I love an end of the year booklist! 2020 has been the perfect season to escape into stories of all kinds. I hit my personal reading goal this year; a total of 85 books. And I can’t wait to share 20 of the best books I read in 2020 with you!
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5 best historical fiction books
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes is a US Depression era drama set in the Appalachians Mountains. This book is based on a true story. It follows five extraordinary women and their traveling library and is as funny as it is heartbreaking. These courageous women forge beautiful friendships as well as stories of love, race relations, courtroom drama, and fights against injustice. This book is a wonderful tribute to how access to stories can change lives and it’s the best book I read in 2020 taking place in this time period.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn fed into my fascination of all things World War II related. It tells two parallel tales. One is the story of a brave female spy in Lille during World War I. The other is of a pregnant American student looking for her cousin who went missing after the end of WWII. This book is based on a real woman, Louise de Bettignies. And it reminds us again of the perseverance and bravery these women possessed during these challenging and dangerous times.
The most unique book I read this year was The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. It may even be the most unique book I’ve EVER read! It is set in Germany between the years of 1939 and 1943. And is narrated by Death himself. The storytelling is BEAUTIFUL and should be considered a classic. Zusak’s writing is haunting, poetic, and profound. The way he wrote from the prospective of Death during Hitler’s Germany made me ponder the complexities of human nature. Like a rich meal, this book should be savored page by page. I quickly thrust it into the hands of my 17 year old daughter after closing the last page. Please don’t skip the section in the back where Zusak explained the process he went through to write this book. It’s absolutely mind-blowing.
Kelly Rimmer’s The Things We Cannot Say is told via a dual narrative. It weaves between Nazi occupied Poland in 1942 and modern day. The two time periods are joined together by two women, unique stories, very different times, and a story one one woman couldn’t tell. It’s full of love, loyalty, and hope. I’ll never stop being impacted by the horror of war, no matter how many books I read about WWII. I’ll also never stop being in awe of the courage, sacrifice, and love of those who lived through those times.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly was inspired by the life of a real heroine during World War II. It’s a story of 3 different women from 3 different countries (USA, Poland, & Germany) right as World War II begins. I loved the perspective of the very different narratives told from these different global positions. This novel is compelling, heart wrenching, and very well written. Next year, I hope to read it’s prequel Lost Roses (set in 1914)!
5 best Non-Fiction Books
I love everything I’ve ever read by Myquillyn Smith! Welcome Home: A Cozy Minimalist Guide to Decorating and Hosting All Year Round was no exception. Smith guides the reader through decorating seasonally with more style and less stuff. This book is filled with beautiful photographs, excellent ideas, and it would make the perfect hostess gift. Don’t skip her other books The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect to Be Beautiful and Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff!
I discovered Kendra Adachi’s podcast (The Lazy Genius Podcast) this year and it speaks directly into my crazy life. I was quick to preorder The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done. And it was definitely the best book in 2020 to get my life organized! This book invites you to decide what’s important to YOU, do what matters, and skip the rest. Decide Once – Start Small – Ask the Magic Question – Go in the Right Order – Schedule Rest are the major themes. GENIUS!
Parenting our children with a global perspective is very important to Timothy and me. We want them to love sacrificially and always be thinking of ways to serve those in need. Raising World Changers in a Changing World by Kristin Welch uses personal stories and scripture to encourage it’s readers. It’s pages are filled with great information about raising children counter-culturally with hearts for others.
I’ve never read any of Lisa TerKeurst’s books until It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way. This book takes a deep dive into what happens when God’s timing seems questionable. And His lack of intervention feels hurtful. And His promises are doubtful. Lisa shares her own faith journey with vulnerability and honest humor. So much wisdom in every word.
Ya’ll, go grab Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits! This sweet book was written by one of my very favorite actresses: Reese Witherspoon. Everything about this gorgeous coffee table book was fun. It’s filled with beautiful pictures, delicious recipes, funny stories, and ideas on entertaining and home decorating. This is a book sure to delight as a hostess gift for all of the Southern Ladies in your life!
3 Best Memoirs
I have been a fan of Angela Braniff and her vlog (This Gathered Nest) for some time. Her family is so similar to ours and I’ve loved following along with her journey. I devoured her memoir Love Without Borders: How Bold Faith Opens the Door to Embracing The Unexpected. Braniff shares the story of she and her husband meeting and having their two biological children. She walks us through 3 of her children’s adoptions. And the unique experience of adopting her twin girls as embryos and then tells stories of her traumatic pregnancy with them. This book is very well written and enjoyable to the last page. Best book I read in 2020!
If you are a fan of Sally Clarkson, you definitely need to pick up her daughter Sarah’s book. Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life is a beautiful read. It’s loaded with 20+ resource lists of more rich books to read during different seasons of life. This is the best book I’ve read about the love and importance of living a reading life from childhood on! I want to put this in the hand of every book lover I know.
Open Book by Jessica Simpson. Full stop. Jessica shares what it was like growing up in the 1980’s and unsuccessfully auditioning for the Mickey Mouse Club. She walks her readers through marrying Nick Lachey and her relationship with John Mayer. Simpson shares of being body-shamed, the sadness of her parents divorce, and her struggles with drinking. And I was here for every.single.word.of.it.
2 Best Novels
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a story of black newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, who are just starting their life together. Early on, Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he did not commit. This story felt timely in 2020 because race and injustice are major themes in this novel. However, this is also a beautiful story of love, commitment, and loyalty and it tugs at your heartstrings in the best possible way.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was also a timely read during a year when immigration issues are at the forefront. It’s a story of a mother and son and their race to hide from the drug cartel in their home city of Acapulco. Cummins does a great job of opening her readers eyes to the plight of so many immigrants who make their way into the United States for asylum. This was one of the most anticipated novels of 2020. And I felt it was the most impactful book I read this year!
5 Best Thrillers
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware is the story of Rowan Caine who takes a job as a nanny for a picture perfect family at a luxurious “smart” home in the Scottish Highlands. This job soon turns into a nightmare when one of the children ends up dead and Rowan winds up in jail awaiting trail for the child’s murder. The events unravel in a series of letters she writes to her lawyer. Rowan is not completely innocent, but she is definitely not guilty of murder. This story left chills on my arms and kept me turning the pages quickly!
No Second Chance was my first Harlan Coben novel, but it DEFINITELY won’t be my last. Dr. Marc Seidman has been shot twice, his wife has been murdered, and his six-month-old daughter has been kidnapped. The story starts with a bang, is filled with great characters, and keeps the reader coming back for more. This was a fantastic psychological thriller with a surprising end that brings a satisfying payoff.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn is the story of Anna Fox, a recluse in her New York City home who spends her days drinking wine, watching old movies, thinking about happier times, and spying on her neighbors. After a new family moves in next door, Anna sees something she should not have seen and her world turns upside down. What is real? What is she imagining? Who is in danger? Who is in control?
All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda is a breathtaking story about the disappearance of two girls – a decade apart – told in reverse. I think what I loved best about this story was the structure. After the initial setup, the story jumps ahead 15 days and goes backwards from there to find out what happened in the two weeks leading up to the 2nd girl’s disappearance. Every character has secrets they are hiding and the result is a twisty ending that I did not see coming. “The Woods have eyes and monsters and stories. We are them as much as they are us.”
I have never had any interested in reading anything by Stephen King until I heard about 11/22/63. I thought this was a story about a mission to stop the JFK assassination through time travel. And it was…but it was also about SO much more. “We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.” This book is a well researched look at the past. It makes its reader question whether or not the past can be changed. And, if so, at what cost? (After reading this magnificent book you may be tempted to watch the HULU Original 11/22/63 movie. Don’t. Just Don’t.)
Hope you enjoyed my list of the 20 best books I read in 2020! Please comment below and share the best books you read in 2020. I’d love to follow along on your literary journey. And be sure to follow me on Good Reads (Tanna Roush)! Happy Reading, Friends!
more 2020 Booklists
(Kendra Adachi is the author of “The Lazy Genius Way”.)
(Mrs. Darcy/Anne Bogel is one of my favorite resources for books. Check out her podcast, “What Should I Read Next.)
(Myquillyn Smith is the author of “Welcome Home”. Check her out on Instagram for daily decorating tips and lots of laughs!)