My Favorite Books from 2021

With COVID shutting down any hopes of travel in 2021, it was the perfect opportunity to get into a routine with my reading.

So much so that I read more books in a single year than any other year in my life.

These books entertained me, taught me soft skills, and filled me with loads of inspiration.

So, as the weather gets so cold that your lips chap instantly upon leaving your house, there’s no better time to put on a hoodie (or three) and curl up to listen to or read a good book.

I should quickly add that I mostly listen to books these days, so I will talk about the audiobook version for many of these books. With that said, here are my favorite books from 2021:

Deep Work — Cal Newport

Deep Work was one of my favorite books from 2021. So many great insights in this book.

Cal Newport’s Deep Work is likely one that many of you have come across at some point.

The book highlights how our ability to do work currently is inadequate and produces less-than-desirable results.

However, with some slight adjustments, we can all improve our productivity to get more out of our efforts — no matter the job.

In his book, Newport aims to help point the way through the fog of distraction in our modern-day world and to fill your life with more deep work.

By providing real-life examples — a man buys a round-trip ticket to Japan to focus on writing a book, say what? — he shows how others have already pioneered this field.

We simply have to follow their lead.

If you’re someone who enjoys self-improvement books and wants to dive deeper (pun intended) into how you can squeeze the most out of your work, be sure to give Deep Work a read.

Out of Thin Air: Running Wisdom and Magic from Above the Clouds in Ethiopia — Michael Crawley

Out of Thin Air entertained me from the first minute. A good mix of travel story and running story.

Out of Thin Air hooked me within the first five minutes. One day, I was cleaning my house and popped it on to keep me entertained.

A few hours later, I had quickly burned through a third of the book.

The mix of the story content and the narrator’s ability to narrate that story created an excellent listen I didn’t want to stop playing.

A few days later, I had consumed the entire thing.

Michael Crawley flew to Ethiopia to spend 15 months training with runners of all skill levels to discover what makes them some of the top runners in the world.

While learning the running side of Ethiopia, Crawley had the opportunity to peer deeper into the lives and culture of this beautiful country.

A mix of a travel story, a series of interviews, personal reflection, and an inspirational tale, Out of Thin Air will fit right in on your shelf — be it digital or physical.

Humans: A Brief History of How We F-cked It All up — Tom Phillips

Humans was an entertaining tale from cover to cover. That's why it made my list of my favorite books from 2021.

Looking for Sapiens, except a list of our failures instead of achievements?

How about a book that will make you laugh out loud from cover to cover?

It didn’t take longer than the first paragraph for me. I was laughing so loud, my neighbors began to look up the number for the closest insane asylum.

Mixing pieces of history, politics, and science, Tom Phillips breaks down how our species has managed to make remarkable progress despite repeated f-ck ups.

The stories in this book will make you shake your head, Google them to make sure they’re real, and make you want to laugh and cry at the same time.

For a cliffhanging example, have you ever heard the story of when the Austrian army began attacking itself one night after drinking heavily?

No? Me either, but I sure am glad I read Humans to find out why!

Yearbook — Seth Rogen

Yearbook was full of endless laughs and Seth Rogen's iconic laugh.

I’m a Seth Rogen fan, admittedly.

Most movies he’s acted in, I’ve enjoyed (despite playing the same role in 95% of them). So if you like his films, his book will be no different.

The stories in this book detail his life and the significant events that led him to today.

Follow Seth as he talks about awkward bar mitzvahs, doing stand-up comedy as a teenager, and his rise to fame and more awkwardness with celebrities.

The audiobook, in my opinion, is a superior version to the book as you get to hear it straight from Rogen’s mouth.

There’s no better person than the one who lived it to tell the various points in his life, even the ones that led to the making of Superbad.

Yearbook is an excellent read for comedy fans or if you want a good laugh at someone else’s past expense.

Or, if you just like to laugh, it’s good for that, too.

Greenlights — Matthew McConaughey

Greenlights was one of my favorite books from 2021 due to Matthew McConaughey's excellent advice and storytelling.

Ahh, Matthew McConaughey. Your Lincoln commercials may be pretty strange (and the subject of many memes), but I’d be lyin’ if I said you weren’t a damn good storyteller.

And Greenlights is the culmination of that ability.

He brings together 35 years of diaries that he has kept and reviews them for the hidden “greenlights.”

Greenlights are those inevitable opportunities that life throws your way for you to grab or to let float by.

For Matthew McConaughey, his stream of greenlights revealed themselves as he thumbed through stories, lessons, poems, prayers, prescriptions, and photographs.

Part self-help, part-autobiography, and 100% an enjoyable listen/read.

The audiobook is recommended because, well, it’s Matthew McConaughey.

Of course you should listen to him read it.

Atomic Habits — James Clear

Atomic habits tops the list of my favorite books from 2021. I may even re-read it in 2022!

This book isn’t exactly a groundbreaking discovery on my part.

It’s a number-one New York Times bestseller and has sold well over a million copies. In other words, it’s popular.

However, if you haven’t heard of this book, you should buy it immediately after finishing this post.

James Clear brings together his knowledge and experience to share the strategies that can help you improve — no matter your discipline.

But what knowledge is that exactly?

James Clear is a leading expert on habit formation.

Now, raise your hand if you knew you could even be a leading expert in habit formation.

Anyway, the theory is that by making tiny improvements, day-by-day, you can have remarkable results in the long term.

He provides strategies and follows them with actionable steps and real-life stories of successful individuals who have used this science to help them reach the top.

I didn’t put these books in any particular order. Still, I can confidently say that I saved the best for last with Atomic Habits.

And those are my favorite books from 2021! Let me know what your thoughts are and if there were any books you really enjoyed reading in 2021. I love a good book recommendation.

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