The 12 Best Books I Read in 2020

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Reading for fun is one of my favorite pasttimes, but finding a great book can take a lot of energy! Here is the list of the 12 best books I read in 2020 and the reasons I loved them.

I love books lists, especially from other avid readers who have similar literature tastes! So whether you’re looking for self-help, historical fiction, mystery or a good romance, you’re bound to find a great book to sink your teeth into from my list of 2020’s favorites.

I gave each of these books a 5 star rating over on Goodreads, and I don’t give those out often; these are the only ones that earned it out of the 37 total books I read last year. Check out my profile for more recommendations and if you’re on Goodreads too, let’s be friends!

The Orphan Keeper

It’s important to know when starting this book that, even though it’s classified as a novel, it’s all based on true events that happened to a real person. The entire story is pretty unbelievable and reminds me of the movie Lion (also based on a book of actual events). The main character is abducted from his home in India, sold to an orphanage and then adopted by an American couple and raised in the US without ever knowing where he really came from.

The story is inspiring, heart wrenching, haunting and redemptive. There are some great one-liners that make me want to needlepoint them on a pillow. There are also a few lines that seem a little contrived, like the author was trying too hard to make them mean something.
But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one!

My Lady Jane

This audiobook was simply delightful! It had me snort-laughing all the way through and was super creative in how it reimagined a rather boring bit of English history. That being said, I kind of lost steam at the end when the plot fizzled a little but I’m glad I opened it back up to finish. Overall, highly recommended!

P.S. It was also super clean even with romantic elements. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to a 9 year old but teens would get a kick out of it.

Stargirl

This book was absolutely darling and surprisingly deep. Stargirl initially captivates her fellow high school students with her kindness, lack of self-consciousness and bizarre sense of style but they later turn on her, despite her efforts to charm them all. Told from a close friend’s point of view, Stargirl attempts to explain why some people are “different” and why it frightens the rest of us so much.

The perfect YA read for kids struggling to fit in; I breezed through it in one afternoon.

The Aviator’s Wife

Wow- I could not have loved this book more! Like most people born in the late 20th century, I had a vague knowledge of Charles Lindbergh’s fame as an early aviator and, of course, a cloudy recollection of a kidnapped baby. This book was a fascinating, albeit melancholy, deep dive into the lives of the most famous couple of the 1930’s & ‘40’s. Written from the perspective of Anne, the story pulls back the curtain of fame and gives us a fictionalized look at the First Lady of the air, the grieving mother, the neglected wife and the brave widow.

Mindless Eating

This was just a fascinating read! It reminded me a bit of the book Foodist, which I also really enjoyed, but this one was from the point of view of a food researcher who has spent decades in labs, testing how and why people eat what they do.

This book is chock full of interesting and humorous experimental anecdotes, and had lots of great tips for how to either gain or lose weight without even noticing using what he calls the “mindless margin”, e.g. by just putting a candy dish farther from your desk or not refilling your soda. This would be a fantastic book club pick because there’s so much to discuss!

The Giver of Stars

Gah! I totally loved this one! It has everything I look for in a great novel: unique setting, fascinating and easy-to-love characters, lots of drama (Natural disaster! Wrongful murder conviction! Forbidden love! Domestic violence! Big bad villain!) and a great ending. I laughed, I cried, I cheered. Best book I’ve read in a long time.

Note: it’s a bit slow to start; I actually read the first four chapters months ago but when my library loan ended on me, I forgot about it until recently. Definitely worth pushing through to the action!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

This book was extraordinary! Eleanor is a highly intelligent yet delightfully awkward “office worker” whose baffled musings on trending fashion and social norms made me laugh out loud! You gradually begin to realize that Eleanor’s hiding more than just disdain behind her public persona: childhood abuse and trauma have left their mark and she has to figure out whether letting someone in will help or hurt her in the long run. Funny, heart breaking and beautifully written.

Note: there were a smattering of F-words here and there.

The Mother-in-Law

This book was crazy addicting! The majority of the book was basically just the story of a somewhat strained relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law. Gradually, however, you learn that there’s so much more going on behind the scenes as they work to uncover the truth behind a supposed suicide. There’s also terminal illness, infertility, murder, infidelity, and other drama, but mostly a lot of insight into familial relationships. I couldn’t put it down!

(The story takes place in Australia which means that the audiobook is read with a fun accent. Definitely made the listen that much more enjoyable!)

The Downstairs Girl

What a delightful novel! Jo Kuan is an American girl of Chinese heritage who lives in Atlanta during the Reformation years (a unique portion of southern history between the abolishment of slavery and the establishment of Jim Crow). She’s young, plucky, intelligent and sassy- just the way I like my heroines! Her life revolves around figuring out where she came from and why her parents abandoned her, how to care for her aging guardian, being abused in her job as a ladies maid and how to make a mark on a world that refuses to offer her the basest of human rights.

The whole thing was uplifting, inspiring and downright hilarious.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done

I loved this book! First of all, Acuff’s advice is spot on, from beginning to end. I found myself nodding along every time he introduced a new concept like “strategic incompetence”, making rewards for yourself, tracking data and rooting out your secret rules of perfectionism. I even recognized times in my life when I’d used his tricks to reach a goal, without even knowing I was doing it. I took copious notes and can’t wait to put them all to use on my next project!

Side note: I highly recommend the audiobook. The author is hilarious and he offers several bonus asides that aren’t included in the text version. Some of his tangents had me wondering where he was going with them but they were worth quite a few laugh-out-loud moments.

Calico Joe

I really enjoyed this heartbreakingly sweet story of a boy, his deadbeat dad, his baseball hero and the fateful day when the three of them intersected. The underlying themes of forgiveness and redemption were pretty perfectly woven in and I may have even shed a couple tears at the end.

There is lots of technical baseball jargon, which is kind of fun for any American kid who grew up hitting baseballs in their suburban backyard, but if you know nothing about the game, you might have to look up a few terms.

The Two-Family House

I enjoyed this book immensely! Two adult brothers raise their families on separate floors of the same small house in New York, sharing meals, parenting advice and more, until one day the mothers of the families strike a secret bargain that then changes everything.

I thought the story was a beautiful ode to mothers everywhere, regardless of whether they be capable and selfless or incapacitated by stress and mental illness. I felt that it was a lovely story of difficult decisions and the power of family.

Looking for more book ideas? Here’s a list of the best books I read in 2019!

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