Top 20 books of 2021

In 2021, my reading goals were very basic. My focus was to read books that I enjoyed. In the beginning of the year, I started off strong, discovering books that provided opportunities for occupational balance, in addition to books that taught me skills to become a better occupational therapist and professor.

Then, around October, I hit a roadblock…?readingblock? I read two books in a row that were less than stellar that left me guarded about picking up new reads. I literally abandoned popular books and went into full cozy mystery mode and books that focused on building professional skills. In November, I came out of my slump and read some great fiction and non-fiction books, finishing strong for the year!

Of the books I read in 2021, here are the top 20 books that I highly recommend (in no particular order):

  1. The evidence-based practitioner: Applying research to meet client needs by Catana Brown.  This is the only research book you will ever need as a practitioner. Clear and succinct research explanations. Brown also provides practical ways of implementing research in clinical practice.
  2. Ultralearning by Scott Young. With the speed of technology, research, and clinical practice, learning new material in a short period of time is necessary for optimal practice. This book provides a clear plan to learn complex concepts in a brief period of time.
  3. The woman in the window by A.J. Finn. This book lived up to the hype. Well-written and exciting plot.
  4. How we learn by Benedict Carey. Carey presents a variety of learning strategies and the research behind each strategy. The research provided also provides specific information on how best to retain information.
  5. When life gives you pears by Jeannie Gaffigan. Wife of  comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan chronicles her journey with a brain tumor.  Light, informative, candid, and touching.
  6. The Meal Deal: Blaze your own train to healthier eating lifestyle by Lisa Kiersky Scheiber. Healthy eating is a lifestyle that can only be supported by consistent routines that support making good food choices. This book is a blueprint to maintain consistency with eating healthy.
  7. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.  This book will change the way you address death and dying on both a personal and professional level.
  8. Writing your journal article in 12 weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher.  With busy schedules and tight deadlines, Belcher provides a clear process for writing a quality article in 12 weeks.
  9. Small great things by Jodi Picoult.  Picoult brings a sensitive topic to life with exquisite writing. This is a timeless novel.  
  10. Shaping your new normal: Navigating your life after the global COVID-19 pandemic by Michelle Green.  COVID-19 has changed the way we function in our day to day lives. Green provides worksheets, mantras, and more to function with this new normal.
  11. Every note played by Lisa Genova.  In a novel about a classical musician with ALS, Genova captures the progression of the condition on a cognitive, physical, and emotional level.
  12. My stroke of insight: A brain scientist’s personal journey by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.  If you have ever wanted to know what happens during a stroke, Dr. Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist, provides an informative and riveting summary of her own experience of having a stroke in her mid-thirties.
  13. The dominance factor: How knowing your dominant eye, ear, brain, hand, & foot can improve your learning by Carla Hannaford.  This book will change the recommendations you make for students to optimize learning in the classroom.
  14. Raising kids with Sensory Processing Disorders: A week-by-week guide to helping your out-of-sync child with sensory and self-regulation issues by Rondalyn V. Whitney, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA and Varleisha D. Gibbs, Ph.D., OTD, OTR/L. Weekly, evidence-based interventions to address the sensory needs of pediatric clients. This book makes creating an effective sensory diet much easier!
  15. Autism casebook for parents and practitioners by Shoshana Levin Fox. Well-written, informative, and clinically comprehensive. Great book for parents and practitioners alike to effectively address the needs of autistic children.
  16. David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants by Malcolm Gladwell.  The entire premise of the book is focusing on ways to use the strengths of others to ensure success. Gladwell’s used a few examples that resonated with me as an occupational therapist such as individuals with dyslexia, those in the underserved prison population, and individuals that dealt with trauma in their lives.
  17. One of us is lying by Karen McManus.  This is a YA fiction book that can honestly be read in one day for two reasons: (1) likeable characters and (2) multiple plot twists throughout.
  18. Thing Again: The power of knowing what you don’t know by Adam Grant.  Think Again is a book that is perfectly timed with many people (including occupational therapy practitioners) who are rethinking many elements of their work lives. Grant provides a clear path to analyze your current status and determine ways to build your future status. Collectively, Think Again, provides you with a way to, well, think and also how to rethink
  19. Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell.  The premise of Outliers is to look more closely at the belief that people accomplish great things because they are exceptional. The book looks at individuals that are successful in a specific field and dissects the accomplishments to determine to what extent exceptionality is the reason for the individual’s success. This was an eye-opening analysis that pulls in other components to one’s success such as timing, work ethic, and even religion.
  20. A world without email: Reimagining work in an age of communication overload by Cal Newport.  From the author of Deep Work, A world without email focuses on efficient and effective ways of communicating electronically. True to any Newport book, research, clear explanations, and concrete plans are provided to perform work roles optimally.  

What books made your top 20 list? What books are you looking forward to in 2022?

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