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What I Read in 2020

Whew. 2020.

Good riddance.

At this time last year, I had opened my 2019 entry on the year’s reading with the following sentiment:

“For me, 2019 was a year full with a happy, frenetic energy that was at once uplifting, joyous, exhausting, uncertain, and novel.”

“Happy,” “uplifting,” and “joyous” are not words most of us would use to describe the year that has just been. Exhausting, sure. Uncertain, uh-huh. Novel, you could say that.

So I will not dwell on or recap here the awfulness that 2020 was. We’ve all been through enough already. In the months and years to come, there will be writers and archivists much better equipped than I am to describe and unpack everything the year contained and affected.

But like many people out there, reading became more important to me than ever this year. Book-as-escape-pod was a major mood. So, thank you, books! Thank you, writers! Thank you bookstores!

Here are the books I read in 2020, in the order I read them:

THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides (Fiction, 2019)

“The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her

husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive” (Goodreads).

This was a fun, engrossing, fast-paced read. A blazer, I’d say! And that twist at the end? Whewww.

THE OVERSTORY by Richard Powers (Fiction, 2019)

**2020 Reading List Top Pick**

“The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of - and paean to - the natural world” (Goodreads).

This book has entered the pantheon of One of the Best Books I’ve Ever Read. I was moved by the beauty of its prose, its message, its art. This book made me cry. Cry! And not one of those Sudden Tragic Plot Point kind of cries; the kind of earned cry that comes from a slow and steady alchemy over the course of hundreds of pages. A bonafide stunner.

THE 7 ½ DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton (Fiction, 2018)

**2020 Reading List Top Pick**

“Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. With a locked room mystery that Agatha Christie would envy, Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense” (Goodreads).

Want to read a book that makes you feel like you’re inside a game of Clue? I think I always have, at some level -- and this is it! Incredible fun, awe-inspiring intricacy, and wonderful storytelling.

4:50 FROM PADDINGTON by Agatha Christie (Fiction, 1957)

“For an instant the two trains ran together, side by side. In that frozen moment, Elspeth witnessed a murder. Helplessly, she stared out of her carriage window as a man remorselessly tightened his grip around a woman’s throat. The body crumpled. Then the other train drew away. But who, apart from Miss Marple, would take her story seriously? After all, there were no suspects, no other witnesses... and no corpse” (Goodreads).

Succinct, taut, intriguing. Classic Christie. For me, not as good as the couple other Christie books I’ve read, but still good.

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by Ruth Ware (Fiction, 2016)

“Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo's stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo's desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong” (Goodreads).

The book did an amazing job of ratcheting up the sensation of claustrophobia and inescapability. Great setting, well-plotted, fun read.

MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russell (Fiction, 2020)

“Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer” (Goodreads).

This novel by a fellow Maine-connected writer was atmospheric, beautifully written, and brutally honest and accurate in its depiction of the trap of predatory relationships. A real feat.

CROOKED RIVER by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (Fiction, 2020)

“Appearing out of nowhere to horrify the quiet resort town of Sanibel Island, Florida, dozens of identical, ordinary-looking shoes float in on the tide and are washed up on the tropical beach--each one with a crudely severed human foot inside. Called away from vacation elsewhere in the state, Agent Pendergast reluctantly agrees to visit the crime scene--and, despite himself, is quickly drawn in by the incomprehensible puzzle” (Goodreads).

I’ve been reading Preston & Child books for years now, and I have a very special place in my heart for the Pendergast series. The premise with this latest installment is really excellent, and we get to spend a little more time than usual with one of the great characters of the series -- Constance Greene. I’ll honestly probably read this series until I am dead, no matter what. Big fan.

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn (Fiction, 2018)

“Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems” (Goodreads).

I really loved the style of writing in this book; it’s a more “maximal” style than I’ve seen in a lot of other thrillers, and I really liked it. This book also has one of the more striking unreliable narrators I’ve read recently, which made for a puzzle-like read at times.

THE FALCONER by Dana Czapnik (Fiction, 2019)

“New York, 1993. Seventeen-year-old Lucy Adler, a street-smart, trash-talking baller, is often the only girl on the public courts. At turns quixotic and cynical, insecure and self-possessed, Lucy is in unrequited love with her best friend and pick-up teammate Percy, scion to a prominent New York family who insists he wishes to resist upper crust fate. As she navigates this complex relationship with all its youthful heartache, Lucy is seduced by a different kind of life—one less consumed by conventional success and the approval of men. A pair of provocative female artists living in what remains of New York’s bohemia invite her into their world, but soon even their paradise begins to show cracks,” (Goodreads).

This was a really atmospheric, compelling, quirky book I found just so delicious. There’s a romance to New York City in this book, and a female lead with incredible dimension. Really enjoyed this one.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng (Fiction, 2017)

**2020 Reading List Top Pick**

“In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned--from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren--an enigmatic artist and single mother--who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community” (Goodreads).

I really loved this book! So readable, written with precision and finesse, and a “builder” sort of like THE OVERSTORY. Like everyone else in the world, have thought about it periodically ever since I read it.

THE CIRCUS ROSE by Betsy Cornwell (Fiction, 2020)

“A queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family” (Goodreads).

All I can say is, the hearts, minds, and souls of young readers (and all readers of YA) are in great hands if THE CIRCUS ROSE is at all representative of the genre. Bold, beautiful, honest, and organically open-minded. A beautiful work.

THE LAST FLIGHT by Julie Clark (Fiction, 2020)

**2020 Reading List Top Pick**

“The Last Flight is the story of two women―both alone, both scared―and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives” (Goodreads).

Another blazer! I absolutely FLEW through this book (pun intended, I guess??). Compelling, compulsive, and so clever. And a true, earned moment of pathos at the end -- a twist-ending of sorts -- really solidified my love for this book. Absolutely one of my favorites of the year.

PEDRO PARAMO by Juan Rulfo (Fiction, 1955)

“A classic of Mexican modern literature about a haunted village. As one enters Juan Rulfo's legendary novel, one follows a dusty road to a town of death. Time shifts from one consciousness to another in a hypnotic flow of dreams, desires, and memories, a world of ghosts dominated by the figure of Pedro Páramo - lover, overlord, murderer” (Goodreads).

Such a weird, wonderful little book. I’ve never read anything quite like it.

THE GUEST LIST by Lucy Foley (Fiction, 2020)

“It's the wedding of the year. But someone won't survive it. Everyone on the island has a secret. Everyone has a motive. And someone won't leave this wedding alive…” (Goodreads).

This was an incredibly fun, moody, titillating book! I really enjoyed it and often find myself thinking about and lingering on different scenes from this book in my mind, and how it all came together. Great read.

WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK by Julia Heaberlin (Fiction, 2020)

“The discovery of a girl abandoned by the side of the road threatens to unearth the long-buried secrets of a Texas town's legendary cold case in this superb, atmospheric novel from the internationally bestselling author of Black-Eyed Susans” (Goodreads).

This book was totally excellent. Smart, beautifully written, edgy, and interesting. Can’t ask for much more than that.

So, that's my 2020 list!

And what am I reading now? Currently, I'm reading HIDDEN VALLEY ROAD by Robert Kolker (nonfiction) and IS THIS ANYTHING? By Jerry Seinfeld (nonfiction). Very different books, which is maybe a good thing!

So what did you love in 2020?

What are you looking forward to loving in 2021?

If you’re looking for a book to look forward to in 2021

(*shameless plug alert*)

you might want to consider

(*shameless plug alert*)

(*shameless plug alert*)

which is out in September 2021!

Best wishes for a MUCH IMPROVED year in 2021, friends!

Until next time, happy reading!


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