My top 5 books of 2021

In 2021 I started tracking the books that I read. I set up a database in Notion where I could track what books I’d read, wanted to read and when I finished them. It also let me type some notes and save highlights from each book.

I did this for a few reasons:

  1. To keep track of what I’ve read.
  2. To retain nuggets of wisdom.
  3. To motivate me to read more.


I can say that it’s really worked on all three counts – this database was a real game changer for me. Before 2021, I would read books sporadically and forget most of the lessons a book had to offer. But this method changes all of that and even turns reading into something game-like, where I can track my progress and build on it bit by bit.

My final count for 2021 was 21 books. Almost poetic huh? 21 books in 2021. Let’s see if I can do more than 22 in 2022. I only started this in April of last year actually, so there are some books that got missed between January-March.

It’s thanks to this database that I’ve been able to write this blog post. I could look back through the highlights and notes I made along the way and piece together the info I needed.

I got the template to build this from Ali Abdaal – its a great one you can find here.

It provided a great structure for me to start taking notes about both fiction and non-fiction books easily.

Interesting stats:

Audiobooks/Kindle: 6:15 (40% Audiobooks)

Fiction/Nonfiction: 10:11 (48% Fiction)

Fiction categories: Sci-fi (30%) Fantasy (70%)


My top 5 books of 2021:

So here’s a list of my favourite books that I read in 2021. I chose these 5 based purely on how enjoyable they were to me and how valuable I found the lessons in them. Both of those reasons are super subjective and specific to me, so let me know if you agree with them.


5. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

This is a great book for anyone with a creative pursuit, whether it’s just a hobby or there’s desire to take it full-time. It talks about how to beat procrastination, fear, self-doubt, imposter syndrome by giving all these things an identity called the Resistance. By doing this, you can dissociate these qualities from yourself and it gives you something to fight against.

It also talks a lot about the mental shift you need to make when doing your work professionally, again very relevant advice for my life at the time.


4. Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks & Dan Kennedy

This book was very timely and relevant for me as I continue to learn more about filmmaking. It doesn’t actually talk about storytelling in the traditional sense – there’s no mention of The Hero’s Journey or the Three Act Structure here. It’s more about telling stories about your own life, but the principles can mostly be applied to telling any kind of story.

It has changed the way that I watch movies and think about stories in general (for example, Jurassic Park is actually a movie about a man who learns to love children, wrapped up in a plot about dinosaurs 🤯). I’ve actually put the Homework For Life exercise from the book into my daily routine since reading this book and have continued to do it even nearly a year later.

The book is fantastically written and the author keeps it interesting by teaching by example. Whilst teaching the concepts he demonstrates by telling interesting stories from his own life which make you want to laugh and cry.

I actually summarised this book in one of my earlier posts here.


3. The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Out of all the books I read this year, this one had the best, most beautiful writing. Another book I couldn’t put down from when I picked it up. This is a fantasy book with a really interesting magic system. It’s got some of the most incredible writing and beautiful prose I’ve ever read. The way the story is written is also a super page-turner. It’s a long book and definitely kept me up late for a few nights.


2. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Absolutely loved this book. Couldn’t put it down from when I began. Andy Weir also wrote The Martian (which became a Matt Damon movie). Like his other books, this one really sings to the physics & maths nerd in me – it’s pseudo-realistic and is full of astronomical facts and scientific calculations woven into the story. It’s ultimately a story about friendship, sacrifice and passion. It’s smart, it’s got twists and nail-biting moments.


1. Will by Will Smith & Mark Manson


I was already a big fan of Will Smith before I read this. This book is a deep dive into Will’s life story and challenges and triumphs that led up to all of his big roles and wins. It talks about the intense work ethic that shaped who he was and is also famous for. I love how he shares all the highs and lows, from the horrific recounts of domestic violence, to divorce, to discovering self-awareness.

If you’re going to read it, I really suggest getting the audiobook: it’s read by Will Smith with all of the drama, flair and passion that could only come from him. Not only that, the level of production is amazing: he raps, he does impressions, and different background songs play during certain scenes.


Other honourable mentions:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – I happened to read this coincidentally just before the whole Metaverse craze broke out. The book is really fun and interesting – I preferred it way more than the movie.

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins – Get inside the ridiculously tough mind of David Goggins and helps you look at the limits you have in yours.

Mistborn (series) by Brandon Sanderson – This was my introduction to Brandon Sanderson the author and boy was it epic! Will definitely be reading more of his books in the future.