Welcome to my 2020 Reading Wrap Up! This will include my absolute favorites and all of the books that I read.
2020 was an unprecedented year for many reasons, but on a personal note, it was also the best reading year that I’ve had in a long time.
I started with a goal of reading 20 books for the year, which seemed doable until about March. (Nothing really seemed doable in March 2020, lol.) I didn’t think I would reach my goal because I didn’t read anything for a few months. You can see how behind I was in my mid-year wrap-up. But then something clicked, and I realized that reading was a good distraction and a way to focus on anything besides the mess in the world.
In October, I upped the goal to 25 books because I was already at 20, and finishing a few more seemed pretty realistic. By the end of 2020, I finished 28 books, woo! I know that this is pretty low compared to what some other people can read in a year. But I only read 9 books in 2019, so this was a vast improvement.
There are a few comments I wanted to make about my reading this year, and then we’ll get into my favorites.
Audiobooks were a game-changer.
I’ve been resistant to audiobooks for a long time, but I finally tried them this year. I don’t know what my problem was. I preferred listening to podcasts, and I didn’t think that I would finish books very quickly just by listening to them.
Some people can finish whole audiobooks in a few days, and I’m not one of those people. But something is better than nothing, and 20 minutes every morning does add up if I’m consistent with it.
I’m a member of Audiobooks.com, and I’m generally happy with their selection. The monthly deals are nice too; they have 2 for 1 deals in various genres and other rewards like that. In 2021, I want to try an audiobook company that works with a library card because I would love to take advantage of a free service like that.
2020 was the most diverse reading year that I’ve ever had. I know I am far from perfect, but before, I was really in the rut of only reading sci-fi and self-help books, mainly by white male authors.
This year I really branched out from that and made a point to pick up more books from women and BIPOC authors. Reading about anti-racism and other people’s experiences does not necessarily make me or the situation any better. But I am at least more educated and less ignorant about what other people are going through, which seems like a good thing to me.
And of course, Black Lives Matter! The amazing amount of resources shared this year has made it a lot easier to educate ourselves and get involved.
I plan to continue diversifying my reading in 2021, and I hope to find even more awesome books.
A note about the links.
The links for all of these books will take you to Bookshop.org. They are affiliate links, so I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decide to purchase one of these books (or any other book) through my link.
I chose to become an affiliate of Bookshop.org for a few reasons. It has a large selection, and the books come from local, independent bookstores. Which is something that I am super passionate about! Also, I have personally placed several orders with them and haven’t had any issues. Ordering with my link would also support me and Plants and Pondering’s free content.
There are so many places where you can buy books, but I hope you’ll consider Bookshop.org. I am incredibly grateful for all of your support.
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My Top 6 Favorite Books of 2020
I tried to narrow it down to 5, but I just couldn’t do it! Here are the 6 books that made my 2020 suck less.
Best Fiction: Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby
The funniest book I read this year. Wow, No Thank You is Samantha Irby’s third collection of essays. She is the master of self-deprecating humor, and I so relate to her desire to be at home in comfy clothes at all times. Why go out if you’re just going to be thinking about laying down the whole time?
Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but for me, there is so much value in funny books that describe gross bodily functions in detail. Many awful things were going on in the world while I read this book, and sometimes it was the only thing that made me laugh that day. Even if Samantha’s brand of humor isn’t your thing, I encourage you to seek out media that just makes you happy.
Best Contemporary Fiction: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green
This was the final part of Hank Green’s debut duology. I read the first book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, last year, and I was instantly drawn into the story. It felt like so long waiting for the second book, so it was really satisfying that it concluded the way that it did. Maybe this is a spoiler, but I appreciated that this book featured multiple perspectives as it followed April May’s close friends.
This series is full of well-informed commentary about internet fame, social media, and a guess about what would happen if an otherworldly being decided to visit. If that sounds fun to you, you have to check it out!
Best YA: Crave by Tracy Wolff
I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. Marketed as being similar to Twilight, I found that Crave was a lot better. Less pining and brooding and more action.
Grace Foster is thrown into a completely new environment after her parents’ death. She is sent to Katmere Academy in Alaska’s remote wilderness and learns that her classmates aren’t quite who they seem to be. (Think vampires.) Definitely a cozy read for the colder months that felt nostalgic in a Twilight-esque way.
Best Science Fiction: Red Mars and Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
I’d call this a somewhat niche sci-fi series. I know that not everyone will be into it, but you’ll really like it if you are. Red Mars is the first book in a trilogy that follows the crew of the first space ship to colonize Mars. Some people criticize the lengthy descriptions of the Martian and the technology they develop, but I just loved it.
There is a massive cast of characters that became good friends throughout the book, and I was devastated when horrible things happened to them.
I found the second book in the Mars trilogy to be just as enthralling as the first. I don’t want to say anything that will give away too much, but there are terraforming efforts to make Mars more suitable for human life. Some colonists are for this, but some are very much against it.
I listened to Green Mars as an audiobook. It kept me company during some of the rougher times early in quarantine. I’m so excited to see how the series wraps up in the third book, but at the same time, I don’t want it to end. If you’re into space sci-fi epics that are slower-paced, I can’t recommend this series enough!
Best Romance: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
This is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series, which are romance stories about women who unintentionally get involved with men of royalty (who could have guessed?). I heard about this series from Zoe at Zoe’s All Booked, and I don’t think she could stop talking about these books if she tried, lol.
It lived up to the hype for me. The main character Naledi is realistic and likable, and the story instantly drew me into her budding romance with Prince Thabiso. I don’t want to give away too much, but I really enjoyed it. The promise of continuing in this universe as a series makes it even better.
Non-Fiction Reads of 2020
The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff
As the sequel to The Tao of Pooh, The Te of Piglet tells more charming stories from the Hundred Acre Woods. This time, the tales often focus on Piglet, who is learning to be brave, with some Eastern wisdom and philosophy mixed in.
I had seen reviews saying that they preferred the first book, and I agree. The Tao of Pooh seemed more magical, and I remember it being so comforting to me when I read it a few years ago. The Te of Piglet appeared to be an outlet for Hoff’s personal beliefs and opinions that I didn’t always agree with.
What killed it for me was when he classified a whole type of ‘Eeyore people’ who are just downers and should be avoided. He is one of my favorite characters, and Eeyore hate will not be tolerated here!
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe
If you love the Headspace meditation app, you’ll love this book. If you’re looking to get into meditation, it’s also worth picking up. Andy, the Headspace founder and the voice of many of the app’s guided meditations, tells stories from the various monasteries he’s attended. He also mixes in simple mindfulness techniques and practices.
I’ve been subscribed to the Headspace app for over two years, so I’m obviously a big fan. It was fascinating to hear about Andy’s experiences and the inspiration for specific exercises and metaphors that he uses. Like a behind-the-scenes look at the meditations that I’ve done for so long.
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
This was an informative read that was a mix of the author’s personal experiences and the results of many, many studies done by her and other researchers. It wasn’t a comfortable or fun book by any means, but it was a necessary one. I knew that racial biases affect countless areas of our lives. Still, I had no idea how far-reaching the impacts of prejudice were.
Dr. Eberhardt details how bias influences numerous facets of society, including police encounters, incarceration, opportunities for education, neighborhood segregation, and more. She explains that biased judgments are not by definition a bad thing, but she offers solutions for how we can all do better to not let those judgments control our actions. I recommend this for anyone looking to understand how pervasive and impactful biases can be.
The Guinea Pig Handbook by Sharon Lynn Vanderlip
Not much to say about this one; either you’d be interested in reading it or you won’t, lol. This is a pretty old edition that I got when I was a kid. There is definitely new and more accurate information out there now. I read this as a quick refresher on guinea pig care before bringing Timmy and Tommy home.
Like I mentioned in my monthly wrap-up for July, I would recommend looking up any pet care information from reputable sources online now. My favorite website for guinea pigs is Guinea Lynx because it is a very detailed and complete reference.
Science Fiction and Thrillers of 2020
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
It’s a good thing that I read Illuminae at the beginning of the year, aka before shit hit the fan. I’ve had a pretty low tolerance for any remotely scary entertainment lately, so this probably would’ve been too much for me in the summer.
Illuminae is the first book in a YA sci-fi/fantasy dystopian series. I enjoyed that it took place primarily in space shuttles (even though that kind of isolation is not fun to me right now). I did like the story overall, but it clearly wasn’t my favorite because I haven’t continued in the series yet. One complaint that I did have was about how the whole concept of ‘hacking’ was handled. As a reasonably tech-savvy engineer, I was expecting something more believable than untrained teenagers being able to hack into secure government communication links (undetected, multiple times). If I suspended disbelief in that regard, the rest of the book was exciting, and it did keep me on the edge of my seat.
I can see someone younger really enjoying this book, so don’t let my so-so review stop you from picking it up. It might be right up your alley.
Recursion by Blake Crouch
Recursion is a science fiction thriller that messes with the concepts of memory and time. There is a strange condition called False Memory Syndrome. People wake up with vivid memories of a life they never lived.
This book was a lot, and I feel like I would appreciate it even more reading it a second time. Much like the concept of recursion itself, this story is mind-bending with its layers and layers of suspense and confusion. I highly recommend it if you’re into time travel or anything like that.
The One by John Marrs
I picked up The One because Kayla from BooksandLala on YouTube loved it so much. It presents the idea of each person being a DNA match for one other person (hence, ‘The One’), and the consequences of that technology. The perspective switches between five different couples as they meet and get to know their perfect matches.
I ended up taking notes so that I could keep each story straight, which helped a lot. I haven’t read many thrillers before, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but The One did engage me the whole time with its many twists and turns.
Fantasy Books of 2020
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
You’re probably already familiar, but The Chronicles of Narnia is a 7-book children’s fantasy series centered around the magical world of Narnia and the adventures that several children have there. The kids enter Narnia from England and help the people and beasts there over a few hundred years.
I have a bit of a soft spot for these books, despite the sometimes misogynistic and judgmentally religious undertones. I read them as an escape from 2020, so I decided to overlook the criticisms and problems that I have and just enjoy the stories. From previous readings, I remember The Horse and His Boy being my favorite, but this time I liked The Voyage of the Dawn Treader the most. There was something about the journey to the eastern edge of the world that I found comforting, or at least engaging enough to keep my mind off other things.
Memoirs and Short Story Collections of 2020
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
All Boys Aren’t Blue is a powerful memoir-manifesto of the author’s experience growing up Black and queer and the struggles he faced juggling both identities. There are plenty of hard-hitting stories from Johnson’s childhood through young adulthood. Family plays a huge role in his life, and many of the lessons he learned were from his grandmother.
As someone who has lived a very different life from Johnson’s, I’m grateful for the vulnerability and honesty that he shared. People are often willing to talk about their struggles, and we have to listen!
Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim
This was a lovely collection of stories from a wide array of Black women. They all revolve around a pivotal time when the women saw themselves or someone who looks like them in a book. I will say that I am not well-versed in Black authors’ literature, so many of the references went over my head. (Something to work on in 2021!)
Nevertheless, this book was a joy to read. The Well-Read Black Girl book club is definitely worth checking out, and it is a massive resource for finding great books by Black authors.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Yes Please is Amy Poehler’s collection of autobiographical essays. One of the best chapters was the little notes that she wrote to everyone on the Parks and Recreation cast. I love that show, and it was so fun to hear some behind the scenes stories about it. Amy also had many other stories and life advice to share, which I really appreciated.
Actor/celebrity books are definitely not something that I want to read all the time, but it was a good book nonetheless.
Romance Books of 2020
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
The Friend Zone is a contemporary romance that follows Kristen, who is (somewhat bitterly) planning her best friend’s wedding. She meets and falls for Josh, a fireman who happens to be the best man. Josh wants a big family, and Kristen knows that’s one thing she can’t give him.
I thought there was a great balance between lighthearted banter and discussion of more serious issues (mainly infertility and loss). There’s also a sequel, called The Happily Ever After Playlist, that’s on my list for 2021.
A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
The second book in the Reluctant Royals series follows Naledi’s best friend Portia as she tries to prove herself by taking an apprenticeship with a sword maker in Scotland. Thinking she can improve their struggling business, she did not expect to be attracted to her ~attractive boss~.
I’m so glad that I started this series because Alyssa Cole has become one of my favorite romance authors. The books have well-developed characters and thoroughly researched subject matter on top of great relationships.
That Guy by Kim Jones
This is a romantic comedy, heavy on the romance, which I’m definitely not going to discuss in any detail, lol. Through a series of wild events, Penelope falls head over heels for Jake Swagger (I know), a rich and powerful CEO. She’s convinced that he’s her ‘That Guy’ and has to convince him as well.
I had pretty low expectations going into it since I downloaded it on a whim as part of a free audiobook deal. It was a little ridiculous, but it did make me laugh out loud a few times, so I can’t complain.
Cowboy Christmas Jubilee by Dylann Crush
This was the start of my experience with the genre of ~Christmas romance novels~ of which I was previously unaware. There was a 2 for 1 deal on my audiobook app, so I figured I would give them a try. Cowboy Christmas Jubilee takes place in the small town of Holiday, Texas (I wish I was making that up). It follows Cash, a sheriff and single dad, and Jinx, a blue-haired motorcycle-driving woman with commitment issues.
I wanted to like this and get into the holiday spirit, but it just didn’t work for me. The romance scenes weren’t great, and the plot was as predictable as a Hallmark movie. Still, I don’t regret experimenting with the genre, and maybe I’ll try again next Christmas.
Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery
The second pick of my two for one audiobook deal, Christmas on 4th Street, is book #12.5 in the Fool’s Gold series. It was completely understandable as a standalone, but maybe it would have been more enjoyable if I had read more in the series.
This time, the small town is Fool’s Gold, California, and the love interests are Noelle and Gabriel. She runs a Christmas store, and he is an army doctor visiting home for the first time in years. They both have complicated pasts that prevent them from expressing their true feelings about each other. I thought these two had more chemistry than the previous couple, but it wasn’t my favorite romance of the year by a long shot.
And that wraps up all of the books that I read in 2020! It was, of course, a strange and challenging year, but I’m proud of surpassing my reading goal. I’m so grateful for the special sort of comfort that can only be found curled up with a great book.
To see all of these books in one place, check out my list of 2020 Reads on Bookshop.org.
What was your favorite book of the year? Do you have any reading goals or plans for 2021? Let me know by leaving a comment!
Keeping Up with My Goodreads Challenge
The Perfect Cozy Fall Reading List
Strategies for Staying on Track with Your Goals
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