It has been a strange reading year, filled with fits and starts. It seems like there were times when all I wanted to do was lose myself in a book. There were other times when it was hard to read a single page. But it all worked out for me in the end, and I’m poised to finish 75 books by the end of the year.
If you are looking to add to your TBR, here are some highlights of my bookish year that I would recommend:
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: The basic premise is a family moves to Alaska with a clueless alcoholic man at the helm. This book isn’t perfect, but it is an absolutely captivating page turner, with memorable characters in untenable situations.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler: This is a well-researched romp through the roaring 20’s from the viewpoint of Zelda. She is strong and smart, but her spirit is broken again and again by the man she loves. Zelda is an unforgettable character and this book is the best of historical fiction.
The Water Dancer by Ta Nehisi Coates: Magical realism in the time of slavery. The emotional core of this novel will rip your heart out in the way only a beautiful book can.
The Nightingale by Hannah Kristin: Sisters living in occupied France during World War II, one a rule breaker and the other a rule follower. This novel is a celebration of sisterly love and family. It is a testament to the lengths we will go to save others, but also to save ourselves.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: I’m not sure exactly where to put this book. Is it heavy? Is it lighter? I dunno. All I know is that I loved it. Schwab’s character study of a woman who cannot die, the only man who doesn’t forget her, and the demon that made it so was one of my most anticipated reads this year. It did not disappoint.
Paris for One by JoJo Moyes: A sweet book of short love stories. I always forget how much I adore short stories, and these ones were lovely. They were just the diversion I needed in a year so heavy in reality.
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: What could be more delightful than reading about the son of the first female president falling in love with the prince of England? Nothing. Really, nothing could be more delightful. This novel just made me smile. I’m smiling just thinking about it.
Jo and Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz: if you ever dreamed of Jo ending up with Laurie, this is the book for you. Check out my full review here.
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore: This one is light, with a little more substance than usual. It combines two things I love: time travel and an emotional core. You can read my full review here.
KID APPROVED READS
Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab: The second installment of the Cassidy and Jacob series, and every bit as fantastic as the first. Creepy, set in Paris, and full of action, this one will make you and your horror loving middle grade kiddo equally happy. I cannot wait for the third installment, which was pushed from fall of 2020 to spring of 2021.
Nevermoor and the second installment, Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend: the first novel takes some time to get moving, with a bit of clunky (not awful) world building, but I promise it is worth the effort. The second novel jumps right into the action and doesn’t stop. If you or your little pork chop are fans of Harry Potter, give the Morrigan Crow series a shot. Although I already have the third book, and am itching to read it, my kiddo is insisting on finishing another series first. I wish I hadn’t promised to wait and read with him.
Pet Semetary by Stephen King: King has often said this is his scariest novel, and the novel he thought he took too far. It is terrifying both because of its supernatural elements, but also because of its true subject: parental grief.
Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: If you are a fan of the Netflix series, beware, the graphic novels are significantly darker. In fact, so dark I almost did not watch the show because I couldn’t understand how you could make it watchable TV. A big old haunted house with keys that do all sorts of supernatural things make these graphic novels fun reads.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: A classic haunted house novel with a splash of Mexican flare. The author ratchets up the tension in a masterful way. The imagery is creepy and stays with you. Don’t read this one before bed.
An Elegant Defense by Matt Richtel: It is amazing to me that I read this one early in the year, just before the Rona forced us into quarentine. This book is part the science of how our immune systems work, and part history of the study of immunology. I realize that makes it sound like a bit of a snooze fest, but the brilliance of this book is that it is readable and accessible. And given what is happening right now, this one is a necessary read.
Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman: I read this one after hearing a piece about it on NPR. This book postulates that kindness is actually what helps us get ahead, from a biological standpoint. Maybe we are not animals that get ahead by our basest drives.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: As a lawyer I typically shy away from reading anything related to the law. This book is a huge exception. It is heartbreaking, jaw dropping, and important. Written by a black lawyer that works exclusively on death penalty cases, this book will challenge your beliefs and hopefully give you new perspective. It will also, likely, make you very angry. If you read nothing else on this round-up, read this beautifully written book.
What was your favorite book you read this year? Let us know in the comments!