Read Something New – Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge

Last year I challenged you to join the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

I repeated the reading challenge in 2021. This time I set my goal for 50 books and ended up reading 57. After completing my year, a friend challenged me in a different way.


Select your top 10 books from the 2021 Reading Challenge.

Now it got tricky because “top 10” is a bit vague. It could be in the top ten because of nostalgia like Trixie Bleden or because of the great title like Vicki and the Black Horse. And yet it can also be a top ten because its story swept you away so much that the world around you disappeared.

As I scoured my list, I found myself remembering stories like seeing old friends. “Oh, it was so good!”

When you look at my list, you can see that I spend most of my reading time in YA and children’s books. I am still working through my pile of books to be read, and I find myself falling in love with both categories of books.

I did divert to a few secular women’s fiction that I have liked for years. To my surprise, I didn’t like them as much. This brought me to an important lesson.

Read something new.

One of the benefits of reading is that your mind grows with the books. Reading is proven to increase your understanding and empathy. As you grow, sometimes you read an old favorite, only to find that you have grown out of that book.

So try something new. If you’ve never read a fantasy, try one. (Here’s a great list of fantasy for teens and adults.) If you haven’t read children’s fiction in a while, pick one up. Both of my Goodreads Reading Challenges have great options in them.

I am constantly amazed at some children’s fiction such as The Secret of the Andes with the richness of description and interesting plot lines that children books hold.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” C.S. Lewis

My Top 10 Books from 2021 Reading Challenge in No Particular Order

1. Wonder

I have a rule of reading the book first and then watching the movie. I broke this rule with this book as I didn’t know it was anything more than a movie. The whole family fell in love with the movie. As normal, the book is better than the movie, although the movie is really good.

Wonder is the story of Auggie Pullman, who suffers from manibulofacial dysostosis, a rare condition of abnormality in the bone development of his face. We pick up with story when he changes from home schooling to a private middle school. The struggles of him finding friends with a deformed face as well as his family’s struggles are faced with heartbreak but also humor.

2. Breaking Stalin’s Nose

Sasha has longed to be a Young Pioneer on the path to being the best Communist he can. But the day to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has awaited for so long, everything seems to go wrong. He breaks a classmate’s glasses with a snowball. He accidentally damages a bust of Stalin in the school hallway. And worst of all, his father, the best Communist he knows, was arrested just last night.

I included this book because I had never heard of it. While there are some plot twists that are fascinating, I found it a realistic look into the Communist life that Stalin held over Russia for so long. It’s a great book to introduce what living in a communist society is like and why the Constitution of the United States should be upheld and treasured. For these reasons, also because it’s hard to find books during the Cold War and this era, I had to include it on my top 10 list.

3. When You Rise Up

I hesitated before reading this book. I don’t believe in the convenantal theology, so why would I read the book? But I gave it a try because the title grabbed me. I’m so glad I did. There is very little conventantal theology in it. However, there is a lot of encouragement for parents to homeschool. In a nutshell, he takes Deuteronomy 6 and shows the importance of teaching our children and how conversation and living are our key tools. While I didn’t agree with everything he wrote, I was highly motivated and humbled at the call of raising and teaching children.

4. The Little Riders

Little did Johanna’s father know that when he dropped her off for a long vacation with her grandparents in a Dutch village, that the Nazis were going to march on Holland. “Take care of the little riders,” he says and then leaves. But when the war overtakes her village and threatens even her grandparents, Johanna doesn’t forget the town’s Little Riders.

This book powerfully shows that not all enemies are enemies when we get to know them and sometimes all that’s needed to defeat an evil is a bit of creativity and normal people standing together. This is a gentle way to introduce World War II without the horror that surrounds this time period.

5. And the Word Came with Power

Follow Joanne Shetler as she lives among the Balangao people group in the Philippines. The book shows the struggles of learning the culture and language, through the trials and hardships of dealing with a culture that is ruled by evil spirits, and onto the victory of God and love and freedom for the people. I found this book to be very difficult to put down and was challenged by it in many ways. I think it would be scary for young children but excellent for teens.

6. Gladys Aylward

Most missionary stories start with the missionary arriving at the destination. Not Gladys. With no teaching, no organization to help her, and no finances, Gladys begins her trip across Europe and Asia to reach China. Just her travels alone could fill a book, but when she arrives in China, the story becomes even more incredible. Once again, I think it is a bit scary for younger children as it covers beheading and other horrors. However, how Gladys shows God’s love to people in desperate need is incredible.

7. Cricket in Time Square

Chester Cricket never planned to leave his meadow in Connecticut, but a picnic basket brought him to New York City. There he meets Tucket, a streetwise mouse and Harry Cat in Times Square subway station. Chester also makes a third friend. Mario, a boy, rescues Chester at first and brings him to safety. Little do they know that the cricket has a hidden talent, and it changes everyone’s lives when the New Yorkers discover it.

8. The Ordinary Princess

Princess Amy gets a different type of gift when she is a baby. She is gifted with Ordinariness. Her adventurous side takes over when her parents try to marry her off, and she runs away. She ends up becoming a kitchen maid in the neighboring palace. Here her adventures truly begin. This book, written 30 years ago, is a gentle fairy tale about being yourself. There is a sweet love story where love grows out of friendship instead of first sight.

9. Ali and the Golden Eagle

Wayne takes a trip into a canyon in Saudi Arabia to climb. He meets Ali, a boy from the sheltered village of Ezratu. As he becomes friends with Ali, they embark on an adventure to capture a baby golden eagle for Ali and train it. The eagle changes the distiny of Ali and all of Ezratu. Written by the author of Dolphin Adventure , (which is another book I highly recommend), this is a thoughtful look at the people of Saudi Arabia.

10. Tabitha’s Travels

Last year we did Jotham’s Journey for advent. This year we read about Tabitha, the brave shepherd girl, as she begins to rescue Jotham and finds the adventure taking a much more serious turn. While we finished before Christmas because the girls just had to know what happened next, it created a discussion when one of the Romans were kind and one of the Jews bad. “Wait,” they said, “I thought Romans were bad, and the Jews were good.” We had an excellent discussion about how you can’t judge people like that and how God can use anyone.

As a bonus, here are a few honorable mentions from the 2021 Reading Challenge.

Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West With Lewis and Clark was a surprising pleasure. Living on their route, I have heard many stories of the two travelers. To read about the dog that traveled with them and learn a bit more about Sacajawea was a pleasure.  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever made me laugh out loud. Blueberries for Sal is just sweet, and it’s on the schedule to read to my children this year. Finally, Honey Cake is another gentle but emotional look into WWII and Nazi occupation for early readers.

2021 Reading Challenge is wrapped up, but 2022 has just started.

There is always time to jump on Goodreads and set your goal.

Goodreads also allows you to add books if you have forgotten to update the app. It’s incredibly easy. And, if you get lost, then check this excellent article for help – 10 features that will help you get the most out of your Goodreads account.

Do you have favorite book from 2021? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. have you ever read “The Secret Garden”?

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