Looking for a book that you just won’t be able to put down? Today I’m sharing the 20 best books I read in 2020. Bookmark this list and be sure to check out all the previous best books of the year lists that we linked to below.
Every year I make a goal to read 100 books and share them with you. Unfortunately, 2020 was not my year (or anyone else’s) and I was only able to get 83 in this year.
I’ll still give myself a pat on the back, even though it wasn’t where I had hoped to be.
Between volunteer opportunities, temporary vision loss, pandemic parenting, and a million other challenges..it ended up leaving very little space for reading.
I welcome a fresh year, a fresh page, and another opportunity to hit my goals in 2021.
I promise, I am already off to the races this year and will have so much more in store for you next year!
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Today I’d love to share with you the best books I read in 2020!
The Best Books of 2020
Longtime readers know that I am am an absolute sucker for a good time travel book and this year’s biggest hit was this gorgeous time travel story, from V.E. Schwab.
I started this one morning and found myself reading until the wee hours of the morning as I followed Addie’s adventures and this cleverly developed love story.
In 1714, a woman strikes a deal with a dark god to get her out of a promised marriage to a man that she does not love.
She is given immortality, but she is always forgotten.
She can end her immortal life, at any time, by surrendering her soul to the dark god- a compromise she isn’t willing to make.
This takes you through 1714 all the way to 2014 and hops around through Addie’s scrappy life of survival as she tries to navigate life where she is always forgotten.
When she meets a boy that really can remember her though, she finds just the peace she has always been desiring in her immortal life.
This is the kind of book that you can get swept away in and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with you in our 2021 book club next year. (full review here)
Some people turn away from books about pandemics to cope and then there are people like me who find comfort in reading the pandemic stories of past.
This book really brought me a lot of comfort to know that we had so many parallels and how people managed to get through it.
The only disheartening part was just how little we seemed to have learned and how history seems to repeat itself in the most crazy ways.
This historical fiction novel, set in 1918, shares a hauntingly beautiful story of one family’s fight for survival during the Spanish Flu.
Telling this story, through the point of view of a family that owns a funeral home, really illustrates how destructive the pandemic was and what type of emotional toll it would take on them.
At times this story felt eerie in its similarities. The bravery that is shown by this family through this trying time ended up being a really incredible page-turner and was one of the most beautiful historical fiction novels I’ve read. (full review here)
If I was going to pick a book that really stuck with me this year, this would be the one.
I listened to this one on audiobook and, if you can go that route, I would recommend this format because it was phenomenally narrated. It is a compassionate examination of one man’s homecoming during the AIDS epidemic and the reaction by his town and family to his return.
Brian has been living a full life, in New York, but his days are now numbered. Diagnosed with AIDS, he now has to return to his hometown, in Appalachia where he had to hide who he was.
Set in the ’80’s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, there is so much fear with this disease and Brian is finding very few are welcoming.
Living his life out loud also has fractured and strained his family, but this is the only place he has to go.
This haunting story is told in shifting viewpoints and each of them add their own element of process towards acceptance and understanding of Brian’s life.
From the opening sentence, I was moved by this thoughtful novel that addresses the cruelty of this era, the misunderstanding that comes with living in a small town, and the hope that one can change their viewpoints and come to welcome their family members again.
I haven’t been moved by a story like this in a long time and just can’t get over the brilliant storytelling that Sickels achieved with this debut. In light of its beauty, this is on our MomAdvice Book Club agenda for January. (full review here)
It is rare that I finish a book and try to hunt down the author to send a thank you, but that’s what happened after I read this incredible memoir.
I can admit that I usually gravitate towards memoirs of celebrities and well-recognized names, but I stumbled on this book and was intrigued about the premise and about Brodeur’s life story.
This coming-of-age memoir shares about Adrienne’s unbelievable involvement in her mother’s love affair with a good family friend.
Not only does she become her mother’s most trusted confident, but she also uses her daughter to help her schedule the repeated secret rendezvous with him.
The dysfunction is on full display and, yet, a daughter can’t help but be thankful to bask in her mother’s glow as she pulls her further and further in with her.
If you have a challenging relationship with your mother, this might be a difficult one to read.
That said, Adrienne’s lessons learned through this experience contain so much wisdom, as she begins processing the actions of her narcissistic mother. (full review here)
This is one of those books that I just knew that I would fall in love with, especially after hearing all the rave reviews from our book club members.
Sam Hill is born with a rare condition called ocular albinism and becomes the subject of ridicule, at his Catholic school, and his classmates refer to him as the, “Devil Boy.” Although his last name is Hill, the bullies at school refer to him as, “Sam Hell,” instead.
Despite his differences, his mother believes that this is God’s will and that this difference is what makes Sam so extraordinary.
She will stop at nothing to help Sam pave his path and it is, honestly, one of the most beautiful mother and son stories that I’ve ever read.
Dugoni masterfully pulls in Sam’s adult perspective too that adds a really great reflective bonus to this story.
It is unlike anything else he’s written and will be a book that I will long remember. (full review here)
This story is quite brutal and comes with numerous trigger warnings so please go into reading this with that in mind. The chapters alternate between the years of 2000 and 2017, examining Vanessa’s complicated abusive relationship with her forty-two-year-old English teacher, when she is just fifteen.
Seventeen years later, the #metoo movement is happening and allegations begin to fly that this teacher hasn’t just abused her, but many other girls. Vanessa had felt special and chosen, believing that she is in a real relationship with this man that has carried into her adult years. It is the processing of this relationship that Russell writes so beautifully and with a raw intensity that can make it agonizing to read.
It is important to know that this does not glamorize pedophilia, but showcases the confusion of an adolescent who has never experienced a truly loving relationship. It’s a journey that, as brutal as it was, ended up being a journey worth taking. (full review here)
Books about the Holocaust always teach me something new and this book was no exception.
This gorgeous historical fiction novel explores the friendship between two girls and the nation’s abrupt swing into fascism. When two Berlin teenagers, Ilse & Renate both decide to join Hitler’s Youth Army together they are stunned to find out that one of them does not qualify because she is not of the, “purest race.”
These inseparable girls find that the race law not only shatters their friendship, but also leads to a shocking betrayal that has devastating consequences.
Given how crazy politics have gotten, I think this ended up being a timely read about how we show up for others in our lives and what side of history we want to be on. It was so good, in fact, that you will find it is also a MomAdvice Book Club selection. (full review here)
If there was one genre that I gobbled up in 2020, it was thrillers. I can admit that it takes a lot for a thriller to stick with me because many of them follow such similar formulas.
Goldin’s novel struck a completely different note and gave me so much to think about especially as I tend to be a bit obsessed with true crime stories.
Rachel Krall runs a true-crime podcast, very similar to Serial, where she explores a case each season to help rectify injustices that may have occurred. This makes her a target of fandom, but also a target of frustration, for those who may be involved in these cases.
In the new season, Rachel is investigating a rape trial, where an Olympic-hopeful athlete has been accused of committing this crime. The family is well-known, wealthy, and connected in the town so he has the best people involved to represent him.
As Rachel settles into this town, for her investigation, she begins to receive letters from a woman who is begging her to reopen an investigation into the death of her sister.
As these cases share many parallels, Rachel learns more about the dark side of this town and the people in it.
Goldin does an incredible job building out sympathy for these women, in each case, and exploring really important themes about these #metoo stories and how wealth and power allow men to not be punished for their crimes. It’s a really thoughtful book that I enjoyed from start to finish. (full review here)
I adore a quirky tale and this book was one of the most unique and hilarious books that I’ve ever read.
The premise of this novel is that a zombie apocalypse has occurred and it is told through the perspective of their pets and other animals that are observing this bonkers behavior.
In fact, the main perspective we get is from a crow.
It sounds bizarre, but it was one of the most unique reading experiences that I’ve had in a long time.
I could not stop laughing and highlighting and laughing and highlighting. I sat on the couch and read passages out loud to my husband and kids who, fortunately (unfortunately) have the same twisted sense of humor as me.
It’s so rare to belly laugh through a book and I couldn’t have appreciated the escape more this year. All the stars for the unique perspective and the author’s notes at the end really brought home her love for animals and unique perspective on the world of crows. (full review here)
I am stunned that more people are not talking about this incredible novel this year. With vivid storytelling, that is written so beautifully that it reads like a classic, it should be at the top of your book stack this year. This Southern historical fiction novel, spans generations of women, before and after the war.
The story is of three women- May Belle (a midwife and healer in their community), Rue (who discovers she has some of her mother’s gifts for healing), and Varina (the master’s daughter). Being the town healers means that May Belle & Rue know many of the secrets, both of the slaves and their owners. Knowing this information has life-altering consequences, especially when it comes to their unforgiving master.
Afia Atakora’s historical novel moves forward and backward in time in episodes labeled Slaverytime, Wartime, Freedomtime, or the Ravaging. While shifting timelines can feel confusing, in the beginning, you soon start to fall into the rhythm and crave each section in this phenomenal book.
The writing is masterful, evocative, and beautifully researched. I just know you will fall in love with this one from the first page. (full review here)
Ten Honorable Mentions for 2020
It is always hard to narrow my list down to just ten! Here are ten others that hit all the right notes for me this year and deserve to be in your reading stack!
Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past ten years!!
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