Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Favorite Books in 2020

At the end of the year, I love looking back on the list of books I read. Many times just seeing the title brings a flood of memories of where I was and how I felt when I was reading that book. 

I began the year by taking part in the Brighter Winter Book Challenge hosted by Daughters of Promise. I read many more books in January and February than I would have otherwise. Since I was also trying to spend less time on my phone, the book challenge was perfect. I love how they gave me the flexibility to choose my own books. (The 2021 Brighter Winter Book Challenge is now open. Want to join me?)

In the spring with the pandemic news swirling, I struggled to concentrate and read books. I read a few books that were awful, and decided I should never read another book, no matter how good the reviews, unless someone I personally know recommends it. But then I found some real book treasures and fell in love with reading again. 

Here is six nonfiction and seven fiction books that I most enjoyed in 2020.

This post contains affiliate links so if you click over to Amazon and make any purchase a small percentage goes to me without any change to your cost.

Adult Nonfiction

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

Doerr was writing his masterpiece (All the Light We Cannot See) and was given a year in Rome with an apartment and a writing office. So he moved to Rome with his infant twins and promptly hit writer's block. I loved this book describing his year as a writer, new father, and traveler. 

Humilty by Andrew Murray

This small book is a classic for a reason. After reading Humily, most other books feel like fluff. Solid and convicting and should become an annual reread.

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

I read numerous books on technology and it is hard to pick a favorite. But if you want to choose one book on technology that will stamp on your toes and could change your life, read this one. Then pick another from my list of books on technology.

The Highway and Me and My Earl Gray Tea by Emily Smucker

I've read Emily's blog for years and feel like I know her though we've never met. This book tells the story of her year of traveling around the US living in various Mennonite communities. But more than a travel memior, Emily honestly shares her struggles with singleness, loss, and illness.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I've read other books about habits, but I'm not sure any are as practical as this one. I love books that inspire me to change today, and this one does. Easy to read and perfect book for January.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

I listened to this book in the spring and thought of it often during the discussions on race this summer, though it isn't a book about race but about communication. Why do we misunderstand people so often? And even worse, why do we think we understand people and then get it so wrong? Gladwell's books are always memorable and the audio of this book is outstanding. Clips from interviews, and even court cases, makes this book unforgetable though some of the content is hard to stomach and is for adults only.

Adult Fiction

I hate spoilers, so I won't share many details on any of these books, but if you like well-written fiction that carries you off to another time and place, try any of these. That is, if your reading tastes are similiar to mine. Probably all of these books contain something that I'd change, but they are reasonably clean of sensuality and language and contain characters and plots that I found edifying. Your tastes may vary.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Enger's book has been on my to-be-read list for over ten years. Maybe I was reluctant because I knew too much about it, but when I finally got into this on audio, I couldn't stop. The writing quality is superb. A perfect read for this winter if you want to travel to the Dakota Badlands in the snow searching for a prodigal son. If you like To Kill a Mockingbird, I think you'll like this one. 

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

I enjoy World War 2 books and this one carried me to London during the Blitz and made me cry. Yet, it is more heartwarming than sad. Perfect on audio.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Another book that has been on my list for years. The beginning moves slow as we listen to an old man's letters to his young son, but by the end I was hooked. There is a reason it won the Pulitzer. Some say that Home, the companion book to this one, is even better. I have it on my list to read in January.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Don't bother reading this is you haven't read Jane Austen's books. But if you know Emma, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley, and Elizabeth then you'll love this book which follows a young woman who grew up in foster homes who loves classic literature. The plot might be unbelievable, but you'll still be rooting for her. Another book that was great on audio. (I'm wondering, does audio give me a better reading experience? Or did I just do a lot of audios this year? Maybe both.)

The Secrets of the Charmed Life by Susan Meisner

Another delightful story set in the London Blitz, this one telling of the circumstances that divided two sisters for decades. The audio had that delightful British accent.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

I've wanted to read a Berry novel for years. His character, Jayber, carries us to the Kentucky riverside, describing his boyhood and the journey that took him away from the river and back again. Don't expect anything dramatic in this book, just delightful characters and Berry's love for the agarian life of the early 1900's. I can't wait to visit Port William in Berry's other books.

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

Another river in the south, this one in Georgia, but a modern time period where a little girl waits for a heart transplant. Another wonderful book on audio at Scribd.

What was your favorite books read in 2020?


  1. Thank you SO much for posting this list. Thanks too for telling us about the 'reading challenge'. With many libraries closed in the UK, it has been a challenge to find something new to read so I am delighted to get started on some of these books ! Reading is a wonderful pastime !

    1. I've missed the libraries this year too. I think that is one reason I listened to so many audio books this year. Our library is open for limited hours now, but they are also offering delivery. So we are getting our reserved books delivered to our door. I have the best librarians ever!

  2. I signed up for the reading challenge. I did it earlier this year and had fun!
    I'm in the middle of Plain Becky by Becky McGurrin. I've read it before but wanted to read it again.

  3. Thanks for the list! I always struggle with finding wholesome books that are edifying. With nine children, I don't have a lot of time to read so I don't want to waste my time on garbage.

  4. I think my favorite book from this year was "84, Charing Cross Road." I absolutely adored it!

    Also, I finally GOT "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and read it straight through twice. Loved it.

    Greatly enjoyed "The 39 Steps" - WWI thriller.

    Also, have been devouring anything "Jeeves & Wooster" by P.G. Wodehouse. My favorites.

    Thanks for sharing - I have looked some of these out from our library!


  5. Thank you for this list! I have been wanting some new reading material but didn’t know where to start. I am going to look these up at the library. God bless you all!

  6. I think I read more books in 2020 than I previously had read per year for quite a number of years. My favorite was "Amedeo". It was the story of an orphan raised in a convent who went in search of his mother when he found out she might still be alive. Anything but the story of my life--and yet every page had me captivated: this was my story, somehow...the seeking after a dream and the encounter with a blind man along the way--it turned me inside out in a way that a book hadn't for a long time.
    Other favorites were "Language Shock", "Surprised by Joy", and, very recently, "Under a Silent Sky."

  7. I love book recommendations. And after reading a few by Jamie Langston Turner, I think we have similar taste in books. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for this! Ive been wanting to make a book list for 2021 and this is helpful. Perhaps I should read "Humility" as humble is my word for the year. Also Ive been wanting to read "12 Ways Your Phone....." so I got it on Audible last night. :) Looking forward to it!

  9. Love this list! I've read one (Peace Like a River), have a couple of these on my (endless!) to-read list, and just added a couple more. Thanks!


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