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I’m Rebecca and I’ve Read 92 Books in 2020: Here are My 24 Favorites

My Favorite Books of 2020:  2020 was A LOT of things but one of the highlights for me (if you look, you can definitely find highlights) was reading.  Extra time…time granted to read.  An escape from too much thinking and what-ifs…

I love fiction.  There is enough “real-world” in our lives right now and a chance to get away and maybe learn about another place…the slums of New Delhi or a village in Nigeria…and another time…the New Zealand gold rush of the 1860s…is just, for me, the very best thing ever.

I’m on my 93rd book of the year – I KNOW.  Ridiculous.  A number I will to probably only rival in retirement.

Here are all the books that I marked with 5 STARS on my Good Reads ranking system.

Ones that I would wholeheartedly recommend to friends…no ifs ands or buts.

Note!  Half way thru the year as our “extra” cash dwindled I learned how to use Kindle’s Daily Deals and to sign up for the daily email.  Almost every day, there is one or more books that I want – all prices $3.99 or below.  Now I have SUCH a backlog of reading.  I’m going to have to try to get to 100 next year!  $399 (max) a year on books is MUCH more reasonable (possible) than $1400 a year.  Kindle full price books are EXPENSIVE.

GREAT NOVELS

DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano

One summer morning, a 12 year old boy named Edward flies from NY to Los Angeles with his family and plane full of people from all backgrounds.  Over Colorado, the plane goes down…killing everyone on board except Edward.

The story, chapter by chapter, goes back to the time on the plane before and during the horrible crash and, forward, to Edward’s new life with his childless aunt and uncle in NJ.  The entire country is obsessed with Edward while he just wants to try to get by…day by day….and heal.

The author describes each character so vividly and beautifully….and you feel like you are with Edward as he learns to deal with this insane loss and the guilt and how he begins to emerge from it.

SO good.

THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE by Abi Dare

The story of a 14 year old girl living in a village in modern Nigeria – where life is basically getting sold as a second or third wife so that your family can eat. One room huts…little education for girls…I kept checking to make sure that this book was really about 2008,  An eye opener…really powerful.  And made me think hard about the US’s immigration policies – but that’s just me.

I couldn’t put this one down…I was so invested in her quest – one that she didn’t even know she was on – for a better life…and it was only with courage at the right times and just luck…well…you’ll see.

THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett

This book was EVERYWHERE this year – all my bloggers and podcasters were reading and recommending it.  It’s nominated for all kinds of awards.  And it was good…really good.

It explores the story of identical twin sisters, starting in the 1950s, who both pass as white – and come from a small town in Mississippi where almost everyone is black and passes as white.  The twins, then, go off in very different directions.

A book about race and identity and secrets.  Very very unexpected and hard to put down.

A HISTORY OF LONELINESS BY JOHN BOYNE

Odran enters the Catholic seminary in 1970s Ireland when priests held so much power in the country and in Irish households.

Forty years later, he finds himself in a very different place.  He watches friends and colleagues being tried and jailed…and he is treated like an outsider, almost a freak, on the streets of his town when wearing his priest’s collar.  Odran – who always thought he was just doing the right thing, is forced to reexamine his belief in the Church and his part in some of the things going on around him.

It’s a book about loneliness and Catholicism and faith and the lies and denial we often use to cover up our own secrets and pain.

A LADDER TO THE SKY by JOHN BOYNE

This book follows Maurice, a handsome, sly, brilliant user who will stop at nothing to be a famous writer.   We jump from his youth when he ingratiates himself with an older gay author (as well as Gore Videl) to Maurice starting a family.

It’s very much a story along the lines of the “Talented Mr Ripley” but even more sinister.  It’s so dark and so very good…

THINGS IN JARS by Jess Kid

This book TAKES you to Victorian London, the writing is SO vivid you can smell the poop that everyone is dumping outside their doors into the streets of the city.  It’s a detective story at heart.  An unmarried, pipe-smoking female detective is hired to find a child with strange abilities who may have been kidnapped and sold to those who collect…oddities.

You are TOTALLY immersed in this book – whether you are holding it or not – until it’s finished.  And I’m still thinking about it…

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

To say that I loved Daisy Jones and the Six (also by this author) is an understatement – I was obsessed…with the point of view…with the time period…with the writing.  This book is very different – a glamourous starlet in uber-glamorous 1950s Hollywood but just as good.  A great read.

CIRCE BY MADELINE MILLER

This takes the story of Circe – probably just a few pages in Homer’s Odyssey – and makes her the main character.  If you loved Greek and Roman mythology is school (I did…I tried to major in it in college!), I think you’ll love this book.

THE AGE OF MIRACLES BY KAREN THOMPSON WALKER

Did this auther right this book KNOWING what we are going thru right now?  It’s AMAZING.

Small town California life and then…the rotation of the earth begins to slow.  Gravity is affected…nights become longer…20…25 hours long…bizarre behaviors.  Adjusting to the “new normal” during “The Slowing”  scarily reflects what’s going on now in our world.

THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST BY CHANEL CLEETON

Three very different women find themselves in Key West for one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit the United States.  A lighter read and a really cool look at 1935 Key West, Cuba and the history of The Florida Overseas Railroad.

The Holdout by Graham Moore

The most publicized court case of the decade…a teenage heiress disappears on her way home from school and an African American teacher is accused.

Flash forward 10 years later and the jurors are meeting again…to be interviewed for a “true crime docu-series” and…one is found murdered in his hotel room.

I’ll stop there.  It’s GOOD!

MEG WOLITZER – I’M OBSESSED

I read two of her books – one basically after another.  I’m waiting…with bated breath…for the others to go on sale!

I read The Interestings and immediately bought the other. God. I would love to write like this woman. The characters! Her descriptions. FANTASTIC novels with excellent, strong, flawed female characters.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Female Perusasion by Meg Wolitzer

A BIT OF NON-FICTION:  Memoirs and Self-Help

The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After:  Happiness:  A Memoir by Heather Harpham

I don’t remember why I picked this book…it’s about a single woman…who meets a guy quite different from her.  And their not-at-all easy decision to have children.  And then her young daughter fight…the whole family’s fight…against cancer and how it changes everything.

It’s a beautiful beautiful book.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Get this book for every woman you know.  It’s PACKED with so many fantastic revelations…as Oprah calls them “Ah-Ha moments”…while being totally readable.  I guess this is self help?  If so…it worked.  I feel like the author knows me and is speaking directly to  me.  Another I’ll be reading again and again.

IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME?  (AND OTHER CONCERNS) BY MINDY KALING

Chubby, Indian girl grows up to be a powerhouse in Hollywood and writes a hilarious book about the process.  Super smart observations about men, women, shopping, Hollywood, comedy by someone you wish was your best friend.  Even if you didn’t watch every single episode of The Office.  (I didn’t!)

I’ll be reading this again.

FATHER OF THE RAIN by LILY KING

Honest, heart-breaking story of a woman and her deeply flawed father.  Told over decades as she gets away and is drawn back in.  Repeat.  It got me.  If you haven’t read Lily King’s Euphoria…you should.  It’s set in the jungle of 1930s New Guinea…so completely different topic…but amazing too.  This Lily King author has SKILLS.

THE SHELL SEEKERS BY ROSAMUNDE PILKE

This book is a beautiful engrossing family saga told over generations…this was my second read and I loved it just as much as when I found it in my families vacation house rental when I was 16.  This and The Thorn Birds and Jane Eyre.  My read when I’m feeling sick books…

FUN LIGHT READS THAT I LOVED

It doesn’t need to be War and Peace to get 5-stars on this blog.

Please note:  This blogger has never finished War and Peace.  In fact, I’ve never ever started it.

MEET ME IN MONACO: A NOVEL OF GRACE KELLY’S ROYAL WEDDING BY HAZEL GAYNOR

Is it possible to buy an airline to ticket to the south of France in the 1950s?

ONE TO WATCH BY KATE STAYMAN-LONDON

A plus-sized blogger and influencer SO CYNICAL about reality shows like the  Bachelorette is convinced to star on a reality dating show.  Fun, fast, addictive – silly but smart.

BOOKS ABOUT TRAVEL

THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA:  PAUL THEROUX

If there is any one writer that makes me want to travel, it is Paul Theroux.  In this book, written in 1992 (I’m guessing that some of these islands haven’t changed very much at all since then), he’s on the verge of divorce and goes on an epic solo trip traversing the 10s of thousands of miles of empty ocean between the Americas and Australia.  Open deep deep ocean sprinkled, here and there with tiny atolls and volcanic islands that have intriguing histories and languages and customs.

Theroux focuses less on the landscape and more on the quirks of the local people.  I find all of his books HILARIOUS.   I loved this one just as much as the others.

And now am a bit better armed if I am at a trivia event and the Category is “Capitals of the South Pacific”.  Tonga?  Nuku’alofa.  Duh.

Earlier in the year, I read

Deep South: Four Seasons on Backroads: by Paul Theroux

Written over 30 years after his kayak around Oceania, in this book, Theroux sets out to explore his own country – the United States – but a part of it that, as he explores and describes it, is almost as foreign to him as Africa or South America.

He travels through the most rural parts of the south – getting to know strangers and listening to their stories.  Finding how many people have simply been left behind.   Quite a few lines stuck with me like “though America in its greatness is singular, it resembles the rest of the world in its failures.”

Around the World in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh

Train travel is so…romantic.  Slow moving…watching the country-side roll by….in a train car filled with natives of the country.  Paul Theroux usually travels by train…those books are so good.

But this author took me on a train ride through the Canadian Rockies…and on the Orient Express…and trains in North Korea.  And I was mesmerized.  I want to do it all!

 

 

AND POETRY…YES!  POETRY ABOUT DOGS!

DOG SONGS by Mary Oliver

This one is poetry – something I NEVER read; I found the recommendation from my favorite blog – Cup Of Jo. Now I want to read everything Mary Oliver has ever written.

In a world that is full of craziness and unknown…it’s so great to read these beautiful words about Mary Oliver’s pet dogs over the years. He observations and insight into a life of a dog sometimes makes me cry.  I’ve been reading a poem or two a night out loud before we go to bed.  This book would make a great gift to a dog lover – only monster wouldn’t like it. 😉

This poem really sticks with me.

Please send me some of your favorites!  I’m ALWAYS looking add to my list!  And thanks to Kindle Daily deals…I have about 20 books ready to go!





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