My Favorite Books of 2020

This was a weird reading year for me. I ended up reading a total of 103 books, but it was a different experience to get there. There were a few months where I was quitting books constantly. I had problems focusing and anything too heavy or too focused on sickness (even something non-related to pandemics or viruses) was too much for me. Books that took my mind off my stresses became invaluable. I read more on my Kindle than I have in any previous year, directly caused by the pandemic shutting down libraries for months. That Kindle (and, of course, audiobooks) really became my lifeline, even when our library opened back up. 

But despite this weirdness of the year, I still managed to read a ton of books I loved. Here are my favorites: 

1. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
I had kind of mixed feelings about this book. I expected it to be heavier and more serious than it was, so although it was thought-provoking, it wasn't super deep. Overall, it was a fun read and I liked hearing the perspectives of the two main characters.

2. Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
Spooky and with a touch of fantasy, this book surprised me and drew me in. Based on its description, I wouldn't have normally read it but I'm so glad I did. 

3. You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
This book will always have a special place in my heart. I don’t usually like thrillers but early on in the pandemic I had such a hard time focusing on books. It was hard to have my usual stress relief failing. But I saw this book recommended somewhere, and once I started it I couldn’t stop. In the space of a week and a few days I read this book and the other two by these same authors. They were all so good and helped me get back into a reading groove. 

4. Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
Without a doubt, this book was my favorite fiction read of the year. Maybe of the last couple years. The storytelling was amazing and I loved the way the characters overlapped. I loved learning about this tiny part of Russia, and enjoyed the mystery at its center. It was so good. My only suggestion would be to read this one in print. The characters' relationships are listed at the beginning of the book and I referred back to it at the beginning of every chapter, so it might be hard if you were listening to it.

5. Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan
This is another one that I had mixed feelings about. I enjoyed reading it, but wouldn't have said that I loved it. Yet once I finished I couldn't stop thinking about it; going over scenes in my head and wondering why they turned out that way. I pondered the elusive nature of some friendships; what makes some stick and some fall apart. It just really stuck with me.

6. Hament by Maggie O’Farrell
Maggie O'Farrell has been a favorite of mine for a while (I love I Am, I Am, I Am and This Must Be the Place) and this book was so amazing. It reimagines the loss of Shakespeare's son Hamnet (who was also called Hamlet) from the perspective of Shakespeare's wife. It is searingly painful and so real.

1. The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power
This was my first book of 2020 and it made an big impression on me. Samantha Power was a journalist in the Balkans during the war, wrote a book about genocide, worked on President Obama's staff, and then became the UN ambassador. This book was an overview of her life and work, and it was a good crash course in world events from the past 30 years. It was fascinating, if a tiny bit too detailed.

2. Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall
I really loved this book. It's by the same author as Born to Run and has a similar feel. The author now lives in rural Pennsylvania and decides to run a race with a donkey. It's such a feel-good, slightly kooky book.

3. The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
This book details a crazy story about archaeologists, soldiers, filmmakers, and others who go to Honduras to search for mythical ruins. What they find, and the experiences they have while they are there, make for a fascinating read.

4. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Isabel Wilkerson wrote one of my favorite books, The Warmth of Other Suns, and I had high hopes for her new book. It did not disappoint-- it's a thoroughly researched, well-supported argument for why the race relations in the U.S. can best be described as a caste system. 

5. Secondhand by Adam Minter
I love buying things secondhand and enjoy frequenting thrift stores and browsing Craigslist, so this book was perfect for me. I learned a ton about the global secondhand economy, as well as random things like car seat expirations.

6. White Flight by Kevin M. Kruse
This book was fascinating and eye-opening. I learned so much about what it took to de-segregate and how it was more than sit-ins. It also illustrated what white flight looked like.

Special Mentions
1. Independent People by Halldor Laxness
Brock and I listened to this at the same time (after he started it and thought I would like it too) and I have fond memories of us laughing and being annoyed at Bjartur together.

2. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
I already mentioned this one in my 2020 survey, but I finally read these books and was shocked by how quickly I LOVED them and became a huge fan. I've never read high fantasy before (and probably won't besides this series) but these books are pure gold.

P.S. Here are my favorites from 2018, 2017, and 2016

P.P.S These are all Amazon affiliate links :)


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