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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

Best Books I read in 2020 - it was a very good year!

Ahhhh....reading in the year of Covid and political unrest and upheaval. It was SO easy to get distracted by the news and world events. BUT, in spite of it all, I enjoyed a robust reading year and often found my refuge in reading. I had a few duds, but overall I feel like it was a very good year of reading. Joining 5 (yes, count 'em, 5) reading challenges certainly helped diversify my choices (you can see my challenge results in the tab at the top of the page) - I read some favorite authors and discovered new-to-me ones. With difficulty, I narrowed my 100+ finished books to my top 10 faves. Let me know what YOU think.

These are in order of when I read them, starting in January 2020. Each title links to the full review if you want more info.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2019, 406 pages

A debut novel about slavery, a dash of magical realism, a haunting love story, a slave who escapes and returns to try to effect change.

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

Genre: General Fiction (children's)

Published 2018, 48 pages

This excellent book written by a dad to his young son made me cry!

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2019, 320 pages

I loved this peek into a part of history I'd never heard about - women in rural Kentucky who overcame hardships and dislike to deliver books to remote homesteads.

Ninth House #1 by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy

Published 2019, 458 pages

A young woman with the ability to see ghosts gets a free ride to Yale where she discovers magic, more ghosts, friendship, plots and secrets.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Genre: Fantasy

Published 2019, 384 pages

March was a good month for reading fantasy novels. This one, about a little girl who can see doors between worlds, kept me eagerly reading.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2017, 338 pages

After a single mom and daughter move into a new neighborhood, they start to make friends and stir things up....until disaster strikes.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2015, 566 pages

I'm a fan of Hannah's work and this was no exception. Again, a little told story - this one of the women of the French Resistance during WWII, focusing on two sisters and their different war experiences.

The Fifth Season #1 by N.K. Jemisin

Genre: Fantasy

Published 2015, 468 pages

This complex story, well written with amazing characters, is set in a post-apocalyptic world where some people have the ability to connect deeply with the earth and control it. At a severe earth disturbance, a woman is separated from her daughter and searches for her, even as civilization begins to collapse.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2020, 400 pages

After all the controversy around this book, I just had to read it. And I'm glad I did - a Mexican woman and her little boy go on the run from a drug cartel and try to sneak over the border to the US. Not an #ownvoices story, which is at the heart of the controversy.

Assassin's Apprentice #1 by Robin Hobb

Genre: Fantasy

Published 1995, 435 pages

Recommended by my son, this fantasy series is about Fitz, a royal bastard who discovers he has a magical power - this first installment is his coming-of-age time, growing up, falling in love, learning more about his magic.

And, there you have it.....a surprising number of fantasy books (of all types) made my list. Astonishing considering I really only added the fantasy genre to my reading in the last couple years. Guess I've been missing out!

I asked my sister Donna to share her top reads this year also, so you get NINE bonus book ideas:

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

Genre: General Fictions

Published 2019, 368 pages

A small-town librarian who has a knack for picking the right book for people thinks she's the person to save her dying town until a city girl arrives. A bit mystical, this heartwarming book had great characters that you really care about.

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Genre: Sci-Fi

Published 2019, 336 pages

This story about changing memories blew my mind. Original, page-turner, thriller - I highly recommend this if you're looking for something different. I first read Dark Matter by Crouch which I would also use the same three descriptions to describe and which led me to pick up Recursion. I can't wait to read more by him.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2019, 560 pages

Ordinarily a story about a team of Nazi hunters searching for a woman who killed six children and a young man would not necessarily interest me. But wow, I couldn't put this book down! It's the characters who make the story - they are all so fascinating. I raved about this book to my sister.

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2017, 368 pages

While this book deals with some serious subjects - Lilian's husband dies in a car accident and she has a nervous breakdown - it is written with such humor that it's actually entertaining and made me smile throughout. Ultimately, this book is really about unexpected friendships.

The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2019, 388 pages

Based on a true story about women who start a mobile library (on horses and mules) in the mountains of Kentucky during the Depression era. I loved everything about this book - hardships, romance, floods, friendships. Highly recommended.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2017, 336 pages

My sister recommended this book and boy I'm glad she did. I laughed out loud frequently at Eleanor's oddness. Her social awkwardness and carefully controlled life leave her with no friends, until a co-worker unexpectedly befriends her. Funny and smart, this book was a delight to read!

Calling me Home by Julie Kibler

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2013, 325 pages

Moving back and forth between a forbidden love in 1930s Kentucky to an unlikely modern-day friendship, this story was intricate, touching, surprising, sorrowful, and one that I want to recommend everyone read. It is that great of a book!

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Genre: Thriller

Published 2017, 278 pages

A woman is forced to pull over at a rest stop due to a snow blizzard. She's trapped there with four other people until the roads clear. Soon she discovers a young girl trapped in a dog cage in the back of a van and the book takes off like a shot from there. Nonstop tension and a rollercoaster ride of a read!

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2017, 240 pages

An elderly widower, a troubled teenage girl, and a nosy neighbor find their way to an unlikely friendship. Not a lot happens in this book but it doesn't matter. This is a heartwarming, feel-good book that put a smile on my face.

I love scrolling through other people's "best of" lists - there are ALWAYS so many ideas or confirmations of books already on my TBR. I'm looking forward to reading some great ones next year too!

What are a couple of your favorites of the year? Have you read anything on our lists - and was it a favorite of yours? Share in the comments!

Welcome to Bookshelf Journeys.

It's my goal to provide real reviews of the books I read without totally rehashing every plot. I'll never spoil a story by giving away a plot twist! Hopefully you'll find one or two of interest and will discover a new book or author to add to YOUR TBR list.  Take a moment to explore, read a couple reviews, and let me know what you think.


For your convenience, I use #hashtags in the reviews and when you click on one, you'll find more books with that theme. Hopefully you'll find it a helpful way to navigate the site and find books you'll enjoy. I've also recently added tags that will show up at the end of each review that serve the same purpose.

The review ratings are based on a 5 star  (1/2 stars sometimes) system with a 3 being an average read for me. I hope you find that helpful. Knowing, of course, that all opinions are just that - my opinion!  Let me know if you agree or disagree - I'd love to hear from you.

If you like what you see and want to keep up with me, subscribe below.  Happy Reading!

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