My favorite books of 2020

My favorite books of 2020

What I’m about to say will surprise exactly no one: 2020 was an unusual reading year for me. I read stacks and stacks of wonderful books, and yet I read very differently than I have in previous years.

When the year began, I was preparing to release a book of my own, and getting ready to head out on book tour—where I’ve learned that, weirdly, I don’t have time to do much reading. Well, Don’t Overthink It came out on March 3, and we all know what happened next.

On top of the pandemic, my dad became critically ill this year and died late summer, and while the effects on my reading life were far from the most significant, they were immediate and obvious.

In 2019 I read just over 200 books. 2020 isn’t over yet, but I’m dangerously close to 300. That’s not a number I’m proud of; it’s too high, and that’s because I read and read and read as a coping mechanism this summer. You won’t see these books listed below, but honorable mentions and a big piece of my heart go to Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series, Susannah Nix’s Remedial Rocket Science series, and Kate Clayborn’s Beginner’s Luck series for providing a pleasant much-needed distraction this year. Series like these are also a big factor in my annual tally: it was easy for me to read one of these books in a day, and then immediately begin the next in line.

Choosing favorites is always terribly difficult, but with so many titles to choose from, it was especially difficult this year. Instead of forcing myself to narrow it down, I decided to go big. Below, you’ll see:

• 13 favorite novels
• 10 favorite nonfiction books
• 7 favorite re-reads
• and that doesn’t even include audiobooks, which I’ll post tomorrow. (Yes, this was absolutely a sneaky way for me to sneak in more favorites!)

For this year’s favorites list, I prioritized books with staying power and emotional resonance; ones that were well-written, that I enjoyed reading, and that I found myself returning to in my mind—even long after I finished the book.

I track my titles in my reading journal, and put a simple little star by especially noteworthy titles. Despite my best efforts at record-keeping, I’m probably forgetting a favorite here, because I always do. 

I would love to hear your favorite books of the year in the comments section. And if you’d like to find and enjoy more books you truly love in the year to come, make sure you join us for our 2021 Reading Challenge: our #1 goal is to get you reading more great books that are just right for you. We’ll post that on the blog next week and talk about it more in January.

All books featured here were chosen because I loooove them. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. More info here.

My favorite novels of 2020

I read so many wonderful novels this year that even narrowing down my list to this hefty baker’s dozen was hard!

Olive, Again

Olive, Again

I've been meaning to read this and Olive Kitteredge for years, and it was a joy to read them both practically back-to-back in February. Retired schoolteacher Olive is not keen about the way her small Maine town is changing. Through a series of interconnected short stories, we get to know Olive's family and some of the townspeople as they each grapple with their respective problems. I enjoyed this follow-up even more than the Pulitzer-winning original. Strout has a genius for capturing profound emotions in everyday moments, which made this collection by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. More info →
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Gold: A Novel

Gold: A Novel

Author:
I actually read this in the last days of 2019, but since I read it after I shared my favorite books of 2019 I'm including it here. When my husband, Will, came on on What Should I Read Next, he named this as his favorite book possibly ever—and so I made it a winter break priority. I LOVED it and read it in two days. The story centers around two velodrome cyclists who are best friends and arch-rivals, training under the same coach for their last remaining shot at the London Olympics, while respectively navigating personal crises and the life-threatening sickness of a child (note that content warning, please). I was riveted as Cleave set out the complicated history between the two women and kept raising the stakes in the present. The story is told from multiple points of view to great effect; the coach's point of view made the book for me. More info →
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The Jane Austen Society

The Jane Austen Society

Author:
This charming debut was a 2020 Minimalist Summer Reading Guide selection as well as one of our picks for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. Jane Austen lived out her last days in the sleepy village of Chawton, and in the days just after World War II, her legacy still looms large. Times are hard, and we meet several villagers burdened with their own private sorrows, who are doing what they’ve always done: turning to the works of Austen for solace. When a local business attempts to buy the Austen property and raze her cottage, the villagers band together to preserve her legacy. At one point, a character muses that Austen’s works present “a world so a part of our own, yet so separate, that entering it is like some kind of tonic.” The same can be said of Jenner’s wonderful book. Audiophile alert: Richard Armitage reads the audiobook, and his narration is predictably outstanding. More info →
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The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Author:
Another 2020 Minimalist Summer Reading Guide selection. I've been waiting for a follow-up to Bennett's smashing debut The Mothers for years, and this historical novel was worth the wait. Identical twins Desiree and Stella grew up in a town so small it doesn't appear on maps. They're closer than close, so Desiree is shocked when Stella vanishes one night after deciding to sacrifice her past—and her relationship with her family—in order to marry a white man, who doesn't know she's black. Desiree never expects to see her sister again. The twins grow up, make lives for themselves, and raise daughters—and it's those daughters who bring the sisters together again. It's a reunion Stella both longs for and fears, because she can't reveal the truth without admitting her whole life is a lie. Bennett expertly weaves themes of family, race, identity, and belonging into one juicy, unputdownable novel spanning five turbulent decades. More info →
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The City We Became: A Novel

The City We Became: A Novel

Author:
Yet another 2020 Minimalist Summer Reading Guide selection! That's no coincidence; I pack that short list with books I LOVE. I've enjoyed Jemisin's work in the past, but her new urban fantasy—the first in a planned trilogy—nevertheless took me by surprise. Every city has a soul, and the great cities of civilization—like Rome, Athens, São Paolo—finally reach a point when they come to life. Now it’s New York’s time to be born, but the city itself is too weakened by a gruesome attack to complete the process. If New York is to live, five people—or, more precisely, five avatars, one for each of the city’s boroughs—must rise up and unite to evade, and then destroy, the creeping tentacles of their opponent, the amorphous power personified by the Woman in White. Jemisin layers her fantasy upon a deeply realistic modern-day New York. A wild and wonderful ride, fantastically inventive and imaginative. More info →
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Beach Read

Beach Read

Author:
I enjoyed this book so much I read it twice! That cover is perfection, but it's also confused a lot of readers: take note that appearances aside, this is no rom-com. January is a 29-year-old romance writer who no longer believes in happily-ever-after. Demoralized and broke, she moves into the beach house she inherited when her father died, hoping to lick her wounds and finish her current manuscript. But then, in a cruel twist of fate, she discovers her neighbor is the beloved literary fiction writer Augustus Everett, her college rival (and crush), whom she hoped never to see again. But it turns out Gus has troubles of his own, and so the two make a bet to get their writing back on track: January will try her hand at the “bleak literary fiction” that Gus writes, and Gus will write a romance novel. A warm and delightfully meta take on love, writing, and second chances. More info →
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Passing

Passing

Author:
I read this for the first time this year, and it was not at all what I expected. Written in 1929, set during the Jazz Age in Harlem, this is the story of two childhood friends who reconnect after choosing very different paths. Both women are Black and light-skinned. Clare has chosen to pass for white, and is even married to a white man who knows nothing of her heritage or history. Irene is married to a successful African-American physician. As the women spend more time together, Irene's life starts looking better and better to Clare ... and what unfolds is a battle of wits in a story akin to a psychological thriller. The story feels so fresh and unexpected, I couldn't believe it was written nearly a hundred years ago. What a page-turner! More info →
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Upright Women Wanted

Upright Women Wanted

Author:
A reading friend passed this my way, describing it as a tale of "outlaw librarian lesbian spies." This genre-bending novella is a little bit fantasy, a little bit dystopia, with a neo-Western vibe. It starts with a woman on the run, fleeing a bad marriage and the law after her partner was hanged for possessing Unapproved Materials that were not government-sanctioned. She takes shelter with a band of traveling librarians—and quickly discovers that these librarians are insurrectionists against the state. I loved how this book was constantly surprising in every way. Gailey made me laugh on every page, even as their characters shoot up gangsters in their quest to dismantle the patriarchy and right society's wrongs. I proceeded to read nearly all their works over the course of the year. Magic for Liars is a close second favorite work of theirs, but I chose Upright Women Wanted for the surprise-and-delight factor. More info →
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Shiner

Shiner

Author:
"Making good moonshine isn't that different from telling a good story, and no one tells a story like a woman." So begins this new literary novel, out in May, that deserves more attention than it's received thus far. Wren lives in the Appalachian Mountains with her family: her snake-handler father, who scares and enraptures the town with his preaching, and her mother, who only ever wanted to get off the mountain with her best friend Ivy, but whose parents made her marry. When Ivy stumbles into the fire and Wren's father performs a "miraculous healing," it sets in motion a chain of events that has devastating consequences for all. Gorgeous, lush, and beautifully sympathetic, I read this in one sitting. Recommended reading for fans of Jayber Crow—the similarities between the two books run deep, though they're not immediately apparent. More info →
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Hamnet

Hamnet

I adore Maggie O'Farrell; her 2016 novel This Must Be the Place is one of my all-time favorites. In her sweeping new novel, she takes a few historically known facts about Shakespeare’s wife and family and, from this spare skeleton, builds out a lush, vivid world. You should know this book is devastating, and I consumed the better part of a box of Kleenex while reading it. Yet with its captivating central character and evocative storytelling, I didn’t want to leave Shakespeare’s world—or put down O’Farrell’s writing. The story centers on Agnes, Shakespeare’s wife, who is torn apart by grief when their son Hamnet dies at age 11. Soon after, Shakespeare writes Hamlet—and O’Farrell convincingly posits that the two events are closely tied. In her distinctive style, O’FarrellI takes you to the heart of what really matters in life, making you feel such a deep sense of loss for Hamnet that you won’t look at your own life the same way. More info →
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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Author:
I read and enjoyed my advance review copy ages ago, and I'm so glad it's finally here and landing with readers! The story begins in France, 1714: a girl is running for her life. She's been warned to never pray to the gods that answer after dark, but she's desperate to escape an unwanted marriage—and so makes a deal with the devil. In doing so, she gains immortality—but only slowly does she realize that she's given up the possibility that anyone will remember her, ever. Not her legacy, her existence, or even her name. Over the next 300 years, she learns to work within the confines of her curse, moving through a world where she cannot leave a mark. Until one day, in a Manhattan bookstore (it's called The Last Word, and boasts a bookstore cat named Book), she encounters a beat-up copy of Homer's Odyssey and a man who offers her the kind of hope she hasn’t felt for 300 years. An imaginative, absorbing, genre-busting read. More info →
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Into the Drowning Deep

Into the Drowning Deep

Author:
You may notice that a book that takes me by surprise is likely to end up as a year-end favorite—and this one sure did. As a confirmed scaredy-cat I was afraid to pick up this sci-fi/horror novel, but a couple of readers I trust told me I could probably handle it. They were right. Here's the deal: Mermaids are real, but they are not like Ariel. Some researchers believe this with their whole heart and have made studying these mermaids, or sirens, their life's work. Others are deeply skeptical, but regardless what camp they're in, a huge swath of the scientific community isabout to set sail on another voyage to the Mariana Trench, a follow-up to a voyage seven years earlier ended in tragedy with everyone on board lost at sea. No one is exactly sure why; skeptics called the whole thing a hoax. Both the siren skeptics and the true believers are about to discover mermaids are very real—and it will be a miracle if anyone gets out of there alive. More info →
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Sweet Sorrow

Sweet Sorrow

Author:
I was utterly absorbed by this wistful novel about first love, coming of age, and Shakespeare, from the author of One Day. 16-year-old Charlie Lewis doesn’t have much to look forward to. He’s struggling in school, his family’s fallen apart, he’s caring for his depressed father, and he can’t see beyond what seems like an endless summer. But then one day he’s out for a bike ride and literally stumbles into a beautiful girl and a local theater production of Romeo and Juliet. When Charlie asks the girl to coffee she gives him an ultimatum: he has to join the production. Charlie doesn’t see himself as “one of those theater kids,” but he can’t say no to Fran—and this decision changes his whole world. Perceptive, bittersweet, and stirring. More info →
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My favorite nonfiction reads of 2020

Last year I only chose two nonfiction selections for my favorites list. This year is markedly different, as you’ll see below.

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris

Author:
I do love a good food memoir, and food writing of all sorts has been comfort reading for me this year. Ann Mah’s delectable memoir is a rich account of culinary—and expat—life in Paris, City of Light and city of her dreams, where she sinks in for three glorious years when her diplomat husband is stationed there … that is, before he gets reassigned to Iraq, alone, stranding her in an unknown city. I was cheering her on as she tentatively explored the city, dabbled in its cuisine, and began to build her own community far from home. We had such fun reading this together in the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club (and chatting with the author, just last night!). More info →
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Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity

Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity

My husband Will surprised me with a new urban planning book for Christmas, and I enjoyed reading this over our holiday break last year. The author, a Minnesotan who's been an urban planner for several decades, argues that our cities are on the verge of a long, slow decline, and that any solution needs to begin with a bottom-up approach. Marohn pushes for change beginning at the most local level—not by implementing billion-dollar regional plans, but instead carrying out whatever the "next smallest thing" is that can improve our community. I enjoyed it, but wouldn't have called it "best of the year" back when I read it. But I've thought and talked about it SO MUCH this year that it deserves the honor. More info →
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Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) story

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) story

Author:
In this unusual memoir, "matrilinear love story," Bess Kalb tells the story of her grandmother Bobby Bell's life, and their special relationship, in her deceased grandmother's voice. (On the second page of the book Bobby, speaking from her own funeral, is telling the readers, "It's a terrible thing to be dead.") I enjoyed this story so much: Bobby is spry and spunky, fiercely opinionated, a force of nature—and firmly invested in (or committed to meddling in, depending on how Bess is feeling at the moment) her granddaughter's life. Bobby's fierce and sometimes persnickety devotion to Bess shines on every page, from Bess's birth to Bobby's dying days at age 90. For most of Bess's life, the two spoke on the phone every day, and my favorite parts of the book were these phone conversations. More info →
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Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

I loved The Warmth of Other Suns and my only regret was how long I waited before picking it up. I resolved not to make the same mistake with Wilkerson's new book Caste, in which she explores how America has been shaped by a hidden caste system. She links the caste systems of the United States, India, and Nazi Germany in a story-driven deep dive into history, class, and race. The subject matter may make this sound like homework, but Wilkerson gracefully pokes the holes in the history you thought you knew, interlacing personal stories with tales from decades and centuries past, wrapping it all in absorbing prose that makes it darn near impossible to stop reading. More info →
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This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking

This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking

Author:
Like many cooking enthusiasts, we met Vivian Howard through her Netflix series A Chef’s Life, “a show about people, place, tradition and family told through the lens of food.” Howard's newest cookbook, filled with simple recipes that highlight the way she actually cooks at home every night, as opposed to at her fancy award-winning restaurant, caught my eye at the local bookstore. She’s insistent that she will CHANGE THE WAY YOU COOK. I was intrigued! So I brought it home, read it cover to cover, and immediately started messing around in the kitchen, with great success (so far). I've loved the recipes I've tried so far, but the thing that really makes a cookbook for me is the stories, and this book has oodles of good ones. More info →
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She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs

She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs

Author:
This is the book I didn't know I needed in my life! In a hard season, reading about Dolly's life, both personal and professional, was an unexpected grace. With history, biography, and close-reading of Parton’s famous songs, Smarsh weaves a tale of female empowerment, brilliant songwriting, and the importance of self-expression. I always love to hear the behind-the-scenes stories of my favorite artists, and this one delivered on that count, as expected. But I was unprepared for the poignancy of reading Dolly's story against the backdrop of our current cultural climate. Thank you, Sarah Smarsh, and thank you, Dolly Parton. This book is a joy. More info →
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Eat a Peach: A Memoir

Eat a Peach: A Memoir

Author:
Food memoir is one of my favorite nonfiction subgenres, and I loved this inside look at the Momofuku empire and Chang’s life story. Raised by his Korean immigrant parents in Virginia, Chang struggled with loneliness and isolation. When he couldn’t find a job after graduating college, he convinced his father to loan him restaurant start-up money. The result: Momofuku’s famous comfort food staples like ramen bowls and simple pork buns. While his career and business took off, Chang struggled with mental illness and self-confidence. With candor and humility, he shares both his struggles and successes in this intimate and unconventional memoir. More info →
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Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation

File under: books I can’t stop talking about. I’m just a touch old to fall under Petersen’s definition of the millennial generation, yet I found myself nodding along to every chapter as Petersen explained how my and my peers’ personal life experience slot neatly into cultural and economic trends. Her biggest topics are our childhoods, our college experience and the implicit (and explicit) promises it had for our future, and why work is so awful for so many these days—all set against the backdrop of the economic realities of the last 40 years in the United States. I closed this book feeling understood, and like I better understand the world I’m living in. Petersen notes that she completed her final edits on this book while COVID-19 was just beginning her spread, and I appreciated her thoughts on how the pandemic subtly shifts the lens through which readers will engage with the ideas presented here. More info →
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The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

Author:
Unlike so much of my reading, I read this book with a specific purpose in mind (and brace yourself, it's probably going to sound like a boring one): when I asked a handful of friends to share tips for running better meetings, an uncanny number recommended this book. Parker doesn't take her subject lightly: she believes that it is the way a group gathers that determines what happens there and how successful it will be, and that the little design choices the organizer makes can make or break it. As someone who tends to be interested in the behind the scenes of any endeavor, I was fascinated by her insights into why some gatherings work—and others don't. With chapter titles like "Don't Be a Chill Host" and "Never Start a Funeral with Logistics," Parker pushes her readers to think differently about why and how they gather. Helpful and thought-provoking. More info →
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Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Author:
I read a portion of this book ages ago, and it was a joy to read it in its entirety this year. This utterly delightful graphic memoir the story of Knisley's coming of age in the kitchen, surrounded by good food and people who love it, and love her. I don't read many graphic memoirs, but this one feels as though it was tailor-made for me, combining so many elements I love: a family story, cooking and craft, New York City, finding your way, and good food. Because we've visited some of the places that appear in the book, my whole family enjoyed passing this around the dining room table, enjoying the stories together. More info →
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My favorite re-reads of 2020

I’m a committed re-reader, and this year I revisited quite a few books I’d previously read and loved. I love to revisit books I enjoyed on my own time. As you’ll see, another common pattern is that I’ll read a book once on my own, and then again to prepare for an event, like an author chat for the MMD Book Club. These were my favorites.

Silver Sparrow

Silver Sparrow

Author:
Opening line: "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." In her third novel, Jones writes about the link between two African-American half sisters, one legitimate and one secret, only one of whom knows the other exists. That is, until the secret of their father's second marriage starts to force its way into the open. Rather than writing back-and-forth between two perspectives, the reader encounters almost all of one sister's point of view in the first half, followed by the other's. The result is an absorbing coming-of-age narrative wrapped in a complicated family novel. I already loved this book, but when we discussed it with author Tayari Jones last month in the MMD Book Club my appreciation and enjoyment skyrocketed, as so often happens—I love to peel back all the layers of a good book. More info →
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The Stationery Shop

The Stationery Shop

Author:
I first listened to this on audio (Mozhan Marno's narration is exceptional), and then read this together with the MMD Book Club last January. We so enjoyed chatting with Kamali about her work! In 1953 Tehran, a young man failed to meet his betrothed in a Tehran square. Sixty years later and half a world away, the woman, now grown old, is about to discover why. This sweeping love story spans 60 years and two continents, taking the reader between contemporary New England and 1953 Tehran, thoroughly immersing the reader in the volatile political climate of 1950s Iran. More info →
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This Tender Land: A Novel

This Tender Land: A Novel

The first time I read this on audio (narrated by Scott Brick), and then I picked up a hardcover copy, to more thoroughly examine the strong echoes of Huckleberry Finn and The Odyssey I picked up on my first listen. (And to prepare for our Book Club discussion with Kent Krueger—a highlight of my Book Club year was listening to him read us the opening pages!) This tough and tender coming-of-age story focuses on four Minnesota kids during the Great Depression, whose respective situations become ever more impossible due to human cruelty and circumstance. After a tornado demolishes the last of life as they know it, they realize no one is going to save them—and so they make a plan to save themselves that starts with escaping down the river. A great story, beautifully told. More info →
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The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Author:
Once again, I listened to the mesmerizing audio version (narrated by January LaVoy) and then read it with the MMD Book Club (and chatted with Alix, so fun!) in February. This novel combines so many elements I love: it's a literary mystery, a book about books, a coming-of-age story, a tale of adventure and suspense and revenge. I recommended this on an episode of WSIRN: episode 196 with Anudeep Reddy as a gateway fantasy, a fantasy novel for people who don't like fantasy. Creative and inventive and lots of fun, and a 2020 Hugo Awards Finalist. More info →
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Lovely War

Lovely War

Author:
I first read this fun novel last year and then read it again with the MMD Book Club, where it proved to be a favorite. Berry combines three unexpected elements to great effect: World War I, a love story, and Greek mythology. It begins with Aphrodite and Ares walking into a swanky Manhattan hotel during WWII, and soon enough Aphrodite's husband Hephaestus challenges her to show him what love really looks like. She obliges, and takes the reader back in time to meet four young lovers in 1917 Britain, showing her fellow gods how each couple fell in love, and what they mean to each other. It sounds unlikely but the interesting narrative structure totally works. More info →
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Code Name Hélène

Code Name Hélène

Author:
I first read this in fall 2019: a small group of readers read the galley months before publication so we could chat with Ariel about the book at our inaugural MMD Book Club Retreat. And then I read the final version when it was actually published this spring. This WWII novel tells the story of Nancy Wake, the unsung French Resistance leader who was #1 on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list by the end of the war. The real Nancy was larger than life; bold, bawdy, and brazen—a woman who, as the only female among thousands of French men, was not only respected as an equal, but revered as a leader. The story is set during WWII, yes—a setting the author says she came to kicking and screaming, because there are a lot these days—but at its heart this is a story of friendship, and of love. Nancy leaps off the page, with her Victory Red lipstick, snappy one-liners, and incredible bravery. More info →
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The Poet X

The Poet X

I read it first in print, and then on audio because I really wanted to hear Acevedo perform the narration—and I wanted to read it again before our MMD Book Club chat with her in September (SO GOOD). This incredible novel-in-verse won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Xiomara finds her voice as she pours her soul into her notebook. Every frustration, every harassment, every triumph and every secret is turned into a poem. When she gets invited to share her work in slam poetry club, Xiomara isn't sure if she can keep her passion secret from her strict family. But she soon learns that speaking up and living her truth is the only way to be fully herself. I'm now committed to being an Acevedo completist; I can't wait to see what she writes next. More info →
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P.S. A year in the life of the MMD Book Club. Plus my favorite books of 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016 (that year I kept it to 7—how did I do that?).

Favorite books of 2020

more posts you might enjoy

156 comments | Comment

156 comments

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  1. Diane says:

    Of course my TBR pile is growing!
    My favorite fiction read of the year is
    The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni.
    My favorite non Fiction reads are
    The Shadow of His Wings by Gereon Goldmann
    The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

  2. Susan Erhardt says:

    The Poet X and This Tender Land were such beautiful audiobooks. The Native American character (Forrest?) in This Tender Land was a stereotype that made me squirm, but I enjoyed the book overall. I loved The Vanishing Half, but wanted more!

  3. Katie says:

    Thanks for this list and I wanted to say I can relate to “overreading” – my dad also passed away unexpectedly earlier this year, and as I read (am reading?) through my grief. And have read the most I’ve ever read in any year as a result. Thinking of you in these difficult times – and if you haven’t read this piece by Chimamanda about the death of her father, it’s lovely: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/notes-on-grief?fbclid=IwAR34f0giec7rm4nY_4GUpn6W2EYZJeUziQsvKWZ-5lZnXQbdB-MrPDLFv18

    • Katie says:

      Oh and also – I need to make a list, but my most unexpected, and therefore favorite, non-fiction book of the year was Owls of the Eastern Ice. Set in eastern Russia, its the story of fish owls (and life and death on the tundra.) Just remarkable.

  4. Karen Funfgeld says:

    Some of my favorites are Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, Deacon King Kong by James McBride, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon, Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar, Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

  5. Becky says:

    Ordinary Hazards: A Novel by Anna Bruno
    This was the best book I read in 2020. It’s one of those little known books that didn’t get much publicity. I got it from the library in case it would be a DNF. I loved it!!

  6. Dawne says:

    I read Into the Drowning Deep after you recommended it, and I loved it. I’m also a scaredy cat reader, but this book hooked me right from the beginning, and I couldn’t put it down. It will make my favorite list for 2020 for sure. Thanks for recommending it, because I would not have read it otherwise.

  7. Amapola says:

    This year my favorite reads were all about community, grief and hope:
    “Deacon King Kong” by James McBride, it brought joy about small communities and their commitment to help one another.
    “Hamnet by Maggie O’Ferrell, grief wrapped in such a beautiful language that never lets you drown in despair.
    “The Searcher” by Tana French, a story about grief and what a land does to its youth, but also about meaningful connections and hope.
    “Apeirogon” by Collum McCann, a powerful statement about tragedy, grief, and the struggle for peace.
    “The Night Watchman” by Louise Erdrich, family and community.
    “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger, this was a joy to read.
    Non-fiction, “The Color of Water” by James McBride.

  8. Karen Lange says:

    Oh Anne, you know I adore you, but no Dear Edward??? This is not just by far the best book I’ve read this year, but one of the best in years.

  9. Kacie says:

    My condolences to you, Anne, and everyone else who lost a loved one this year. My dad died in January and my reading life took a big hit. That plus general 2020 things made it so I just couldn’t focus for awhile. I went weeks at different times this year without reading anything. I just could not.

    While I somehow did still read a lot of books this year, most of them were just ok. I tried to choose books that suited my mood at times, and I abandoned plenty. I only have a few stand-out titles.

    Better luck next year?

  10. Chris says:

    I agree that this has been a reading year for many reason. My favorites were The Giver of Stars, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Personal History. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, all three of these books are about women who overcame all kind of obstacles to become their authentic selves.
    Thanks, Anne, for connecting us all through books!

  11. Sue says:

    Great list, Anne!
    My favourite novel for 2020 will definitely be The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. A close second is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.
    Favourite non-fiction will be Wintering by Katherine May. I’ve almost finished it, and it is beautifully written as well as timely.
    Honourable mention goes to The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and Songs for the End of the World by Saleema Nawaz. Both are Canadian authors, and both novels are about pandemics.

    • Mary Manshel says:

      I loved, loved, LOVED The House in the Cerulean Sea! I tried to read light-hearted books this year. I needed to laugh and cry tears of joy amidst all the pain and sadness of 2020. I definitely turned to books as a form of escapism this year!

    • Pamela says:

      My favorite book for 2020 was Snow Child. I will add The House in the Cerulean Sea to my 2021 list to read. Thank you for that recommendation.

  12. Rachel E. says:

    Some favorites this year:

    The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune — my new comfort read!
    Lab Girl & The Story of Us by Hope Jahren — I love her writing style.
    Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series — so different and so good.
    Martha Wells Murderbot Diaries series — worst title for one of the most enjoyable sci-fi ever!
    Try Softer by Aundi Kolber — such a healing book!
    Beowulf translated by Maria Dahvana Headley — such a joyful reading experience!

    Advanced copies of great books coming out next year:
    Amari and the Night Brothers by BB Alston — this will be a classic!
    The City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda — loved the hero of this story!

    Kids books:
    Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega — spooky but not scary and hilarious
    New Kid & Class Act by Jerry Craft — phenomenal graphic novels
    Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi — wonderful adaptation of Kendi’s work.
    Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park — the book I needed as a 9 year old!
    Fauja Singh Keeps Going by Simrat Jeet Singh — this picture book is gorgeous and so moving!

    • Meredith K Hankins says:

      Oh The House in the Cerulean Sea is on my TBR shelf! I’ll tackle it over the holiday! Try Softer-man that was SO GOOD. I could only read a little bit at a time and then sit back and digest!

  13. Good list–I’ve loved several of the rereads. I’m reading Passing next week, I hope. I loved The Art of French Eating, too. My favorites were: The Switch by Beth O’Leary and Milkman by Anna Burns (fiction) and Invisible Women and Hidden Valley Road (nonfiction). My link takes you to my review of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

  14. Jaime says:

    Upright Women Wanted was such a great “hard left” to get me out of a reading funk this year. It was so different than the typical books I pick up and Anne’s description on the podcast (I wish I could find it now) was so fun and perfect. It was a pleasant surprise that set me on a path to have a much better reading year. I started and just finished the Apollo series by Rick Riordan – who I just love. And also appreciated the first 2 books in the Bromance series by Lyssa Kay Adams. This year has not been my favorite and I’m so glad it’s almost done…but at least my reading year will end on a high note!

  15. Sarah says:

    Not necessarily new in 2020 books, but books I’ve read and loved this year include Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (still thinking about this one!!), The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett, I was told it would get easier by Abbi Waxman (loved this audiobook), House Lessons by Erica Bauermeister, The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah, The House on Fripp Island (again, loved the audiobook version), A Good Neighborhood by Therese Ann Fowler, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman (excellent audiobook), All Adults Here by Emma Straub, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman (really good audiobook). Oh! And Cantoras by Caroline De Robertis and Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. Favorite audiobook this year was The Mother In Law by Sally Hepworth.

  16. Kate says:

    I also loved the Jane Austen Society, and 10,000 Doors of January! (My reading challenge this year was 23 books, and I’m just finishing by 38th.)
    I read some great memoirs this year also: A Year in Provence, French Lessons, and My Twenty Five Years in Provence, all by Peter Mayle and all such fun reads!

    • Susie says:

      So glad you discovered Peter Mayle, he’s a wonderful writer, and there are lots more! And I’m looking to read “My Twenty Five Years…”— Can’t wait!

  17. Tracey Mitchell says:

    Great list, as usual! I also read more than ever in my adult life this year and it was hard for me to narrow it down too.
    Here are my picks:
    Fiction:
    Kindred by Octavia Butler
    One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
    Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

    Non-Fiction:
    Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
    The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
    84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
    Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous

  18. Meredith K Hankins says:

    I leaned hard on comfort reads since March of 2020 (really February because apparently I acutally had COVID then!). I too devoured all of the Penny Reid’s and loved them hard. Now, I’m reading all of her Smarty Pants romance options because they are FUN! She’s a smart cookie. I also adored Beach Read, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, the Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek. Sigh. I wasn’t able to physically travel much but books filled that gap in 2020 in a BIG way. Additonally, we have a revived independent bookstore in Birmingham, Alabama with new owners, fresh stock, and knowledgeable staff and they are now my #1 source for purchased reading material and a socially distanced place to visit! https://littleprofessorhomewood.com/

  19. Anne Marie says:

    My top ten – which I made easy for myself by sorting my goodreads list by rating. 🙂
    Deacon King Kong – James McBride
    Caste – Isabel Wilkerson
    The Water Dancer – Ta-Nehisi Coates
    The Great Believers – Rebecca Makkai
    My Grandmother’s Hands – Resmaa Menakem
    The House in the Cerulean Sea – TJ Klune
    Jayber Crow – Wendell Berry
    Dear Edward – Ann Napolitano
    All the Devils are Here (just can’t resist Louise Penny, ticks all the boxes for me consistently)
    The Moment of Lift – Melinda Gates

  20. Amanda P. says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. I’m glad Penny Reid’s series helped you! This reading year has been hard, and just like you, I discovered Penny Reid. There’s nothing quite like the Winston brothers or knit nights to help us cope with all that life is right now. I’m forever grateful to her for keeping me grounded this year.

  21. Alisa Harvey says:

    My TBR list keeps getting longer and longer! I love these favorites lists 🙂 I am curious if you could share some of your husband’s other favorites? My hubby has not been a big reader of fiction until recently and Will seems to give good recommendations!

    • Anne says:

      I try to sprinkle these throughout the blog, podcast, and patreon! This year he loved David Joy, Ron Rash, and Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series that begins with Iron Lake.

  22. Stephanie says:

    I’ve read quite a few of these-mostly at your prior recommendation-but of course, my hold list at the library is ridiculously long right now! I found you towards the end of the summer when I was trying to find more books to read-because 2020. I can completely relate to using reading as a distraction tool. I didn’t know about your dad-I’m sorry to hear that. My dad died a couple of summers ago after a short battle with an illness-so I understand how difficult and life altering that is. Thank you for continuing to share your favorite book recommendations-I’ve branched out a lot this year in genre and am really enjoying it!

  23. Megan says:

    I absolutely loved The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Lovely War by Julie Berry. I think I learned this year that I love a great story told from multiple perspectives and I rediscovered my passion for historical fiction. As for my non-fiction pic, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn really helped me gain confidence in the kitchen and left my hungry for more books that show how cooking can be creative and not so intimidating! (Also, 2020 was the year I discovered bookish communities like this one and journeyed back to reading for fun, and I’m so thankful for that! Who knew there were so many people, podcasts, and platforms spurring people on in their reading lives?! Not me!)

  24. Susan says:

    Thanks! This encourages me to review my list and see over 25 percent of my books this year we’re five stars! I’ve been much more intentional about choosing books for ME as opposed to someone else’s list (including the popular books). I’m really getting into YA and would love a Best YA of the year and a recommendation of someone to follow that specializes in YA would be great!

    • Julie Pearce says:

      I’ve read a lot of YA this year. My favourite was The 57 Bus (non-fiction by Dashka Slater). Others include: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson very good. Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust series (the second one of three came out last year.) Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds (non-fiction). Arc of a Sythe (series of 3) by Neal Shusterman. The Music of What Happens by Bill Konisberg.

    • Susan J says:

      I’d recommend Janssen Bradshaw’s reading blog called Everyday Reading. She’s a mom of 4 girls and a former children’s librarian. She is always reading and recommending YA books. I especially an historical fiction book called Dreamland Burning about the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race massacre of 1921……outstanding!

  25. Patricia says:

    What a great list! Some were on my favorites list,too, and many of the rest are going on my TBR. Books are such a blessing during hard times. I read 30 (!) 2.99 romances on my kindle during April and May when I was anxious about everything.Thanks for this wonderful list!

  26. Janet says:

    My dad also passed away earlier this year, and his legacy to me was a love for reading. As a result, when cleaning out his home, many, many books came home with me – some I know I’ll never read, but so many that he referenced and quoted from and loved and it’s such a comfort to have them in my home. So yesterday was his birthday and I went to the bookstore and bought myself a book in his memory, since I always bought books for him for every occasion.

    • Laura says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing about your dad and your love of reading and his books. What a lovely story. It makes me want to be that to my children.

    • Mandy says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss. That was beautifully stated and I could 100% say the same thing about my sweet dad. He passed away in March 2019, and I most definitely attribute my love of reading to him. We shared a similar taste in many books and would often trade recommendations and discuss our favorites – I gave him books as gifts for every holiday/birthday and still find myself picking up a book and thinking how much he’d love it – those are the times I miss him the most. Thinking of you during this difficult season.

  27. Elise says:

    In a hard year, my favorite books were the ones that brought delight in the reading.
    – David Copperfield
    – The Wednesday Wars
    – Virgil Wander
    – All the Devils Are Here
    – Piranesi

  28. Laura Freeman says:

    Favorite 2020 reads:

    Jack by Marilynne Robinson
    Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
    A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
    Squint by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown
    The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi
    Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb
    Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

  29. Michelle Wilson says:

    Looking at Anne’s selections, others in the comments as well as other lists that I have seen, this one is never mentioned and I adored it, Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore. Anyone else? I think it faced the double whammy of being about really hard stuff and being released during the height of the first wave of the pandemic. But man oh man…so well written-timely topics and just a story about strong, kick ass women. I cannot recommend it enough!

    • Diane says:

      Yes I agree . I too do not understand why it’s not on any lists. Wetmore’s prose was haughting and her ability to put the reader in the time and place was riveting. It was a very difficult subject to tackle and I thought it was authentic. I would be interested in the futures of many of these women

    • Kelly L Hails says:

      Yes Michelle, I never see Valentine on anyone’s list either, but it was one of my 5 star reads this year. I adored all the women for how strong and inspirational they were. I would love to see an update on the women now too!

  30. Sarah says:

    Last year was a difficult one for my family, and so even before the pandemic, I had resolved to let my reading this year be gentler, and to lean in to old favorite genres. That plan continued to work well in the pandemic, and so my books this year were dominated by series and romance comfort reading.
    A few highlights:
    Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
    The Aru Shah books by Roshani Chockshi
    Rereading through ALL the Shel Silverstien with my 6 year old
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandell
    The Best of Me on audiobook by David Sedaris
    I had given myself permission not to force my way through books this year, and as a result, have my highest count since I’ve been keeping track. Much of it is through binging romance novels and reading nightly with my child, but in the last month or so my interest in a planned reading list has renewed itself, and I’m excited for next year’s reading challenge (I actually did at least as well as usual on that too!)

  31. Several to add to my TBR there! My favourites of 2020 included two new non-fiction: Square Haunting by Francesca Wade and The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, and older fiction titles The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers, The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

  32. Lauren C says:

    I’m so glad you had “This Tender Land” on the list. I first saw it on your summer reading list and am now a huge Kent Kruger fan. Another of his, Ordinary Grace, was also a favorite of mine this year, although not a new book. Some others I loved this year were Last Train to Key West, The Giver of Stars, and American Dirt.

  33. Colleen Fluman says:

    I have read more books this year than any in the past few years. I think it was too hard to watch any sort of television this past year and spent most of my time lost in the stories I was reading. My favorites this year have been The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev, Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson, and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson.

  34. Bronwyn Lea says:

    What a lovely list! My holds list at the library just grew by several titles. Love the special mention of the knitting in the city and Winston brothers series: I think Cletus Winston might be one my favorite literary characters ever written 🙂

  35. Kylie Peeler says:

    City of Girls, The Book of Longings, Beartown, The Stormlight Archive, The New Jim Crow, The Pillars of the Earth, Little Fires Everywhere, and Midnight in Chernobyl were all my favorite books I read this year! It was a great reading year for me, despite the almost five month book slump I went through.

  36. Amy Simpson says:

    I always appreciate a good list. Here are my best reads of the year.

    Fiction:
    The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
    Writers and Lovers by Lily King (favorite book of the year!)
    City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
    The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
    Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
    Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (my other favorite read of the year)
    The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
    Beach Read by Emily Henry
    Crave by Tracy Wolff

    Nonfiction:
    The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
    Untamed by Glennon Doyle
    Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
    The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron
    The Highly Sensitive Parent by Elaine Aron
    The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell (great on audio!)

  37. Madelyn says:

    Favorite Books was UNTAMED – no question about it. Other faves were The Witch Elm, Becoming Dallas Willard, The Girls (about Larry Nassar), Becoming Mrs. Lewis, Sometimes I lie, Don’t Look for me. Love that I now have a new list!

    • Kelly L says:

      Madelyn, Untamed was also my #1 read this year. I have SO many pages tagged and many paragraphs highlighted. I plan on a re-read in January, it made me so happy to be in her “tribe”, I get her and what she is doing.

  38. Wanda Colangelo says:

    Without a doubt one of the last books I read this year is my favorite of the year
    BETTY by Tiffany McDaniel is a beautifully written, often poetic story of her family…I was mesmerized by this sad story and just heartbroken by the end. (warning: sexual abuse and violence)

  39. Samantha Evans says:

    It really is difficult to narrow down but here is my attempt at 2020 faves: Station Eleven (Mandel), North and South (Gaskell), The Unhoneymooners (Lauren), Becoming (Obama), With the Fire on High (Acevedo), Here (McGuire).

  40. Sandra says:

    I understand not being happy with big reading numbers. My goal was to read less this year and instead I’ve read way more. Over 400 so far. For me the reason is unemployment. I wish I pull find a job but I can’t and reading is my distraction of choice.

  41. Connie Salter says:

    One of my favorite books this year was “Etched in Sand” by Regina Calcaterra.
    Another favorite – “Kitchen Counter Cooking School” by Kathleen Flinn which you suggested!
    Love your blog and your suggestions!
    “So many books, so little time!”

  42. Hilary says:

    I would say that typically I don’t love non-fiction and yet… some of my faves this year were, of course, non-fiction.
    My top 2 were The Warmth of Other Suns and American Like Me. Both were fantastic.
    I finally read Jane Eyre (combo of sight read & listen) and loved it. I also thoroughly enjoyed I Liked My Life, The SPace Case triology (a middle grade series), The Hate U Give, The Nickel Boys, Mexican Gothic and Such a Fun Age.
    My reading was weird this year too. Thankfully I consider it nearly all positive. I deliberately tried to read more BIPOC authors and i could tell my reading (& real?) life were improved because of it.

  43. Kristy says:

    My favorites this year included Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom. I’d recommend the audio version as he included clips of Chika talking and singing. I have an 11-year old friend whose life was forever changed by that earthquake in Haiti, so this book hit me hard. I also loved The Stationery Shop by Marian Kamali, His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. Know My Name by Chanel Miller was powerful.
    Some of my four star reads include The Lager Queen of Minnesota, The Florios of Sicily, As Bright as Heaven, Clap When You Land and American Dirt (despite the controversy).

  44. Kendra McIntyre says:

    My list of favorites is long this year because this is the first year I’ve consistently read from book club selections. Even if it’s out of my comfort zone or taste, Anne rarely steers me wrong.
    The Stationery Shop
    The Ten Thousand Doors of January
    The Keeper of Lost Things
    A Thousand Splendid Suns
    Dear Martin
    The House in the Cerulean Sea
    28 Summers
    The Lions of Fifth Avenue
    The Death of Vivek Oji
    Escaping Dreamland
    The Poet X
    The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
    The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
    Anxious People
    The Broken Girls
    The Girl With the Louding Voice
    The Martian – and more to come!!

  45. Penelope Kimber says:

    No-one has so far mentioned tHe best book I read this year – The Mirror and the Light – the finale of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, which was, in my view, unfairly left off the Booker Prize list. It’s beautifully written, emotional, gripping and a triumph of research.

  46. Kat says:

    I have more than doubled the number of books I have read this year and given the closure of our local library I think even more notable is the number of audiobooks I consumed. Some of my favorites include:
    The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
    Writers & Lovers by Lily King
    Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie
    American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
    The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
    Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
    Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
    Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
    In the Dreamhouse by Carmen Maria Machado
    Americanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adiche

    • Sheryl Esau says:

      Americanah was on my favorites list last year. Such a great book. I listened to the audiobook of In the Dreamhouse and can’t imagine it any other way. It was a surprise and I really liked it, too.

  47. Lois says:

    I’ve been firmly stuck in mystery and police procedural for years, and late in 2019 I committed myself to expanding my reading life, and it has been an exploration. Harry’s Trees was an “ah ha” moment, a book that really resonated with me and helped me understand new reading avenues. So it is a 2020 top 5 favorite for me.

  48. ellen says:

    I would love a LIST of the books mentioned in this (and all) your posts. Many I have read but there are also an equal amount that I have not. With a list I could take it the library/bookstore and go from there.
    I noticed also that in your Christmas books posting, you included those books that you found especially enjoyable as audio books. What a great idea! Perhaps you might also do the same in future posts.
    Thanks so much.

  49. Maureen says:

    One book I haven’t seen mentioned that was a favorite of mine (and my new book club that consists of my sister, sister-in-law, daughters and niece!) was The Girl with the Louding Voice! So good! I hope your Favorite Audiobooks of 2020 include On the Come Up which was a recommendation of yours that I thoroughly enjoyed.

  50. Brenda says:

    I happily endorse these books that kept me reading this year…
    The Dutch House -Ann Patchett
    Once Upon a River -Diane Setterfield
    The Starless Sea -Erin Morganstern
    The Daughter of Family G -Ami McKay (non fiction)
    The Stationery Shop -Marjan Kamali
    The Giver of Stars -JoJo Moyes
    Becoming -Michele Obama (non fiction)
    The Glass Hotel -Emily St.John Mandel
    Lands of Lost Borders -Kate Harris (non fiction)
    The Last Watchman of Cairo -Michael David Lukas
    The Lost Man -Jane Harper
    The Tattooist of Auschwitz -Heather Morris

    • Sheryl Esau says:

      I loved many on your list, but I’ve been recommending The Stationery Shop like crazy. I feel like it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserved.

  51. Beth Roireau says:

    My top 4 Reads of 2020:
    The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
    The Road – Cormac McCarthy
    H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
    There There – Tommy Orange

  52. Jill Madsen says:

    I just started trying to make my top ten list of the year and always so hard to pick! Many similar ones to this, but also loved When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole, One to Watch by Kate Stayman London, and Grown by Tiffany Johnson.

  53. Kathy LeBlanc says:

    not in order but 5 favourites of 2020 for me are: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
    by Kim Michele Richardson, Between Shades of Gray
    by Ruta Sepetys, The Exiles
    by Christina Baker Kline, The Book of Lost Things
    by Cynthia Voigt, The Tattooist of Auschwitz
    by Heather Morris

  54. Susan E Doherty says:

    I have a bit of an issue with books that have a lot of profanity in the dialog. It’s not the way I talk and I got through about 3 pages of The City We Became before I sent it back to the library. I did love This Tender Land.

    • Susie says:

      I agree with you, Susan, and thanks for the heads up on The City We Became before I ordered it! This absolutely matters to me! And if you liked This Tender Land, try his Ordinary Grace!! It’s my favorite.

    • Jennnifer says:

      Thanks for this comment. I,too,do not like books with a lot of profanity. I can tolerate occasional profanity in the proper context, but I sometimes feel that some authors use too much profanity to show how modern they are. Sometimes I think they could be a little more original and come up with a powerful descriptive adjective.

  55. Sabiha Chunawala says:

    First, thank you for once again giving me recommendations for my never-ending TBR!
    Second, I’m so excited to see that several of the books I read based on your recommendation made it on this list:
    Caste – might be the most important book in understanding our current political divide. Vanishing Half, The Jane Austen Society, The Stationery Shop, This Tender Land, Lovely War, and Code Name Helene were all such a joy to read.

  56. Christi Jacobsen says:

    I have boiled down to 3 favorite reads. My goal this rear was t become a more diverse reader. Well, apparently, I’m getting there!

    1. Where the Crawdads Sing. Beautifully written. The characters are richly drawn, the plot is full of twists and turns, and I learned something as I read it.

    2. The Hate U Give. Oh my goodness….evocative, heart breaking,
    and timely. This book parallels a book I read in the 70’s, ‘Black Like Me’. Sadly, too much lies unchanged.

    3. Ok, don’t laugh. Diversified reading requires REAL effort and commitment. So I went through lists of different genres….romance, comedy, historical, etc. I came across a genre I’d never considered…classic westerns! Gulp, ok? … I picked Louis L’Amour as my author. I visited an amazing used bookstore in New Ulm, MN. The proprietors visited with me awhile and pointed me to the direction of their western collection. Louis ‘spoke’ to me. As I soo de in front of a large bookcase ok nothing but his books, I closed my eyes, lightly ran my fingertips over worn LL spines, and landed on ‘Borden Chantry’ . It was a wonderful find! Loved the western themes 💚💜❤️💙. Again, good character development, plot and ESPECIALLY setting.
    I am so blessed……authors, books and Ann Bogel. ~ Love Reader Christi

  57. Melissa Bowers says:

    My dad, who was only in his mid-60’s, also passed away this year, just a few months ago. Even before he was diagnosed with cancer in the spring, I had felt a “pull” toward reading books that deal with mortality. I am still very much going through the grieving process and my emotions are raw all the time, but the books that I read helped me feel more accepting of, and prepared for, the reality that no one lives forever. They also helped me understand and appreciate the value of hospice care (when possible) and what positive end-of-life care (and a “good death”) can look like. Some books of this type that I read this year are:

    -When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
    -The Light of the World, by Elizabeth Alexander
    -On Living, by Kerry Egan
    and especially:
    -Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

    My favorite fiction books that I read this year are:
    -Evelina, by Frances (Fanny) Burney
    -Villette, by Charlotte Bronte
    -Jack, by Marilynne Robinson
    -Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye
    -The Bird in the Tree, by Elizabeth Goudge
    -Castle of Water, by Dane Huckelbridge
    -My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier
    -Mrs. Mike, by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

    • Carrie says:

      Melissa, I’m sorry you lost your father at such a young age. I’ve read all the non-fiction books you mentioned after losing my parents. I think Being Mortal should be required reading.

  58. Meredith says:

    Thank you for these lists- I appreciate that you categorized it to include more selections. My fiction picks for 2020’s best reads are Jojo Moyes’ “Giver of Stars” and Jeanine Cummins’ “American Dirt”. For nonfiction, I LOVED Michael Branch’s “Rants From the Hill”. All three books absolutely transported me out of my time and place which was very welcome at some points this year.

  59. Megan says:

    My favorite fiction:
    Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson
    All Adults Here, by Emma Straub
    Transcendent Kingdom, by Yaa Gyasi
    The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
    Writers and Lovers, by Lily King
    Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
    Followers, by Megan Angelo

    My favorite non-fiction:
    Caste, by lsabel Wilkerson
    Two Dogs and a Parrot, by Joan Chittister
    Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino
    The Anatomy of Peace, by The Arbinger Institute
    I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution, by Emily Nussbaum

  60. Kelly L Hails says:

    I read alot of non-fiction every year, esp memoirs.
    Favorite Non-fiction:
    Untamed by Glennon Doyle
    Know My Name by Chanel Miller
    All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
    WeedMonkey by Lisa V. Proulx
    Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz
    Nourished by Lia Huber
    Where is the Mango Princess by Cathy Crimmins
    Here For It by R. Eric Thomas
    The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi
    In Pillness and In Health by Henriett Ivanans
    I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
    Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett
    Your Blue is Not My Blue by Aspen Matis
    The Great Belonging by Charlotte Donlon
    The Book of Help by Megan Griswold
    We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper
    Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

    Favorite Fiction:
    The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
    The Orphan of Salt Winds by Elizabeth Brooks
    The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
    Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
    The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson
    The Guest List by Lucy Foley
    The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
    Writers & Lovers by Lily king
    Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
    Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
    A Burning by Megha Majumdar
    I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
    Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
    The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
    Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
    The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
    The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

    • Sheryl Esau says:

      What a great list. I love many on your list, but my favorite is All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. However, while there were similar stories in the author’s upbringing, this book was fiction.

  61. Julia Reesor says:

    I too have read far more books this year than ever before – mainly due to Covid-19 and not getting in the usual socializing and other things; but it has given me more time to read. A few of my favorites are: The Sisters of Summit Avenue by Lynn Cullen, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, Tidelands by Phillipa Gregory, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeymann, and I’d better stop there – this just takes me to May! So many good books out there.

  62. Meredith Greene says:

    I am so very sorry about the death of your father Anne. I listen to your podcast every week and feel like I know you. I’m glad reading provides you solace during the hard days.

  63. Tamara says:

    To keep me going this year, I went through the entire Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow series by Orson Scott Card on audio.
    Other favorites were When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, Olivia Twistby Lorie Langdon, Geekarella by Ashley Poston, The Martian by Andy Weir, and my only non-fiction pick, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn.

  64. Leah says:

    Thanks to you I discovered Louise Penny’s Gamache series (read all but the last one this year—I’m in line for it at the library) and Jacqueline Winspear. (I finished Maisie Dobbs on 1/1/20 and listened to all of the rest on audio this year and can’t wait for the next!) thank you!!

  65. Jewel Box of Books says:

    Love your favorites from this year and your blogs were a ray of sunshine this year! Thank you for that 🙂

    Some of my absolute favorites this year were:
    The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
    The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
    In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
    When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
    The Stationery Shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali
    The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley
    The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez
    Becoming by Michelle Obama
    Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb
    There was still love by Favel Parrett

  66. Lynn Seybolt says:

    So many wonderful reads this year. Here’s my favorite fiction(it was hard to narrow down to this):
    The Vanishing Half
    Rodham
    Writers & Lovers
    Valentine
    Pachinko
    The Searcher
    The Sundown Motel
    Olive, Again
    Ask Again, Yes
    The Library at the Edge of the World
    When We Were Vikings
    Silver Sparrow
    The Glass Hotel
    Other People’s Pets
    American By Day
    The Last Flight

  67. Virginia Westlake says:

    Some of my favorites for 2020 are….
    Dear Edward
    Valentine
    The Things We Cannot Say
    The Only Plane in the Sky
    Beartown (reread)
    Where the Crickets Sing (reread)
    Like so many others, I’ve read more than I ever have this year, 100 books to normally 60-70. Also, I listened to many audiobooks.

  68. Camille A Wilson says:

    My favorite reads of 2020 are The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr by Susan Scott Holloway; Educated by Tara Westover, Lost Boy Found by Kristen Alexander; Mary:Mrs A Lincoln; The Other Bennett Sister by Janice Hadlow, The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson; and Things In Jars by Jess Kidd.

  69. I picked up a copy of The Stationery Shop on your MMD recommendation, Anne, with every intention of reading it in 2020… but never quite got to it, whoops! I’m also super-keen to read She Come By It Natural, because the Dolly Parton’s America podcast was one of the few Good Things in 2020. One of my favourite reads of the year was Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – if you’ve not read it yet, I highly, highly, highly recommend!

    • Kristy says:

      I just finished The Stationery Shop and I highly recommend it! I received Piranesi in my book subscription last month from Brilliant Books Monthly and you’ve convinced me to move it up in my TBR. Thank you!

      • Sheryl Esau says:

        The Stationery Shop was my favorite of 2020! Such a great story. Read it in January and it’s still my favorite of the year.

  70. Emily says:

    I’m surprised to see The Ten Thousand Doors of January on your list. I’m having trouble getting through it. I’m just not charmed by it like other people seem to be.
    My favorite book that I read this year was The Heart’s Invisible Furies. It’s so good.

    • Amanda says:

      @Emily – You’re not the only one who couldn’t get through it. I kept waiting to become engrossed and stopped after struggling through ~100 pages.

      • Sheryl Esau says:

        I’m on your team, too. I did not like the Ten Thousand Doors – probably my least favorite of the year. I’ve been meaning to read The Heart’s Invisible Furies – I’ve had several friends recommend it!

  71. Susie says:

    I’m trying to list ONLY 5 star reads, but there were so many. And I seem to be catching up from 2019–
    American Dirt–Jeannine Cummins. I don’t care about the controversy, this was a GOOD story, well-written, and an eye opener! And it surprised me, I didn’t expect to like it! (See?)
    Peace Like A River–Leif Enger, a reread, still 5 star. Possibly best book EVER.
    Little Fires Everywhere–Celeste Ng. Mesmerized.
    Celine–Peter Heller (we need a sequel! or 2!)
    When We Were the Kennedys–Monica Wood, A.W.E.S.O.M.E
    Ordinary Grace–Wm Kent Krueger (better than Tender Land)
    My Dark Vanessa—Kate E. Russell. Dark, indeed, and powerful.
    The Secret Life of Bees–Sue Monk Kidd. A classic!
    Life of Pi—Yann Martel. Just magic!! So glad I pulled it from my TBR shelf!
    Redhead by the Side of the Road–Anne Tyler. My new fave of hers!
    The War That Saved My Life—Kimberly B Bradley. YA, super great.

  72. Jennifer Thompson says:

    My top book of the year is Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. A Victorian era fantasy mystery that I initially did not think I’d like after reading an excerpt but so glad I gave it a shot. It’s beautiful writing full of unique and original characters especially the tough as nails heroine. Highly recommend it.

  73. Laurie says:

    Planned to wrote Addie Larue here…but you included in list. My other favorites were The Once and Future Witches, Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly, and Waiting for Tom Hanks.

  74. Jessica Bacus says:

    So many favorites this year, but some standouts are:

    The Starless Sea- Erin Morgenstern (absolute fav of the year for sure)
    Slay-Brittney Morris
    Home Before Dark-Riley Sager
    Dear Ijeawele-Chimamada Ngozi Adichie
    Good Omens-Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
    There’s Someone Inside Your House-Stephanie Perkins

  75. Sheila Allard says:

    I’ve read 100+ books really good books. Some long some short but a book is a book right? But the standouts are
    The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
    The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop-Fannie Flagg
    The Sun Down Motel-Simone St. James
    The Girls With no Names- Serena Burdick
    The Book of Lost Friends- Lisa Wingate
    The Book of Lost Names-Kristin Harmel
    When We Were Young and Brave-Hazel Gaynor
    The Daring Ladies of Lowell-Kate Alcott
    Recipe for a Perfect Wife- Karma Brown
    Bastard Out of Carolina-Dorothy Allison
    Happy go Hurt- Ginny Rorby

  76. Amy Elise Jones says:

    For all the frustrating and infuriating pieces of 2020, it was a good reading year for me:
    Panchinko; Min Jin Lee
    A Gentleman in Moscow; Amor Towles
    The Switch; O’Leary
    The Stationary Shop; Kamali
    The Authenticity Project; Claire Poole
    Becoming; Michelle Obama (audiobook❤️)
    The Underground Railroad; Cookson Whitehead
    The Snow Child; Ivey
    Many book hangovers— and little flashbacks that hit at the oddest times. 2020 has also been a deep thoughts and shaking myself out of “it”, wherever windy thinky road I have traveled down.

  77. Sue Baum says:

    Thanks for this highly anticipated update, Anne. I exceeded my reading goal by 20 books this year…one silver lining in the most challenging year EVER! My favorite genre this year was memoir, and I read a diverse selection. My top nonfiction titles were Crescendo by Cheney, Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Callahan (these 2 were my faves of the year), Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Garlic & Sapphires by Reichl, Miracle Man by Mike Eruzione, Splendid & the Vile by Erik Larson, and Destiny of the Republic by Millard. My favorite fiction titles were Resistance Women by Chiaverini, Nothing to See Here by Wilson (my favorite fiction title!), Pull of the Stars by Donoghue, The Most Fun We Ever Had, American Dirt by Cumming, and Rodham by Sittenfeld. Looking forward to 2021!

    • Laura says:

      Memoir is one of my favorite genres of books to read. Thanks for the recommendations, Sue! Several of these are new to me and now on my TBR list.

  78. Deanna Debrecht says:

    “A Woman is No Man” by Etaf Rum was my favorite fiction read this year – about three generations of Palestinian women, and how migrating to Brooklyn changes the family. SO GOOD!!!

  79. Deb Kampf says:

    My favorite read for 2020 was an oldie, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I had not read Kingsolver before this year. This was sitting on my shelf, so picked it up when I ran out of library books. I loved the quirky characters. I loved the Appalachian setting. I loved all the science information she includes as part of the story. It a book I was able to connect with on many levels. Can’t wait to read mor Kingsolver in 2021.

  80. Christen says:

    Shiner and Vanishing Half are on favorites list this year too! As well as:
    The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
    Long Bright River
    Dear Edward
    One Crazy Summer
    Open Book by Jessica Simpson
    Where the Lost Wander and
    Anxious People
    I read more than ever this year and I had a hard time getting into certain genres of books this year.

  81. Joana Morales says:

    I just finished “The twelve dates of Christmas”, Jenny Baylis’ debut novel, and I LOVED IT. It reminded me of “The city baker’s guide to country living”, as it also has the cooking factor embedded in the story (the author also is a professional baker), and it was so funny, cozy and well written. Brilliant!

  82. Jennifer says:

    My favorite book of the year was “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” by Mark Twain. He put twelve years into researching this book. Beautifully written, historically accurate, and of course there is the comic relief character. A truly inspiring book.

  83. Julie Pearce says:

    A few of my favourite reads this year that I don’t see mentioned above:
    The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (2014 book that I’m sorry took me so long to find)
    Grown Ups by Marian Keyes (I also recently read her classic (2000) Rachel’s Holiday a very good work of fiction about addiction)
    Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
    Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

  84. Deb says:

    Great books on this list! Hamnet was probably my favorite read this year. I also loved Olive Again, Addie LaRue, The Vanishing Half, and Code Name Helene. Others I loved: Transcendent Kingdom, The House on the Cerulean Sea, My Dark Vanessa, The Pull of the Stars, and Writers and Lovers.

  85. Anne says:

    Wow, 300 books! I totally feel you when you talk about over reading as escapism, I’ve done that before. I’m so sorry for your loss this year. I hope the books you read were able to bring you some measure of comfort.

  86. Charity says:

    Mine is too probably high too – just over 200. I wouldn’t be concerned except I can feel myself getting anxious if I book is longer than 400 pages. I can’t seem to make a commitment for something that long. (Or to an audiobook that’s longer than 10 hours.) Books have become my coping mechanism and my companions as we’ve been forced to stay home. Maybe that’s okay, definitely I could have had worse uses of my time. But from 12 or so books in 2018 to 65 in 2019 to 201 in 2020…I can see my obsessive nature taking over.

    I’ve found a LOT of great reads though. Finally broke out of my comfort zone and became friends with fiction again – The Gown, A Man Called Ove, The Dutch House, The House in the Cerulean Sea, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Anxious People, Transcendent Kingdom, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, and everything by Elizabeth Acevedo.

  87. Linda Sullivan says:

    My favorites this year: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Anxious People, The Rules of Magic, The World we Knew, The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop, Greenwood, Pachinko, Miller’s Way, Good Dog/Stay/sorry to hear of your father’s passing/I lost my Mom this year too and she loved to read as well

  88. Heather says:

    Thank you so much for your reading lists to inspire the next book I will read. I’m very sorry for your father’s passing this year. My mother-in-law that I loved very much passed away this June as well.

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