2020 second year tracking the books I’d read over the course of a year (if you want to look back at the 55 books I read in 2019, I reviewed them here). Book reading went well for the first 8 weeks or so in 2020, and then the world ground to a halt when COVID arrived.
I found that I almost entirely stopped reading books for months because I simply couldn’t focus on them. I eventually figured out I could at least listen to books in audiobook format, but even those were mostly re-reads. As of November, I’ve started to read more again, and it feels good to be back at it.
Counting audiobooks (and the books we read at night to the kiddo at bedtime), I finished 57 books in 2020, but the type and content looked different than 2019. I checked out a stack of hard copy books from the library back in March in preparation for lockdown (thinking more like snow days), but then they just sat in our bedroom for months gathering dust. I’ve since gotten to a few of those books, but most are just going back to the library unread.
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1. The Joy of Doing Nothing by Rachel Jonat
This was a pre-COVID read. Ha. It was quite an enjoyable (short) read, but it would definitely read different these days. I don’t think I need practice on slowing down and doing less after this past year…..
2. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (reread)
This is a re-re-re-read for me, and one I love each time I read it. Barbara Kingsolver has a beautiful way with words, and a book all about living and eating locally for a year? Clearly my jam. I ended up reading a good part of this book out loud on our week long camping trip back in July, which was so much fun. Read alouds are probably a regular part of our camping trips going forward.
This was also the only nonfiction book I physically read (I listened to a couple on audiobook) after COVID began until I read Sapiens…in December. Like I said above, my brain was just not in a place where I could focus on reading, and this was especially true for nonfiction content.
3. Blessing the Hands That Feed Us by Vicki Robin (audiobook)
I first learned that Vicki Robin (author of the famous FIRE book Your Money or Your Life) from Kristine when she wrote a review over on our shared site Ecofrugals. Since then, I’ve been recommending it to everyone I can think of. It’s absolutely one of my favorite new reads for 2020, and I purchased a physical copy after listening to it on audiobook because I wanted to be able to have a copy to lend out.
4. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (audiobook)
Another Ecofrugal review from Kristine, and another book I absolutely adored listening to on audiobook. I bought my mother in law a copy for Christmas as well, so clearly this is also a top read for the year. Really, at this point, I should just get my booklists from Kristine because she doesn’t steer me wrong.
5. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Again, I had planned to read more nonfiction over the past year, but thanks to COVID and everything else that happened meant that my brain just wasn’t in the right place for it for a long time. After the election, I finally picked up Sapiens and sped through the first third of the book or so. I’m not sure why, but my interest waned a bit after that; while it was a good book still, it didn’t capture my imagination quite the same as the first chapters.
1. The Jump-Off Creek by Molly Gloss
This was a recommendation from someone years ago, but I can’t remember who at this point (simply a “to read” book on my ever-neglected Goodreads list). I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t. Honestly, I’d have a hard time even recapping the story even though I just read it a year ago.
2 – 7. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth’s Children Series) by Jean Aumel
This series was recommended my quite a few people, and unlike The Jump-Off Creek, it was one I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s an historical fiction take of early humans and I especially loved the detailed descriptions of the landscapes and the flora and fauna. These are long books, but ones I see myself returning to in the future.
8. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My favorite part of this book was the descriptions of the Lowcountry, since it took me back to my time as a naturalist in South Carolina. There are definitely quite a few parts of the book where I needed to “suspend belief,” but as long as I let myself get swept up into the story, it was very enjoyable. One of those odd books that I enjoyed during the reading more than looking back at it after I finished.
9. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (reread)
This was the first time I reread this book since I was a child, but I read my childhood copy so many times that it started to fall apart. It was a shorter, quicker story than I remembered, but considering I was probably not yet fourteen the last time I read it, that makes sense. Still, it was so, so good. One of my favorite young adult books for sure.
10. Falling Into Magic by Elizabeth Pantley
This book was written by my mom! She’s been a parenting author for pretty much my whole life, but she’s been considering writing a novel for years now. I’m so thrilled that she finally published her first one! Her second one is out soon, and I’m looking forward to reading it as well.
Falling Into Magic was the book that knocked me out of my no-reading funk I was in for much of 2020 by making me realize I just needed some lighthearted “cozy” novels. After reading this book, I dove back into reading in a big way for the rest of the year.
11 – 13. The Amish of Apple Grove by Lori Copeland
I stumbled onto these Amish historical fiction novels set in the late 1800s. They were light, easy reads, with predictable endings, which were exactly what I realized I needed after reading my mom’s book. Let 2020 and beyond be the years that we no longer care about the highbrow nature of what we’re reading and simply read what we need at that time in our lives.
12 – 22. Laiden’s Daughter (and 10 more in this series) by Suzan Tisdale
After The Amish of Apple Grove series concluded, I searched for some similar “light” novels, but with more books in the series so I could lose myself in them for a while. While the tropes are quite similar in a number of these books, and there were some issues with them, ultimately they were the perfect easy read for me and my only complaint is that there aren’t another ten books for me to continue reading in this world.
23 – 26. Twilight saga by Stephanie Meyer (reread, audiobooks)
Like I said above, I refuse to call these my “guilty pleasures.” I have no guilt in knowing that the Twilight saga is one of my “comfort series,” much like comfort food. When life seems especially hard, I find myself drawn back into these books for the lack of death, real strife, and a legitimate happy ending.
Whatever you might say about these books (many of them valid complaints), I enjoy them utterly and will re-read them every year or two for as long as I don’t get tired of them.
These two series are much like the Twilight saga: a return to old friends and the comfort of knowing and enjoying the story well. Unlike Twilight, however, I will legitimately recommend these as top quality Young Adult novels, especially the Bloodlines series that follows the Vampire Academy books. There are twelve books between the two series, which makes it even better.
39 – 41. The Glittering Court trilogy by Richelle Mead (reread, audiobook)
Richelle Mead is simply one of my favorite authors. The Glittering Court is her newest trilogy of books, and I’ve read them through four times in two years. (Is it time to read them again soon? Perhaps). I enjoy her adult novels, but her clear calling is in the YA realm.
42. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (audiobook)
After so many years of planning to someday read Pride and Prejudice all the way through, I finally got through it in 2020. April, who writes over at Minivan Adventures, and I share a love of many of the same books (including sharing our favorite Jane Eyre), so I finally decided to give Jane Austen another try. I have to say, though, for how much I love Jane Eyre, I didn’t love Pride and Prejudice. But hey, I finally finished it.
A Twitter friend recommended these books, and I’m so glad she did. They are so fabulous though a bit eerie in her preternatural ability to write dystopian fiction that has entirely too many parallels to our modern time, including a populist president with the promise to “Make America Great Again.” Perhaps, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that a Black woman in the United States had a clearer view of where we could be headed than most of us.
45. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (audiobook)
This book was suggested at the end of Parable of the Talents so I decided to give it a try. It’s written in a very different manner than many of the books I read/listen to, and it was a bit trippy, but it was one of those books that gets under your skin and keeps you thinking about it long after the story concludes. Not one I likely would have found on my own, so I appreciated the end of book recommendation that landed me at this story.
46. The Boxcar Children 1-3 by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The kiddo is old enough now that we’ve started reading longer chapter books at bedtime, which has been so fun for the husband and for me. We started earlier on with The Magic Treehouse series, among others, and The Boxcar Children was the start of stretching the length of those books. I read them when I was young, but it had been long enough the stories were more or less new for me as well.
49 – 50. Harry Potter (Sorcerer’s Stone & Chamber of Secrets) by JK Rowling
Book three is too scary for the kiddo yet (based on a partial watch of the third book), so we stopped after book two for now. The author of these books is a TERF and pretty awful though, so I won’t be putting up a link to purchase these. Nothing wrong with loving the series, but consider buying them used or checking them out from the library, as she really doesn’t need – nor deserve – any more money.
My husband and I both read quite a few Redwall books when we were children, but they were a bigger part of his childhood and we are currently reading copies that he kept from when he was young. Into 2021, we are onto our fourth book, and the kiddo is loving them still (as are we), so I’m hopeful we stick to this series for a while yet.
Did you read very much in 2020? What was your favorite book of the year?