I struggle with a Best Books list every year, just as I refuse to choose a “favorite” book. This was a year of cognitive dissonance in reading choices. I wanted nothing more than to better understand pandemics, viruses, and politics. At the same time, I just wanted to escape. More often than not, the former won out.
As a result of those factors, I can’t pick just one 2020 favorite. In fact, I can’t even narrow it down to four or five choices. So, I have a long list for you from the books I read in 2020.
I’m restricting myself to one sentence to describe each choice and of course you can go visit the original review. Like the original year of this book blog project, I’m using my categories—Relax, Resist, Learn—as a guide.
- The Lottery and Other Stories: at the end, I just wanted to read it all over again to tease out the connections between stories
- Stillhouse Lake series: full-on, quality, absorbing escapism
- Sorcerer to the Crown: unique premise that blends historical fiction and fantasy, my favorite kind of combination
- In Pieces: a well-written Hollywood memoir with grit, heart, and minimal salacious gossip
- A Knock at Midnight: at the end I was cheering for the author and her clients
- Jubilee: my most recommended read of 2020
- The Nickel Boys: harrowing story that I learned plenty from
- Other People’s Pets: crackling good writing in a feel-good family and self-realization story
- Gun Island: so amazing that I’m planning to read two more of his books in 2021
- Know My Name: honest sexual assault survivor story that’s a must read for everyone
- Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators: a persistent journalist brings down a well-protected group of privileged men
- How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them: every day that passes makes this a more important book to understand since these ideas aren’t going away anytime soon
- A Promised Land: start this book for the personal insights, but stay for the historical and political analysis
- Separated: Inside an American Tragedy: an up-and-coming journalist lays out the whole, sordid affair in one place so we can keep fighting for these refugee kids and their families
- Stakes is High: Life After the American Dream: essays are so spot on and relevant to current events as to be fully prescient
- What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City: you will cheer for this pediatrician who helped break the Flint, MI water crisis wide open
- And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic: a backlist choice that parallels many events of our current pandemic (including the political aspects) but is also completely different
- Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary: read this if your primary political campaign issue is health care
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants: worth re-reading every year while working in my garden
- When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times: I read no other more necessary 2020 book than this one
Without intentionally trying to, I’ve chosen 20 books. That’s a fitting end to a year we all wanted to intensely to leave in the rearview mirror. Cheers to reading great books in 2021!
p.s. If you’re looking for a list of “best of” lists from 2020, check this one out on LitHub.