2020 Books Archive

How is it already time to look back on and recap another year of reading? 2020 started out so beautifully, and hopeful, and quickly went down the pandemic drain for basically everyone on the planet. The only “normal” activity I did last year was reading – an activity which I did a whole lot of. Fifty-seven books of the super-aggressive-stretch-goal of sixty books I set for myself. Here’s my rundown of all the books I read, mostly for my own benefit, but also presented as a way to share high level book review details in case anyone is looking for their next read. Also, a plug for GoodReads if you are an avid reader who likes to keep track of such things like I do. Their yearly Reading Challenge keeps me motivated all year, year after year.

  • The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin – one of the many I hauled home from a writing conference that also focused on reading widely. Great family drama with lots of diversity that lived up to the recommendation.
  • A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1), Arkady Martine – a very political, not-based-in-our-world and science fiction read, also hauled home from a librarian/bookseller recommendation, I picked up in an attempt to read outside my preferred genres. It was a difficult read to get into but paid off greatly. If you’re into the genre, it is a great one.
  • One Small Sacrifice (Shadows of New York, #1), Hilary Davidson – also hauled home from librarian/bookseller recommendation in the crime/thriller genre. I really enjoyed it.
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy – I picked this one up since it had been on my list forever and is considered a must-read. It proved just as difficult to read as I had assumed based on the movie they made from it but it is also in my preferred horror/dystopian genres and I enjoyed it.
  • The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy, Erica Layne – the first nonfiction of the year. I’ve been trying to declutter my life according to the recommendations and concepts ever since. A great place to start on this very popular trend lately.
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman – book club pick that I didn’t know what to think about in the beginning and which turned out to be hauntingly good with a very satisfying ending. We had a great discussion about it as well.
  • Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1), Neal Shusterman – I typically don’t love YA books, but I couldn’t get enough of this one that was recommended and co-read with my daughter.
  • Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng – a haunting read about a child who doesn’t connect with her family and their discovery of this fact in the aftermath of her death. This was a great read!
  • Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2), Neal Shusterman – See, I liked the first one so much that I had to keep reading!
  • The Toll (Arc of a Scythe, #3), Neal Shusterman – a very satisfying conclusion to this YA trilogy with just enough politics and morality to satisfy my adult reader tastes. If you haven’t read this series, I recommend it.
  • Trail of Broken Wings, Sejal Badani – a book club pick which was amazing. About an immigrant family and the abuse the women of the family share in looking back over the course of their life when the family patriarch falls ill. A great book club pick.
  • The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travel, Erin Macdonald – this was an Audible Original that satisfied my inner sci-fi geek who wonders just how much of the stories and movies I love could ever be plausible. Very entertaining and accessible.
  • Tell Me Lies, J.P. Pomare – another Audible Original that I listened to as a distraction from all the things going on in the world. Psychological thriller has apparently become my go-to genre. This was nothing memorable but was not terrible either.
  • November Road, Lou Berney – I wanted this to be so much better than it was. I picked it up during the holidays and, while it had promise, the end was just dismal and bleak. I don’t regret reading it, but by April of 2020, I needed something that was far more hopeful.
  • The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – another psychological thriller that kept me guessing until the very end with a twist even I didn’t see coming. Highly recommended.
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott – if you’re a writer, this is a fantastic and frank look at what it means to be creative with honest and straightforward advice.
  • Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, K.M. Weiland – I keep trying these craft books and occasionally I can come away with some nugget of possibility that might improve my own process, but usually it’s just another writer telling us what works for them without anything concrete to take away from it. I fear this one is in the later category.
  • ITIL Service Transition, Cabinet Office – I’m a glutton for all things process and this was a textbook/certification book that I read just because I needed a deeper understanding of building processes at work. Yes, I know I’m crazy!
  • The City We Became (Great Cities #1), N.K. Jemisin – I wanted to read something from a Hugo Award winner and this one looked interesting. It did not disappoint! I loved this book. Great SciFi/Fantasy with tons of diversity.
  • Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success, Jennifer Probst – read as part of my exploration of other genres and to get a glimpse into this whole romance thing. It wasn’t anything super earth-shattering or memorable this far down the road after reading it, unfortunately.
  • Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng – a book club pick and an amazing book. Family secrets and intrigue might be my new guilty pleasure genre!
  • Bird Box (Bird Box, #1), Josh Malerman – I loved the movie on Netflix and wanted to see if the book gave more depth to the story. Unfortunately, it didn’t. I’m not sure I would have loved it as much if I didn’t have the images of the movie to fill in some of the blanks. Kind of disappointing.
  • Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, Brené Brown – I love everything Dr. Brown does and recommend this book to anyone looking for ways to feel like they truly belong in a see of judgement and societal pressures. I will definitely re-read this one.
  • How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi – part of my journey this year to be an ally and to check my own inherent bias. It was a hard read in many ways because it spoke so much truth and exposed a lot of things I hadn’t even considered. Highly recommend this one!
  • Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones – another book club pick that was fantastic. Raw, real, and hard to put down. This story stayed with me long after I was done and I even told my kids about this one. Highly recommended.
  • The Mountain and the Sea, Kwame Dawes – an Audible Original when I needed something light between college assignments. I loved this one but only because I had no expectations going in and found it about a mature woman who finds herself in the context of her encounter with another person. Very literary and very good. Don’t expect a romance, but definitely read this one.
  • Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues, Molly Harper – an urban fantasy, also a quick Audible Original between school assignments. It was good but not memorable.
  • Starsight (Skyward #2), Brandon Sanderson – my kid loved this one more than I did but it was a well-written YA like only Sanderson can do. If you love the genre, then this one is a good one.
  • The Whisper Man, Alex North – super satisfying psychological thriller with a side of serial killer. Suprisingly, my kid bought this book for herself and I stole it to read one weekend in the woods this summer. It was so good! Spoiler: I’m going to pick this one for my book club to read in 2021!
  • By Virtue Fall, Bryan Young et all – disclaimer: I have a story in this one. I read it cover to cover and am amazed at the level of talent there is in this collection. The editors were amazing and the writers are all very talented. If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a collection to sample local Utah authors, this is one I recommend for everyone.
  • City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert – a book club read that I absolutely loved. Women’s lit at its finest and a period piece on top of that. We had an amazing discussion. Disclaimer: there are some very mature themes so if you’re sensitive to sexuality be aware you’re in for some with this although it is not on the scale anywhere near erotica.
  • Mindtap Business Communications, Mary Ellen Guffey – textbook for my Master Degree. I’m counting it anyway since a book is a book!
  • The Institute, Stephen King – after so many years of being a King fan, his novels all start to tie together and his universe is vast. This one had a lot of things to make you think about the current world we are living in with a side of horror thrown in. I liked it, but I wonder how many brand new King fans there are born every year and how much someone who wasn’t already a fan would think of this.
  • The Roommate, Dervla McTiernan – a crime story Audible Original. They kind of all are just okay and something to entertain. I use them to keep reading without derailing myself in the middle of other large projects.
  • Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1), Tamsyn Muir – This came highly recommended and it is in the fantasy genre which I don’t read widely in. I really enjoyed it but it took me a while to really wrap my head around the world and what was happening. The learning curve is a little steep for those who don’t read the genre often. I’m very glad I stuck with it because it was very good overall.
  • Managing Human Capital, Jean M. Phillips – textbook… need I say more?
  • The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (re-read) – I loved this book so much that I made my book club read it when it was my turn to pick. They all agreed that it was a good book with lots of twists that left us all satisfied. I thought it was super predictable in the beginning but I was very wrong so stick with this one if you pick it up.
  • The Decision: Overcoming Today’s BS for Tomorrow’s Success, Kevin Hart – hands down, one of THE BEST books I’ve ever read when it comes to personal development/self-help. Yes, it’s by THAT Kevin Hart. It is super entertaining, very authentic and real, and hits you in the gut with reality and tools to eliminate the bullshit everyone has in their life that holds them back from achieving full potential. I wish that this came in physical book because I would have it highlighted and dog eared and flipped through all the time. Unfortunately, it is only available on YouTube or Audible and is read by the author. Highly recommend this one to everyone!
  • The Forgetting Time, Sharon Guskin – fascinating book club read about what happens to us after we die. It was so interesting to watch the story unfold and it wasn’t until the book club discussion that we all realized it was rooted in someone’s actual theories.
  • The Outsider, Stephen King – I’m a sucker for Stephen King – have been since I was a kid. This one was one of his better ones from recent years. How do you discount a crime when there’s indisputable evidence but also proof against it? A story of being in two places at the same time.
  • White Trash Warlock, David R. Slayton – the debut novel of a friend and also an amazing urban fantasy about witches and warlocks and magical realms. It was also super diverse with LGBTQ+ characters that was refreshing to see done so well. I devoured this on Audible!
  • Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box, The Arbinger Institute – a leadership self-help book that doubled as a textbook for a class. A pretty good concept but lots of anecdotal stories to lead you by the nose to the point.
  • As Bright as Heaven, Susan Meissner – book club read set against the backdrop of the Spanish Flu in America. It was fascinating to watch this historical piece (written years ago and not recently) play out and see the parallels to the current pandemic we are living through. A poignant family drama period piece that was well done.
  • Leadership 2.0, Travis Bradberry – another leadership book for a class
  • Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust, Edgar H. Schein – and another leadership book for the same class. Although I thought this was a nice approach to looking at some aspects differently.
  • Feed, M.T. Anderson – a disturbing look at our future where people have hardware jacked into their brains to see social media feeds and the evolution that young people take. It was written several years ago and is very relevant today.
  • Dune, Frank Herbert – I’ve seen the movie years ago, it is a classic, and they are doing a new movie. I finally made time to put it on the top of my to-read pile and finally see what all the hype was about. It was good, although the style is very 1960’s science fiction which has become a little hard to read and enjoy for me.
  • The Cuckoo’s Cry, Caroline Overington – an Audible Original set in Australia at the beginning of the COVID lockdown. A family drama/thriller that was entertaining but a little difficult to read since it was so close to current events. If you read to escape reality, this one isn’t for you.
  • BattleTech: Honor’s Gauntlet (BattleTech Novel), Bryan Young – a novel written by a friend in the BattleTech licensed universe. I was told you didn’t need to be a gamer to understand or enjoy this and it was true. It was a fast read that felt like Pacific Rim in space/on other planets. If you like scifi, this one is worth picking up.
  • The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James – Volume 1, M.R. James – an Audible Original that was supposed to invoke terror and which was a childish ghost story collection at best. I was disappointed.
  • Ink, Jonathan Maberry – horror and tattoos, what more does anyone need? This was a fascinating take on the concept of someone stealing your memories that I really enjoyed.
  • The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch – a memoir I stumbled across on a Twitter feed of recommended books. I listened to this amazing and literary treasure while I wrapped all my gifts one weekend and am so glad I found it. Very heavy read, but beautifully written, raw and real.
  • Mars One, Jonathan Maberry – I liked this author so much that I picked up another standalone about the first trip to Mars. It was more of a YA that was not as gritty or satisfying as the last. Still an entertaining and fast read for scifi fans.
  • King of Sting: The Story of Australian Conman Peter Foster, Justin Armsden – an Audible Original that sounded like a podcast that was packaged together about someone I never heard of and who didn’t do anything all that unusual. Kind of disappointing.
  • Silverswift, Natalie Lloyd – had a fascinating premise about mermaids and their hidden island but turned out to be more of a middle grade. An Audible Original that would appeal to kids or someone who wants a whimsical little adventure story.
  • Evil Eye, Madhuri Shekar – a surprisingly good Audible Original about an Indian-American with a fantastic twist at the end. This one is not what you think and is well worth the read/listen.
  • Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2), Tamsyn Muir – It took me two attempts to finish this sequel because it was SO confusing at the beginning. I think I liked it but probably would need to read it again to fully grasp all the things that happened and the complexities woven into it. Probably why I don’t read this genre very often. Still glad I read it.

About terraluft

Writer; wife, mother, survivor, and impulsive bitch rarely capable of saying no. Fueled by coffee, yoga and sarcasm. (She/Her) View all posts by terraluft

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