Thursday, January 7, 2021

Best Books of 2020

Wow. What a week. I'm struggling to come up with worlds to describe how I feel about what went down at the Capitol on Wednesday - but surprised is not one of them given the rhetoric of Donald Trump. I'm just glad there will be a transfer of power in the near future. It won't magically solve the issues in our country but it's a huge step in the right direction.

Now back to the topic at hand - reading! 2020 was an amazing reading year! I know some had trouble concentrating on reading in the midst of the pandemic but I read more than ever and finished 107 books, beating out my 2019 reading by 2 books. When I went through my list of books to pick my favorites, I didn't have a number of books in mind for my best of list - so I ended up with an odd number of 11. I didn't want to pare it back or find a 12th book so 11 it is!


One consequence of the pandemic was that I read less non-fiction than years past as I craved more lighter/happier books to offset the heaviness of life. So only 2 non-fiction books made my "best of" list. Both are excellent. Know My Name is the memoir of a sexual assault victim - our book club read this and everyone thought it was excellent. It's a great examination of how we treat victims. So You Want to Talk About Race is the best racial justice book that I read in 2020. Each chapter delves into a common argument when discussing racial justice. The author weaves in her personal experience and helps the reader discuss controversial topics. This is a book that I would like to re-read as there is a lot to absorb/take in.

Lighter Reads

I read and enjoyed a lot of lighter reads, especially romances, but these are my top lighter reads. The School of Essential Ingredients is about a cooking class that meets at a restaurant once a week. In each chapter, we meet a different class participant and get to know their back story. It was a delightful read. Party of Two is the last book in Jasmine Guillory's romance series - I read all of them during 2020 so that whole series goes on my "best of" list. You don't need to read them in order but I think it's best if you do as characters from previous books make cameos in future books. The Boston Girl isn't necessarily super light but it's not literary fiction so I felt like it fit better in this category. It's an oral history of the protagonist's life when she was growing up in Boston. It was a super fast read so if you need a page turner, check out this book!

Literary Fiction

Literary fiction is my favorite genre so it's no surprise that 6 ended up on my "best of" list! If You Want to Make God Laugh is written by a South African author and takes place in post-Apartheid South Africa. It deals with poverty, class, and race and has 3 narrators - 2 white sisters and a black woman. I love multiple-narrators books and this one was very well done. This Tender Land is by a Minnesota author and takes place mostly in northern MN. It's about 3 orphans who escape an orphanage to seek out a better life. It's so good! Such a Fun Age is an excellent examination of race and class. It looks at the dynamic between a wealthy white woman and her Black nanny. The Dearly Beloved features 2 couples. The husbands are pastors at a church in NYC. It looks at what happens when 2 people in a relationship have different levels of faith. Rodham imagines what would have happened if Hillary declined Bill Clinton's proposal. I had to keep reminding myself this wasn't a memoir and was fiction! Lastly, The Vanishing Half is the amazing sophomore novel from Brit Bennett. I will read anything this woman writes! It's about 2 twin sisters who are lighter skinned Black women. One passes as white, the other retains her Black identity.

And there you have it! William is screaming so it's time for me to wrap this up! What were your best reads of 2020? Did anything on this list catch you eye?


  1. Lots of good titles here, Lisa. My list gets longer every day!

  2. Lots of my favorites on here, too! I've been meaning to get around to Know My Name, but I need to be in the right headspace for it. I think I'm going to listen to it on audio because I love Chanel Miller's voice!

  3. There are only a couple on your list that I have not read! I actually had So You Want to Talk About Race checked out on both audio and ebook at some point this year but was more in the mood for something a little bit lighter and never got to it. But I will keep it at the top of my queue for when I have time to actually digest it more! Know my Name was disturbing, but was an excellent read.

    You already know what my favorite books were this year, and as you can see, we had a few in common! I have put the Guillory books and If You Want to Make God Laugh on my TBR for when I need a lighter option! I actually read more non-fiction/memoirs this year than I have in years past, although most of them were read as audiobooks, which I find is a better method for me for heavier stuff. Although I am sure I sometimes gloss over certain things if I am not paying 100% attention (for example I listen to them a lot while running or driving).

  4. I definitely want to read Know My Name and So You Want to Talk About Race. I am a slow reader and consider it a win to read 2 books a month. The best books I read this year are Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Long, Bright River by Liz Moore, Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby, and Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin.

  5. My favorite non-fiction was Solve for Happy, and I think my favorite fictions were either The Bear and the Nightingale books (mentioned in my last comment too!) or reading the first Louise Penny book this fall, Still Life. I spent several crisp fall nights reading it alone out in the hot tub after dark, so I'm not sure if I actually loved the book that much, or if it was the experience of reading the fall themed book outside on those crisp fall nights that I adored?? Haha! But I'm definitely planning to read more of her books. :) I also read a very good historical fiction called The Ninth Hour early in 2020 that I loved as well. I'm hoping to REALLY read a lot this year!! (for me- relatively speaking!) I want to make it an even bigger feels hard right now to fit it in with work and exercise and blogging and life and all. I do also love Netflix time with my husband at night too.... Maybe I should blog less and read some mornings instead?? Hmmm. Haha! I love both though!

  6. I read a few books on racism and I agree that "so you want to talk about race?" was my favorite.

  7. Oooh, these all sound good! I have the longest list of "books to read" and it keeps growing. I am so impressed you read so many this year!! I am currently reading "The Year of Living Danishly" and it is great so far. I have learned to embrace winter this year (It helps that it has been really nice) but I hope this book gives me ideas for even more ways to embrace winter and feel cozy. I had a lot of favourite reads in 2020, but Spark is the one coming to mind right now. It's about the impact of exercise on our brains - amazing!

  8. This Tender land looks good! I want to read Rodham and The Vanishing Half. I think I have a hold on it. My library account got locked because they lost one of my books taht I ddi return and then did find it. but then i couldnt renew some books and well lets just say i am a naughty library user right now who has some books that need to be returned before i can pick up more! I think you would really enjoy Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, it compares how black people are treated in the United States with how the Indian Caste System is set up. I am planning on trying to read The Color of Law this year, which may interest you as well. Some of my favorite books read last year were Mrs. Everything, Caste, The Parker Inhertiance, The Remarkable Life of Coyote Sunrise, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, and The Giver of Stars.

  9. I have no words for a week ago Wednesday... I just can't at this point. I'm exhausted from the last four years and I know it won't be "over" anytime soon. Thank you for posting about it, though, and speaking the truth.

    So many good books on your list - I am finally working my way through Jasmine Guillory's books (loving them so far!). And, given your recommendation for "So you want to talk about race" and the recommendations of many others, that book has jumped to the front of my nonfiction line. I need a break from Stamped right now, and it sounds like that will be what I need to get myself moving again!

  10. I just finished The Vanishing Half and I can see why it made so many best of lists. The first 20% or so was slow for me but then I was a completely immersed in it!

    I actually haven't read THAT many books on your list and only three of the literary fiction ones which is also my favourite genre so I will be adding a few of those to my To Read list and library holds request!