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Best Books of 2021

Best Books of 2021 December 31, 2021

Once again, it’s time for the list of the best books of 2021. As with previous years, this is a list of the books I read, not the best books it was possible to have read, or the best books that were published in 2021. No doubt such lists exist; this isn’t one of them.

Fiction

The Horror Stories of Robert HowardI suppose it goes without saying that anything by Robert Howard is going to be excellent. But I’m going to say it anyway–the stories collected here are really fantastic, and should be added to any short story collection. And speaking of excellent short story collections…

Owls Hoot in the Daytime by Manly Wade Wellman. I discovered Manly Wade Wellman through a story of his in The Dark Descent (yet another excellent short story collection), and had it in the back of my mind to look up more by him. When a deal for Audible came along and his stories popped up as recommended for those who like H.P. Lovecraft, I went ahead and grabbed this volume. I’m glad I did, both because the stories in it are really, really good and because his work isn’t easily available elsewhere. Hopefully Audible continues not to realize what a treasure it has made cheaply available, because I’d hate to see them jack up the price.

Fellowship of the Talisman by Clifford Simak. Of the Lord of the Rings knock-offs out there, this is definitely one of them. Okay, that’s not fair–Simak is an excellent writer, and this little book is genuinely well written and interesting, if not completely original.

Theology

An Ark for All God’s Noahs on a Gloomy Stormy Day by Thomas Brooks. (Reviewed here)

Deeper by Dane Ortlund. (Reviewed here)

Corporate Worship by Matt Merker (Reviewed here)

Rejoice and Tremble by Michael Reeves (Reviewed here)

Christian in Complete Armor Volume 1 by William Gurnell. Yes, I’m a bit ashamed to be reading an abridgement, and yes I’ve only read the first third of the abridgement. But it’s really excellent, and I’ll likely review it on here at some point. I’ll also likely read the whole thing, given the time…

Biography

On the House, John Boehner. If you want to remember a time when Congressmen were professionals who cared about passing good legislation, this is the book for you. I realize that time is swiftly passing, but it’s still nice to remember 1) that there was such a time and 2) that it wasn’t all that long ago… And also, this quote: “It’s fun to vote out of anger–‘Let’s send this clown to that capital with a pack of matches and some gasoline’–but it’s also dangerous. There are people we are electing who will destroy this country if we aren’t careful.”

The Making of C.S. Lewis by Harry Lee Poe (Reviewed here)

It’s a Long Story: My Life Willie Nelson. I read a bunch of Country music autobiographies this year, and I think out of all of them Willie Nelson is the one it would be the most fun to spend time with. Specifically this is because he seems to be a genuinely decent guy (unlike others who will remain unnamed here). And while I don’t agree with him about everything, he’s always got interesting things to say and has certainly led an interesting life.

Politics

We the Fallen People by Robert Tracy McKenzie. This book is critical for Evangelicals who care about the American Founding and how we ought to look at the nation as Christians. If I could force everyone who claims to care about recapturing what the Founders thought about America to read this book, I would.

Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas. Just when you think buying a pair of pants is no big deal, Dana Thomas has to go and ruin it for us all. Specifically, your clothes (and mine) were almost certainly made somewhere that is using nearly-slave labor and destroying the local environment. Either that, or you paid more for your clothing than most people make in a year. So, you know, don’t read this book to feel good about yourself. But do read it to help you think carefully about the ethics of our clothing.

Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert. And speaking of the environment, no, you and I can’t fix it. In fact, everything we do to try to fix the environment just makes more problems arise. This little book is both well-written and useful as a way to show how poor we are at environmental stewardship on any kind of large scale.

High Conflict by Amanda Ripley. Just how can we get around the issues that divide us? We can’t. But maybe we can deescalate things a bit. If you want to know how, read this book.

And that’s it. Read those books in 2022 and your literary year will be at least as literarily fulfilling as my 2021 was.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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