My Top 16 Books of 2021

As an avid lover of reading, I have enjoyed finding time to read throughout the year of 2021. This year has been a particularly robust year of reading, completing my 65/65 book reading challenge AND reading more nonfiction than fiction books (this is a rarity for me)!

I intended to chose only 10 books for my top books of the year list, but I just couldn’t narrow it down past 16. As a result, you will find a comprehensive list of my top 16 favorite books of the year.

Some of these books made me laugh, while others made me cry. Some were highly informational, and some educated me toward righteous rage and justice-action. Many of these books fed my soul and spiritual practices. Others were highly creative in imagined worlds, while some envisioned something different in our own world. Some of these books are classics, and some are brand new. A few books are written by friends and colleagues while others are written by people I’ll never know. This list crosses the scope of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

I hope that this list inspires you to add a few books to your 2022 reading list AND encourages you to reach out and connect with me about them! Please know that I’m always happy to chat about any of the listed books. I’m passionate about each and every one of them!

Please enjoy my ‘Top 16 Books of 2021’ list:

1. ‘Sister Outsider’ by Audre Lorde:
2. ‘The Interior Castle’ by Teresa of Ávila:
3. ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursula K. Le Guin:
4. ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by Isabel Wilkerson: ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursula K. Le Guin:
5. ‘The Land Is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery’ by Sarah Augustine:
6. ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus:
7. ‘Teaching to transgress’ by bell hooks:
8. ‘The Naked Now: Learning to See As the Mystics See’ by Richard Rohr:
9. ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker:
10. ‘The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America’ by Richard Rothstein:
11. ‘Advancing the Mission: The Order of Deacon in the United Methodist Church’ by Margaret Ann Crain:
12. ‘Gideon the Ninth’ by Tamsyn Muir:
13. ‘On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century’ by Timothy D. Snyder:
14. ‘Nature Poem’ by Tommy Pico:
15. ‘The Prophets’ by Robert Jones Jr.:
16. ‘Who Was Jesus and What Does It Mean to Follow Him?’ by Nancy Elizabeth Bedford:

‘Nature Poem’ by Tommy Pico Review

“NDN teens have the highest rate of suicide of any population group in America. A white man can massacre 9 black ppl in a church and be fed Burger King by the cops afterward. A presidential candidate gains a platform by saying Mexican immigrants are murdered and rapists

It’s hard for me to imagine curiosity [in America] as anything more than a pretext for colonialism” (Tommy Pico, ‘Nature Poem,’ 40).

“Look, I’m sure you really do just want to wear those dream catcher earrings. They’re beautiful. I’m sure you don’t mean any harm, I’m sure you don’t really think abt us at all. I’m sure you don’t understand the concept of off-limits. But what if by not wearing a headdress in yr music video or changing yr damn mascot and perhaps adding .05% of personal annoyance to yr life for the twenty minutes it lasts, the 103 young ppl who tried to kill themselves on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation over the past four months wanted to live 50% more” (Tommy Pico, ‘Nature Poem,’ 56).

‘Truth-Telling in Community’ Testimony

Returning to in-person Church, work, and life-in-general fills my heart with joy. To be physically present together after so long apart brings warmth, relief, and gratitude.

And yet, returning to in-person church, work…life in general…it is so gosh darn hard. For many of us, there is so much uncertainty, ambiguity, and frustration. I don’t know about you, but I find myself full of questions and unknowns. Do I feel safe going back to in-person work? Will virtual options remain accessible to me? How do I navigate the varieties of physical contact comfort levels with friends, families, and loved ones? Will we ever reach a time where health and science won’t be politicized? Am I, and those I love, going to be okay?

For me, these past few weeks have been full of these questions and ambiguities, causing me stress and anxiety. And when I learned that the theme at my church this week, Urban Village Church, Chicago, was going to be about ‘truth telling’ and ‘living in community’ from Colossians 3:9-15, I knew that I was being provided an opportunity to reflect on these questions in prayer and in a reflective way that I hadn’t before. I’m excited to share some of the things that God has revealed to me in this time of prayer.

First, disclaimer, what I’m about to say completely takes Colossians 3:9 out of context. But the words at the start of verse nine, “Do not lie to one another” (3:9), stuck out to me during my prayer time this week. It connected with my experiences and convicted me to admit when I’m exhausted and worn out, to both myself and others, in this time of return to in-person life. If I don’t truth-tell with myself, and also with others, I am going to burn out.

Along with truth-telling, I need to communicate my boundaries and needs. For example, what are the safety policies of the place I’m going? Are there policies? Am I comfortable with that? What alterations can I take to feel safe? Hugs, handshakes, and high fives…consent conversations are as vital now as ever before. Care and tend to myself and my needs so that I can care and tend to the needs of others. Communication communication communication. Communication is the secret sauce to truth-telling in community.

And in this communication, I need to recognize that we are all figuring this out together in real-time. We are going to make mistakes. So grace for ourselves and others is key. And what does that look like? Colossians 3:12-13 helped me to think about grace as clothing ourselves with “compassion…kindness, humility, meekness, patience…and forgiv[ing] one another.”

But, when in doubt, I ask myself: “am I loving myself and others as I navigate this situation?” God is love, as verse 14 reminds us. So, as we navigate truth telling in community, if we operate out of love, God will be present with us.
If you take anything away from my reflection today, I hope it’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned in my prayer preparation this week: ‘When in doubt, love yourself and love others.’


Sabbath Rest

God created and

it was good. Freedom from

perfection’s tyranny.

Where You Lead, Oh Lord, I Follow (Based on Psalm 138:1-8)

I rejoice in You, my Provider;

my heart beats with praise.

I raise my palms and lift my eyes

toward Your glory and wholeness,

in thankful exultation

of Your steadfast love

and faithful word.

At a young age, You called me;

I heard and followed.

But the Church and the world

conspired to silence Your voice

and extinguish my call

by moralizing away my belovedness

as Your child, oh God,

as a condemned and unworthy queer.

But, amidst these trials of human

malevolence and lies,

You journeyed with me,

never leaving nor forsaking,

waiting for a receptive heart

to remind me of my call –

not despite of my sexuality,

but because of it –

the experiences of expansive and just-filled love.

And now,

through my approval for Ordination

as a Deacon in the UMC,

You have brought Your Purpose to further fruition in me,

proving that Your radically inclusive love endures,

and expands,


Where You lead, oh Lord, I follow.