Every Book I Read in 2020

In 2018, I resolved to read MORE. I don’t know how many books I read in 2017, but it was less than what I completed in 2018. In 2019, I managed to find time for 34 books (the same number as 2018). I’m happy with that number.

Then came 2020.

WTF?!?! Right?

Sitting here, on the morn of New Year’s Eve, writing this… I feel a little like we’re all crawling toward a finish line, holding our collective breath, praying whatever is on the other side of that line is something “better” than what we’ve survived the last 12 months. A shock went through me as I typed that last bit. Not everyone survived.

I was not one of the “buried herself in the escapism of reading” folks. I was on track for a banner year in the reading department… then COVID came to town. With my kids home ALL DAY ERRRRRRY DAY, any time for personal reading vanished right along with concerts, vacations, and meeting-up for… well, for anything.

When things were “more” normal rather than “less,” like, my kids were IN actual, real-life school, I found my mental health was slightly better. I could focus. Which meant, I could read. During those weeks, I noticed an up-tick in the number of pages I turned. In the last weeks of 2020, we were able to take a trip to Arizona to visit my in-laws (Ample precautions were taken). In the week we were there, with my kids occupied in a pool and under sunshine, and with my own mind and body in “relax” mode, I devoured four books in almost as many days. It was magical.

As I’ve said before, stories are gateways to past, present, future, and all destinations imagined and real. There is no requirement for travel other than the ability to read and a library card. This portal to all worlds and vast amounts of knowledge is for EVERYONE. I think that’s part of why I’m so in love with the magic of books (and literacy). But I also learned this year, in order for me to dive into other worlds, I have to be able to leave this one behind. Mentally checking out of a place that was rife with turmoil, insecurity, divisiveness, and many unknowns… was hard for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t desire a mental check out. I did! Oh, for the love, I wanted to check out. It was like I couldn’t. My mind just refused to fully LEAVE, walk away from, the dumpster fire that was 2020.

When I was able to effectively distract myself with reading, I found I was drawn to books that would help me to feel I was learning about how to make the world a little better, or books what would take me so very far away from present day, I might get lost in the other-ness of some imagined world. You will see this reflected in my 2020 list.

How do I rate my reads? Well, good books are good for many reasons. It could be the writing, or it could be the story—or both. It could be the author’s ability to  bend, pull, and push the reader to thinking beyond what is known or believed. Or it could be super steamy sex at just the right moment. Just saying.

Below you will find my 2020 READ list. They are listed by title, author, and my rating—5 being the highest rating I give.

There aren’t any 1 ratings. I just can’t do that to anyone who has the guts to publish their words for others to read. If it got a 2, I didn’t think much of it. On the other hand, anything with a 3 or 4 I thought was good and very good (respectively). And a 5, well, that means I either LOVED it or it made me dig deep into my own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs—challenging me to thoughtfully consider a different perspective. The half numbers are as you would expect—just a little more than, or right on the cusp of something one level up. The best books I read in 2020 were those rated with a 5 (obviously), but if I had to recommend just a couple, I would say EVERYONE over the age of 10 should read Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. It’s a middle grade/YA book, appropriate for a swath of ages. The information is presented in an easily digestible format and will make you think… hard… about where and how you’ve formulated your ideas about race. And if you’re a WWII junky like me, Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is also a must read. It was a “clutch it to my chest and let a few tears fall” kind of book.

You may agree or disagree with my ratings. To each their own. Here’s to hoping 2021 provides the mental space for more “travel by page” and the physical ability to safely travel… at all.

A Kingdom of Flesh and FireJennifer L. Armentrout3
Between the World and MeTa-Nehisi Coates4
Blood of ElvesAndrzej Sapkowski3.5
Cilka’s JourneyHeather Morris5
ClanlandsSam Heughan, Graham McTavish5
From Blood and AshJennifer L. Armentrout3.5
House of Earth and BloodSarah J. Maas3.5
How to Be an AntiracistIbram X. Kendi4
How to Stop TimeMatt Haig4
In Five YearsRebecca Serle3.5
No Happy EndingsNora McInerny2.5
Notes from a Young Black ChefKwame Onwuachi3
One for the Blackbird, One for the CrowOlivia Hawker3
Something Wicked This Way ComesRay Bradbury3.5
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and YouJason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi5
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel)Suzanne Collins3
The BastardJohn Jakes4
The Book of Lost FriendsLisa Wingate4.5
The Book Woman of Troublesome CreekKim Michele Richardson3.5
The Evening and the MorningKen Follett3.5
The Forgotten KingdomSigne Pike5
The Indigo GirlNatasha Boyd3.5
The Last WishAndrzej Sapkowski4
The Light Over LondonJulia Kelly3
The Nickel BoysColson Whitehead4
The Patchwork BrideSandra Dallas3
The PowerNaomi Alderman3
The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryAlix E. Harrow3
The Vanishing HalfBrit Bennett3.5
UntamedGlennon Doyle4
Westering WomenSandra Dallas3
Where the Lost WanderAmy Harmon3.5
Why We Can’t SleepAda Calhoun4