Rebekah’s Top Ten Reads of 2021

I had hoped to get this post out a little earlier, but life with a newborn has made for an interesting change of pace. But better late than never, so I present my ten favorite books of 2021 (listed in the order that I read them, to keep things simple):

The Guest List: Lucy Foley (fiction)
I’m a sucker for a good mystery and this one had complex layers and heart-grabbing characters. It was also interesting to read a book knowing one of the characters was going to die, without officially knowing (called it!) who it was going to be. Super fun, engaging read.

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise: Dan Gemeinhart (MG fiction)
I don’t always cry while reading middle grade novels, but when I do… Hot dang. This beautiful story of a father and daughter dealing with (read: running from) grief destroyed my emotions in the best possible way. Do yourself a favor and read this gem, but probably don’t read it in public.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow: Jessica Townsend (MG fiction)
Another middle grade novel, this one whimsical and fun and much less likely to make you sob. I read the first two books in this series back to back and they were both absolutely delightful. I need to get my hands on the third book.

Everything Sad is Untrue: Daniel Nayeri (fiction, sort of )
This is quite possibly the best book I have ever read. The author’s true story is presented in fictional form, written as if he is still twelve years old and living in the thick of it. A poetic tale of immigration and faith, there is not a single person I know that I would not recommend read this book.

Prayer in the Night: Tish Harrison Warren (non-fiction)
This book saved my life. No, really. It was air to my spiritual lungs when I was drowning in the sea of miscarriage. By the time I surfaced from these pages, I was starting to feel alive again. It is probably designed for a very specific audience, but it just so happened that I was that audience, so five stars from me.

All You Can Ever Know: Nicole Chung (memoir)
Memoirs aren’t usually my cup of tea. I find that real life, especially a life that is still in the midst of being lived, often feels sloppy and unfinished in book form. However, the hot button topic of interracial adoption was hard for me to pass up. I love the way Nicole gives credit to both sets of parents, discussing the trials she faced as an adoptee, but also acknowledging the hardships she may have faced had her birth parents made a different choice. This is a beautiful exploration of identity.

Hunt, Gather, Parent: Michaeleen Doucleff (non-fiction)
A story in which a journalist takes her toddler to live among various cultures around the world in order to learn better ways to parent? Yes, please. This book exposes all of the things Western culture has lost and issues an invitation to reclaim them.

The Dirt Cure: Maya Shetreat-Klein (non-fiction)
Aside from the fact that this book will make you never want to buy food from a grocery store again, it was an amazing read. A fascinating look at the things we consume and the need for good germs in our lives.

The Queen Will Betray You: Sarah Henning (YA fiction)
This is the sequel to The Princess Will Save You, which can be described as a gender-bent Princess Bride. Fun, frivolous, wonderful read.

Skyward: Brandon Sanderson (YA fiction)
A sci-fi adventure where humans are just trying to survive on a destitute planet, featuring a heroine who wants to make a home in the stars. I read all three of the current books in this series in pretty quick succession.

If you’re looking for book recommendations, those are mine. I even put my top three in bold print for you so you know which ones to prioritize.

With Expectant Faith

I recently finished reading the book Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri. It’s a beautiful tale of immigration and faith and risking everything for an uncertain future.

It’s a true story, although cleverly told as though the author is still twelve years old, living in the thick of it. The hero in the story is his mother. He describes her many times as “unstoppable.”

I’m sure his mother would tell the story differently. While her courage in leaving behind an affluent life in Iran for the sake of her faith is undeniable, I imagine there were times she didn’t feel as strong as her beloved son paints her to be. I’m sure there were places along the journey where she just wanted to curl up and cry. I doubt she felt unstoppable at every road block that stood in her path. I’m sure that courage was sometimes a thing she mustered for her children’s sake alone.

But the author sees her as unstoppable. Despite the storms that surely raged within her soul.

I don’t think it is spoiling the story to tell you how the author speculates she managed through all those dreadful years of wondering and waiting.

“Maybe it’s anticipation,” he wrote. “Hope. The anticipation that the God who listens in love will one day speak justice.”

I’ve been rolling those words around in my head for a week now, molding them into the gaps in my heart.

This is the kind of faith I knew God was looking to instill in me this year when He burdened me with the word Expectant.

Daniel Nayeri wrote in his book that what you believe about the future changes how you live in the present. That was the secret that made his mother an unstoppable force.

That is the secret that could unlock everything.

I’m going to be honest, my future has been looking pretty grim from my recent point of view. So I’ve had to change what I expect from the future. I’ve had to become one of those sojourners who believe there is something beautiful awaiting me at the end of this journey.

I’ve had to look toward the future with hope. Anticipation. Expectancy.

There is more, there is more, there is more.

All I have to do is claim it.

I’m learning (albeit slowly) to claim it. To be the kind of unstoppable Daniel Nayeri believes his mother to be. To have the kind of unshakeable faith that will say, “This is not the end. Mountains, move out of my way.”

Because I believe in the God who holds those mountains. I may feel as though I have come to the end of my being, but He is everlasting. He endures in both love and justice.

My story is not over yet. Dawn will break on the dark night of the soul. And I will choose to rise and meet it with hope in my heart, with anticipation in my soul, with an expectant faith.