The Best Books I Read in 2020

Sunday, December 20, 2020

It's common knowledge that 2020 sucked, so I tried my best to make it a year of growth and learning. 

With that, even pre-pandemic (remember those two cute short months where everything was same old, same old?), I made it my personal mission to try to read as much as I could. Anything and everything, and here's how I did it:

What kind of books do I like?

My book taste is not very mainstream but I didn't rule those out. With my background as a reading teacher my main requirements in a book is to make you feel something. I've been known to pick books that make my students cry. I just don't think a book is worth my time if it doesn't give you a new perspective, an appreciation for the style of writing or make you think about life in a new way. So yeah, light and fluffy is not usually my thing.  

That being said, I have a really hard time abandoning a book. Especially if it's a book someone I know or admire has said was good. Just like classic literature we were made to read in school/college, I feel like there is always something you can gain from a book looking at the whole picture. Even if it's just getting a firmer grasp on what you don't like about a book.

How I picked what I read and where I get my recommendations?

This year, any time I saw someone I liked or admired say or post about a good book, I wrote it down in a big list in my phone. After that, I checked Libby (the local library's app where you can borrow digital and audio files for free) and added as many titles as it would allow to my hold list. That way when I was done with a book and a new one became available I always had one ready to go.

Since I mostly listen to audio books, I often go to Libby as my first option. They let you filter by popularity, new releases, and audio file only. I almost exclusively get my books off Libby so I don't have to buy them and have them gathering around my house.

The weirdest thing I did though, was never read the descriptions of the books before hand. I wanted to completely be surprised and come to my own conclusions about each book. I know this is a risky move but I liked that I never knew what to expect and my list of books was so long that I never remembered who told me to read it so I couldn't get any clues from that either. 

Where I get my books?

Libby! If you don't use Libby (or Overdrive) you're missing out and probably wondering how I afforded all this. I love the library and all its free resources. Libby is my favorite part. I can put in holds for up to ten audiobooks at a time and I always have mine full. It's the best free resource. I also hate having lots of stuff in my house so I like that I can give the book right back. I'm always surprised that almost every title is available in audio book format!

How I found the time?

If Libby is the MVP, Beats By Dre Power Beats are the runner up. It was always so hard to listen to books because I have really tiny ear holes and the only pair I had that fit were eight years old and not wireless. Let's face it, wires aren't easy when you are caring for a kid and don't have pockets. Enough people told me to try the wireless Power Beats because they had the same small ear problem and I was shocked that they worked so well that I could wear at least one all the time and not even feel it. I bought them in the brightest lime green so they would be easier to find if one went missing. Worth every penny!

They are insanely easy to use, have great wireless distance, and make it so easy to squeeze in five minutes here and there around the house. I also put on one on the opposite ear that I'm laying on at night time before bed and listen to my book until I feel sleepy. It all adds up in the end.

My top reads

Know My Name – Wow! I don't even know what to say about this. Chanel Miller's story of her own sexual assault. This book needs to be required reading for all young men and women. It's powerful, break-you-open and pour-out-your-insides good. You will be changed forever.

The Fuck It Diet  The book that started the biggest change of my life. The gateway book into intuitive eating and healing your relationship with food. A light, funny approach to saying a big F you to diet culture. It opened my eyes to the answers I had been looking for since age 10 and made me wish I had found it sooner.

Anti Diet Once you read and digest The Fuck It Diet, you will want more. More science and facts on the truth about how you have been duped and sucked in by diet culture your whole life and this book will give it all to you. Everything to help you solidify in your mind that this is the answer for healing your relationship with food for the rest of your damn life!

Leave the World Behind  Fun. Smart. Weird. Has you guessing what the hell is going on pretty much all the way through to the end. You are left wondering about the fragility of our society as we know it and how silly our priorities can be when seen through a different lens.

All Adults Here  A beautifully written story of real-life family drama. So many moments of resonation for me that made me ponder my own thoughts as a wife, mother, sister and daughter.

Three Women When at first glance you may think this book is just kind of racy, the lasting impact for me was it being a story of how those almost happened, could have happened, close call events of your life can change you just as much as if they actually did happen. Sometimes more because you are left to think on them for the rest of your life with no resolution. 

Untamed  This is a very cliche choice but what can I say, Glennon Doyle is just such a powerful force as a writer. It left me wanting to be her best friend and also be as brave as her. I wish I had my own paper copy of this one because there were so many parts I wanted to highlight. Just freaking wonderful.

Love Warrior Another Glennon Doyle book.  This was written a few years before Untamed but I read it after I read Untamed. Oops. This gives the backstory to her life, journey through her tough stages of early adulthood, marriage and then motherhood and beyond. So powerful. Glennon just always knows exactly how to say something so you not only understand her, you FEEL her.  

A Life's Work – On Becoming A Mother – I call this one the Steinbeck of motherhood. Brutal, real, raw and just so so beautifully written.  I even found it laugh-out-loud funny in parts but don't think it was trying to be funny. It was like laugh because otherwise you might cry forever type stuff. 

The Need If you are a mother or just want to know how seriously effed up having a baby can make you feel, act and react, read this. It's short but whoa.

The Untethered Soul This helped me realize the root of and how to let go of my anxiety. It was like free therapy!

American Dirt This one was super controversial about its accuracy with the Oprah crowd but I didn't care because the story was gripping and was so hard to walk away from.

Worth a Read

Maybe Someday – Not my usual book pick but it was a fun little love story.

The Two Lives Of Lydia Bird –  The story of Lydia who is trying to move on and cope with the loss of her boyfriend Freddie who dies on her birthday in a car accident.

The Happy Ever After Playlist – I liked this way more than I though I would. The best light and fun read/ love story I read all year.

When Life Gives You Lululemons – Fun Chick Lit beach read. I actually liked these women's characters for the most part which usually is hard for me in this kind of book.

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen – Really great parenting book that gives lots and lots of concrete examples of what you should and should not say to kids in the 2-7 year old range.

When Breath Becomes Air – I put off reading this one for awhile because I knew if was going to break my heart but it was worth every tear. A memoir of a neurosurgeon dying of terminal cancer. 

Educated – The story of Tara Westover who overcame a chaotic, violent, isolated childhood in the mountains of Idaho.

Daisy Jones and The Six – Such a fun one to listen to as a audio book because each band member is told in a different voice. So well-done you would almost think this is a real band and a real story of the rise and fall of a famous rock group. 

The Alice Network – good storyline if you like historical fiction and girl power!

Shoe Dog – The memoir of the founder of Nike

Health at Every Size – An eye-opening science and research based look at the HAES way of life.

Drive Your Plow over The Bones of the Dead – This one will make you wonder if this lady is crazy or the most insightful old woman ever. 

Bunny Mellon – The Life of An American Style legend, Style Icon and american aristocrat. Fun glimpse into her elegant life, home and friendships. 

White Fragility – This book was in everyone's hands this year and it was full of worthwhile, self-reflective points on racial inequality.

Such A Fun Age – This captured such an important perspective in a fun and not overly heavy way.

City of Girls – Fun read! I feel like you could feel the glitz and fashion through the pages.

Oona Out of Order – Fresh, fun story of a woman and her life as she experiences the years out of order.

28 Summers – An unconventional love story with hints of the Notebook. 

Jessica Simpson's Open Book – Anyone who grew up with the Christina, Justin, Brittany and Jessica crowd as their stars will find her inside look satisfying to their inner tween.

Lady in Waiting – My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown – If you watch "The Crown," you will find all this inside dish and the life of Anne Glenconner so fascinating.

Books I found to be just Ok

Leaving Time – Wasn't expecting to learn so much about elephants but the story just didn't grip me.

The Light Between Us – Psychic medium who tells about her experiences connecting the living with the dead. 

Little Fire Everywhere – This is one instance that the mini series was better than the book. Once I saw that, I thought the book version was ok but the series was where it's at!

The Grace Year – Kind of a "Handmaids Tale" type story of repressed women.

An American Marriage – I almost gave up on this one but glad I went back to it. I think I disliked the wife character so much that it turned me off. And although it ended much how i thought it would, it was written in such a fresh way that it kept me going to the end.

The Last Mrs. Parish – Another that got a lot of recommendations. Full of of elaborate twists and turns but I think thrillers just aren't my thing.

The Proposal – Fun and easy chick lit beach read. 

Party of Two – Same author as the proposal (above) and same vibe.

The Vanishing Half – A 16 year old black girl who runs away and secretly lives her life as white. 

One To Watch – Basically "The Bachelorette" with a plus-size main character.

One By One – A thriller at a ski chalet in an avalanche.

The Guest List – I think I would have liked this one if there was even one likable character in the book and I didn't guess the ending halfway through. I did want to visit the island it was set on though. Sounded dark, moody and kind of magically spooky.

My Worst reads

Silent Patient – I thought this was so slow and the payoff wasn't worth the wait.

The Couple Next Door – Just didn't care about any of these characters.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – I must already be good at this because IDGAF!

Before We Were Yours – Just not my cup of tea although a lot of people recommended it. 

The Wife Between Us – Felt like a waste of time.

There, There – Though I did like all the stories from native communities and how they all came together somehow, something about this just made me wish it wrapped up a little quicker. It's like I could see where it was going and just wanted it to get there already.

Where The Crawdads Sing – I can't really tell you why so many people liked this.

The Escape Room – Again, thrillers are not my thing. I was wishing for this to be over as soon as it began. I kept thinking it might turn a corner but it never did.

Ali Wong – Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life – I like her and her stand-up all right, just not this book.

You Are Not Alone – This just bored me.

*Kids Book Tips

Read books you love with your kids! I know my students always liked a book more when they saw how excited I was to read it or told them about the deeper meaning or shared stories that connected to my life that came from events in the story. This right here will make a kid fall in love with a book that they might have never given a second thought to. They will remember the magic of experiencing it with you. And this right here is what gets me teary-eyed and passionate about being a teacher.

Newberry award winning books. These are for me what the classics from college are. You may not like the story or relate to the story, but they are THE BEST children's book of the year and there is always something you can appreciate from thinking about why this book might have won. It's always a good exploration into what's going on in the world in that particular year.