Tuesday Topics | My favorite book(s) of 2020

This week, I am linking up with  Kookyrunner and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and we’re talking about our favorite book(s) of 2020.

I didn’t read nearly as much as I had hoped last year. I had set a low-bar goal of 28 books and didn’t even hit that. I know there are two types of people – or two ways – in dealing with a pandemic. You either bury yourself in books or you don’t pick up any books at all. I fell in the latter camp last year. Although I still managed to read 22 books (see all above), but felt that had little to no brain-space and little focus to read with everything else going on in the world. 

If you look through the titles, you can see that I picked up a lot of “heavy stuff”. Maybe that’s why my reading goal suffered because some of these books really took a lot out of me and I just had to take my time (and reading breaks) to process it all.

You can read all the individual reviews in my monthly book reviews (or connect with me on Goodreads!). The books that I did read were all very good and I would recommend most of them (minus one or two that I would say aren’t must-reads), but I thought I’d pick and share my top 5 out of the 22 books I read in 2020. (Surprisingly, there are exactly 5 books that I gave 5 stars, but then most of the others had 4 stars (and a couple had 3 stars), so definitely consider them all for your to-read list!)

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen

I loved everything about this book. The historical background, the descriptive writing, and heroine Kya, the Marsh Girl. Abandoned at age 10, Kya learns to survive in the North Carolina marsh on her own, taking lessons from nature, and living in harmony with it. But she does have to venture out to nearby Barkley Cove for supplies and inevitably sparks the interest of two young men from town. When one of them winds up dead, Kya is instantly suspect.

I am a bit of a critical reader and it’s very rare that a book is so neatly structured that I hardly find anything to criticize. There were no loose ends, no eye-rolling moments, nothing that was tied up too conveniently. Go read it.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes 

This novel is based on true events, the Packhorse Librarian Program that was inaugurated by Eleanor Roosevelt during the Depression in rural Kentucky. Five brave and independent women travel into the mountains to bring books and magazines to those without access to schools. The book touches on many topics, including racism, sexism, and corruptness during these times, but it’s mostly a book about female friendship and the slow but steady revolt against a system that is (still) run by men. The characters were intriguing and well-developed, and I felt so invested in their journeys. I highly recommend it.

A long way home by Saroo Brierley 

Better known as a backstory for the movie, Lion, in this autobiography, Brierley tells his life story, describing his ordeals and adventures as a lost five-year-old in rural India, his adoption by an Australian family, and his search for his Indian native family as an adult.

It reads like fiction and it’s hard to comprehend what Brierley has been through. Just imagine getting lost when you were five and not being able to find your way back to your family. It sounds unimaginable and almost too good to be true that he was able to track down his roots years later. Read his story, I promise it won’t disappoint!

Strangely, this book made me think of all the kids that came here as refugees and were separated from their parents by ICE, and some of whom will probably never be reunited (go read Soboroff’s book, Separated: Inside an American Tragedy, about this topic!). What an unthinkable tragedy!

Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson

This book had been on my to-read list for a while and it finally became available. A lot in this book sounded familiar, and I remembered that I had read “The sun does shine” by Anthony Ray Hinton who was also freed by Bryan Stevenson, but this book talks about Bryan Stevenson’s own story of becoming a civil right’s attorney in Alabama and founding the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit law office, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.

This book tells the story of EJI’s first client, Walter McMillian, who was put on death row for a murder he didn’t commit and eventually freed by Stevenson and his team.

So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo 

This book was really good. I’ve read a few anti-racists books in 2020, but this one was by far the easiest to digest. I mean, not “easy” in the way that it’s a “fun” book, racism is a heavy topic, but I felt that Oluo made this topic really accessible. There was a lot I just “nodded” along because on a theoretical level, I “knew all this” already, but there were also some things I really hadn’t considered (because, well, the situation hadn’t presented itself to me and this is not an excuse, but having been raised in Europe, I think my upbringing and socialization was a little different from being brought up in the United States. There definitely is racism in Europe, and everywhere else  in the world, I’d argue, but I think it’s different from the structural racism in the United States that originated from chattel slavery.) Oluo did give some good examples on how to change behaviors because I will admit that I often agree with a lot of what is said about structural racism, but feel helpless in how I personally can make a difference.

We have to get comfortable with the word “racist” (as someone who not necessarily feels, but shows – maybe unknowingly or even unintentionally – discrimination or prejudice against POCs) and just challenge our learned behaviors and thinking patterns.

I think one of the most important arguments I have found in all the books about anti-racism that I’ve read last year is that we have to acknowledge what Oluo put this way: “there is no way you can inherit white privilege from birth, learn racist white supremacy history in schools, consume racist and white supremacist movies and films, work in a racist and white supremacist workforce, and vote for racist and white supremacist governments and not be racist. This does not mean that you have hate in your heart.” (p. 218)

What was your favorite book of 2020?

  1. Wow, you were busy! I don’t make an effort to read as much as I’d like to…and it’s all on me. I spend the majority of my day “reading” on the computer at work, so my eyes are done with words at the end of the workday LOL I like to knit and draw/paint for my “escapes.”

    1. Thank you. I also knit and craft from time to time… which I sometimes prefer because I can multi-task (when watching TV or listening to something – you can’t do that with books ;)).

  2. Oh gosh, I have no idea how many books I read last year. I read Crawdads on vacation at the beginning of 2019 and loved it. Heavy and Maid are on my TBR list.

    1. Love to hear that you also loved Crawdads! And Heavy and Maid were definitely worthwhile reads!

  3. I’m so impressed by all of the reading you did in 2020! I really thought I would read more last year but sadly I didn’t. I was a huge bookworm as a kid so I’m hoping some of that passion will eventually come back to me.

    1. Same! I was a huge bookworm as a kid and then for years hardly read at all as an adult… I made conscious effort to get back into it a few years ago.

  4. I am impressed with the number of books you read last year. I also wanted to read more but that didn’t happen. Still early this year so I can make it happen for this year. I’ve a few books by Jojo Moyes and have liked them.

    Thanks for linking up with us!

    1. I can relate that not every year is the same when it comes to time and peace of mind to read books! As long as you enjoy reading, you just keep going! ;)

  5. For a sub par year, that is quite a few books! I usually only read about 20 minutes or so before bed, so it takes me longer to get through books now. Plus all the distractions of modern life — it’s not as easy to get lost in a book the way it used to be; our loss, though.

    You definitely read an interesting mix of books.

    1. Oh, the distractions of modern life. Tell me about those ;) I definitely feel that I’d read a lot more if there weren’t all these distractions! I want to do “EVERYTHING” LOL

  6. Similarly didn’t read as much as I hoped, but you and I have some overlap in our tastes. Going to follow you on Goodreads.
    Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here was my favorite in the race-related reading and I too felt these books needed more time to digest. May be why I’m currently reading about vampires.

    1. Thanks for connecting on Goodreads! :)

  7. The Giver of Stars sounds really good! You definitely read some heavy books last year!

    1. The Giver of Stars was fantastic!

  8. I read a lot in 2020, just a bit more than 2019. Phil barely read and he used to read 1-2 books/month. But without a bus commute he lost that time to read and hasn’t shifted it elsewhere. I read a lot of great books in 2020, too. I’ve read most of your favorites but one I haven’t that is on my hold list is ‘giver of the stars’ so I hope to read that soon!

    1. So great you managed to keep reading with a toddler around. I applaude that!

  9. Heavier books always take me much longer to get through because I need to take breaks! That’s why I’m often reading multiple books at once. My mental health suffers if I’m only reading something heavy. You read so many great books this year! I’m really hoping to get around to Just Mercy this year – that one has been on my radar for a long time.

    1. Yes, heavier books definitely take longer to get through! I wish I could read like you do, multiple books at once. I haven’t been able to do that.

  10. Well done on getting through all the books you did! You’re the second person to recommend Where The Crawdads Sing on the link-up so I think I’ll have to grab that one! I usually have to mix heavy and lighter books, otherwise I struggle. A book I read in 2020 that was particularly heavy was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I needed a few light books after that!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and yes, definitely recommend Crawdads! I’ve read the Kite Runner a few years ago and loved it!

  11. The first three are on my TBR and Crawdads already is waiting on my kindle. It’s always good to have new books on my radar but man how am I ever to finish all the reading I’d like to do…

    1. I am curious to hear what you think of Crawdads!

  12. Good job on reading all of those books! I haven’t read Where The Crawdads Sing, but I’ve heard great things about it. I have to add it to my TBR list.

    1. Thank you. Would love to hear what you think of Crawdads when you read it!

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