I read about 50 books each year and to be honest, most of them are just okay. Some are exceptional. This space has my top books of 2021.
These books are in no particular order. There is no way I would even attempt to try to rank them, so let’s get started on my top books of 2021.
Top Books of 2021
First on my list is Atomic Habits: An Easy Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear.
If you are on my email list then you probably have seen me use one of his quotes in my quote of the week or if you’ve taken my quiz, then you probably saw his quote at the beginning of your quiz results.
This book was released in 2018 and as of last month, November 2021, it is still top 5 on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
There is a reason why this book has spent years on the NYT Bestsellers list. If you have ever wondered:
- Why don’t you do what you say you’re going to do?
- Why don’t you lose weight or stop smoking or save for retirement or start that side business?
- Or if you’ve wondered why you say something is important but never seem to make time for it?
Then this book is for you.
He starts the book by providing the fundamentals of habits and explains why tiny changes make a big difference, then he dives into the four laws of behavior change which are 1) make it obvious, 2) make it attractive, 3) make it easy, and make it satisfying. Then he ends the book with some advanced tactics of how to go from being merely good to being truly great.
This is a book I’ll probably read every year. It’s just that good.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Next up is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. Isabel Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize winner. I was made aware of this book because it made Oprah’s Book Club List before it was released to the public. That intrigued me to look into it and when I discovered what it was about, I knew I had to read it.
In this book, the author examines the unspoken, hidden caste system based on race that has shaped America into a hierarchy. She links the American caste system to the caste systems in India and to Nazi Germany. She specifically documents in the book how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their outcasting and cruel treatment of the Jews.
This book should be required reading in schools. The author examines caste in America through the lens of the eight pillars of a caste system which are divine will and the laws of nature, heritability, endogamy and the control of marriage and mating, purity vs. pollution, occupational hierarchy, dehumanization and stigma, and the last pillar is inherent superiority versus inherent inferiority.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
My third book is The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.
When I was younger, I would probably be embarrassed for having just now read this, but I’m really grown now and I know better about being embarrassed about something so simple.
The truth is though, I don’t know why it took me so long to read this book. I purchased it in 2007 from the college book store in Tallahassee. It still has the sticker on the book.
Alex Haley was an American author and this was his first book. Haley based the book on more than 50 in-depth interviews he conducted with Malcolm X between 1963 and Malcolm X’s assasination in February 1965.
The whole process started out rough because in the beginning all Malcolm wanted to talk about was Elijah Muhammad who was the head of the Nation of Islam at the time. Haley kept reminding Malcolm that the book was supposed to be about him, but that didn’t work, so Haley ended up asking Malcolm a question about his mother, and that is how we got the beginning of the book.
This book is so good and well written, that you would think it was released this year. In 1998, Time ranked The Autobiography of Malcolm X as one of the 10 most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century. This book drew me in from the very beginning. I knew immediately that it would make my list of top books of 2021.
Talking to Strangers
The fourth book is by one of my favorite authors. It’s Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell. I love Gladwell’s style of research based writing.
This book takes a deep dive into our inability to properly assess strangers. I actually listened to this book which is not something I typically do with nonfiction. The reason I chose to listen was based on a recommendation from one of my friends and she was right!
One of the main themes he explores throughout the book is how most humans tend to do something he calls “default to truth.” Default to truth means our operating assumption is that the people we are dealing with are honest.
This book really opened my eyes to another level of human behavior that I was aware of only generally but didn’t have the words for or the evidence to support my theory.
I recommend checking this book out if you are into human behavior or if you work in environments where you need to accurately assess if someone is telling you the truth.
The book won’t teach you how to tell if someone is lying but it will open your eyes to the potential flaws in how you go about making your assessment, which is great because you’ll know how to improve moving forward.
The fifth book on my list of top books of 2021 is actually a new release. It’s Will by Will Smith. I was watching Oprah interview Will about his memoir on an AppleTV and she said it was the best memoir she has ever read.
Not even gonna lie, I was slightly skeptical when she said that. Oprah has read a lotttt of memoirs. I have read a lot of memoirs that I discovered through her. And Oprah doesn’t hype things up that she doesn’t believe in so I stopped watching the special and decided to just read the book before they talked about any spoilers in the interview lol. I do NOT like spoilers.
He chronicles how he met DJ Jazzy Jeff and their rise to fame. He goes into detail about how he auditioned for the Fresh Prince and even into the details of his first marriage with the mother of his son Trey.
Will gives A LOT of insight into his marriage with Jada and their dynamic. Will doesn’t hold back on sharing information that may put him in a negative light.
One thing that he shared that I never really knew because I was too young to care or pay attention to, was just how big of a movie star Will Smith is.
Will had eight straight back-to-back movies that opened at Number 1 at the box office from 2002 to 2008, with two of those movies opening in the same year. His movies grossed hundreds of millions of dollars globally.
This wasn’t an accident. He and his manager JL, were extremely intentional in making Will a huge movie star. They studied the scripts of the top movies in the world and found a formula. From there, Will only read scripts and took roles that met that formula. You have to read the book to find out what the formula is. I don’t want to spoil it for you.
The point I’m trying to make is that Will doesn’t just allow things to happen by chance. He is relentless at setting and executing goals.
I do have one more book that I want to mention in my top books of 2021 and that’s The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. If you have listened to a lot of guest interviews on the show, then you’ve probably heard a good number of guests mention this as the best book they have read in the last year.
Listen, this book is transformational. The author explores hidden fears in a way I’ve never seen done before. He identifies our primary issue with fear as being something called an “upper limiting problem.”
that each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will typically do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old familiar zone where we feel secure. Our comfort zone.
I broke this book down in a previous episode titled, 3 Pivotal Books for Purpose.
Hopefully there was a book in my list of top books of 2021. If there was only one book that I could recommend you read out of this list, it would hands down be Atomic Habits. It’s the book that I think would help the most in multiple areas of your life, especially your purpose.
But by all means, feel free to read whichever book you like and let me know your thoughts about them as you’re reading or once you’ve finished reading. I can talk about these books everyday.
If you enjoyed this episode of my top books of 2021, then you may also enjoy the episode of the show about the best books of 2020 or this episode detailing the best books to read when on the journey to discover your purpose.
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by (as told to Alex Haley) by Malcolm X
- Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
- Will by Will Smith
- The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks
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Disclaimer: If you happen to purchase anything I recommend in this or any of my communications, it’s likely I’ll receive some kind of affiliate compensation. Still, I only recommend things that I truly believe in and have personally experienced. If you ever have an issue with anything I recommend, please let me know. My goal is to help you thrive in your purpose. — Pavielle