In no particular order, here are the best books I read this year in Mandy-determined categories:


Best History
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

Best Memoir
Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

Best Fiction
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Runner Up
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Best Hard-But-Necessary
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

Best Sob-in-the-Driveway-Because-of-Horrible-Truth
Night by Elie Wiesel

Best Poetry
A Cry Like a Bell by Madeleine L’Engle

Best Personal Growth
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God by Dallas Willard

Best Never-Stop-Learning
The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison

Best Book on Writing
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Best Fantasy Read-Aloud
The Green Ember Series by S. D. Smith

Best Family-Friendly Satirical Fairy Tale
The Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Best Try-to-Keep-Up-With-Your-Nine-Year-Old-and-His-Voracious-Reading
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Best Book Written by a Friend
Grace & Mercy: A Devotional Journey by Kathleen Yancosek and Chris Dillashaw

Best Re-Read
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown


Note: Every day also included time reading the Bible, the most important Book I read last year. This last year I spent most of my time in Genesis, Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, Matthew, Romans, and Colossians.

What were some of your top reads from 2021?


Read on for the complete 2021 Book List.
First, how I rate:
  1. If it would be rated 1, I probably didn’t finish it.
  2. A book I either did not find compelling or disagreed flatly with the premise or contents.
  3. Worth my time, but not necessarily a favorite.
  4. Well-written and worthwhile, whether or not I agree with the worldview or not. A solid book worth reading.
  5. A compelling book worth recommending and re-reading.

2021 Books

  1. A Cry Like a Bell
    Madeleine L’Engle 5/5
  2. A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea
    Dina Nayeri 4/4
  3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
    Anne Lamott 5/5
  4. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II
    Liza Mundy 4/5
  5. Contagious: Why Things Catch On
    Jonah Berger 4/5
  6. Derwood, Inc
    Jeri Massi 5/5
    Review: “Derwood, Inc.” was a favorite from my childhood and a delight to read it aloud with my kids. Five Pallock thumbs up.
  7. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
    Candice Millard 5/5
  8. Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
    John M. Gottman 4/5
  9. Ember’s End (The Green Ember, #4)
    S.D. Smith 4/5
  10. Everything Sad Is Untrue
    Daniel Nayeri 5/5
    Review: A narrative written from the perspective of the author’s 5th-grade self. He moves as a refugee from Iran to Oklahoma, USA, and documents the challenges along the way. It is filled with hope, achingly beautiful and stunningly convicting, giving love and respect to the immigrant and refugee.
  11. Gen Z vol 2: Caring for Young Souls and Cultivating Resilience
    Barna Group 5/5
  12. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
    David Allen 2/5
    Review: Dry and uninspiring.
  13. Gilead
    Marilynne Robinson 5/5
  14. Grace & Mercy: A Devotional Journey
    Kathleen E. Yancosek 5/5
  15. Hannah Coulter
    Wendell Berry 5/5
    Review: Best novel I read this year. Six stars, all around.
  16. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)
    J.K. Rowling 4/5
  17. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
    J.K. Rowling 4/5
  18. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
    Erik Larson 4/5
  19. In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown
    Nathaniel Philbrick 3/5
  20. Letters from Father Christmas
    J.R.R. Tolkien 5/5
    Review: For over 20 years, Tolkien wrote his children a letter on behalf of Father Christmas. This was a winsome, creative, and nostalgic holiday read-aloud complete with Tolkien’s illustrations and tales of the North Polar Bear.
  21. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
    Harriet A. Washington 5/5
  22. Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)
    Elie Wiesel 5/5
    Review: *slow exhale* “For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
  23. Number the Stars
    Lois Lowry 4/5
  24. Otto of the Silver Hand
    Howard Pyle 4/5
  25. Our Island Story
    H.E. Marshall 4/5
    Review: A classic history of England for children published in 1905. Implicit colonialism and racism leaks through in some chapters, inspiring worthwhile conversations. Worth reading and discussing.
  26. Out of the Silent Planet (The Space Trilogy, #1)
    C.S. Lewis 5/5
    Review: Lewis’ Space Trilogy will always be a favorite. At least one in the series gets an annual re-read.
  27. The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King—Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea
    Walter R. Borneman 4/5
  28. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (The Herdmans #1)
    Barbara Robinson 4/5
    Review: A laugh-out-loud and thought-provoking family favorite for Christmastime.
  29. The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
    Malcolm Gladwell 4/5
    Review: The book is great; the audiobook is phenomenal. The thing I most appreciate about Malcolm Gladwell is that he gives you enough information in his own research and writing for you to disagree with his conclusions if you choose to.
  30. The Book of Mysteries
    Jonathan Cahn 5/5
    Review: Whew; this is a big read. I found this book to be insightful and thought-provoking, though repetitive in parts. I will always appreciate understanding more of the Hebraic background for the faith I call my own. Also, when Virginia Warren tells you to read a book, you read it.
  31. The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics
    Gregory Mone 5/5
    Review: One of the best. This was a re-read with the kids this time, and they tracked from start to finish.
  32. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure
    Jonathan Haidt 4/5
  33. The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice
    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon 5/5
  34. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God
    Dallas Willard 5/5
  35. The Federalist Papers
    Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison 5/5
  36. The Four Loves
    C.S. Lewis 5/5
  37. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes, #1)
    Christopher Healy 4/5
  38. The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes, #2)
    Christopher Healy 4/5
  39. The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done
    Kendra Adachi 4/5
  40. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)
    Rick Riordan 3/5
  41. The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #1)
    Trenton Lee Stewart 3/5
  42. The New Rules of Lifting for Women
    Lou Schuler 3/5
  43. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (The Penderwicks, #3)
    Jeanne Birdsall 4/5
  44. The Practice: Shipping Creative Work
    Seth Godin 4/5
  45. This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See
    Seth Godin 4/5
  46. What Alice Forgot
    Liane Moriarty 3/5
  47. Why We Can’t Wait
    Martin Luther King Jr. 5/5
    Review: We quote him and give him snippets of air time on MLK Jr day. But it’s important to read MLK in his own words, in his own context. This was a great and worthwhile addition to that journey.