Curations for the curious

Issue #2: Twenty One Books That Shaped My 2021

Here are 21 of the 39 books I finished last year which I think are worth your time. You'll find history, science, spirituality, religion, biographies, personal development and more. For books that I particularly liked I provided a ❤️ rating. Recommend reading it with a ⭐️.

Issue #2: Twenty One Books That Shaped My 2021
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

Here are 21 of the 39 books I finished last year which I think are worth your time. I sometimes stumble across or intentionally read multiple books on a specific topic to compare ideas or stories between them. I've separated the great from the good for you, and unlike previous years, I read a considerable amount of fiction (for me at least).

Some books stood out more than others. For books that I particularly liked I provided a ❤️ rating and if I think it is relevant, timeless, or impactful, I recommend reading it with a ⭐️. (Some even have both! ❤️⭐️)

To help you filter out the noise and match you better to your interests, I have grouped books by category (or genre) which results in some books appearing more than once. Links to the books are affiliate links.

An alphabetical list of all 21 books with their ratings are at the very end. Enjoy!


From true stories to fiction, from the origin of the human race to religious groups shaping the last half of the 20th century, history walked me through how we got to where we are today. These books demonstrated how our religious beliefs influence our politics, both recently and in the distant past, and told many great stories along the way.


The knowledge of our universe and ourselves is expanding faster than any one person can keep up with. Figuring out what to focus on and what to ignore can be difficult, so I picked books that cover topics affecting how we think, how to understand our present and our future, and one that takes a fun, cross-disciplinary look at our past.

Spirituality or Religion

In 2019 I was jolted out of the idea that spirituality and religion had to be combined. In 2021, I enjoyed the stories and ideas presented by authors, historical figures, and historians who covered one, the other, or both together.

This year I read several books about (Christian) Universal Salvation (or Universalism), but most were very dry or academic and are only good for readers looking to go further down an interesting rabbit hole. I have included only one, by Bradley Jersak, for its conciseness, gentleness, exigetical and contextual honesty, and easy reading.

The following books helped me maintain, regain, or develop empathy for people from a variety of backgrounds. Several were deeply moving, written by great storytellers or by individuals forced to grow and live through great adversity.

Psychology, Philosphy and Personal Development

These books helped me better understand myself and people close to me. Many were empowering or invigorating while some were difficult to read but still worth it.


A bad leader is easy to identify, but a good leader can be hard to quantify. The following books show the many facets of good leadership and the challenges leaders face, no matter what their position.


I lean heavily towards non-fiction (if you couldn't tell 😉), but of the 11 fiction books I read in 2021, these stood out as a cut above the rest. They were particularly gripping, unique, or moving.


The books in this list stand out for being applicable or of interest to both civilians and service-members alike. They tell engaging stories, and honor or remember amazing people who often come from humble origins.


I love stories about people, especially ones that delve deep into the fascinating minutiae of their lives or struggles. This past year brought me stories of Christians, Muslims and Atheists whose identities were challenged, shaped, and grown by their environments, their convictions, and their conflicts.

Alphabetical List

Ratings Legend:
Particularly Liked (❤️)
Recommended Reading (⭐️)

Subscribe to For The Learn

Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
Jamie Larson