If any year was made for curling up on the couch with a good book, it was 2020–whether as a way to relax or mentally escape, or simply because there wasn’t much else to do.
I actually had a hard time reading during the first couple months of the pandemic. I just couldn’t concentrate. But then the monotony of spending every day in the house got to me and I started picking up the pace.
I even discovered the benefits of audio books–something I was opposed to in the past. I still greatly prefer reading a physical book, but now I listen to audio books while getting ready, emptying the dishwasher, or driving the 5-minute route to the grocery store and I’m able to get through more books than before. (Which is awesome considering I have 376 books on my Goodreads Want-to-Read shelf…)
This year I read (or listened to) 46 books and below I have shared some of my favorites.
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Historical fiction, time-travel, thriller, romance…this book has a little of everything and meshes the genres together in the best way possible. It is about Jake, a high school teacher, who goes back in time to prevent JFK from being assassinated. The amount of detail in this book, the relationships between the characters–it was all fascinating, and although it’s a long story, I was sad to be finished with it. Side note: it was turned into a mini series on Hulu and while I prefer the book (books are always better in my opinion), the show is really good as well.
The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker
I debated whether or not to read this post-apocalyptic novel because, well, 2020. But I am so glad I did. For one, it made me realize that things can be so much worse. For two, the ending…let’s just say it left me reeling. The story follows a man who gets separated from his family after asteroids strike the planet, and he finds himself literally running across the UK to reunite with them–and the run is the easiest part of his journey.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
I don’t usually read celebrity memoirs, but when I heard that Matthew (I feel like we’re on a first-name basis now) narrated the audio book himself, I had to listen. I could listen to him read the nutrition facts on a cereal box and be captivated. Part memoir, part guide-to-life, I found the book both hilarious and thought-provoking.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
This book. I don’t even know where to start except by saying that I absolutely loved it. The story follows a family who moves to Alaska in 1974, where they struggle to survive both the elements and the father’s increasingly erratic and controlling behavior. This is the kind of book that makes you feel like you are in it, spying on the characters through the trees, shivering from the intense cold. The kind of book where you want to reach out and slap or shake or hug the characters. I highly recommend it.
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center
This is an easy read about a thirty-something divorced woman who decides to go on a three-week guided hiking trip in the mountains of Wyoming–never mind the fact that she isn’t a hiker. There, she discovers who she is and how to survive, as well as finds herself falling for the considerably-younger best friend of her brother.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Never before have I felt so much sympathy for and anger towards a single character. The story takes place in 1920s Australia. Tom, a lighthouse keeper, and his wife Isabel are living on an isolated island when a boat drifts ashore with a dead man and a crying baby. Desperate after suffering miscarriages and a stillbirth, Isabel convinces Tom to keep the baby as their own. But a couple years later they discover the cost of that decision. It is a beautifully-written and heartbreaking exploration of grief, love, and what makes someone a parent.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
This story is about a Korean family who immigrates to America and starts a business offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) sessions to treat conditions such as autism and infertility. When the HBOT chamber explodes due to an act of arson, killing and wounding multiple people, all the evidence points to the mother of one of the victims. But was she really to blame? This book had me guessing until the very end. Fair warning though, the topics make for a pretty heavy read, so if you’re looking for something light in these crazy times, this isn’t it.
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
Let me start by saying that this historical fiction novel is not one I would have chosen on my own, BUT it ended up being my favorite read this year (and this is why I love being in a book club!). Rachel, a seven-year old Hawaiian girl is shipped off to a leprosy colony on the island of Moloka’i, without her family. The story follows her through the decades, chronicling the ups and downs of her disease and life on the island. It is a story that touched my soul–and one I will happily reread one day.
The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypool White
A moving tale about a mother, Katie, who walks away from her husband and newborn because of obsessive thoughts that she will do something to hurt her daughter. Nine years later, Katie unexpectedly meets her daughter, Maisie, and realizes that the young girl has signs of OCD. Although Katie had promised to stay away, she knows she must face her fears–and her ex–to get Maisie the help she needs. This book kept me turning the pages and I’ll definitely be reading more by this author.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
I’m not going to lie–this book is a little weird. It’s not going to be for everyone. But I loved it. The plot is pretty much exactly as the title suggests–the women in a North Carolina book club encounter a charming man who worms himself into their lives until one of them, Patricia, starts to suspect that he is a vampire. She then has to convince her husband that she isn’t crazy, convince her friends that the handsome stranger is dangerous, and read enough vampire books to learn how to slay a bloodsucker. Note: this book is not for the squeamish.
Some honorable mentions:
All the Water in the World by Karen Raney
Devoted by Dean Koontz
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro
More Than Words by Jill Santopolo
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Rhino in the Room by Jill Hedgecock
Somebody’s Daughter by Rochelle B. Weinstein
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This is Home by Lisa Duffy
So there you have it. I hope you have found a book or two to pick up in 2021 and I would love to hear any of your recommendations.
Cheers to a happier (and book-filled) New Year!