My Favorite Books of 2020 (So far)

Since we’re almost officially half way through 2020, it seems like the perfect time to pause and recognize all the fantastic books I’ve read so far this year. Because let’s be honest, I might not remember them as well six months from now!

Back in January, I set my goal for the year at 120 books. This was scaling back a bit from the 180 books I finished last year. My thought was, I planned to do more writing this year and usually when I do more of one of the two, I tend to do less of the other. But since 2020 has been nothing but unpredictable, I’ve read even more than I planned to AND I’ve been writing a lot. One of the few benefits of living in quarantine is the elimination of external obligations.This led me to do a ton of reflection on what external obligations I want to allow back into my life, and how I can continue to be operating mostly on my own terms.

So far this year, I’ve finished 88 books. And while I give monthly reviews of what I’ve been reading, I’d like to break it down for you even further. Here are a few that have stood out to me.

 

General Fiction

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Free Fall by Andy Abramowitz

This is a beautiful novel about the ups and downs of real life. The writing is smart and witty. I laughed out loud, but they’re not cheap laughs. The author does an amazing job of capturing the back and forth of ever day relationships. The tone is snarky at times in a way that is true to real life- people tease each other and are sarcastic, they lie when embarrassed, they apologize, argue, and make up. I adored every single character, they were all relatable. These are people living their lives, trying to do their best and screwing up along the way, like we all do.

Godshot by Chelsea Bieker

Who doesn’t love a religious cult story?! It’s slow to start, but keep with it. This is a bleak, heavy story told with vivid, emotional writing. I could feel the dryness of the dessert and sense the fear and desperation of the characters. That’s what makes it difficult to read at times, and is a sign of skilled writing. The story follows a 14 year old girl who lives in a desert town that is run by a fanatic religious leader. It’s a story of family and faith and human nature.

Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman

If you have ever struggled with anxiety, or loved someone who has, this story will resonate with you big time, as it did for me. Judy is struggling watching her teenaged son become more and more distant. Her marriage is troubled, and she’s faced a lot of grief recently. It’s no wonder she becomes so attached to the family dog.

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

This is juicy read! It’s the story of a neighborhood of families whose lives have become quite intertwined. When news of a mom’s extramarital affair becomes public knowledge, the entire block is on edge. It’s an emotional story about families and relationships, told in a compelling style. Waxman is ridiculously great at creating characters and situations that are true to real life, she must be a keen observer of human nature.

Thrillers/Mysteries

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James

This isn’t a thriller per se. It’s a well written ghost story with a compelling mystery. The story told through two alternating timelines, Viv’s story in 1982 and her niece’s in 2017. I  couldn’t wait to see how it ended. The writing is sharp and evokes vivid scenes.This was an enjoyable read. I highly recommend it for fans of mysteries, thrillers, ghost stories, and even fans of true crime.

The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

This is a stunning thriller that will keep you engrossed from beginning to end.The chapters alternate between Joanna and Piper, two utterly different women who are fighting to be with Leo and his two children. The writing is tight and fast paced. The story moves back and forth in time seamlessly. It’s well done all around and would be a perfect beach read this summer!

Romance

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jiminez

This is the first romance novel I’ve ever given 5 Stars! I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t read The Friend Zone first, so definitely do that. It’s a wonderfully done follow up, a beautiful story of grief and healing. This was an emotional, satisfying read. The way music is tied in with the story is super cool and gives the reader another level of emotional investment.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Absolutely brilliant. This is so much more than a romance or a “beach read.” It’s about what happens when someone you love and trust implicitly betrays you. It’s about healing and starting over after such a trauma. It’s also about what it’s like to be a writer, which I loved and related to a ton. Plus it’s SO FUNNY. The writing is top notch all around, especially the humor.

The Winston Brothers Series by Penny Reid

Technically this is seven books, but I can’t recommend this series highly enough. While each book could be read as a stand alone, I wouldn’t do it. The series in order builds gradually and provides quite an emotional roller coaster ride for the reader.The writing is surprisingly complex. The books follow six brothers who live in Tennessee and the author does an incredible job of weaving different viewpoints and timelines together. While being funny and sweet books, they also tackle some heavy subjects such as organized crime, domestic violence, and mental illness. It was a joy to get lost in this world when my real one was in such turmoil.

Non-Fiction

You’re Not Listening Kate Murphy

This isn’t a book about how to be a good listener, it about why we aren’t good listeners.  I learned a ton about how I can pay attention better in conversations, and how that will improve my relationships.  The author does an amazing job of explaining all the cultural components that have created a society full of people who talk over each other, without truly listening to what others have to say. She gives scientific explanations for how we listens and take in information. It’s a unique book in that it is not only science based but also addressed social science and emotional aspects of conversation and relationships.

The Lady’s Handbook For Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

Hands down one of the most powerful and important memoirs I’ve ever read. This is the author’s story of over a decade spent trying to get help from medical professionals for chronic pain, fatigue, and a variety of other symptoms. The book is so much more than a memoir, it’s a guidebook for other women in similar situations (there are thousands of us) and a call to action for the medical community. The writing is brutally honest, poetic at times, and loaded with research.

 

The New One by Mike Birbiglia and J. Hope Stein

I thought this book may not resonate with me because I don’t have children, and I was wrong. Mike’s reluctance to have a child, and his self awareness through the process of becoming a parent is relatable sheerly on a human level. As always, his story telling is top notch. Here, even more than ever, he is totally honest, even when it might make him look like a jerk. Mike’s essays alternate with his wife’s poetry and show their drastically conflicting perspectives through this process of becoming parents.

Audiobooks

 

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Ann Fowler read by Ella Turenne    

We learn this story from an omniscient third party narrator from the neighborhood, which gives it a Desperate Housewives sort of vibe that I really enjoyed. However the drama is serious. This story is about two neighboring families, whose teenage children fall in love, a black boy and a white girl. The author explores everything about race, class, and privilege that I could imagine. The characters are extremely well developed. The story is a slow burn, the tension building gradually from the start.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow read by the author

This is the account of Farrow’s investigation into rape and other sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. But there is much more to it than you might expect. I was blown away by the way Farrow was mistreated over and over and over again. He was shut down, lied to, thrown under the bus, you name it and NBC execs did it to him in attempts to shut down this story about Weinstein and silence Farrow. Farrow’s reporting is tight, and obviously thoroughly researched.

 

Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi  read by Jason Reynolds

Such a powerful exploration of the history of racist ideas in America. The audio book made for a truly engaging experience, it’s almost rhythmic at times. I found myself unable to tear myself away from listening. I learned a lot about the racist ideas held by men we are taught to admire (Lincoln, Franklin, etc) and am viewing history through a whole new lens. I loved the way Reynolds connects the dots from the early days of slavery through Jim Crow and the Black Panther party, up to Barkak Obama and today. His language is casual yet straight forward and direct.


Have you read any of these? What are you favorites so far this year?

 

 

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