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The Best Books to Read for Intentional Living in 2021

If you are looking for new books to read next year, I’ve got you covered with my curated list of my favorite 13 books from four of my favorite authors that have inspired me.

Check out my must-read list of books and why I love them so much, and then tell me who some of your favorite authors are and why in the comments below!


Shauna is a keen observer of life, writing with the characteristic warmth and honesty of a dear friend: always engaging, sometimes challenging, but always with a kind heart. Shauna shares her heart with yours, keeps you company, and invites you into the abundant life God offers. 

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

Cold Tangerines is a collection of stories that celebrate the extraordinary moments hidden in our everyday lives. It’s about God, and about life, and about the thousands of daily ways in which an awareness of God changes and infuses everything. It’s about spiritual life, and about all the things that we have called nonspiritual life that might be spiritual after all.

It’s the snapshots of a young woman making peace with herself and her life, and trying to craft a life that captures the energy and exuberance we long for in the midst of the fear and regret and envy we all carry with us. It’s both a voice of challenge and song of comfort, calling us upward to the best possible life, and giving us room to breathe, to rest, to break down, and break through.

Cold Tangerines offers bright and varied glimpses of hope and redemption, in and among the heartbreak and boredom and broken glass.

Purchase Cold Tangerines from Amazon

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

The idea of bittersweet is changing the way we live, unraveling and re-weaving the way we understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness.

It’s the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, audacious, earthy.

When it comes to change, we’re learning that change is good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. It’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.

We’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. We’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.

Purchase Bittersweet from Amazon

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

Shauna provides the perfect read for those who love food and value the community and connection of family and friends around the table. Bread & Wine is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together.

Bread & Wine is a celebration of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in a life around the table. It’s about the ways God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two.

Sprinkled with wonderful recipes throughout, you will be able to recreate the comforting and satisfying meals that come to life when reading Shauna’s funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir.

Purchase Bread & Wine from Amazon

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are

Savor is a 365-day devotional that invites readers to expand their vision of spiritual living by incorporating prayer and recipes for gathering with family and friends over dinners, breakfasts, and late-night snacks.

Shauna teaches us that our relationships, especially the one we share with God, is worth savoring in ever moment, as well as how to savor each day, whatever it holds for us: work and play, coffee and kids, meals and prayers, the good stuff, and the hard stuff.

Purchase Savor from Amazon

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

Present Over Perfect is a collection of essays focusing on the most important transformation in Shauna’s life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be.  She offers an honest account of what led her to begin this journey, and a compelling vision for an entirely new way to live: soaked in grace, rest, silence, simplicity, prayer, and connection with the people that matter most to us.

Present Over Perfect is like a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection.

Consider the landscape of your own life and what it might look like to leave behind the pressure to be perfect and begin the life-changing practice of simply being present, in the middle of the mess and the ordinariness of life.

Purchase Present Over Perfect from Amazon

A Simpler, More Soulful Life: Self-Paced Practices and Prompts to Unhurry Your Mind and Heal Your Heart

When your soul is restless. When you’re more burned-out than on fire. When you too often start the day with a deep weariness. In the mess and the mundane, how do you begin to find space in your life, open your heart to the people who matter most, and receive the soulful way of living that is calling your name?

In Shauna’s forthcoming guided journal, she’s walking us through how to embrace peace in a chaotic world with writing prompts and thought-provoking quotes from authors who inspire her.

Pre-order A Simpler, More Soulful Life from Amazon


Emily Ley is the founder of the Simplified® brand of organizational tools for busy women. She writes about how to clear the clutter from our lives to make way for the good stuff, and offers tactical strategies and methods for doing so.

Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy

Need a new way of seeing your time? Have you been told you can have it all, only to end up exhausted and occasionally out of sorts with the people you love? Hold yourself and those you love to a more life-giving standard in Grace, Not Perfection, and allow that grace to seep into your days, your family, and your heart. 

When at a point when she suddenly realized she couldn’t do it all, Emily realized she needed to simplify her life, organize her days, and prioritize her priorities. She decided to hold herself to a standard of grace rather than perfection.

By embracing grace, not perfection, you too will discover how to:

  • Simplify your life by simplifying three major areas: your space, your time, and your mind
  • Create effective to-do lists and get through them one step at a time
  • Center your day around an intentionally slower rhythm of life with various strategies

Purchase Grace, Not Perfection from Amazon

A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living

Need to simplify the demands on your time, energy, and resources? Do you have complicated responsibilities, overwhelming to-do lists, and endless clutter leaving you feeling overwhelmed? What if you could clear the clutter once and for all?

Read along as Emily shares realistic strategies, achievable systems, and methods for clearing the clutter, organizing priorities, and living intentionally. With a focus on ten key areas from your home to your schedule to meal planning, parenting, finances, faith, and more, you will learn tactical tools to help you with navigate daily household routines, increased work demands, and family time.

Purchase A Simplified Life from Amazon

When Less Becomes More: Making Space for Slow, Simple, and Good

People today are more fatigued, burned out, and overwhelmed than ever. Smartphones constantly ping and alert and demand our attention. And social media eats up hours of our days with mindless scrolling and tapping while leaving many feeling empty and lonely. Add to that family commitments, work that is accessible around the clock, and overscheduling, and you have a life that can feel unmanageable and frantic . . . even running on empty.

In When Less Becomes More, Emily takes readers on a journey out of that empty place and shows them how to fill their wells with the nourishment that only true connection can provide. She also presents some radical concepts that push against the tethers of modern life, with the promise that more of the good stuff comes when we say yes to less of what keeps us empty:

  • Less Rush, More Rhythm
  • Less Liking, More Loving
  • Less Noise, More Calm
  • Less Distraction, More Connection
  • Less Frenzy, More Soul Rest
  • Less Fake, More Real
  • Less Fear, More Community
  • Less Great, More Good
  • Less Chasing, More Cherishing
  • Less Stuff, More Treasures

Readers can build a life based on their core values instead of slipping into a life dictated by society or what’s “normal.” Because we weren’t made for normal. We were made for more–for a life of fullness, dreaming, and lasting joy.

Purchase When Less Becomes More from Amazon

Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love

Growing Boldly is a how-to book that inspires us to imagine big, plan well, and then gather the equipment and the courage to go out and do!

Emily is once again teaching us to believe in who we are and Whose we are, encouraging us to move past the lies and fears holding us back; imagine the life we dream of and decide how to make it happen; clear the clutter and cultivate clarity so we can do what matters most; do the hard work without forgetting to feel our soul; and to love our people well so that we can create a lasting legacy.

Pre-order Growing Bolding from Amazon


As one of the first design influencers on Instagram, Shea and her husband create beautiful living spaces. As their design business has grown, they continue to bring their vision to “Make Life Beautiful” to fruition through their multi-year partnership with Target for Threshold, and on their new Netflix series “Dream Home Makeover.”

Make Life Beautiful

Make Life Beautiful is a new autobiography detailing how Syd and Shea built their interior design business.  It’s a behind-the-scenes look into how the couple transformed Shea’s small room of fabric samples and big dream of becoming a designer into one of the most successful and fastest-growing interior design businesses in the country.

With insight into how the McGees built such a successful company, along with how to apply design principles into everyday life, they’re covering inspirational topics to help build an authentic life which include how to:

  • Renovate your life
  • Visualize the outcome
  • Listen to your gut
  • Elevate the everyday

Purchase Make Life Beautiful from Amazon


Clea and Joanna are the founders of The Home Edit, with the idea to reinvent traditional organizing and merge it with design and interior styling. While all of their projects are rooted in functional systems that can be maintained for the long-term, there is just as much emphasis placed on transforming the space visually and adding their signature stylized aesthetic.

The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals

The Home Edit is a room-by-room guide detailing the steps on how to to establish new order in your home. It walks you through how to pair down your belongings in every room, arrange them in a stunning and easy-to-find way, and maintain the system. When you’re done, you’ll not only know exactly where to find things, but you’ll also love the way it looks.

Purchase The Home Edit from Amazon

The Home Edit Life: The No-Guilt Guide to Owning What You Want and Organizing Everything

At home or on the go, The Home Edit mentality is all about embracing your life—whether you’re a busy mom, a roommate living with three, or someone who’s always traveling for work. You just need to know how to set up a system that works for your needs. 

In this second phase of the home organizing craze, Clea and Joanna go beyond the pantry and bookshelf and show you how to contain the chaos in all aspects of your life, from office space and holiday storage to luggage and pet supplies. Get to know your organizing style, tailor it to your lifestyle, and lead the low-guilt life as you apply more genius ideas to every aspect of your life.

Remember, “it’s okay to own things” in the quest for pretty and smart spaces. With The Home Edit Life, you’ll soon be corralling phone cords, archiving old photos, arranging your phone apps by color, and packing your suitcase like a pro.

Purchase The Home Edit Life from Amazon

Who are some of your favorite authors and why? What books have inspired you? Let me know in the comments below!

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