One of my favorite things to do at year’s end is to look over the titles I lovingly devoured over the course of the year. Each January, I set up my challenge in GoodReads, based on my previous record and set a goal for the new year. It is my preferred social media platform where I interact with virtually no one but myself, scanning reviews, honing my list purely for my own pleasure. This year, I recently hit my goal of 80 and while not all of them are home runs, I’ve developed a good sense for picking winners based on a combination of referrals, recommendations, browsing and internet algorithms. My favorites, in no particular order, and not necessarily published in 2020, follow.
Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. OK, this was far and above my favorite read in 2020 and I inhaled it cover to cover in the space of two days, grudgingly putting it down to feed my son lunch and dinner in the early days of quarantine. It was galvanizing, awakening and full of useful information and I earmarked the pages on how to explain sex to your children. I am still trying to get up the courage to use the words I wished I could have come up with on my own. This was a book I purchased for my sisters and step-daughter. They were words I wanted every woman I knew to read.
The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. My sponsor gave me this book for my one year sober anniversary in 2016, but I set it aside and each time I took it up, the words would blur into incomprehension. Why this happened, I don’t know, but 2020 was the year to take it up again. If you have an unrelenting inner dialogue as I do, recognition will come in the first chapter of the book and you won’t want to put it down. Why did I have a constant voice in my head chronicaling everything I said and did, rolling them around for clues to the meaning of life? By the end of the book I was mostly able to say goodbye to that voice, nice knowing you, I said.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid. A story about race and privilege, this was a novel that pulled me in from the first page. A young black babysitter for an upscale, busy white family was wandering the aisles of a nearby grocery store when her young charge was unable to sleep late one night. What happened next is a story that reverberated throughout 2020 – in real life – the babysitter was eyed suspiciously, the cops were called, a girl who was only doing her job was called into question about why she was there and what she was doing. If you haven’t read it, put it on your list for 2021.
The Light Between Us, audiobook read by the author, Laura Lynne Jackson. A debate I often have with my husband is if audiobooks count toward your total read books count – I lean heavily on the side of yes. Hearing the author speak about her experience of being an ordinary person of extraordinary psychic and medium capabilities rekindled my interest in stories about people who talk to the dead. Even before my brother died of suicide in 1987, people with psychic abilities were completely fascinating to me. I happened on this book after hearing about the experience my sister-in-law had with a medium and by the end, I wanted nothing more than to talk to Laura Lynne Jackson myself to see if she could reach my loved ones who had passed.
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchet. Ann Patchet had me at Bel Canto and I was quickly under her thrall taking out whatever books I could find from the library and was happy to see this new book available in 2019. Because my book habit would put me in the poor house if I had to purchase every book I was interested in, I put my name on a lengthy hold list for an electronic copy which put me into the next year. It was an experience to savor her words over several days, she is a master of the literary fiction genre, and it was an experience I didn’t want to come to an end. I fell in love with the Dutch House just as Danny and Maeve had in the book. You probably will too.
How To Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee. Chee and I are about as opposite as can be but it popped up on my recommendation list and I decided to just go with it. We were born the same summer, worlds apart, but his experiences were completely relatable. Reading his collection of essays prompted so many writing ideas in me that I was able to access memories that had long been buried and these provided writing inspiration for days on end. The stories interwove throughout his own journey of becoming a writer from the time he left college into adulthood while during those same years I was toiling in the corporate world willing myself to forget about writing. I was envious, if I’m honest.
Becoming by Michelle Obama. This was another audiobook, read by the well spoken First Lady who overcame so many obstacles from growing up in Chicago’s poor south end, in a small apartment above her great Aunt where she determinedly learned piano, achieved entry to Princeton, began her career at a highly coveted law job, met and married Barrack only to find herself on the unlikely path to politics which she hardly cared for. It was a story of a woman blossoming, taking chances, listening to her own drumbeat and making hard compromises when that’s what was called for. She is down to earth, an unasuming woman, accessible and relatable.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley. My favorite fiction genre falls in the specific category, psychological thriller set in the UK. This is a page turner that checks all of my boxes and the conclusion was startling after following several different possible threads. It is set on a remote Irish island, a destination wedding without technology and hoopla. The island itself, a cunning and dark character in the well thought out plot.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. Thank you, if you are still with me, I know I’ve droned on quite a bit here. I love books and could talk about them all day. This was a book that made me want to jump back into therapy which is something coming from someone who has avoided this deep internal reckoning for years. The enticement for this book is it’s written by a therapist who goes to therapy after a long term relationship ends, a relationship she thought was going to lead to marriage. She struggles as we all do with our own personal foibles but shows us how to keep at it so we can achieve something that helps us move along in life when we get stuck.
What were your favorite reads in 2020?