2020 will obviously not go down in history as a great year. And it was also a year where I gave only one rating of 5 stars. There were however, many books that I enjoyed. Click on either the book image or title to read my full review.
Here, in order, are my best reads of the 2020:
The Rent Collector: My only five star rating of the year. A deeply moving story about love and friendship in Cambodia among those who live on the edge. Guaranteed to get you to re-think some of your own prejudices.
The Once and Future Witches: A clever story of three sisters and their involvement in the American women’s suffrage movement — linking prejudice, discrimination, and witchcraft. There’s another book by this talented author on my list, further down, The Ten Thousand Doors of January.
The Nickel Boys: Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, an excruciatingly difficult but important book to read about boys and racism in a reform school in the 1960s segregated south. Details will stick with you.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents: Isabel Wilkerson’s follow up to the brilliant The Warmth of Other Suns (five stars), and the only non-fiction book on my list this year. A convincing comparison between racism in America, the caste system in India, and the Nazi regime in Germany. Not a flattery reflection of the United States.
A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom: From an author who never disappoints (John Boyne), this episodic, historical novel follows a single story across two thousand years, all around the world. Obviously, NOT like any other book you’ve ever read. But so enjoyable and intriguing!
The Orphan Collector: A book by one of my favorite authors, Ellen Marie Wiseman, here is the story of a 13-year old German immigrant struggling to keep her family together during the 1918 influenza epidemic in Philadelphia. Timely, huh.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January: Combining mystery, mysticism, and coming-of-age, this unpredictable novel, full of intriguing characters, challenges what we think we know about science and reality.
The Book of Longings: Author Sue Monk Kidd’s totally believable back story about the wife of Jesus, her first fiance, and her independent travels.
The Girl With The Louding Voice: From Nigeria, a story of a 14 year-old-girl trying to chart her own path, bucking both family and societal expectations. A very emotionally difficult read.
The First Actress: A novel about the life of actress Sarah Bernhardt, peppered with the many historical figures who came into her orbit (like Oscar Wilde and Victor Hugo). A story of an independent-minded woman directing her own life in 19th century Paris where women have limited options.
A Long Petal of the Sea: A multi-generational story from Isabel Allende about love and politics during the 20th century, featuring the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and successive turnover in Chilean governments later in the century.
Anxious People: A new offering from Fredrik Backman (A Man Called Ove) filled with humor and humanity — about a bank robber, small town police, and a group of apartment hunters.
Tidelands: The first novel in a new series by Philippa Gregory (The Fairmile Series) about a mid-wife and her family living in a small coastal village after the English Civil War, the suspiciousness of the villagers, and the thin line between medical practice and witchcraft.
Dark Tides: The second novel of The Fairmile Series ( I think there are two more coming), following the next generation of the same family, this time in London, after the restoration of King Charles II.