Inkling's Best Reads of 2021
2021 was a big year for Inkling Creative Strategies…mostly because so far, it’s been our only year.
Nevertheless, it was truly a pleasure for me to connect with those who became my first clients, not to mention dozens of others who downloaded a workbook or free resource, scheduled a Virtual Meetup, or got involved in our mission in some other way.
Inkling Creative Strategies exists to empower writers to reach their full creative potential so they can impact and inspire readers. And if you’ve even just been reading this blog for the past year, congratulations—you’ve played a part in that goal.
But something else happened this year beyond all my work with clients, content development, and connections…
I read a ton.
This shouldn’t be any real shock to anyone. Writers generally are big readers, and I know that if you’re anything like me, one of the most exciting parts of the end of the year is looking back at your reading goals and seeing how well you measured up.
Even if I don’t meet the goal I set on Goodreads for how many books I want to read, it’s still fun to see the diversity of titles and genres that I enjoyed over the course of the year.
I don’t know where you ended up with your reading for 2021, but I’ll tell you this: a new year is just a few days away and I know you’ll be looking for new things to check out.
So, I thought I’d use my post this week to tell you about some books I read this year that I really liked.
Here’s how it works: I’ve broken up my reads for this year into categories and have selected one book for each category. There will also be honorable mentions for each one.
So, without further ado…I present my book recommendations from 2021…
Right Ho, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
Right Ho, Jeeves isn’t just my favorite fiction read of 2021. It’s quite possibly the funniest book I’ve ever read. I had never read Wodehouse before until my writing community read this book together as part of a writing class, and I probably almost died from laughing so hard at several points.
An installment in Wodehouse’s beloved Jeeves and Wooster series, it recounts the misadventures of the hapless Bertie Wooster and his loyal manservant, Jeeves, as Bertie attempts to resolve the troubled love lives of his friends, resulting in mishaps at best and sheer disaster at worst.
This is a light, funny book that will most certainly give you much-needed laughs. If you’re anything like me, the late winter months aren’t exactly sunshine and rainbows (literally), so I’d make sure to order a copy of this one ASAP.
Honorable Mentions: The Wrong Kind of Woman, Sarah McCraw Crow; Gilead, Marilynne Robinson; The Rink Girl, Mark Brazaitis, The Baddest Girl on the Planet, Heather Frese
Time without Number, Daniel Berrigan
A priest and social activist who aggressively spoke out against the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation, Berrigan was also a prolific poet, as well as an author, theologian, and playwright.
I stumbled onto Berrigan’s work recently while going down one of those rabbit holes writers tend to frequent on the internet. Winner of the 1956 Lamont Poetry Prize (now known as the James Laughlin award), Time without Number beautifully explores the relationship of created beings to their Creator, from the natural world to the creative process to the incarnation and saving work of Christ Himself.
The pieces in the collection are lyrical, moving, and thought-provoking, and I’m sure I will look forward to reading more of Berrigan’s poetic works.
Honorable Mentions: Beyond Chittering Cottage, Rachel S. Donahue; Psalms of Deconstruction, Katie Rouse
Religion & Theology
Send Out Your Light: The Illuminating Power of Scripture and Song, Sandra McCracken
Sandra McCracken is one of my favorite musicians of faith. To me, her songs exemplify what Christian music should sound like: they are real and raw, completely devoid of the emotional manipulation and theological shoe-horning that characterizes many artists.
Part memoir, part theological treatise, part artistic exploration, McCracken gives readers an intimate look into her life and songwriting process, demonstrating the ways her faith has guided her creativity and how traumatic life events, such as a painful divorce and the loss of loved ones, have shaped her work.
This book is a must-read for writers of the Christian faith, but it’s written in a way that makes it accessible and meaningful to readers of any other belief system as well. Anyone who uses art as a way to heal wounds has plenty to learn from her story.
Honorable Mentions: He Saw That It Was Good: How Your Creative Life Can Change a Broken World, Sho Baraka; Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis; Beyond the Front Door: Cultivating Rhythms of Abiding in Jesus, Elizabeth Giger
Memoir and Biography
Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, Beth Ann Fennelly
Fennelly’s collection of flash nonfiction is surprising, heartrending, and often feisty. She is a master of telling personal stories with brevity and skill; the stories in her collection range from four to five pages at their longest to just ten words at their shortest.
In these short essays, Fennelly tells us about odd encounters with strangers on airplanes and in doctors’ offices, her relationship with her now-deceased father and sister, and the way our perception of memories change as we get older.
It is filled with rich, vibrant language and is a quick, enjoyable read that’s inspired me to try my hand at writing micro-memoirs myself.
Honorable Mention: From Dog Collar to Dog Collar, Bruce Howat
Books About Writing
Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin was one of my favorite literary discoveries this year. I read several of her novellas as part of my work with a client, and I found myself drawn to the depth of not just the stories, cultures, and universes she builds, but the sheer relevance of her futuristic, political, and science fiction-themed work to our everyday world.
In Steering the Craft, you take a deep dive into Le Guin’s views of craft, learn about the elements of good writing, and even do writing prompts created by Le Guin herself to practice the techniques she discusses.
It’s as eye-opening a read as her fiction and is a master class for writers in how to develop their creative process.
Honorable Mentions: Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, Diana Glyer; The Subversive Copy Editor, Carol Fisher Saller; Beat Not the Poore Desk, Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Want more recommendations?
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Also…what about you? What books caught your eye this year? Feel free to share them in the comments.