Reading Year in Review – 2020

So, understatement time: 2020 wasn’t great in many ways. But certain months, particularly during quarantine, offered a lot of time for reading.

Of course, in a stressful time I tend to revert to “comfort” reading (mysteries, easier fiction) rather than deep reads. But both types happened this year.

Due to the vagaries of my record keeping, this post might not exactly match my Goodreads account. (This is usually due to the fact that I try to record some of our read-alouds over at Goodreads but I don’t consistently do so.)

On to the books!
January Reading

1. Adorning the Dark. Nonfiction by Andrew Peterson. Great way to start the year, highly recommend!
2. The Enchanted Hour. Nonfiction by Meghan Cox Gurdon.
3. The Family Upstairs. Fiction by Lisa Jewell.
4. Into the Region of Awe. Nonfiction by David Downing.
5. Furious Hours. Nonfiction by Casey Cep. Recommended for fans of Harper Lee.
6. The Dead Girls Club. Fiction by Damian Angelica Walters. If you’re a fan of suspense fiction, you might like this one. It’s a crazy low price for Kindle.

January highlights:

Best nonfiction: “Adorning the Dark.”
2nd place to “The Enchanted Hour.”

February Reading

7. All That’s Bright and Gone. Fiction by Eliza Nellums. Features a unique narrator. Another great deal on Kindle (as of January 2021).
8. The Beginning at the End. Fiction by Mike Chen. Strange, in retrospect, to have read a book about a devastating pandemic before the effects of Covid-19 were really felt in the USA.
9. The Oxford Book of Prayer. Edited by George Appleton. One of my favorite resources. Also mentioned in this post.
10. The Family Next Door. Nonfiction by John Glatt. Poorly written. Still waiting for someone to truly crack this horrible story.
11. The Spark and the Grind. Nonfiction by Erik Wahl.
12. The Case of the Reincarnated Client. Fiction by Tarquin Hall. #5 in the series.
13. The Plight of Man and the Power of God. Nonfiction by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
14. The Starless Sea. Fiction by Erin Morgenstern.
15. Close to Home. Fiction by Cara Hunter.

February highlights:

A new Vish Puri mystery! (#12 on this list. Another great deal for Kindle right now.)
Erin Morgenstern can sure set a scene and turn a phrase, but I didn’t really love “The Starless Sea” the way I thought I would.

March Reading

16. Because Internet. Nonfiction by Gretchen McCulloch.
17. Bossypants. Nonfiction by Tina Fey.
18. Beating About the Bush. Fiction by M.C. Beaton. #30 in the Agatha Raisin series!
19. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. Nonfiction by Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien.
20. The Art of Making Memories. Nonfiction by Meik Wiking
21. The Secrets of Wishtide. Ficiton by Kate Saunders
22. The Case of the Wandering Scholar. Fiction by Kate Saunders.
23. A State at Any Cost. Nonfiction by Tom Segev. A beast of a book. I slogged through this one but don’t really feel like I know or appreciate Ben Gurion any better than I did before.
24. They Came to Baghdad. Fiction by Agatha Christie.
25. The Story of the Cosmos: How the Heavens Declare the Glory of God. Edited by Paul Gould and Daniel Ray.
26. The Baker’s Daughter. Fiction by D.E. Stevenson.

March highlights:

Definitely recommend “Misreading Scripture…” (although I think it still misinterprets the David / Bathsheba dynamic)

Kate Saunders gave us a promising new series with her Laetitia Rodd books. I read both back to back, thanks to e-books from our library system. I hope she writes more.

April Reading

27. How to Hygge. Nonfiction by Signe Johansen. Seemed like a good idea in April 2020.
28. The Crying Child. Fiction by Barbara Michaels. Same author who gave us Amelia Peabody but this didn’t hold up very well. (It’s pretty dated, in other words.)
29. A Castle in Wartime. Nonfiction by Catherine Bailey.
30. The English American. Fiction by Alison Larkin.
31. Destination Unknown. Fiction by Agatha Christie
32. Where the Crawdads Sing. Fiction by Delia Owens. Everyone except me loved this book, I think. I loathed it.

How I think this story would go if it was accurate:

Kya wanders into the marsh. Copperhead bites Kya. The end.

33. Case Histories. Fiction by Kate Atkinson. First in the Jackson Brodie series. A series which has been adapted for TV and, incidentally, which my husband and I watched years ago without knowing it was based on a book.
34. Debunking Howard Zinn. Nonfiction by Mary Grabar.
35. One Good Turn. Fiction by Kate Atkinson. Jackson Brodie #2.
36. When Will There Be Good News? Fiction by Kate Atkinson. Jackson Brodie #3. And there will NEVER be good news because Jackson Brodie is doomed to wander England and Scotland suffering for his own sins and the sins of others.
37. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. Fiction by Theodora Goss. An intriguing start to the Athena Club series.
38. The Lying Room. Fiction by Nicci French.
39. A Murderous Relation. Fiction by Deanna Raybourn. Book 5 of the Veronica Speedwell series.
40. European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. Fiction by Theodora Goss. Book #2 of the Athena Club.
41. The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl. Fiction by Theodora Goss. Book #3 of the series.
42. Who Slays the Wicked. Fiction by C.S. Harris. #14 in the Sebastian St. Cyr series.
43. Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World. Nonfiction by Isabel Gillies.

April highlights:

This is where you really see quarantine setting in. Most of these were e-books since our library closed for several months in the spring and early summer.

Definitely recommend “A Castle in Wartime” if you like WW2 nonfiction.

Fiction standouts this month would be Theodora Goss’s Athena Club series inspired by classic monster stories (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.).

May Reading

44. Why Shoot a Butler? Fiction by Georgette Heyer.
45. Taken at the Flood. Fiction by Agatha Christie.
46. Listening Valley. Fiction by D.E. Stevenson.
47. The Unfinished Clue. Fiction by Georgette Heyer.
48. After the Funeral. Fiction by Agatha Christie.
49. A Divided Loyalty. Fiction by Charles Todd. #22 in the Ian Rutledge series. The books in the series are uneven in quality, but taken as a whole, it’s well done.
50. The Tiger in the Smoke. Fiction by Margery Allingham. Not my favorite Allingham. This particular tale is so full of period slang I wished for subtitles.
51. Cousin Kate. Fiction by Georgette Heyer. Considered one of her “gothic” tales but it’s not really all that twisty or dark compared to other Gothic Thrillers.
52. Mrs. McGinty’s Dead. Fiction by Agatha Christie. Another Hercule Poirot story.
53. Started Early, Took My Dog. Fiction by Kate Atkinson. The trials and tribulations of Jackson Brodie, take 4.
54. Big Sky. Fiction by Kate Atkinson. The book 5 conclusion (at least for now) of Jackson Brodie’s mis-adventures.
55. The Edge of Empire. Nonfiction by Bronwen Riley. Fascinating look at Brittania, AD 130.
56. Bath Tangle. Fiction by Georgette Heyer.
57. 40 Favorite Hymns on the Christian Life. Nonfiction by Leland Ryken. Looks at the poetry and thought behind the selected hymns.
58. Who Speaks for the Damned. Fiction by C.S. Harris. #15 in the Sebastian St. Cyr series.
59. Murder on Black Swan Lane. Fiction by Andrea Penrose. First in a series.

May highlights:

Once again, quarantine reading in full force. Mostly fiction, mostly on my Kindle fire. My brain couldn’t process much else.

“Taken at the Flood” is a notable Christie because it has Hercule Poirot dealing with World War 2.

June Reading

60. Just Mercy. Nonfiction by Bryan Stevenson.
61. The Spies of Shilling Lane. Nonfiction by Jennifer Ryan.
62. The Hollow. Fiction by Agatha Christie.
63. The Grand Sophy. Fiction by Georgette Heyer. I had missed all the Heyer titles until 2020, and then I made up for lost time. This might be my favorite, but that would be a hard choice.
64. Murder at Half Moon Gate. Fiction by Andrea Penrose. #2 of the Wrexford & Sloan series.
65. Murder at Kensington Palace. Fiction by Andrea Penrose. #3 in the series.
66. Death in the Stocks. Fiction by Georgette Heyer.
67. Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Nonfiction by Aimee Byrd.
68. Empire of the Summer Moon. Nonfiction by S.C. Gwynne.
69. Sparkling Cyanide. Fiction by Agatha Christie.

June highlights:

“Just Mercy” is a must read.

“Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” is also a must read.

“Empire of the Summer Moon” is ah-may-zing if you appreciate historical nonfiction.

July Reading

70. Under our Skin. Nonfiction by Benjamin Watson. Gave this one to my teens to read after I finished. (One of them did, the others didn’t finish it before it had to go back to the library.)
71. The Greatest Fight. Nonfiction by Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon updated and annotated for a new generation.
72. The Fig Tree Murder. Fiction by Michael Pearce. #10 in the Mamur Zapt series.
73. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Nonfiction by David Epstein.
74. You Don’t Have to Try So Hard. Nonfiction by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory.
75. Midnight in Chernobyl. Nonfiction by Adam Higginbotham
76. Black Sheep. Fiction by Georgette Heyer.

July highlights:

“Midnight in Chernobyl” is fantastic. Inspired me to work Chernobyl into lots of conversations, whether it belonged there or not.

I found “Range” quite encouraging, considering I am interested by everything.

August Reading

77. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Humphrey Carpenter.
78. The Convenient Marriage. Fiction by Georgette Heyer. Probably my least favorite Heyer.

August highlights:

Obviously, I forgot how to read this month. Or it was a corrective from all those over-indulged reading months. Tolkien’s letters were fascinating, of course. (It was free for Kindle when I read it, but that deal is gone now.)

September Reading

79. Dead Wake. Nonfiction by Erik Larson.
80. No Wind of Blame. Fiction by Georgette Heyer.
81. The Nicomachean Ethics. Nonfiction by Aristotle. This was a slow read for me, read a bit at a time over the year until I finished it in September. Lots to think about!
82. *counseling book, title withheld*
83. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Nonfiction by Rebecca Skloot.
84. The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. Nonfiction by Aviva Romm.
85. Jesus and John Wayne. Nonfiction by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

September highlights:

What a great month of books! The thyroid one isn’t that great unless you’re dealing with related issues and need lists of supplements you could be taking. And the Heyer title is not really a standout, but the rest are all worth your time.

“Henrietta Lacks” truly deserved all the acclaim it received. I regret putting off reading it.

“Jesus and John Wayne” was, in many ways, devastating. But for Christians who have been asking ourselves “How did this happen?” since 2016, it was an important read. Definitely recommend, but you won’t be able to un-know what you read here.

October Reading

86. The Immoral Majority. Nonfiction by Ben Howe. A one-two punch with “Jesus and John Wayne.”
87. The White Devil’s Daughters. Nonfiction by Julia Flynn Siler. Fascinating biographies / history that I knew almost nothing about before reading this book.
88. Piranesi. Fiction by Susanna Clarke
89. The Great Pretender. Nonfiction by Susannah Cahalan. Insightful and disturbing. Highly recommend.
90. *counseling book, title withheld*

October highlights:

Piranesi!

November Reading

91. Death and the Butterfly. Fiction by Colin Hester. Contender for my least favorite novel of 2020.
92. Raising Boys by Design. Nonfiction by Gregory Jantz and Michael Gurian
93. Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans. Edited by Robert Elmer.
94. The Department of Sensitive Crimes. Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. A new series. Recipe: Take a pinch of Isabel Dalhousie and a smidge of Mma Ramotswe and mix it all up in Sweden.
95. Loss Lake. Fiction by Amber Cowrie. Another one in the running for least liked novel.
96. The Great Divorce. Fiction (allegory) by C.S. Lewis.
97. A Rose Petal Summer. Fiction by Katie Fforde.

November highlights:

Definitely recommend the Raising Boys title if you are, in fact, raising boys.

Obviously, C.S. Lewis is always on my recommended list.

The other fiction fininshed in November was all “meh” or worse.

December Reading

98. A Christmas Party. Fiction by Georgette Heyer. Continuing my Heyer year by reading something thematic in the month of December.
99. The Body Keeps the Score. Nonfiction by Bessel van der Kolk.
100. Captain Wentworth’s Diary. Fiction by Amanda Grange.
101. Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries. Edited by Martin Edwards.
102. The Fire Next Time. Essays by James Baldwin. Devastating. Straight fire.
103. Handle with Care. Nonfiction by Lore Ferguson Wilbert. Problematic in some ways; a necessary correction to purity culture in other ways.

December highlights:

“The Body Keeps the Score” is an amazing book. It helped me understand so many things I hadn’t before. And it connects to (or you might say communicates with) other books I finished in 2020 and now some I’m reading in 2021.

Year in Summary

Nonfiction: 44
Fiction: 59

Ordinarily, I’d like those numbers to be flipped or at least closer together. But…2020 was like that.

And I hereby resolve to keep better track of read alouds in 2021. Sometimes I remember to record them on Goodreads but other times I forget. And some of my favorite books in 2020 were actually things I read aloud to my daughter.

I’m really thankful for our library and particularly for their apps for reading e-books. Almost all the Heyer, Atkinson, and Christie titles I finished were Kindle books.

So, 2020 is in the books. (forgive the lame, bookish pun) Here’s to another great year of books and reading in 2021!

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