My Top 5 Books of 2021

While the year’s not over yet, so far this year I’ve read 54 books. My goal each year is pretty much the same in terms of how many books I plan to read (52) since that would be about one per week. The reason I pick 52 is that it’s about establishing a reading routine, reading 1-2 chapters consistently per day. While that’s surely not what always happens as sometimes I’ll read an entire book in a sitting, while other times I may go a few days without reading anything, I want to make sure I’m committed to reading daily the majority of the time.

This year’s breakdown so far from those 54 books includes:

  • 28 Non Fiction Books, 26 Fiction Books
  • 28 Physical Books Read, 8 books on Audible, 18 on my Kindle
  • Most books read in a month was January with 9 books
  • Least amount of books read in a month was September where I finished 1 book
  • Average per month was about 4.5 books
  • 20 books were 5 stars

Looking back at the year, and specifically those 5 star books, I wanted to share with you my favorite 5 from the year that I have stuck with me. They’re the ones that I reference the teachings from most or that I recommend to others. I can say I’ve recommended all of these at some point this year to someone else, most of them to a more than one person. When we only have so much time in our days, we should only spend it with the most impactful books. So I truly will not recommend something that’s just an “okay” read. I’d rather send you my notes on it instead to save you the time.

So here they are, my top 5 books of 2021:

I’ll share more of a summary on each of these in the upcoming months, but I wanted to share just one specific thing I took from each of these books throughout the year.

Man’s Search for Meaning – This book is incredibly powerful. I will never do it justice with my summaries or takeaways. It’s a book I think every person should read in life, and honestly as a young adult could be really impactful for later years. I wish I would have read it sooner. My one takeaway from this book that I think about often is just how when I can think something is “the worst” that Viktor truly had it worse. I may be too cold or too tired or too ( insert description here ) but as he describes in the book, the conditions he was in were truly unthinkable. So when I’m ready to complain about being too “something”, I temper that feeling with the reality that I may feel tired or cold, but that I will likely only have to experience that feeling for a short time, not for days or weeks or months or literal years on end like he did.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know – Adam Grant truly is the human form of teaching others to “think again”. He writes and speaks his research in such a summarizing form that was both clarity and power. I’ve read all of his other books, and this one is at this time my favorite. The take away from this book for me is simple – be willing to check your ego and think again about something when presented with new information. I’ve tried to embrace this philosophy even more this year, being willing to change my mind on something when I learn more to the situation and I’ve seen a difference in the way I receive ideas or correction. It’s not always easy, but it has been very beneficial.

At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, and Priorities Working in Your Favor – Carey is an incredible leader and appreciate listening to his wisdom both on Podcasts and in books. This book I heard about from a podcast and it hit me so perfectly with what he shared. The purpose of this book is to figure out how to do what you’re best at when you’re at your best. He shares a way of thinking about your time and energy in red, yellow, and green zones throughout the day. There’s certain types of things we can do during each. What’s important is to know when you are at each zone throughout the day, and adjust your schedule accordingly if possible to do your best when you’re at your best. This is truly a very easy read and has very tangible takeaways as to how to integrate this into your own life. Because of this book, I think about my time differently and schedule my priorities differently so I can do my best work when I”m at my best. (Hint: I”m typing this blog during my “green zone” at 6 AM because y’all surely don’t want to read a blog written by me during my red zone.)

The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right – I tend to read books pretty shortly after they come out. Three of the books on this list came out in the last 2 years. This one came out about 11 years ago, and a version of Man’s Search for Meaning was published in 1946 that’s been adjusted since. While I love to hear what people’s newer ideas are in book form, I’ve found over the last year, that some of the “older” books are quickly becoming my favorites. While it’s notable if someone makes a best seller list after a book initially comes out, I think it means more when a book becomes more impactful over time. The Checklist Manifesto is only 10 or so years old, but wow, it has such simple wisdom. I had initially heard about this book as I think it was recommended to me by Amazon. Then I saw it in a someone I respect’s Instagram stories being mentioned, and then a week or so later, someone else on Instagram had shared it was a top book for them in the last few years. My curiosity was peaked. At its core, this book talks about what a checklist is, when it should / shouldn’t be used, and how powerful it can be. The book follows a story of checklists in hospitals and the results are shocking. Since reading this book, I’ve implemented a few checklists at work and at home and have benefitted already from their results.

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen – This book was also discussed on a podcast back in 2020 that I remember listening to on a lunch break walk. I finally purchased it after being saved on a Wishlist for myself for my birthday in February. I didn’t get to reading it until later during the year but it was at the perfect time. The biggest takeaway from this book is truly finding ways to be in a proactive mode rather than reactive. In proactive mode, we can think through problems more fully and consider their ripple affects. Rather than being the heroes that save the say after an issue occurs, how can we solve problems before they happen? If “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”, how do we change the systems to get the results we need? Thats the question.

I will share more on each of these books as well as some others I read throughout the year in the upcoming months, but for now, those are my top five books throughout the year. They’re the ones who’s lessons have stuck with me that I’ve thought about on various occasions. That’s how you know when a book is great, you think about it long after you finish the last page.

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