My goal was to read 120 books this year and I managed to read 166. Actually, I’m hoping to make that 167 by finishing D-Day Girls today. I had two reading slumps where I laid in bed for hours at a time watching Netflix instead of sleeping but, honestly, thanks to my fellow bloggers I kept coming out of it. There is nothing like hearing, “Its okay,” “I am having a slump too,” and the countless other encouragements.
I don’t want to remember 2020 for the slumps but for the books that transported me away. I’ve provided links to my original reviews below and I know these books made an impression on me and why when I re-read my words. Each of these books are the best because they took me completely away from the pandemic or they were instrumental in keeping me healthy during this year.
A Curse so Dark and Lonely and A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer absolutely consumed me this year. I can hardly wait for the third book to come out. I want to sit in a coffee shop and argue about who is the hero of this story with a whole group of passionate fans. Come on 2021 – give me my bookish get-togethers!
Thing in Jars by Jess Kidd was, hands down, the weirdest book I have read in a long time. It took me chapter after chapter wondering what the heck was going on to finally figure it all out and then I was obsessed.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a gorgeous look at how a family can become mired down in a possession and their lives can revolve around what they think they know about each other. The story was made all the better by the perfect narration of Tom Hanks.
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens was new to me this year and I found myself obsessed. The characters, the story, the whole thing was just epic.
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid was the book that actually lived up to the hype. People really loved this book and when I got a copy on audiobook I tried to keep my expectations low but everyone was right – this is an excellent story. The full cast recording was beautiful and fun and I sat and watched the sun set and listened to their stories for hours.
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA was a book that I read in January that sat in the back of my mind the whole year. Recognizing stress and its effect on the body, especially for women, is a historic struggle and one that was more acute this year. I used exercise to rid my body of stress as much as possible and I credit this book with keeping my body strong and as stress-reduced as possible.
If Burnout helped my stress, Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig saved my sanity. This book, about the author’s personal struggle with anxiety, had concrete information about what makes us more nervous, how the world is constantly trying to dial up our worries, and how to protect yourself. I listened to it as an audiobook and immediately purchased a copy. I have now recommended this book to everyone so many times I should probably apologize to the author for overselling it.
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy changed my reading for the year. After becoming interested in female code breakers and women spies, I picked up a copy of this book and became obsessed. These women fought in a war, were instrumental to the Allied forces winning and were unable to tell anyone about it. Their families and friends believed that they worked as secretaries and the strength of these women, and the rest of the female spies I spent time with in 2020, inspired me to be stronger and braver.
I read a lot of middle grade this year. Magically, I also managed to read a lot of excellent middle grade this year. Perhaps Burnout set the tone for my reading this year because all of my favorite books feature strong female characters facing great adversity.
The Polar Bears Explorers Club Series by Alex Bell center around Stella Starflake Pearl, daughter of a famous explorer, who wants to become the first female Polar Bear Explorer. She doesn’t just break the mold, she shatters it. This series is comprised of wonderful characters, both human and fantasy-animal, who grow and change with every book. It was like armchair travel through a fantasy land and I loved all three books.
The Enola Holmes books have to be some of my favorite reads this year. I actually read Enola Holmes and the Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer several years ago but re-read it this year before watching the Netflix movie. The movie was great, the book is better and the rest of the series is amazing. Female empowerment in a historical fiction context is a wonderful way to look at how far we have come and how much further we have to go. I have two more left in the series and I am saving them like the last pieces of chocolate in a box.
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake took me completely by surprise. Georgie’s sister has gone missing and is presumed dead but Georgie knows her sister couldn’t have died. This ever-so-practical rule follower breaks her own self-made mold by setting off to find her missing sibling. This is another historical fiction book with a strong female lead but it was just so different than anything I read this year. I couldn’t put it down and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Tell me, please! What were your Best Books of 2020?