2020 was a tough year for most things, but I think many of us read more than usual. I set a goal of 75 books before quarantine, but the time at home made it possible for me to read 102 books in 2020. I already reviewed some books earlier this year. In March, I wrote a post called Books for Every Quarantine Mood. A month later, I paired books I felt went well together in A Perfect Pair. Finally, I had a summer book wrap-up in August called So Many Books...So Much Time. I only mention this because I didn't repeat the books I've already recommended throughout the year.
If you know me, you know I love Historical Fiction. It's what I write, so I'm always drawn to these types of stories. My favorite Historical Fiction book I read this year was The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street; A Novel by Susan Jane Gilman. It's not a new book -published in 2014, so I was surprised that I hadn't heard of it. And although it's the story of a Russian immigrant named Malta Treynovski who works her way from singing on the street for a penny to a millionaire business magnate, it's also the history of 20th century. The setting acts as a character who molds Malta and others into the people they become. It's about immigrants, The Great Depression, WWII, polio, and other events that shaped America. And it's about ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. If you tend to crave ice cream, know that you've been warned. This book will not curb that longing.
Science fiction has never been my favorite genre. In fact, when I taught a sci-fi unit to high schoolers, I had to tap into my acting skills to to hide my indifference toward it. However, I like a good dystopian novel, and Followers; A Novel by Megan Angelo was wonderful. Alternating between 2015 and 2051, this book shines a light on our addiction to social media and our need for validation that feeds that addiction. It’s not at all preachy, but I found myself examining the things I choose to share and why. And although the book makes you think, the story is also very compelling and well-written. If you choose to pick up this book, clear your schedule because you won’t put it down.
My favorite Christian Fiction book of the year was Where I Was Planted by Heather Norman Smith. If you’re looking for a book that will leave you with warmth in your heart, this is the one. The book opens in the spring of 1961 and Nate “Weenie” Dooley is forced to grow up quickly when his father leaves him home alone with plenty of non-perishables and the gas bill paid for month. This book will worm its way into your heart in no time. I also loved Heather Norman Smith’s first book Grace and Lavender which is loosely related to this one.
Anxious People by Fredrick Backman is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. It has the hallmarks of other Backman books like A Man Called Ove and Beartown. Things like unforgettable turns of phrase, completely over the top characters who end up being totally relatable, and stories that won’t let you rest until you know what happens next. This is a bizarre book that reminded me that everyone is going through something and though we may not know what it is, it’s important to extend grace and not be too quick to judge others.
I've talked about this book specifically in a blog post in the fall, but Wildflower Road by Janine Rosche was my favorite romance book of the year. I can't wait for Glory Falls, the third book in the series, to come out on January 12.
I was thrilled to find the Twisted Tales series by Liz Braswell, based on my favorite Disney movies. I’ve only read three, but I plan to read continue. My favorite so far is As Old as Time -probably because I’ve always loved Beauty and the Beast. I love the way this book expounds on the new information we got in the 2017 live action movie. Each of these books has a twist that changes everything. I recommend you start with your favorite movie like I did. You won’t be sorry.
I know. Christmas is over. If you’re like me, you read seasonally so you’re probably not in the mood for a Christmas book right now. I’m not either. But, now’s a good time to order a copy of A Joyful Christmas by various authors. Tuck it away with your Christmas decorations and it’ll be an early Christmas present to yourself when you open them back up again. Maybe you’ll even forget about it and be surprised. I love this book because there are six short, historical Christmas stories. It’s not as much of a commitment in a busy season and the stories are wonderful. You’ll hear from six different authors which keeps the book feeling fresh. I actually listened to this one while I was decorating my house and it was delightful.
My favorite re-read of the year was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Sometimes after a book is made into a movie (especially a great movie like this one was), I forget how much I loved the book. The movie sort of takes the book’s place in my memory, but this is an amazing book. It’s triumphant, and funny, and heartbreaking all at the same time. If you read this a long time ago, it’s worth a re-read and if you’ve never read it, pick it up right now...Seriously. I’ll wait.
Being stuck at home for much of the year was tough, but it did give me a lot of reading time. I found myself drawn to different books than years past. You’ll notice I didn’t have a suspense recommendation. Suspense, always a favorite genre of mine, is something I just couldn’t handle this year. It’s a weird time and getting back to normal isn’t something we can schedule at this time, so be kind to yourself. If you’re not feeling a book for some reason, put it down. Sometimes it’s just not the right time for a book, especially if it’s really heavy. Find the books that give you hope or make you laugh or let you escape. I hope some of these are a good fit for you. Please let us know what you read in 2020. I’m always looking for my next read.