Limiting my top books from this past year down to six was really hard, y'all.
I started the year off with a goal of reading 24 books. That's 2 a month, not bad, but definitely a good amount to be proud of. I knew I could accomplish this goal but it would still be challenging enough to keep my interest... and then the pandemic hit.
There are so many horrific things that happened in 2020, but one silver lining I'm choosing to look at was that because I was quarantined, I got to try out all the solo activities I could think of to keep busy and not become bored. For a natural extrovert, it was an interesting challenge I didn't think I would have, but I really loved it! I tried getting back into watercoloring, keeping a gratitude journal, binging shows, cross-stitching, and reading. Some of these stuck, some didn't, but if one thing's for sure, I fell even more in love with reading this year than I had in past years, reading 55 books in total. And now I want to share the love with all of you!
Each of my favorite books from this last year include why I loved it, who wrote the amazing book, what genre it is, how many pages, and a suggestion if you like it and want something else like it! You can also click on the photo of any book below and it'll take you to a link that allows you to buy it in any form you like to read books: audiobook, hardcover, e-book, etc.
1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
AUTHOR: V.E. Schwab
LENGTH: 448 Pages
WHY I LOVED IT: This book is about the magical life of Addie LaRue, a woman who, in a moment of desperation, makes a deal with a dark god that will change her life forever. Beautifully written, we go through centuries of Addie's immortal life as her deal has a dark side: no one will remember her face once she loses contact with them.
Just as I thought this book couldn't get better and thought the ending would be good as I predicted, a twist came and I felt so satisfied with the ending. A little romance, adventure, some fantasy (but not too much), this book was probably my absolute favorite of 2020. Please go get a copy or listen to the audiobook because it was phenomenal. I wanted to read 100 more years of Addie's life after I read the last page.
SUGGESTION: After reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (and loving it), The Midnight Library was recommended to me. This was such a great story centering on the theme similar to my favorite movie It's a Wonderful Life: What would you do differently in your life if you could?
This has a great plot and a sweet story all together. I loved the writing style of Haig and it was so interesting to follow the main character as she tries out multiple lives she could've lived.
2. Talking to Strangers
AUTHOR: Malcolm Gladwell
LENGTH: 388 Pages
WHY I LOVED IT: This book's subtitle says it all: what we should know about the people we don't know. How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn't true?
While tackling these questions, Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you'll hear the voices of people he interviewed--scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies.
SUGGESTION: If you enjoyed reading Talking to Strangers, please please read Outliers if you haven't already. Gladwell is one of my favorite authors and he sees the world and how people interact in such a fascinating way. In this book, he asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? Similar to Talking to Strangers, he outlines great examples and anecdotes to help us understand better. I loved this book and it catapulted me into reading all of Gladwell's books and having more on my list to read this year!
3. Daisy Jones & The Six
AUTHOR: Taylor Jenkins Reid
LENGTH: 448 Pages
WHY I LOVED IT: This book is written interview style, and because of this I felt so connected with each character. Almost like you're watching a documentary interview about one of the best bands in the late sixties.
"A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous break up. Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the real reason why they split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now."
I only wish this were a real band. That's my only critique... which isn't one. This story is so intoxicating that I wanted to characters to be real so that I could research more about their band, love life, and home life.
SUGGESTION: Taylor Jenkins Reid also wrote The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and that made its way to the top of my "To Read" List as soon as I finished this book, I knew I had to have more of her amazing writing style and storytelling. It was so amazing and I loved how the story unfolds about A-list celebrity Evelyn Hugo and how she reflects on her life, revealing all about her seven husbands and her one true love. Super empowering and I love any story where someone with a lived life shares their story.
AUTHOR: Michelle Obama
LENGTH: 426 Pages
WHY I LOVED IT: Michelle is such a breath of fresh air in so many ways. I recommend listening to the audiobook so you can hear her truly tell her story. It felt like I was sitting down with her for lunch and chatting with an old friend. That warmth you feel when you reconnect with someone you want to catch up with.
"In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same."
SUGGESTION: This might seem like a given, but my suggestion after reading Becoming would be to start Barack's book A Promised Land. Similar to Michelle's book, he gives his perspective on his political career, ups and downs, what that means for his family, his wife and best friend, while still staying true to himself and how he thought he could help others.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office. Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy.
I love reading an autobiography, I feel like just like in real life, there's only so much you can get from someone who didn't experience it for themselves, and this is so true for individuals who get talked about so much in the media.
5. One to Watch
AUTHOR: Kate Stayman-London
LENGTH: 432 Pages
WHY I LOVED IT: Maybe this book spoke to me because it's about a plus-size fashion blogger, or just because the character is so relatable and fun for any woman, either way this book is the representation plus-size women need in books, shows, media, and just about every damn avenue in our lives.
Bea Schumacher is picked to be the romantic lead of a dating reality show (think Bachelor franchise), and we get to go along with her on this journey of not feeling lovable, having criticisms of past comments creep back into your thoughts, knowing your worth, discovering your worth, and so much more. It was so refreshing to read a book about what pros and cons would come from a plus-size woman being the lead of a romantic reality show, and I just really loved following Bea on her journey.
SUGGESTION: If you loved the romance with a confident woman as the lead, you're going to love the fun world that Talia Hibbert created with Get a Life, Chloe Brown and Take a Hint, Dani Brown. I would start with Chloe's story; the first in the series and a good intro into the family. I love how openly she writes about the concerns you might have in a relationship, and with these sisters, being curvy or fat isn't the main plot, which is so refreshing to have a diverse lead who doesn't have to focus on what makes her different. Both sisters are strong, amazing women with flaws like all of us and these books were such a fun read. Keep a lookout for Hibbert's next book in the series of the Brown Sisters: Act Your Age, Eve Brown. It's bound to be just as cute and fun to follow along in the third sister's story!
6. The Vanishing Half
AUTHOR: Brit Bennett
GENRE: Historical Fiction
LENGTH: 343 Pages
WHY I LOVED IT: I love when a book can weave in generational family stories and Brit Bennett does that so well in The Vanishing Half. This story is about the Vignes twin sisters, their lives from the Deep South to California, as sisters, daughters, mothers, and so much more. This book considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
SUGGESTION: I really loved Where the Crawdads Sing and I feel like there's a similar flavor between the two. I know I'm probably the last person on Earth who has finished Crawdads, but if somehow I'm not, please go read it.
"For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.
But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life's lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens."
Bonus, Reese Witherspoon (bless) got her hands on this not only as a Reese's Book Club pick, but also is making it into a movie! I'm so excited to see how her team brings the characters and story to life.
BONUS: City of Girls
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Gilbert
GENRE: Historical Fiction
LENGTH: 496 Pages
WHY I LOVED IT: I technically read this at the very end of 2019 but whoa was this good. I highly recommend it. After hearing Gilbert's interview with Dax Shephard on his podcast Armchair Expert, I knew I had to read this book. She talks about so many reasons she wrote the book and wanted to give single women in the 1940s this voice, and it is phenomenal.
In 1940, Vivian Morris is sent by her parents at the age of 19 to live with her Aunt Peg in Manhattan, where she is introduced to an handful of unconventional and charismatic characters: show-girls, writers, sexy male actors, and more! That's just the beginning too, so much happens as Vivian explores her new city, independence, and sexuality. I promise you'll love this story.
What books did you read last year that you loved? Share with me here in the comments or over on my Instagram. I'd also love to connect on Goodreads, one of my favorite apps to keep up with all the books I'm reading, want to read, and have read!
Happy reading, friends!