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For the Love of Reading - A 2021 Reading List with My Top 10 - er- 11 Favorites

The format of these books varied. There’s nothing like the feeling of holding an actual book in your hands, but it’s not always practical or possible.

Enter ebooks and audiobooks!

I've been reading and listening that way for a few year now, and it sure ramped up my reading intake, and it can do the same for yours.

I‘d like to do a monthly For the Love of Reading list in 2022, or something like it, so nothing that should stand out gets buried. And it’s hard to remember key takeaways from something I read a year ago!

As for picking fewer than a dozen favorites? Get serious. As always, I’ve forgotten some, but that’s okay. I’m not after perfection and it’s not a competition or bragging list, just some of my favorite reads for 2021 that I wanted to recommend.

Mostly, I hope it will encourage people to read more in 2022. So, here they are without further ado, along with my opinions about them.

My Top 10 11 Reads of 2021

1. A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway

This is Hemingway’s classic memoir of Paris in the ‘20s, restored to his original writing. We get to hang out with the master, observe his self-discipline and honesty, and shiver with him in his cold, cheap digs in wintertime in Paris.

We also catch glimpses of other writers in his sphere and learn what he thought about them, about their writing. I admit I felt exonerated knowing he didn’t think much of most of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing, because I never did, either.

Ernest Hemingway’s editor always told him to cut out extraneous words, make it shorter and more concise. That seems to be an occupational hazard with writers at all levels, in all genres. Let’s face it; writers have a lot to say.

A thoroughly enjoyable book if you love to read, write or just eavesdrop on some 2910s gossip.

2. Children of Nazis: The Sons and Daughters of Himmler, Goring, Hess, Frank, Mengele, Bormann, Speer, Living with a Father’s Monstrous Legacy by Tania Grasnianski

I read this one twice. They were innocent children when their fathers were committing such hideous, brutal atrocities. And yet apparently some of these murderers acted like ordinary family men and loving fathers at home.

One or two of the children grew up staunchly defending their fathers, even desiring to continue in their bigoted footsteps. You see, Nazi parades and gatherings in Europe didn’t end when the Nazis finally fell from power.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Nazism is on the rise worldwide, including here in the U.S. As the great Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This is why we must never forget and teach our children - and anyone else who will listen - the truth, uncomfortable and ugly though it be.

3. Bloodlands - Europe between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder

Before WW II even began, Josef Stalin, our wartime ally who initially joined forces with Hitler, had killed millions of his own citizens and continued killing them during and even after the war.

We rightly focus on the atrocities of the German Nazis, but too often they overshadow the atrocities Stalin committed against his own people. Again, millions of people. People like you and me, living average lives, doing their best to get by. This book was an eye-opener for me, and because it’s my list, I’m going to editorialize for a bit here. Free to skip to the next book on the list if you want.

Understanding what led up to these power-hungry leaders taking control is critical to avoid it happening again. And lest we think it happened “back then” or “over there,” we need to understand that persecution continues today, everywhere, man’s nature being what it is. It seems to be persecution of Christians and Jews that is growing the fastest, although, tragically, we don’t hear much about it.

Knowing history is crucial in preventing more atrocities, even in our own country, as far-fetched as that may sound. Being in denial, “That couldn’t happen here!” only paves the way for it to happen. Hitler’s Germany tried to force the Jews out of Germany before they began their mass extermination program, but too many stayed, believing everything would be all right, not willing to leave their homes and businesses. Thankfully, many did listen and left in time.

Giving individual freedoms and control over to any government is always the beginning and usually sounds reasonable. “It’s for your own good.” “We know better than you.” “You can trust the government to do the right thing.” It may be easier to go along for a time, to be in denial, but at what price?

4. Alexander the Great by Philip Freeman

A riveting and insightful biography of the man and military conqueror who was Alexander the Great, Macedonian king and ruler of the world. A fascinating history that brings the man himself to life and connects the dots to other events in history.

A favorite quote I thought was funny involved his mother’s repeated attempts to influence him: “She demands a high price for nine months of occupancy.” That’s when he became real to me.

This next quote will sound familiar to students of the Old Testament:

“Alexander refused to drink when his army could not. He took the helmet of precious water and poured it on the ground in full view of his army. To the parched men, for their king to share in their suffering in this way meant more than the water soaking into the sand. They were so heartened, says Arrian, it was as if they had each drunk every drop that he poured on the ground.”

Alexander was a great leader, a barbarian, and a living, breathing man of his time. If you like history, you’ll love this one.

5. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Yup, back to Hemingway. My list and I’ve re-discovered the joys of reading Hemingway.

I don’t like the sea and I don’t enjoy fishing. But I hung on every word in the story because, well, it’s one of Hemingway’s classics. His terse but complete descriptions all the way through draw you in, teach you, make you care, and leave you wanting more Hemingway.

To be honest, the last story I had read by Hemingway was A Clean, Well-Lighted Place back in a college Lit class, but the feeling it left me with has remained. Somehow, in all my moves back and forth across the country over the years, I managed to retain the paper I wrote on it back then. (A- in case you’re wondering.)

It’s so good to be back in his world again.

6. Your Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money by Barbara Stanny

What a great title! Were you raised on fairy tales, too? Unfortunately, as women, too many of us were taught, implicitly or explicitly, to wait for our Prince Charming to rescue and provide for us.

Barbara Stanny is the daughter of the “R” in H&R Block, but she understands and teaches how to overcome blocks to financial freedom and achieve success, in terms anyone can understand. Even if you don’t think you have a head for finances. Like me. Very empowering!

Barbara also wrote Secrets of Six-Figure Women, Overcoming Underearning: A Five-Step Plan to a Richer Life, and several other equally understandable and empowering books written especially for women, now known and writing as Barbara Huson. I highly recommend anything by this author!

7. The Way of Agape series by Nancy Missler

Many Biblical students are very familiar with the teachings of Chuck Missler, Nancy’s husband, but to skip over Nancy’s writings would be a huge mistake.

Excellent for the Christian interested in deepening their walk with Christ and appropriating His power and grace in their lives, thereby becoming more effective. That’s not overstating it, either. Think about it.

8. To Build a Fire by Jack London

It’s been a millennium since I read this, so after rereading The Call of the Wild and WhiteFang, I needed to reread this one.

Jack London was a reporter, adventurer, and author of more than 50 books. He got into incredible depth with his characters, showing a deep understanding of human nature, with vivid and concise descriptions of their surroundings.

One of my all-time favorite authors for his ability to pull you into fascinating, albeit often very uncomfortable, stories. I love to learn, but I much prefer to “experience” a sudden and unforgiving blizzard in sub-zero temperatures in Alaska from the warmth and comfort of my home.

9. The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith

Back to the present with this book by one of the most respected memoirists and instructors of our time, whose courses and classes are also first-rate.

This little book is all about writing memoir: what memoir is, what it isn’t, and how to write one. I found it highly instructive and a pleasure to read. It’s on this list because it opened the door for me to start writing memoirs.

Marion Roach Smith has a great podcast, delivered in a calm and eloquent voice that is enjoyable to listen to and easy to learn from. If you’re a writer, you already know Marion Roach Smith. If you want to write your memoir, start with this book. And then call me. :)

10. Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Another recent read, I found Permanent Record enlightening and enjoyable on several levels. I really didn’t know what was up with the whole Edward Snowden thing other than what the same news sources said over and over, so I’m glad he spoke out with this book. The man is brilliant.

Learning about the history of the internet, what happens with our personal data, how computers connect, and what really goes on inside our national “security” offices was fascinating and - concerning, to say the least. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but I don’t believe Edward Snowden is a traitor, and I wish him well.

11. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

I couldn’t stop at 10. I wanted to end with something light, so I chose a new story in the fabulous Bertie Wooster and Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse, written from 1915 through 1975.

The stories are about the adventures of the well-intentioned, wealthy aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his manservant Jeeves, but Jeeves is the real star, always coming to everyone’s rescue. The man (Jeeves) seems to know everything about everything. I found the stories hilarious and was sad when I’d gone through them all.

Sebastian Faulks wrote Jeeves and the Wedding Bells in 2013, faithfully capturing the unique wit and style of the original author and milieu. Mr. Faulks wrote it in homage to P.G. Wodehouse, with the permission of the Wodehouse estate.

I was prepared to be disappointed because we all know how well most attempts to recreate huge successes go, but a new Jeeves story? I had to give it a try. To my delight, Sebastian Faulks managed to pull it off brilliantly, as did the narrator. If you’re looking for something light-hearted, clever, and laugh-out-loud British humor funny, give this book a try.

It’s a Top 11 list, so not all my favorite reads could make it.

But If you’re interested in a powerful read by some deep-thinking and highly successful, not to mention genuinely great women, pay attention.

I’m honored to say that I know these amazing women personally, and I have the greatest respect for them and the profound transformational work they do. They know their stuff. They have been helpful to me in my own journey and are just a delight to know.

Boss Vibes: Self-Esteem, Success, and the Art of Etiquette by Nita Patel. Nita is an accomplished author, professional artist, keynote speaker, coach, and determined optimist. She believes modern etiquette is a path to becoming our best selves, and you'll understand why when you read this book.

Virtual Wealth: How to Create Revenue and Amazing Relationships by Cathryn Marshall. Cathryn is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and coach. She's a dynamo with a long and phenomenal track record of helping people create wealth, health, and balance in their lives. This book will help you get started.

YOU are a Masterpiece: How to Dress a More Powerful & Authentic You by Liana Chaouli. Known as "The Style Sage," Liana is an image therapist creating personal transformation through the empowerment of wardrobe. This is much deeper than the typical "dress for success" approach, spanning an entire lifetime of wisdom and knowledge.

I included links to their books on Amazon so you can read a full description for yourself if you’re of a mind to. To be clear, I do not get anything if you decide to buy their books through my links. I just highly recommend them!

And here’s the rest of my reading list for 2021 with occasional personal comments.:

1984 by George Orwell is definitely worth another read. Also, Animal Farm. Yikes is all I’m going to say. They should sound far too familiar to the thoughtful reader to be comfortable.

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness by Jen Sincero. All her books are helpful, down-to-earth, and really funny. Her language isn’t the greatest, though, for my taste, but that’s me.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Great writing advice.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Also excellent and excellent writing advice.

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. I reread this every few years. It was a lifesaver when I was living in an abusive marriage.

The Book of Daniel by Clarence Larkin. Clarence Larkin was a preacher who lived from 1850-1924. For those of us who need a little help understanding the book of Daniel, Mr. Larkin is the man. Including charts and illustrations, many other Bible teachers have drawn from his insights and research.

White Nights by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Constance Garnett translation. Still one of my all-time favorite authors, Dostoevsky puts me in another world. And Constance Garnett still provides the best translation of which I’m aware.

Decluttering at the Speed of Light by Dana K. White. I’ve read most decluttering books out there, and this rates along with The Magic Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Worked for me.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. Brilliant and witty, the author of the excellent FatherBrown mystery series.

In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka. I’ve always had to be in the right mood to read Kafka; fortunately, I was for this story, so I kept on going with The Castle. Rereads but worthwhile.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Philip Hoose. A remarkable true story about the Danish youth resistance during WW II. When the rest of their country gave in without a whimper, these boys bravely did what they could to sabotage the Germans.

The New Catacomb by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Last Jews in Berlin by Leonard Gross

Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich by Robert Gerwarth

First One In, Last One Out: Auschwitz Survivor 31321 by Murray Scheinberg

My Watch by Mark Twain

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

The Lightening-Rod Man by Herman Melville

The Voice of the City by O. Henry

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson, one of the youngest children to survive the Holocaust on Oskar Schindler’s list, and the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s List child.

A Visit to Niagra by Mark Twain

Mysterious Visit by Mark Twain

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavera County by Mark Twain

The One Million Pound Bank Note by Mark Twain

The Widow’s Protest by Mark Twain

The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky by Stephen Crane. Another great writer.

The Eyes of the Panther by Ambrose Bierce

One of the Missing by Ambrose Bierce. I still enjoy Mr. Bierce’s writing very much.

A Painful Case by James Joyce

Small Fry by Anton Chekhov

The Road from Colonus by E.M. Forster

Silhouettes by Jerome K. Jerome

Down and Out in Paris and other George Orwell essays

Complete Short Stories of Anton Chekhov

Complete Collection of Saki Saki was P.G. Wodehouse’s inspiration for the Jeeves series. Not surprising, then, that I’m very fond of Saki!

The Love of Life by Jack London

The Leopard Man’s Story by Jack London

White Fang by Jack London

Tennessee’s Partner by Bret Harte

A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin. Enjoyable short story, made me want to read more from her.

An Ideal Family by Kate Mansfield

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

The Grass Harp by Truman Capote

A Tree of Night and Other Stories by Truman Capote

Tales of the Jazz Age - a collection of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some I enjoyed, some I didn’t. He’s not my favorite author by any means.

The Diamond Mine by Willa Cather

The Man with the Golden Brain by Alphonse Daudet

Morella by Edgar Allen Poe

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant. It reminded me of O. Henry’s classic “Gift of the Magi.” Loved it.

The Portrait by Edith Wharton

The Philosopher in the Apple Orchard by Anthony Hope

Monkey Nuts by D. H. Lawrence. I don’t remember what this story was about, still laughing at the title.

The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman. A classic.

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller. A current classic to read at least once a year if you’re a copywriter, screenwriter, or storyteller.

C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity -a biography by George M. Marsden

The Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse

Carry On, Jeeves

Very Good, Jeeves

My Man Jeeves

Much Obliged, Jeeves

Jeeves and the Feudal System

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells

The Code of the Woosters

Thank you, Jeeves

Jeeves in the Offing

The Inimitable Jeeves

The Mating Season

The P.G. Wodehouse Collection

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Anne Perry novels. Her plots are pretty much unfigureoutable and incredibly clever. That’s why she’s a million-dollar, worldwide best-selling author. You just have to overlook things her editor missed.

The Angel Court Affair

Buckingham Palace Gardens

Death on Blackheath

Triple Jeopardy

Twenty-One Days

Blind Justice

Diary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai Gogol - meh

Dead Souls by N. Gogol. Funny, I used to love Gogol as a teenager.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Constance Garnett translation. Loved this reread. I honestly don’t know how anyone can find Dostoevsky boring!

Notes From the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, CG translation

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, CG translation

White Nights by Fyodor Dostoevsky, CG translation

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The Chimes by Charles Dickens

What Men Live By by Leo Tolstoy

A Confession by Leo Tolstoy

Trapped in Hitler’s Web by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

The Way of Agape Series by Nancy Missler, beloved wif