Normally I share my book list once a month or so but as you all know, 2020 has been anything but normal. And really, if I had done that to start the year, this would have seemed far more impressive as I read something like 11 books in January alone, but I think 43 is still a pretty good place for mid-July-ish.
I’ll be honest, I hit a big reading slump after quarantine started. I just could not focus on books for many weeks in a row. But slowly that shifted and I got back into the swing of things; now I find that I am often reading one or two hard copy books at once AND listening to one on my daily walks thanks to the free library app, Hoopla. It’s a crazy book life!
What follows is the list in order of finish date, with highly recommended titles in bold and the 3-5 books I’m currently working on and my TBR list at the bottom.
As always, I’m happy to hear your suggestions for what else to add to my ever-growing stack of books I can’t wait to read. Thanks to some serious diving in to anti-racism work and the kind loans of a box+ worth of books from friends, I already have a lot waiting for my attention, but you know me – there can never be enough books!
- Know My Name by Chanel Miller — this book is a must read for survivors and supporters/advocates, not to mention medical and police personal and basically anyone who is connected to someone who has experienced sexual assault (read: everyone). I very much appreciate the light that Miller shed on her experience and the questions that she raised about a very broken system. (finished 1.1.2020)
- No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert — this book takes on a LOT of tasks/topics, from race and parental and marital relationships, to friendship and education reform. That said, it was still easy enough to follow and keep straight among the many characters, and (many) important questions were raised about all of those subjects, so it was a worthwhile read.
- Only Child by Rhiannon Navin — this was another page turner for me (I was also taking full advantage of my final hours before my Winter Break ended). The narrator’s voice is both unique and compelling, and allows you to see so many sides of the story even though it is told from one perspective. (finished 1.5.2020)
- The Overstory by Richard Powers — Read. This. Book. You simply must. It changed the way I look at the world.
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchet — I liked this one very much, even though maybe not as much as I expected based on the recommendations from some of my favorite reader friends.
- Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman — chose this as an audio listen for a road trip and was really into it for the first half but then the second part just jumped the shark way too much. I guess it was a decent fluff read, but not my favorite by any means.
- Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (book club read) — I had to plow through half of this to get it done on time for book club which maybe didn’t quite do it justice, but it was an interesting read, even if it took many turns I didn’t expect and left me a bit confused at the end. (finished 1/26/20)
- UnFuck Yourself by Gary John Bishop — Listen to this book!!! Then, get a hard copy like I want to and highlight the sh!t out of it.
- The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri — this is an excellent read on many levels, including how it is written but mostly for the content covered – families fleeing modern-day Syria. (finished 1/30/20)
- Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalauddin — LOVED this one. Such an enjoyable, quick read about relationships (and religion and family and life). Definitely recommend!
- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (book club read) — the dual narration was done in a different style here that made the second half of the book far more interesting to me even though I liked the first narrator more. Strange, eh?
- A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole — a friend loaned me a stack of romance novels and I have to say, it did make for lighter reading and wasn’t as over the top as I thought it might be based on genre.
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (book club read) — normally I don’t reread books but this one was excellent the first time around and I did NOT want to be lacking memory for the book club discussion of this. Plus it was fun to reread with knowledge of what was to come; made me pay attention to some smaller but significant parts of the book the second time through it!
- The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory — definitely a beach read which may seem like an odd choice in February, but given the heaviness of everything else in the world, not actually a bad way to go for before-bed reading. (finished 2/20/20)
- The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell — I had high hopes for this family/siblings dynamic novel and it did resolve eventually by the end in a semi-satisfying way, but some of it was too disturbing to make it a read I’d recommend. (finished 2.27.20)
- Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (book club read) — I don’t read much fantasy because it tends to confuse me but this was enjoyable and mysterious without being cloying and also kept me up reading past bedtime a couple nights because I wanted to know what would happen next.
- The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (book club read) — stories such as this one, that are based on real-life experiences, blow my mind. And, on a side note, this one reads really quickly, perhaps in part because it was first imagined as a screenplay. (finished 3.6.2020)
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stout — sometimes when we read a book that isn’t aligned with our season of life, it doesn’t hit right. And while I’d say that is the case with this book, I still really, really liked it because of the way it was written. The book is named for a main character but very little of the book is told from her perspective and some chapters barely even include mentions of her, but still the whole thing comes together and paints a portrait of her life. Pretty cool.
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle — I loved it. You should read it. Duh. (finished 3.22.20)
- On the Come Up by Angie Thomas — same author as The Hate You Give and while this one didn’t shake me as much as that one, I still really enjoyed reading it. (finished 4.5.20)
- Honestly, a side note is needed here. Since COVID-19 hit hard in the US, my desire, ability, willingness to read has tanked. I’d love the distraction but find it hard to focus on books. Instead, it’s a lot of time with the kids, time outside with the kids, and watching movies with the kids (and on our own). We’ve been watching Star Wars movies and B and I have been binge-watching all the seasons of Parks and Recreation and the mini-series Little Fires Everywhere and documentary Tiger King. We also did season one of The Watchmen (and whoa, just whoa).
- The Woman’s Hour: the great fight to win the vote by Elaine Weiss — I learned a ton from this book but really struggled to read it on my Kindle. It seemed to take forever. Also, it was incredibly frustrating to read about the Antis who were a group of women fighting against the women’s suffrage movement. That honestly makes my blood boil. I am grateful for all those that fought for this right that 100 years later, I use and will never take for granted.
- Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson — the last library book I had at home from The Before. It’s a YA read which in a way makes it easier, but I still thought it was an intense family story, albeit beautifully written and with compelling characters. (finished 4.20.20)
- The Ethan I was Before by Ali Standish (book club pick) — this YA read followed an enjoyable unfolding format and I could see where it would be really well received by teen readers. It’s a really compelling story about friendship and forgiveness.
- The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan — there were some elements of this audio book that I loved, but it also confused the heck out of me (I think in part because it was audio and not on the page for me to understand what was happening with the shifting narrators), and then it jumped the shark with some really bizarre developments annnnnd, yeah. Not terrible. Not great. (finished 5.4.2020)
- The Library Book by Susan Orlean — I did not expect this nonfiction book about the LA Library and its 1986 fire to be this fascinating or quick to read, but it was awesome. Such a great book for readers and library lovers. How how I miss the library these days!
- All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin –this was a quick but intense read. It would be a good one for book club in that it covers parenting, privilege, and how to advocate in situations of sexual assault.
- Dear Girls by Ali Wong — I have never watched an Ali Wong comedy special but I love audio books read by their actual authors and this memoir did not disappoint. I have started walking every day and am really liking audio books during those; this might just be what gets me over the hump of problematic pandemic reading.
- The Gift by Cecelia Ahern — Needed another audio book for walking and this one by a familiar author was available. I struggled to suspend my disbelief very well for this one, or at least as much as was needed, but I guess it was an okay Christmas-y time read (even though it is currently mid-May). (finished 5.19.20)
- The Round House by Louise Erdrich — I can’t believe I’m reading this right now because it is SO heavy, but I’m desperate for real books to read and this one has been on my shelf for years, so there you have it. Once I got past the serious subject matter, the story itself sucked me in enough to keep going. I was left with some questions (I think intentionally) and was really impressed with the story telling style Erdrich uses.
- Shrill by Lindy West — Oh, wow. I don’t know if I’ve read any West pieces before or not (but chances are I have) but I am instantly a fan after listening to her book (in less than 24 hours, mind you, thanks to a basement painting project and walk). Her stances on fat shaming, abortion, and rape culture in comedy were all so interesting and I loved listening to her tell her stories. (finished 5.21.20)
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins — Thank goodness for Hoopla! I had originally requested the hard copy of this upon release from the library but since the library is still closed, I was thrilled to see it pop up as an open-to-all, free audio book instead. And it was so good; revisiting the world of The Hunger Games with this prequel was so intriguing.
- Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid — Now, technically I just read in the last 6-8 months, but dang, I loved it so and then a friend told me how well done the audio version was, so I had to give it a go. I think it would be a bit confusing to follow the book this way on the first-time through, but it was so well done and it is such a good story!
- The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold — yeah, I don’t know why I didn’t expect strange and morbid in another book by the author of The Lovely Bones (which I remember really liking) but this one is definitely both of those things (without so much liking on my part).
- Beach Read by Emily Henry — This was a good audio for walk/listening to and while I shouldn’t be surprised by “too much romance” in a book called Beach Read, I still didn’t think the story needed to go quite so Harlequin in places. Beyond that, it was a pleasant enough read.
- The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern — Holy Mother of Confusion, Batman. This book. What?! I was lost through literally the whole thing. I know COVID Life has messed with my reading ability, but what? This was so confusing, it made me feel bad. Do other people reading this understand it? I did not.
- To All the Boys I Ever Loved by Jenny Han — umm, I didn’t sleep well one night and ended up reading this teen romance drama in one sitting. It was such a needed brain break and also an enjoyable story to follow, based on the recommendation of a friend earlier this year. Looking forward to reading the other two in the series.
- Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson — been meaning to read this one for years and put it off. But finally got my hands on a copy and I flew through it. It reads so quickly and is so compelling and informative, not to mention both heartbreaking and hope-filled. A must read! (finished 6.20.20)
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown — oh, this book. It is so fantastic. And it is the perfect complement to the Me and White Supremacy 28-Day Challenge that I’m currently working on as it gives poignant narrative examples to so much of what that book covers. This should be on all Christians’ To Read list.
- Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout — wanting to read this is what had me read OK earlier this year and I have to say, even though that was just a few months ago, it still took me a while to recall and catch on to several characters who were clearly in both books. I can’t imagine if I had gone years between them! But I enjoyed the dive back in to Olive’s life and community, even if I’m not in a classic stage of life that relates to the protagonist.
- All Adults Here by Emma Straub — I was gifted a BotM subscription and this was my first read from that little collection. It was light enough to go quickly and breezed through a few too many characters too quickly, but I still enjoyed the family dynamics at play and liked the overall story line of it. I did notice a number of little nuggets that had me wanting to dog-ear the pages as I read – little mantras about life and parenting that seemed to ring capital T-truth. (finished 7.5.2020)
- The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai — this book will rip you wide open for its hardship and its sadness, but then, also, it has such lines of beauty and truth in it (not that hardship and sadness aren’t true). Several times I caught my breath while listening for the T-truth experienced by these characters in Vietnam. As a side note, this was one of the best audio books I’ve listened to of all time.
- Delicious by Sherry Thomas — a brain break in the form of a romance novel. There are worse things to do, I suppose.
- Gilead by Marilynn Robinson — this was a reread for me, but felt like a first read because even though I recognized the cover, I remembered very little of the story. I participated in a church-wide book club in which I got to be part of a panel of English teachers helping with three Zoom podcast discussions of the book throughout the reading which was very enjoyable and made me pay attention WAY more to details in the book than I normally do. (finished 7/20/20)
- The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi — another excellent audio book production! I am so glad I picked this for a walking book this summer because it was beautifully narrated and was a compelling story that kept my attention as I trucked it around the streets of Hastings. Although I found some of the plot points predictable, I really enjoyed some of the character developments and enjoyed hearing about a place and time in which not many stories I’ve read are set.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid — this one had me guessing a bit, even until the very end. And while I didn’t love it over the top like I did Daisy Jones, it was an enjoyable read (and I like how she continues to write, essentially, about generations and writers and reporting; interesting connections between her two different books).
- Me and White Supremacy Layla F. Saad — I did the reading/Journaling through the 28 days in a 56 day format, along side a virtual small group that met online once a week to discuss each day of the book. This is required reading and work for all white people as far as I am concerned. I plan to revisit it often in the months and years to come.
- “We Should All be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — technically an essay, but in print book format and so worth the read and the place on the shelf for easy access and rereading many times to come in the future.
- P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han — Book #2 in this series, and again, a decent YA rom-com type read to clear the brain a bit.
- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston — tiny part politics (oh, how I love the storyline of a Democratic woman as president!), mostly part coming of age/orientation this was both a different romance to read in terms of the lead characters and, at the same time, totally typical romance to read in regards to the explicit sex and predictable plot. That said, some of the resolutions at the end made me damn near cry, and all together, this was a pleasant listen on my walks!
- When They Call you a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele — this was a heartbreakingly beautiful and inspiring and educational and impactful read that I would highly recommend to learn more about the lived experience of Black (and queer and female and trans and male) Americans and the BLM movement. (finished 8.3.2020)
- The Island of Sea Women by Lisa Lee — so many heartbreaking components to this story but also so much knowledge and insight gained, too, about life in and traditions from Korea.
- The Gown by Jennifer Robson — this was a book club pick I missed last year but then found on audio this summer which made it perfect for my latest walking choice. I have to say, I liked parts of it but then was a little bit bored by some of the overabundance of detail about some the sewing and moments within the book that didn’t really seem to warrant that much attention (and then caught off guard by the traumatizing part of the story that did warrant attention and came kind of out of nowhere). (finished 8.16.2020)
- Harvest the Vote by Jane Kleeb — Bought this pre-pandemic and hoped to get it signed by the local author but the stars didn’t align for that and I’m just now getting to it in my reading stack. I grew up in a blue dot family in a red, rural state, so I get much of what JK talks about here, but I also learned some interesting tidbits from the reading and I don’t think she’s wrong that Dems can have a place helping voters in states like mine now and the one in which I was raised.
- More Myself by Alicia Keys — get this audiobook and listen to it as soon as you can! I had to wait a while for it to come through the library app I use, but it was totally worth it to hear Alicia Keys tell her story in her own voice (and song). I felt like I was listening to my (incredibly talented and woke) friend talk the whole time. So real and so inspiring.
- The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris — I learned a ton about Harris’ career from this book and more about her guiding principles, too. It was a sweet glimpse into her personal life as well, making it altogether a great read. How inspiring and hope-building to think of a woman like Kamala Harris in major leadership in this nation!
- Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert — OK, this was entirely too predictable in terms of girl meets boy, girl hates boy, girl like boy, girl gets in fight with boy, girl loves boy happily ever after, but with a bunch of very explicit sex described throughout the process, and even though I sort of liked the characters, this was just too much. Too much. (finished 9.5.2020)
- Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker — this was more self-helpy than I anticipated or really wanted at the get-go, but by the end I found myself sneakily inspired and still very much a fan of Jen Hatmaker. Plus I got to listen to her on my walks, which was fun.
- Blowout by Rachel Maddow — I’m about a year behind release date on this one but it was still interesting to read Rachel’s take and coordination of so many moving parts and players in the saga that is the oil and gas industry, especially in regards to (American) politics. I love her monologues on TV and appreciated that so much of her voice (and wit and sarcasm) came across in the book.
- Anxious People by Fredrick Backman — oh, how my love for Backman’s work continues!! This book was such a joy to read, even though you wouldn’t necessarily guess that by the title. I have yet to read one of his that I didn’t like, so perhaps I’m have fan girl bias, but goodness – such a good storyteller and such relatable emotions in his work. (finished 9/30/2020)
- Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center — I liked the straightforwardness of the narrator’s voice in this one and appreciated the empowering messages within the story line. Also, it made me think of shows like my beloved Grey’s and how those will always be enjoyable to me. I would like to read more books by this author.
- The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (virtual book club selection) — this debut novel was great, although I had to switch from audio to hardcopy to make sure I could follow the floating narrators, poetry, and multitude of characters happening within the book. I really enjoyed how the story all came together and it was fun to discuss with friends.
- In Five Years by Rebecca Serle — this was a quick read sort of love story but really more so about life and friendship and, oddly just like my previous book, a bit of mystical realism. (finished 10/20/2020)
- A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum — oh, this one will split you wide open, but it is such a powerful read and I love the subtle knitting together that happens throughout the story.
- The Yellow House by Sarah Broom — such a good memoir and not my first time reading this author on this subject (an essay about her yellow house was in an anthology I taught from a lifetime ago when I was full-time teaching at CCC). This would be an excellent one for discussion. (finished 11/10/2020)
- Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han — finally got my hands on the library’s copy of the final book in this series and it is what it is – YA rom com, quick and fast reading, and the wrapping up of a cute little series. It does a remarkable job of feeling 17.
- The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon — the writing style took me a quarter+ to get into/understand, but once I did, the reading was better. This had some grim/disturbing scenes to it, but it was just a grab off the library shelf, so I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I started it.
- What You Wish For by Katherine Center — I find Center’s books pretty predictable but still enjoyable and let’s face it, some lighter reads are just necessary right now. (finished 11/20/2020)
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi — in progress
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Careful What You Wish For
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen