I like to finish off the year with a reading roundup of my favorites, what my reading life has been like this year and whether I meet my reading goals. The answers to these questions - and others can be found scattered here and there, below.
I read 55 fiction titles and 12 of those were book club reads. The remainder could be applied, mostly. to my left-unfinished 2020 Reading Goal - read a book published every year since I was born. Leaving a goal unfinished, I thought I would be more - upset - at myself. But, after the unprecedented year of 2020, that I was able to read 83 books this year was a miracle in itself. The year did not make me run toward books. Rather, I went through many periods of dry spells and without focus, especially for books. Now, of those 55 fiction books I did read, I was able to easily narrow that down to my favorite 12 fiction books in 2020.
It wasn't as easy to narrow the 12 down to just one favorite but I'm happy to say I gave it a go and chose one favorite fiction from those 12 'favorites'. The winner of the favorite fiction award goes to...
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
I'll be honest. This was a tough decision. Many of these books were really good books. However, none of them I loved from start to finish, although several of them were pretty darn close. I feel I must narrow the non-fiction category down to sub-genre in order to give justice to the entire non-fiction genre. I broke non-fiction down into:
Memoir(s): Becoming, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Life In Motion, A Moveable Feast, Walk, and Travels With Charlie. Except for a few minor irritations in Becoming I can easily give the memoir by Michelle Obama the number one spot in the genre. I will say, however, that A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is a classic for a reason and stands the test of time, as does Travels With Charlie by John Steinbeck. I'm not sure how Becoming will hold up with time, as a classic memoir. While I'm not a fan of Obama, I do believe her writing and memoir is excellent, Becoming.
Literary Non-Fiction: The Perfect Storm, Killers of the Flower Moon, Into The Wild, and Into the Woods. Literary non-fiction is becoming a favorite genre of mine, a non-fiction facts-based story that reads like a literary fiction novel. In other years, books I've read, like, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing or Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson, would join this genre of literary non-fiction. While I enjoyed all four of these literary non-fiction books and Into the Woods is a close second, my pick for literary non-fiction is, The Perfect Storm.
Non-Fiction: Just Mercy, Be The Bridge, I'm Still Here, 24/6, and The Cloudspotter's Guide. This is a tough call. I read Just Mercy earlier in the year and it was an eye-opener to say the least. Even more frustrating that our justice system has come to what it is. In Killers of the Flower Moon a judge overseeing one of the trials in the Osage murders said something to the effect, "There has never been a country on this earth that has fallen except when that point was reached where the citizens would say, 'we cannot get justice in our courts." The bread crumb victories in our justice system make it clear that our country is and has been on its fall, spiraling quickly downward. But, for the work being done now - I believe - and on a broader scale, and for the approach Latasha Morrison took in speaking about racial bridge building and how-to be a bridge, ever respectful to the white race (because I am white, yes, but also because I do not see how a bridge can be build without respect), I select Be The Bridge.
FAVORITE BOOK CLUB READ
I read 12 books for my book club. We were able to meet over Zoom during the pandemic, we didn't let the pandemic curb our reading for book club, nor let it interrupt our meeting. When we did return to my home our gathering was small and that continued for the remainder of the year. There is talk, recently, of several planning on returning in 2021. I hope so. Some of our best discussions have been when we've had more than six book club members.
Some of my favorite books of the year were actually book club reads. We read Gilead, Little Bee, The Dog Stars, Olive Kitteridge, What Alice Forgot, Little Bee, Code Name Helene, A Gentleman in Moscow, The Time Traveler's Wife, American Royals, The Vanishing Half, and Killers of the Flower Moon.
I adored several of the 12 books we read in book club, such as What Alice Forgot, The Vanishing Half, and Code Name Helene which was a close runner up. If I polled book club I wouldn't be surprised if many would pick What Alice Forgot as their favorite book. However, my favorite book club read hands down, a book I adored, goes to...
A Gentleman in Moscow
FAVORITE CLASSIC CLUB BOOK
In August I joined The Classic's Club and began reading 51 Classics in 51 Months (my personal goal). I read the following classic's beginning in August:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (a Modern Classic)
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Multiple genre classics from a modern classic, The Kite Runner to a Christian non-fiction, The Pursuit of God. A couple memoirs: A Moveable Feast and Travels with Charley, and a Christian fiction classic by CS Lewis. My favorite Classic book I read (once I began the Classic's Club) is: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
FAVORITE BOOK READ ALOUD
These are books that Jeff and I read aloud this year. These are the spiritual formation books we have been reading early in the morning, along with reading the Bible from cover to cover - together. I read aloud and he listens - intently. We have stacked the shelf of finished Christian non-fiction books. This year we read from a couple giants in the faith, The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and Life Without Lack by Dallas Williard, a couple easy-to-read but just as hard hitting, How Happiness Happens and Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado, Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman, and Letters to the Church by Francis Chan, and a couple more-difficult-to-follow books, Louder than Words by Andy Stanley and Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller.
Picking a favorite was tough! Almost impossible, because spiritual formation is imperative to growing in Christ and each book offered - something for spiritual growing. I could give you my least favorite: Louder than Words by Andy Stanley. I liked the book but didn't love it. It was choppy, and not as engaging as I would expect from Stanley. Although I did walk away having learned something. Of the 8 books we read it was still my least favorite. Here's what's hard in picking a favorite in the spiritual formation category? We read some heavy hitting books by some giant theologians and Christians in the faith. Francis Chan's Letters to the Church was a re-read for me but even better the second time through read out loud with Jeff. It is a heavy contender for favorite or, at least, in a top 3 spot. But, come on, A.W. Tozer! How do I choose?
Even for all the great reads the most memorable to me, the happiest little book, typical Max Lucado style - yet, insightful, engaging, and thought-provoking, I'm just going to say it, go with it...
How Happiness Happens
FAVORITE BOOK IN A SERIES
I only read a couple books this year that also happen to be a part of a series. Louise Penny's latest Chief Inspector Gamache series came out in September and I had All The Devils Are Here read in less than 24 hours. J.D. Robb's latest two in her In Death series arrived in February, Golden in Death (Book 50), and Shadows in Death (Book 51). The Memory Man series by David Baldacci delivered Walk the Wire and I began a new series, A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, reading the first two, A Curious Beginning and A Perilous Undertaking.
The Veronica Speedwell mysteries were a delight and I'm really looking forward to reading more in the series in 2021. I am such a fan of The Memory Man series. However, Walk the Wire wasn't a favorite. Louise Penny can rarely do wrong and I have devoured and own each of the, I think, 16 books in the series. These books are re-read worthy and I may just do that in 2021. Lastly, J.D. Robb's In Death series. Have I mentioned this is my favorite series? Yeah, pretty much is. Fifty-one books into the series and I still haven't tired of the characters or the story lines. They are a guilty pleasure. They're not a literary read but I am engrossed from word one and love every minute of them (minus a couple that have been a bit of a shallow read). That said, Shadows in Death was absolutely fantastic. Loved every minute of it! It also earns the top spot, favorite book in a series: Shadows in Death by JD Robb.
FAVORITE BOOK OF 2020
Finally, I come to the ultimate. The favorite. The year's best - of the best. The top notch. The magnum opus - or at least my magnum opus. My favorite book of 2020.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Runner's Up: A Gentleman in Moscow, Shadows in Death, Code Name: Helene
And, that wraps up my 2020 reading year. I am looking forward to sharing my 2021 Reading Goals.