Best Books (and podcasts!) of 2020

In a year where we couldn’t count on anything, we still had books. (Although most people had way less brain space to actually read them. Myself included.) True to form – 2020 can’t ruin everything! – here’s my end of the year book list. Not as many as I hoped for, but this year I have learned to take what I can get.

As an extra bonus, I’m including both audio books and podcasts! Early this year I invested in an Audible account, since my new job came with a new (aka long) commute. Although they aren’t as great as actually reading actual books – I’ve learned my audio book niche: they have to be read by the author and said author has to be a comedian. That is my sweet spot and I’m not going anywhere. Everyone has a podcast these days, but I found the great ones helped me get through the year the same as a good book did. Some of the best writers have the best podcasts – so it kind of fits the theme? Whatever. Just go with it.

As always – let me know your favorite reads of the year!! Always, always looking for a good novel to add to my forever growing list.


Best Novels (in order!)

The Vanishing Half | This follows two twin sisters as their lives diverge, and it’s one of the best novels I’ve read in years. There’s a lot to unpack, but Bennett effortlessly weaves things into the storyline you almost don’t even notice. I’m normally a the-library-is-for-novels kind of girl, but buy this one! You’ll want to re-read it.

Where the Crawdads Sing | Oh man, oh man. Beautifully written. A story that keeps you guessing and will also make you cry. It’s so well done it’s hard to believe this is Owens’ first! This will definitely be made into a movie or show at some point, so pick it up before Hollywood ruins it.

We were the Lucky Ones | You read this as one of the million other WWII era books out there these days (I keep reading them!) except that …this one is based on a true story. Jaw drop. It follows one Jewish family (and their many children) who were spread all throughout Europe during the war, and you have to read it to believe it. Hard to read at times, but overall a heartwarming story.

Transcendent Kingdom | We all knew not to expect another Homegoing with Gyasi’s second (I WISH), but this book does not disappoint. Completely different concept and story, but still beautifully executed. Bonus: If you grew up in American Christianity, it really hits home.

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Best Non Fiction (not in order)

Untamed | I will be honest – I first read this book and thought, Love Glennon, but this isn’t my favorite.¬†Her previous two books were more narrative driven, which I preferred. Plus if you follow her on social media (which, you should!) a lot of the big ideas in Untamed had already been featured in posts. It was still really great, there were a few chapters that got me, but if you had asked I would have recommended her older stuff first.
Then, I listened to Doyle on Brene Brown’s podcast – and I was stopped in my tracks. Suddenly the book made a lot more sense. She purposefully wrote the book to become more untamed as it went on. The themes stood out more. I went back and re-listened to the audio book (Doyle reads it!), and realized how phenomenal it is. Cannot recommend this book enough – even if you had to read it twice like me ūüėČ

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation | I’m a little weary of things that want to discuss The Millennials, but I am such a fan of Peterson’s work I had this pre-ordered. It’s basically a deeper dive into this piece she wrote back in 2019, which really hit home for me. Like all of her work, the book is well researched, eloquently written, and somehow a little fun. I learned SO many things that have shaped our generation and how we work, and it’s really made me evaluate how I think of my job and work as a whole.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood | I’ve been hesitant to pick up any of Held Evans work since her passing, because it’s just so sad. But I’m glad I finally(!) dove into this one. It’s pretty old, but it holds up. Funny, sarcastic, deep, theological. Even with half a seminary degree, I learned a lot about the Bible and its view of women.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone | I am the biggest fan of books that double as free therapy (because we all need therapy, but that @*$* is expensive). This is written by a therapist, about both her therapy patients and going to therapy herself – but it doesn’t read like a weird self help book or instruction manual. Gottlieb does a great job of weaving stories together to make the whole book read more like a narrative. It’s both enjoyable to read and incredibly insightful.

Fierce, Free and Full of Fire | Hatmaker can do no wrong in my book, but I wasn’t ready for how good her latest is. Unlike her older stuff which are more of a collection of essays, this book reads more like a step by step walk through of things she has learned and how she’s gotten there. It’s hard to describe how informative and useful the book is – you’ll just need to read it for yourself.
I bought a copy to read and then mailed it off to my friend to read, who mailed it to our other friend after she finished it! Sisterhood of the traveling books just might be my new favorite thing.

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Honorable Mentions

A Burning | This book made a lot of lists this year – which I get, as it’s beautifully written and a stunning concept for a first time novelist! But overall it wasn’t my favorite read.

Mindy Kaling’s Amazon Publishing essays | Do these count as a book? Goodreads seems to think they count as 7. Kaling released these essays that are free for Kindle with an Amazon Prime account, and, as everything Kaling does, they are wonderful. I made my husband dig his Kindle out of our garage the week they came out just so I could devour them – and that’s exactly what I did. I will happily read anything Kaling pens, and I will also be her best friend. Just putting it out there.

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Full List:

 

Audiobooks: (they count, but they don’t fully count, ya know?)

Podcasts: (they’re kind of like audio books?)

  • My Favorite Murder | I’ve heard so much about these ladies, but never got into it until this year. If you’re into true crime and serial killers and all that goodness – this is the best it gets.
  • The Michelle Obama Podcast | Do I really need to say more?? I wish there were 5 million more episodes, but my two favorites were her one with Barack and her one with Conan. Second up is the one with her girlfriends and then the one with the girls she’s mentored/worked with. Actually they are all favorites, go listen right now.
  • Unlocking Us with Brene Brown | Queen Brene graced us with a podcast this year. They can be a little dense (no light listening!) – but are wonderful! I already mentioned her episode with Glennon Doyle, she has a great two episode series on Little Fires Everywhere,¬†and her discussion with Joe Biden was sweet.
  • Canary | This has serious S Town vibes (in the best way) and is a deep dive into a sexual assault case by a Washington Post reporter. If you can stomach the topic, it’s super well done. 7 episodes that I’m pretty sure I finished within a week.
  • The Daily | I don’t listen to this every morning, but I try to most days. It has some great reporting, and the Sunday Stories are usually a welcome break from actual news. (A few weeks ago it was all about how trees in a forest are actually connected and somehow it restored my faith in humanity.)
  • You’re Wrong About | OKAY. This is my newest obsession (if you know, you know). Two hosts go back through events / people (mostly from the 90s) and do deep dives into things you probably don’t know and/or were wrong about them. Their Princess Diana series is phenomenal. Their recent episode on Fox News is amazing. I’m currently going through their OJ Simpson trial series and it’s all I want to listen to. They do their homework and also do a really great job of looking at social and cultural things of the day and how it compares to now. I love love love it.

Black Books to Buy This Week

There’s a #blackoutbestsellerlist challenge going around social media this week, encouraging people to purchase 2 books written by Black authors between 6/14 and 6/20 – in hopes of flooding next week’s best sellers list with Black names. An avid fan of anything book related + supporting underrepresented voices, I already placed my Bookshop order: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (#readwomen). In case you’re looking for a good buy, these are my favorites from the past few years! Read More

2019 Book List

2019 may have been a hard year in life, but it was a gooooood year in books. I even *gasp* read more novels than anything. Drop out of multiple semesters of grad school, get a case of mono, and watch your need for a good novel sky rocket.

As always, here are my favorites & recommendations at the top, with a full list below. 2020 has already started with some great reads – but what else should I add to my list?? What was the best book you read last year?

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2018 Book List

2019 is, like, actually here! Some days I really didn’t think we were going to survive 2018, and then all of a sudden we’re a week in to this new year and I’m still working on my December to-do list. Oops.

I always try to post my yearly book lists in December because, Christmas gifts. There is nothing I love more than giving (or getting!) for Christmas than books. So ignore the fact that it is currently January (double oops), and think of all the books you can *exchange your other gifts for*. You’re welcome!

In 2017, I tried to read 30 books in a year – and I accidentally read 51 (I blame both insomnia and the Harry Potter series). This year I, once again, tried to read 30 – and I read TWENTY NINE AND A HALF. Triple oops. Read More

Summer Reading List

Labor Day has come and gone, which means it’s time for my round-up of what I read this summer. This year, in my life, it also means grad school is back in session (insert me crying). Instead of focussing on my insane to-do list or all the homework I’m currently avoiding – LET’S TALK BOOKS.

summer reading list

Any good ones you read this summer? Anything you’re currently eyeing? I’m always, always, always down for some good recommendations!¬† Read More

Best Books of 2017

It’s officially the most wonderful time of the year: BOOK LIST SEASON. As always, here’s the best of what I read, a full list at the bottom, and *bonus* my favorite book lists currently floating around the internet!


Top 5 of 2017

  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi |¬†If I talked to you about books at any point in 2017, I talked about Homegoing. I read it twice this year. I hosted a book club for it. I’ve told 97 people to go buy it.¬†This is THE BEST novel. Tracing one family tree from early 1700s to present day, each chapter is a new person’s story. Not only is the concept of the novel so wonderfully novel, the writing is beautifully done, the characters are real and vibrant, and the story itself is top notch.
  • Hidden Figures,¬†Margot Lee Shetterly |¬†If you somehow missed this film earlier this year, FIX IT. But, like always, the book is so much better than the movie (which is saying something, because this movie is pretty near flawless).¬†Hidden Figures is wonderfully researched and wonderfully written – it’s a historical page turner that brought me to tears a handful of times. The amount of women, especially women of color, who have been left out of history books is astounding – but Shetterly manages to write from an encouraging place of hope.
  • The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert |¬†I’ve fallen so far deep into the enneagram rabbit hole (because I’m a 5, obviously) – but even if I hadn’t, this book is wonderful. It is DENSE with a capital D and then four more capital letters; it took me quite a while to get through it, but was so worth it. The enneagram itself has taught me so much about myself and those around me – and this book offers so much valuable depth.
  • Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own,¬†Kate Bolick | This book blew me away. I’ve already said that I fully realize not everyone will love this read as much as I did, but I felt like a book was written for me for the first time in a long time. Mixing in history, mini biographies of females writers and poets, and musings on modern romantic relationships – it even breaks down the history of the word spinster, its legal ramifications, and questions its social consequences as well. What?! I couldn’t put it down.
  • What Happened, Hillary Rodham Clinton |¬†This book was so much more¬†fun to read than I ever expected. To be sure, it was sobering, infuriating, and brought me to tears – but it was also a highly enjoyable experience to get a glimpse behind the curtain into the mind of HRC. I audibly laughed when she talked about her preference of Goldfish crackers. The fact that this woman is not our president still grieves me to no end – but this book is a really honest look at 2016, and a very hopeful look to our future.

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Summer “Book” List

With Memorial Day weekend come and gone and the fact that it’s JUNE (what?!) slowly sinking in, I think it’s officially safe to throw around the term “summer”. Growing up summer meant book lists and library trips and signing up for the reading program (yes, I was that child), but I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm for books. So although my summer book list of 2017 will surface at some point, I thought a summer “no books allowed” list might be fun. Read More

Springing Forward: Book List

We’re three whole months into the new year now (…too late to still be calling it “new”? Let me know), so I figured a book list was in order. We also just lost an hour of sleep this weekend – YAY SPRING – so clearly we could all use a reason to smile.

Life has been a bit crazy for me at the moment (luckily with mostly exciting things!), so I haven’t been able to attack my ever growing reading list as much as I’d like. Is anyone else’s book shelves newly crammed with Christmas-gift books, best-of-last-year’s books, and this-year-I’ll-read-more!!!!!So-I-can-buy-these books? Just me? Read More

Best Books of 2016

Book list season is the BEST kind of season. Has anyone else been devouring all these “best of 2016” lists?? I think the other day at work I had 3 open simultaneously. No shame.

I was already eyeing what I want to read next year, when Goodreads sent me a fun email of everything I’ve read this year! I’ll be honest, when it said I read 20 books it seemed far too small. Only 20?!¬†I realize that’s a crazy amount to some; as an avid reader I felt like I was doing more reading than that…

Sidenote: some of my friends are trying out the 52 books in a year thing for 2017! Anyone ever done that? Seems daunting. Also seems tempting. Hmmm.

Here’s the best of what I read this year! (Along with a full list at the bottom) Any recommendations?? Let’s talk books *heart eyes emoji*¬† Read More