Motherhood + Life

52 Books to Read in the New Year 

Motherhood + Life

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I'm Emily — a resourceful mom but, if I'm being honest, a terrible prepper. It wasn't until I realized that...

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When I quit consuming as much social media and digital entertainment, I found I had more time to read. Here are the 52 books I read this past year.


If you want to listen to the podcast I recently did on this topic, head on over here to listen. 

If you had told me at the start of last year that I’d end up writing a blog about the 52 books I’d read within the year, I would have laughed. 

No way! Wrong person.

I had a lot of big plans for 2021, like birthing and caring for a newborn baby and her two older sisters, transitioning my business from a “done for you” service agency to a completely online business, relaunching my flagship publicity course, and publishing dozens of podcasts

But read an average of a book a week?! 

Not me.

At least I didn’t think so. 

But life has a way of showing you just what you’re capable of and just how much time you really have to accomplish anything – if you make room for it.

On a trip last December, I made my list of priorities and went through my process of goal setting. You can hear about the method I use in this podcast

During that time, I decided to take a social media sabbatical so I could really focus and gain the clarity I wanted heading into the new year. I didn’t log off social media to start reading more, but that is what ended up happening. 

Every time I felt “the twitch” (you can listen to one of my most popular podcast episodes of the year with author Anthony Ongaro who wrote a whole book on the topic), I reached for my kindle instead of my social apps. 

That month, I blasted through 5 or 6 books and started reading fiction for the first time in years. I was hooked!

It was like discovering a long-lost best friend. 

Even though I was still logging on once a week to batch my social content and podcast promotions, I was spending far less time scrolling and far more time reading. 

The seed was planted, and throughout the year, the little habit compounded. In late October as I updated my book list, I realized that I could possibly end the year at 52 books. 

To think, so much wisdom and enlightenment I would have missed out on had I spent all this time scrolling or Netflixing instead. And then I wouldn’t have this proud little blog to show for it!

What’s more, breaking free from the mind numbing social matrix helped me to go even deeper in other habits not included below, like developing a consistent Bible study, and nightly read-alouds with my girls, which you’ll see at the end of this blog.

I enjoyed taking that break from social so much that I decided to do an extended social media sabbatical and have logged off for about 2 months to end the year, too- I share more about my reasons why and what I’ll be doing instead in this podcast

OK, let’s get to it, shall we? 

Here’s a look at the 52 books I devoured in 2021. 

If you purchase from the affiliate links below, I may earn a small commission. All affiliate sales are donated to a pregnancy center supporting women and children in Grand Rapids, Michigan.



1. Atomic Habits – James Clear – This is a great book to read heading into a new year and really motivated me to swap out unhealthy habits (scrolling!) with healthier ones (hence, the blog you’re reading now!). 

2. Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins – He’s on my list as one I hope to interview in 2022! My daughter still asks me regularly “Hey mom, are you reading that book about the guy who ran 100 miles with a broken leg?” 

3. Make Your Bed  – Ad. William McRaven – I make my bed every morning. Enough said!

4. Break the Twitch  – Anthony Ongaro  – I interview Anthony about “breaking the twitch,” a topic I find fascinating, on this podcast episode.

5. Innocent Man – John Grisham – this is Grisham’s only non-fiction book he ever wrote, and it’s quite thrilling and depressing.

There is a Netflix documentary based on it that I started to watch, but I decided I did not want to relive the story in film and opted to read a new book instead.

6. Brighter Skies Ahead: Forecasting a Full Life When You Empty the Nest – Terri DeBoer – This book is great for mothers entering the “empty nest” season of life but also all moms looking for hope and inspiration. It’s written by my friend and media colleague Terri, who will be on an upcoming episode of The AMPLIFY Show.

Also, she has a companion journal to this book that I was honored to contribute to.

7. BRB- Coming of Age in the Digital Age Lauren Ellman – This was a great, fast read and I saw a lot of myself and my childhood reflected in this memoir about growing up in the digital age. You can listen to my interview with the author in this episode of The AMPLIFY Show.

8. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry John Mark Comer – One of my favorite arguments for slowing down and going against the cultural norm of hurry.

9. Let it Go – Peter Walsh – Really great read if you’re struggling with letting go of sentimental items or plan to downsize in the near future.

10. You’re Not Enough (And That’s Okay): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self Love – Allie Beth Stuckey – This is the antidote to all the rah, rah, empty, and toxic self-help advice that is popular today.

11. Irena’s Children – Tilar Mazzeo – I read this one after reading a novel based on Irena Sadler’s extraordinary life.

This is non-fiction but with compelling storytelling about the woman who saved more than 2,500 from death and deportation in Poland during World War II. 

12. Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson – If you like Peterson, then you’ll read anything he writes. I listened to enough podcasts promoting this book that I finally gave it a speed read.

13. Drawing the Line: How to Achieve More Peace and Less Burnout in Your Life – Kate Crocco – I had the opportunity to pre-read this book that launches in Feb. 2022 – and it is so good for a tired mom entrepreneur’s soul!

Stay tuned to the podcast for our interview coming soon! Our previous interview can be found here, where we talk about Kate’s first book, Thinking Like a Boss: Uncover and Overcome the Lies Holding You Back from Success.

14. Effortless: Make it Easier to Do What Matters Most Greg McKeown – From the creator of Essentialism, Greg McKeown is back and takes it a step further, to help you discover those essential activities and to make them easier.

15. Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses – Amber Lia & Wendy Speake – 2021 was the year I really owned up to my parenting demons and learned how to practice gentle parenting that I started in 2020. This and the next few books really helped!

16. Loving Our Kids On Purpose: Making a Heart-to-Heart Connection – Danny Silk 

17. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids – Dr. Laura Markham 

18. The Opposite of Spoiled –  Ron Lieber 

19. Parenting with Love & Logic – Jim Fay

20. The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections With Your KidsSarah Mackenzie – I have read a few books about the importance of reading aloud to your kids as they grow (even into their teen years!) and this is a really good one that will leave you convinced that reading isn’t just about growing young minds and increasing reading levels (though it is that too).

But it’s more about developing a strong family bond through the power of stories.

21. Meditations – Marcus Aurelius – My second year reading this book, a classic and staple of those who study stoic philosophy.

I read it slowly throughout many months, highlighting favorite passages and working my way through it. I already have it planned for re-read in 2022.

22. Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life – Luke Burgis – My interview with Luke was one of my favorite and most popular of the whole year.

This topic is absolutely fascinating and will help you to identify some of the ways mimetic desire has shaped all areas of your life. I also enjoyed connecting with another fellow Catholic and Grand Rapids native.


23. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E Frankl – This was a powerful memoir about a man’s search for the meaning of life and his spiritual lessons while surviving a Nazi death camp.

24. Rome Sweet Home – Scott and Kimberly Hahn – One of the first books I read from Catholic apologists, this one shares the conversion  journey of a husband and wife- one of those must-read Catholic books

25. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis – After reading many of Lewis’ essays, I started working through his books, starting with this classic.

I’m taking my time with them, not just because I want to enjoy them but also because I want to understand them. Turns out, reading such packed, dense brilliance takes a lot of effort, and I can’t breeze through it like a war novel. 

26. Tactics – Gregory Koukl – This book shares timeless strategies not just for defending your faith but how to defend any beliefs. A really good overview of apologetics.

27. Why We’re Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope, and Love – Trent Horn – I discovered Trent’s podcast and after binging many episodes, started working through his books, beginning with this one. Another good apologetics read.

28. Take Back Your Time – Christy Wright – I always enjoy Christy’s relatable, actionable books and this one is my favorite (as you can probably tell, I enjoy anything to do with protecting that precious resource of TIME!).

We got together again for an interview on this topic and it will be out very soon as we kick off the next season of The AMPLIFY Show. 

29. The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation – Wendy Speake – I started this in December to prepare for a sugar fast. It’s a devotional-style book so I haven’t finished it yet, but almost!

I have read many books on the benefits of detoxing from added sugars, corn syrup, and junk, but this is the first to suggest fasting for spiritual health. I’ll have Wendy on The AMPLIFY Show podcast to talk more about this in the new season!

30. The 40-Day Social Media Fast: Exchange Your Online Distractions for Real Life Devotion – Wendy Speake – Similar to her sugar fast, Wendy offers a powerful, spiritual reason to detox from social media. I read this one a month or so into my social media fast.

31. A World Without Email – Cal Newport – I will read anything new Cal Newport writes, and this is another great book that proves we don’t have to be bound to the digital shackles of email and devices. 


In 2021 I rediscovered the joy of fiction and reading without an agenda or “self-improvement” for the first time in more than a decade (hence some of the old reads that everyone probably read in the early 2000s when Oprah shouted them from the rooftops). 

I won’t give a description of these- they were all great and I enjoyed reading these more than watching Netflix.

If you get stuck reading only for improvement, I encourage you to draw a bath (throw in a CBD bath bomb, my favorite) and lose yourself in one of these!

32. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

33. The Things We Cannot Say – Kelly Rimmer 

34. Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Mark Sullivan 

35. The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

36. The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

37. The Four Winds – Kristin Hannah

38. The Nature of Fragile Things – Susan Meissner

39. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

40. Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

41. As Bright as Heaven – Susan Meissner

42. The Warsaw Orphan – Kelly Rimmer 

43. The Orphan Collector – Ellen Wiseman

44. The Last Green Valley – Mark Sullivan 

45. The Last Year of the War – Susan Meissner 

46. A Time for Mercy – John Grisham

47. Sycamore Row – John Grisham 

48. The Girl in the Striped Dress – Ellie Midwood

49. The Girl Who Survived – Ellie Midwood

50. The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz – Ellie Midwood

51. Mr. Popper’s Penguins – Richard & Florence Atwater – OK, so I’m counting the read-alouds I did with my kids because it’s such a dedication (have you ever tried reading aloud and gotten interrupted every paragraph with a: who is that? What does that mean? So what happens next?! It’s quite the test in patience!) and also, these are sweet books! 

This is the second year I’ve read this book to my girls, ages 7 and 5, they love it that much! We also decided to rent the movie starring Jim Carey after reading it this time, and the movie is as bad as it sounds. But the girls loved it and we got some laughs out of it.

52. The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis – This was our first “big kid” read-aloud we’ve done and the kids loved it. This Christmas my oldest got the entire set of books, my middle daughter the picture book, and the baby the board book. We’re all in on the series and looking forward to reading them all this new year.  

So there you have it! This is a semi-complete list as I am always reading multiple nonfiction (and sometimes even fiction!) books at a time. I like to download multiple books and depending on my mood, I’ll open one up. I have about 10 on rotation currently and a few that are nearly finished have been added to this list and will probably make the 2022 list too (is that cheating?). 

I’d love to know some of your favorite books you read in 2021 or plan to read in the new year. Let me know in the comments below so I can add them to my list!

Cheers to lots of great reading in the new year!