

Last year, my wife and I got into listening to a full series of books on Audible with The Dresden Files. Once we finished those books, we started the Harry Potter series. It had been quite a while since either of us had read the books. After finishing each audio book, we watched the movie again. We really enjoyed listening to them and, as we watched the movies again, realizing how much deeper the stories are in the books. The audio books also give us time to really slow down and focus on the words of the books. Plus, audio books give us some interesting entertainment during lunch and on drives.

Rocket Men by Craig Nelson

Rocket Men book cover

I am a space geek and really enjoy learning more about our universe, space technology, and manned space travel. I found this book at a used bookstore and was grabbed by the cover and title. Once I opened the book I fell into a deep history of America’s (and the world’s) journey into space and then to the moon: the politics, the science, the history, the costs, and the people. I remember what my school history and science books said, watching some documentaries, and hearing stories from my parents about the race to the moon, but this book really opened my eyes to this amazing event in history, to the incredible people involved, and the impact on us as a society.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith/Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen & Ben H. Winters

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book cover
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters book cover

Do you ever just need a break from it all? Have you ever had a book just come at the right time to throw your mind off on a much needed tangent? These two reimaginings of Jane Austen’s classic novels were incredible distractions for me this year when I really needed them. They make you think and laugh at the same time as you try to reconcile the absurdity of these stories.

Ethnologue: Languages of the World

Ethnologue book cover

SIL International, where I work now, produces the Ethnologue website and these print editions, considered the most authoritative resource on world languages. I acquired an older edition of the print version soon after starting my new position. I love physical books, and this has been fascinating to flip through and read about the languages of the world, the related statistics, and grasp the enormity of how diverse we are as people. I have barely dented all the information in this book, but instead enjoy opening it up randomly and just reading for a while and pondering the global cultures.

Audible book of Redwall narrated by the author, Brian Jacques

Redwall book cover

This was the first audiobook we have every listened to that was read by the author. Brian Jacques was the narrator of the book and it was fascinating to hear an author read their own book as you get to hear it as they imagined it, the pronunciation, the emotions, the verbal imagery. We felt so much more drawn into the tale that the author was sharing.

Audible books of the Wingfeather Saga read by the author, Andrew Peterson.

Wingfeather saga on audible

We currently are listening to the Wingfeather Saga, completely read by the author, Andrew Peterson. My wife and I had both read these books previously but not together nor as an audiobook. The author really got into the characters, developing unique voices for each and acting it all out like a large audio drama. This has brought the characters and the story so much more to life. I did not appreciate the novels as much when I read them the first time, but these audiobooks have grabbed my attention and focused my thoughts on the larger story the characters are weaving.

Darkhawk comic

I mentioned this comic series early as an On My Shelf article, but I wanted to make one last mention. This is the first time ever that my wife and I have read a comic book together and discussed the stories within. Yes, the main character having Multiple Sclerosis is what initiated us purchasing and reading these comics, but it was the story and artwork that has pulled us together in conversations. I really love this shared enjoyment of comic books we have started and look forward to seeing where it leads after this series.

What books stood out for you in 2021, and what made them stand out? I am curious what makes a game special to you.

My Standout Books of 2021

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