Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Books Read in 2020 #MyYearInBooks

Perhaps you'll recall that last year, I had a challenge from a young friend.  To be honest, I thought we weren't competing this year! And then some time this fall, her mom texted me: "O wants to know how many books you've read." Game on! In these past few weeks, though, we both set our cap on 125, and I believe that she will hit her goal tomorrow! Hooray! 

Some people had a hard time reading during the whole quarantine thing. I had the opposite problem - I couldn't stop reading! To be honest, the year started out a little meh with my first choice, but luckily things picked right up and there were a lot of really good choices this year. Although I chose some favorites, I really liked a lot of these books. 

This year I also took on the project of writing monthly short reviews of what I'd read. Links to each month's post are at the bottom - if you want to hear more about any of these, click over and read what I said right after I finished reading!

As usual, a lot of mishmash amongst my choices. I really do like middle grade and YA fiction, and of course, I read a lot of Jewish-themed books. You'll see almost all of the Am Shalom 5781 book discussion books in this list as well. (And some that were in consideration but didn't make the cut!) I read way more romance novels than ever before, and I came to appreciate their familiar rhythms. I think I'm over the fauxmance storyline, though. 

Anyway, here's the list....

    1. The First Mrs. Rothschild by Sara Aharoni
    2. Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
    3. Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
    4. One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
    5. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
    6. Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
    7. Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell
    8. American Royals by Katharine McGee
    9. The Forgotten Room by Karen White
    10. Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
    11. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
    12. Here All Along by Sarah Hurwitz
    13. by Nathan Englander
    14. Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
    15. The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
    16. Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
    17. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
    18. The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr
    19. What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
    20. The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
    21. I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
    22. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
    23. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
    24. The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
    25. Wunderald by Jennifer Cody Epstein
    26. The House of the Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
    27. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
    28. Switch by Chip Heath
    29. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
    30. Once We Were Brothers by Ron Balson
    31. The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
    32. On Division by Goldie Goldbloom
    33. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
    34. An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
    35. 4321 by Paul Auster
    36. Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth
    37. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
    38. A Bend in the Stars by Rachel Barenbaum
    39. Saving Sophie by Ron Balson
    40. The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson
    41. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
    42. Karolina's Twins by Ron Balson
    43. How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
    44. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
    45. Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Jennifer Weiner
    46. Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein
    47. All Adults Here by Emma Straub
    48. An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen
    49. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
    50. The Trust by Ron Balson
    51. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
    52. Stamped by Jason Reynolds
    53. I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
    54. The Book of V by Anna Solomon
    55. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
    56. Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman
    57. Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
    58. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
    59. The Betrothed by Kiera Cass
    60. A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma
    61. Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
    62. The Girl from Berlin by Ron Balson
    63. The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
    64. Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch
    65. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
    66. The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner
    67. The Order by Daniel Silva
    68. The Royal We by Heather Cocks
    69. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
    70. Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland
    71. Boyfriend Materials by Alexis Hall
    72. House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon
    73. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
    74. The Braid by Laetittia Colombani
    75. The Nesting Dolls by Alina Adams
    76. The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason
    77. Good Talk by Mira Jacob
    78. 36 Righteous Men by Steven Pressfield
    79. The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
    80. The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
    81. The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz by Laura Toffler-Corrie
    82. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
    83. Gone by Michael Grant
    84. The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward
    85. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
    86. Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
    87. Need to Know by Karen Cleveland
    88. The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
    89. Heating Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly
    90. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
    91. American War by Omar El Akkad
    92. Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
    93. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
    94. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
    95. Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
    96. Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
    97. Followers by Megan Angelo
    98. Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
    99. Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney
    100. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
    101. Reverie by Ryan LaSala
    102. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
    103. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Baryon
    104. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
    105. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
    106. The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli
    107. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
    108. Fish Out of Water by Joanne Levy
    109. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
    110. Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder
    111. Becoming Brianna by Terri Libenson
    112. Color Me In by Natasha Diaz
    113. Sidetracked by Diana Harmon Asher
    114. Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynne Solomon
    115. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    116. If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
    117. A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan
    118. Not Your All American Girl by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg
    119. Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
    120. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
    121. Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn
    122. The Midnight Library by Matthew Haig
    123. King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callendar
    124. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
    125. Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb

    It's always really hard to choose favorites, but here are some of mine from the list above:

    • This Tender Land
    • American Royals
    • Invisible as Air
    • Such A Fun Age
    • Florence Adler Swims Forever
    • Dear Edward
    • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

    Here are the monthly review posts:

    I'm looking forward to starting new lists for 2021...I keep track of my books on Goodreads - follow me there. What do you think I should read in 2021? What are you going to read? What was the best book you read in 2020?

    Previous years' book lists are here:

    December 2020 Books #MyLifeInBooks

    The Duke and I by Julia Quinn - I've never been a huge romance reader, but these books have come up several times and now there's a new Netflix series coming out...I only planned to read the first one but now I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Fun and silly and delightful.

    And then....The Viscount Who Loved MeOffer from a GentlemanRomancing Mr Bridgerton all by Julia Quinn - not much to say except that these are just as much fun as the new Netflix adaptation. I had planned only to read the first one (see above) in preparation for the series, but now I'm hooked. 

    Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline - I really loved the first book - I thought it was mind-bendy and cool, with some great pop culture references. We've been recommending this one to nerds for years. The second book was...fine. It felt mostly unnecessary and a little bit pale in comparison to the first. I'm pretty sure we don't need a Ready Player Three.

    The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates - this was so hard to read because of the painful story; beautifully written, a little odd on the storyline, and overall a worthy read. The magical elements didn't really work for me, and I think that the story could have almost worked without them...

    If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane - I definitely saw this one coming but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. A little showmance followed by falling in love...what could be bad?

    Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust - Re-imagined fairy tales are one of my favorites, and this one was pretty good. 

    The Midnight Library by Matthew Haig - What might your life have been like if you'd taken another path? An extended version of Sliding Doors....a little preachy but definitely worth reading (and probably sermon material...)

    King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender - sweet and sad, so many different Big Ideas addressed here, but in a fairly safe way. It's middle-grade fiction, so it all gets wrapped up in a lovely way - but I can imagine that this book, in the right young hands, could have an immense impact. And the descriptions of grief are so well done.

    Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb - wonderfully told memoir of a relationship of a granddaughter and her grandmother. I loved the conversations that Bess created with the woman who clearly had a major impact on who she became.

    Marjorie Ingall wrote a piece for Tablet Magazine listing the top Jewish kids' books for 2020, and this list below is basically what happens when I decide to read my way through a whole list. (A couple of exceptions but similiarly genre'd so I put them on this part of the list too)

    The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli - this very brief volume was a wonderful essay drawing on the Jewish concept that "every Jew is responsible for all others" - and bringing this concept to the Queer community. Thought-provoking and worth reading.

    Fish Out of Water by Joanne Levy - I really liked this sweet story about a boy who just wants to do his own thing. His mom signs him up for water polo, when he really wants to dance. And he's told that knitting is for girls. You can imagine how this one goes, and it's well done.

    Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder - I'm a new fan of the graphic novel memoir and this one tells about a young woman as her mother dies of cancer. Sweet and humorous, and very comforting. 

    Becoming Brianna by Terri Libenson - I liked this, because I'm always looking for well-told Bat Mitzvah stories. I'm always a little annoyed by stories of B'nai Mitzvah who are only marginally connected to Judaism...and then they feel put-upon in to learn, etc. But I liked how, in the end, it really was all about the learning and growth, so that's good, right? 

    Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon - I loved this one, even though I saw it all coming. Of course it's a haters-to-lovers story. But it's well-told and the Jewish elements just made me happy. The characters had some depth and overall, just a fun read. 

    Color Me In by Natasha Diaz - Reading through the list above reminded me that I've been wanting to read this one for a while, so it fit the list! A wonderful story about a young woman wrestling with two parts of her identity - her Black Baptist mom and her white Jewish dad are getting divorced and she's trying to figure out how she fits in. Aside from my typical irritation with a few mishaps in the Jewish telling, this was very timely and a good read.

    Sidetracked by Diana Harmon Asher - while reading all the other books, I was also cleaning house and found this PJ Our Way selection on a kid's shelf. A really good look at what it's like to be inside a socially challenged kid's mind as he navigates middle school and learning some new things about himself. I liked it!

    A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan - I really enjoyed this one. Two sixth grade girls become friends, bonding over their immigrant parents and their love of food. I like these stories of cultural representation and finding your own path even when you feel a little torn between different parts of your identity.

    Not Your All American Girl by by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg - Honestly, I think that A Place at the Table did this story a little better, but still enjoyed this one. I was a tad confused by the timing (it's set in 1984 and they see Sixteen Candles in the theater) and to be honest, I think a middle grade reader might actually find all of that a little confusing. Still, I think this was a well-told story of personal identity and how to balance different elements of who you are. 

    The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui - While reading all of the other graphic novels above, I mentioned to David what I was doing...and he handed me this book, which he read in one of his college classes this past semester. I never like to turn down a book handed to me by one of my kids! This was a really remarkable and beautiful book - I think the graphic memoir genre is really cool, and I loved reading about a culture that is so very different from my own. 

    Full Year's List Here