This is one of my favorite posts of the year! Each December I share my favorite reads from the past year. These are books that I read in 2020 regardless of publication date.
This year was, obviously, quite different. For a few months (from March to June) I found myself in the strange position of being nearly unable to read. The anxiety from the global pandemic combined with the extra pressure of working and schooling from home made it difficult if not impossible to indulge in my favorite pastime.
I got my second wind in June, however, and ended up reaching my goal of 100 books for the year. Here are the best of them:
My Favorite Books of 2020
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
I started the year off with this lovely story of an older retired major who falls in love with Mrs. Ali, widow of the local shopkeeper. Beautifully slow-burning, with race, religion, jealousies, family misunderstandings, and more. I loved the setting of a quaint English village as well as the simple details of a man trying to maintain his dignity in a world that is quickly becoming less so.
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
I really enjoy Kearsley’s books that combine historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural. This book does that beautifully. Julia buys a house that has held a strange attraction for her for years. Soon she finds the reason for this, which is tied to the past.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
If you enjoy mysteries or books set in boarding schools, you will want to check out Truly Devious. Stevie is accepted to a prestigious boarding school in Vermont for teenagers who show giftedness in different areas. Stevie is a true crime aficionado with dreams of becoming a detective. Specifically, she wants to solve the decades-old crime associated with the boarding school itself–the kidnapping of the founder’s daughter by a mysterious character named Truly Devious.
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
I tend to like memoirs, especially memoirs by professional writers and memoirs about living abroad. This book combined those genres in an engaging way. Doerr, author of the award-winning All the Light We Cannot See, wrote this book while living in Rome for a year. During that year he was working on his novel and raising young twin boys with his wife. The combination of his writing life and his parenting life interested me greatly, as did his beautiful descriptions of Rome and their time in that city.
The Kids are in Bed by Rachel Bertsche
I enjoyed this book with its reminders about the importance of taking care of ourselves as parents, prioritizing marriage, and spending time with friends. I am not always very good about setting aside time to spend with friends, so the book inspired me to plan for more time with other adults. Also, it helped me think through what counts as “leisure time” for me. What rejuvenates me?
The Nature Fix by Florence Williams
I have become more and more convinced of the importance of getting myself and my kids out into nature. The book contained a lot of very specific scientific data and studies to back this up as well as interesting descriptions of the author’s own experiences. Definitely not a “light read” because of its in-depth scientific content, but I found it fascinating.
The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert
This was my year of outdoor adventure memoirs (you’ll see more below!). I was fascinated by the true story of a husband and wife who set out on a 4,000 mile journey in the Arctic propelled only by their own strength. While rowing, rafting, canoeing, hiking, and skiing, the couple experiences the wild beauty of the north and grows together.
Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel
This excellent book describes ways to make decisions so that you don’t overthink them. My favorites: make values-based decisions (decide on your values and make decisions automatically that align with those values), limiting options (wear the same thing each day, etc.), creating rituals and routines that are automatic, and saying yes to small indulgences (flowers at the grocery store).
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
I may be the last person in the country to read Trevor Noah’s inspiring memoir detailing his childhood growing up in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa as the son of a white man and a black woman. It was a very appropriate read this summer while I, along with much of America, was thinking through issues regarding racism in my own country.
Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts
As a fourth grade teacher in Boston, I had the pleasure of teaching my students about the Revolutionary War each fall. However, the stories of the women involved were often overlooked or underappreciated. This book was filled with fascinating vignettes and letters that highlight those women: from Abigail Adams to Eliza Pickney and more.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
I listened to this as an audiobook while I was walking–probably the most appropriate way to enjoy it! I found myself laughing out loud so frequently that I feared other pedestrians might wonder what was going on! Bill Bryson tells of his experience hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail in this classic hiking memoir. It definitely inspired me to get out into nature and go hiking–and led to many more hiking memoirs on my TBR list.
Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith
Finally, to round out the adventure memoirs on my list, I enjoyed this book documenting a couple who attempts to travel to all of the National Parks in one year. It was fun to hear their experiences in each of the parks, especially the Alaskan ones. I have several new destinations on my bucket list now!
Honorable Mention: Grandma Gatewood Takes a Walk by Ben Montgomery, The Jane Austen Diet by Brian Kozlowski, The Splendor Falls by Susanna Kearsley, and Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.
What books did you enjoy this year?