Favorite Books of 2020

Happy New Year! 2020 was my most successful year of reading since becoming an adult (whenever that happened? I’m not sure). I owe most of this year’s reading to my library and their vast supply of audiobooks. I’ve never finished so many books on audio (47!) and absolutely wouldn’t have had the ability to concentrate on good books without being able to listen to them.

Just a quick housekeeping note: Goodreads updated my year in books on 12/29. But I finished another book last night, so my updated numbers are 109 books and 36,381 pages read (!).

My reading was varied this year – I embraced young adult and middle grade novels, tried out some fantasy, devoured a few cozy mystery series, and attempted to read every new release that I could get my hands on. For a snapshot of all of the books I finished this year, you can see my 2020 Goodreads Shelf. Here are a few of my favorite books from the year, in no particular order:

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
I only finished this a couple of weeks ago and I simply couldn’t stop reading it. It’s about Gifty, a 20-something neuroscientist who is researching ways to help people with addictions. Throughout this book, she grapples with her fervent religious identity as a child and thinks about how it helped and hindered her family. Her parents and older brother immigrated from Ghana to Alabama before she was born and her observations about their lives are incredible. This book was thoughtful, smart, and relatable in so many ways.

(I know I said these were my favorites in no particular order, but I’m pretty sure this was my #1 read this year!)

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
This was creepy and strange – a book with not many answers. The author played with race, class, and the images of ourselves that we project to others. It was short – I managed to listen to the audio version in just a couple of days – yet incredibly unsettling. It left me wanting to hear more of the story that Alam was trying to tell!

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
I read two of Krueger’s books this year and debated which to share in this post. I decided on this one because I read it first, but both were equally wonderful (the other was Ordinary Grace). Set in Minnesota in the 30s, a group of children run away from their orphanage in true Huck Finn style. This was a retelling of The Odyssey and such a good story.

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
This is a typical WWII book with a predictable – yet moving! – storyline. But what captured my fancy was the present day storyline about Alice. Like me, she has a young son who is autistic and nonverbal. I’ve never seen my life written on the page before and I felt seen and heard in ways that I didn’t think was possible. And it was amazing to see her son’s ability to help Alice solve the puzzle in his own incredible way.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plant by Robin Wall Kimmerer
The author of this book of essays is a biologist, Indigenous woman, and a poet. I enjoyed so much about this book, especially when learning how Indigenous people came to many of the same conclusions as scientists by simply studying and respecting the nature of Earth. Kimmerer also has a book about moss that I’d like to listen to. Yes. Moss.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
This is a last minute addition that I only finished last night, but I absolutely had to include it! This was a fantastical and whimsical novel that had me laughing out loud and and grinning like a goofball the entire time I listened to it. It was such a great reminder that our “extraordinary” children have so much to offer when we embrace their unique abilities. The narrator is the best I’ve heard – he had so many voices that were perfect for each of the characters. I’m so happy that I finished out my reading year with this book… and it would be a great way to start 2021 if you’re still looking for your first read of the year!

As far as reading goals in 2021 –
I’m planning to set my Goodreads goal to 52 books, which works out to 1 book a week. That is certainly a respectable pace! If I happen to double that like I did this year, then so be it. But truly – I’m planning to spend 2021 focusing on quality rather than quantity. I say that every year and then get competitive with myself, but I really mean it this time. I’m planning to tackle some big books — I want to finish The Earth’s Children series for example – and I don’t want my inner voice about not doing “enough” to get in the way of that. 2021 is about Stillness – quieting that voice that incites the mania within me. And that extends to my reading life.

I’ll be relaxing my tracking habits. I’m retiring my spreadsheet and sticking to Goodreads and my paper/pen notebooks. I love all of the stats that my spreadsheet gives me, but it’s an extra layer that complicates my reading life and I’d like to pare my life down to the basics this year. My quarterly reading updates will include my favorite books, not the numbers they produce. Stillness.

I’ve debated whether to include chapter books that I read aloud with the kids. Until now, I haven’t. I don’t quite understand why I’ve made that decision, except for thinking that it somehow felt like cheating. But we read very good books together (most of the time), stop and talk about what’s happening in the books, look up words, and I read more slowly and deliberately when I’m reading aloud. In many ways, it’s a much more enriching reading experience than when I’m reading on my own. So — I’m going to start including chapter book read-alouds in my reading tally in 2021.

Thank you for all of the book recommendations, encouragement, and friendship in 2020. My reading life was enriched more than I can describe here. May we all have a 2021 full of great books and good friends to share them with. Cheers!


37 thoughts on “Favorite Books of 2020

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  1. These are truly spectacular numbers, Katie! And thank you for helping me add a book or two to my list! (I too so enjoyed Cerulean Sea… just such a heartwarming story!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really take my hat off to that – wow, congratulations! πŸ™‚ If I were you, I’d just include the books. You ARE reading them, right? A book is a book. It sounds like you had a wonderful year between the pages, and that is the most important thing, that you enjoyed yourself. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Julia. I think I will be adding them this year. I’m looking forward to following along with your reading adventures this year, too πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I am so impressed by the number of books you’re able to read given how busy you are with homeschooling and raising your kids and all the other stuff. And I think you should definitely include the chapter books you read with your kids! Books written for children may be shorter and faster to read, but they’re in no way lesser.

    I’m still trying to decide on my reading goal for this year in terms of total number, but as always I want to read good books (quality over quantity and all that). Fortunately I’ve got so many good recommendations to get me started!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of giving books read in 2020 a second chance. It was such an odd year and I was a total mood reader this year. I hope your year has started out smashingly!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for the reviews. I have now added two more books to my TBR! πŸ™‚
    I absolutely include children’s chapter books. I read a good bit of children’s books between reading aloud and pre-reading books for my daughter. They totally count!
    I’ve only read one book on your list in this post and that’s This Tender Land. It was well-written and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to hear the author speak about the book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I started including the books I read aloud to my son in my total stats this year. And then when I just posted my reading wrap-up, I made a note of how many were just mine and how many were ours. I think they totally count! I also just finished Transcendent Kingdom recently and it was amazing. I loved it! It’s in my top ten.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so behind on blogs but I’m looking forward to your reading wrap up! You’re the person who inspired me to start counting readalouds. When I see your updates on Goodreads I never think that YOU’RE cheating because you count them, so I would hope that people would think the same about me πŸ˜‰

      And yay for Transcendent Kingdom. I’m still working my way through Homegoing (slowly) and can already say that I loved her second book more than her first… and I know that her first is an all-time favorite for many people!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely list, Katie! I started the Moss book and was loving it, but wasn’t able to finish it before it had to go back to library. Braiding Sweetgrass has been on my TBR forever. I left Goodreads this year because I just needed a fresh start. The TJ Kune book sounds lovely! I’m curious, do you listen with earbuds in? I find it hard to listen since I’m at home with my children all the time. I do sometimes listen early in the morning, but still haven’t managed to find a good time with kids and audio.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Amy! I’m glad to hear that someone has (started to) read the Moss book and enjoyed it. I don’t usually listen with earbuds. I tend to listen to audiobooks in the late afternoon when I’m by myself in the van picking up my middle child from his treatment center and late in the evening after everyone has gone to bed. If I have a REALLY good audiobook that I want to pick up throughout the day when other people are around, then I’ll put on my headphones. But I usually listen during quiet times when I’m alone and the noise isn’t an issue. I hope you find a good time for audiobooks, because they definitely changed the game for me in 2020!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I recognized a lot in that post – I also had my best reading year yet, which I can attribute to audiobooks as well! I actually didn’t finish Transcendent Kingdom because I found the pacing too slow, but this is a perfect illustration of how there are books for every reader!

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  8. I applaud your decision to start tracking the chapter books you’re reading with the kiddos. I have a shelf for those books on Goodreads and would love to get more recommendations for books I can read with Charlie and Sam. Here’s to another wonderful year of books and reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mary! I’m going to take a look at your Goodreads shelf because I’m finding it a bit more difficult to come up with ideas now that the library is back to only doing curbside pickup. I miss wandering the stacks!!


    1. Thank you for your link and adding me to your round up post!! It seems like a lot of us are trying to focus on quality over quantity in 2021 – good luck!!


  9. I see so many comments regarding the number of books read.
    I am an avid reader and have found that it’s the quality of the book not the quantity. I have just finished reading Pillars of the Earth for a second time after reading Follet’s prequel The Evening and the Morning. Both are in the 900 plus page category. Now I’m onto immersing myself into World Without End. That being said I did read in between these Katherine Center’s What You Wish For and am now finishing The Girl With the Louding Voice. Highly recommend all…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for all of the recommendations! I started Pillars of the Earth and found it wasn’t for me, but I’d like to try again. I’m always happy to hear when people find big, fat series to lose themselves in πŸ™‚

      I’m working to focus on quality this year, too… Thanks for the reminder!


  10. I see so many comments regarding the number of books read.
    I am an avid reader and have found that it’s the quality of the book not the quantity. I have just finished reading Pillars of the Earth for a second time after reading Follet’s prequel The Evening and the Morning. Both are in the 900 plus page category. Now I’m onto immersing myself into World Without End. That being said I did read in between these Katherine Center’s What You Wish For and am now finishing The Girl With the Louding Voice. Highly recommend all…


  11. Leave the World behind and This Tender Land are both waiting on my shelf. I started The Things We Cannot Say on audio through a library hold but had to abandon it because it was at a time when I didn’t have any time to listen. I was loving it though and am back on the hold list. I’ve met William Kent Krueger twice and he is such a delight. I am definitely reading his book soon! I loved Ordinary Grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How awesome to have met Krueger! I’m always happy to hear when authors are delightful… it makes me feel even BETTER about loving their books! I hope you get to some of these books soon – so many books, so little time!! Happy reading πŸ™‚


  12. Ooo, I’m so glad I found your post via MMD because our reading tastes seem so similar! I also read two books by Krueger this year and debated which to include in the top (and also liked This Tender Land slightly more), and have now added The Things We Cannot Say immediately to my Goodreads. (Also, I hope you don’t mind, I added you as a friend there—I think our tastes are pretty similar, and I’m excited to be able to get good title recommendations from you in the future!)

    Happy 2021 to you, and good luck on your reading goals this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Torrie – I’m so glad we connected! Of course it’s okay to friend me on Goodreads – I approved your request!! And now I’m following your blog, too πŸ™‚ I am obsessed with Utah!

      I hope you have a great weekend!


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