Everything I Read in 2020 (Part 1)

I read a lot this year. I've ramped up my reading little by little over the last several years, as I recovered from 4 years of college where the only things I ever read were assigned. My grand total book count for the year was 104 books! While the fact that I couldn't leave my house was probably a contributing factor, I would also like to recognize the book light my mom got me for my birthday as a big reason I read so much. Apparently, my eyes are getting old, and don't really like reading in low light.


This list is in order from my favorite to my least favorite reads of the year. It's not a perfect system but should give you a sense of things I enjoyed this year. Each book is rated out of 5 stars (again not a perfect system). I've tried to give brief summaries to give you a general sense of the book, but l kept it to a sentence per book. If you are interested in an actual plot summary I'd encourage you to look at the book's Goodreads page or Amazon listing. After that, I tried to give some of my thoughts about the book and what I could remember about reading it.


It comes to you in two parts (because the list was getting near impossible to load). Here is part 2.


You'll notice emojis next to some of the books this is what those mean!

💩 = Hot garbage* 😢 = I shed a tear** 😭 = I ugly cried**

🍆 = Steamy (Rated R) 💎 = A gem 💘 = Warmed my heart

👻 = Scary! 🤢 = Gross 😍 = Swoon-worthy love interest

*I lovingly refer to these books as hot garbage. I want to be clear that just because it’s hot garbage, doesn’t mean it wasn’t an enjoyable read. It just means it’s not particularly enriching or fine literature. Sometimes you want a hot-garbage read and that’s okay.

** I’m a pretty easy crier, so take that with a grain of salt.




The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

😭😭😭💎💎💎💘

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Romance

Summary: Evelyn Hugo, a former movie star, tells a young reporter her life story focusing especially on all the people she loved throughout her life.

This book! I loved this book so much. I still cry when I think about it too much. It was such a beautiful story of love across a life. I waited to read it for so long because it didn't sound interesting (celebrity gossip, meh), but holy shit it was so good. (November)


In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

😭😭💘

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐️

Genre: Romance

Summary: Dannie gets a glimpse into her future in five years and it's not what she expected; we follow her as she discovers what the interceding five years hold for her, including romance, friendship, and heartbreak.

I like a book that can make me cry (like a lot) and this book did, but not in a way that felt too manipulative, it felt very cathartic. I especially loved, that the central love story was not a romantic one, but a friendship.


I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

💎😢💘

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐️

Genre: YA

Summary: Jude and Noah are twins who were once inseparable, but now barely speak, and this novel follows each of them as they cope with grief and find themselves and each other again.

This book is so good. The plot is vague because a lot of it is revealed as you go and honestly the characters supersede the plot. I fell in love with both Jude and Noah and their struggles. It's beautiful.


Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

😭💘🍆😍

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐️

Genre: Romance

Summary: This book is told in two different timelines: one where Macy and Elliot fall in love as teens and another where, as adults, Macy and Elliot find each other again, after being separated by a mysterious incident.

Another romance novel that made me ugly cry. I just loved the central couple and I was rooting for them so hard the whole book and the ending is devastating but beautiful.


Anna K by Jenny Lee

💎😢😍

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐️

Genre: YA

Summary: Anna K is Anna Karenina if it took place on the Upper Eastside, which means it's all the romance and betrayal of a Russian classic, but with the added bonus of Chanel bags.

Anna K was another one I'd had on my TBR pile for a while and wasn't all that tempted by the plot descriptions. But Jenny Lee creates such gorgeous characters and I fell in love with all of them. It's even convinced me to read the OG Anna Karenina, so look out for that on next year's reading list.


Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

💎

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐️

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: Melinda Gates explains the important role women have in eliminating global poverty.

My favorite piece of nonfiction I read this year was this book by Melinda Gates. It talks about the various ways that women are key to helping families and communities break out of the cycle of poverty. I think it did a fantastic job making the issues of global poverty understandable and hopeful.


Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐️

Genre: Contemporary

Summary: Emira, a young black woman, is a nanny for a white woman, and then throughout the book, she tries to figure whether her boyfriend, or her boss, or both are racist.

A lot of my favorite contemporary books revolved around twenty-something anxiety and this book does an amazing job talking about not only the pressure and anxiety of being in your twenties and trying to solidify your career path but also how to balance your enjoyment with future aspirations. It also beautifully touches on race, and subtler forms of modern racism and white guilt.


Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

😢

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐️

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: This book follows three women through World War II and it's devastating.

Excellent! World War II is a genre that has been done over and over again, but this book's take was extremely well done. Alternating between three women's perspectives, it does a phenomenal job balancing the personal details and the large scale devastation without it just feeling like tragedy porn.


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Summary: A single mom and her daughter are new to town, where they are taken under the wing of a prominent mother in the community; also someone tries to burn a house down.

I read this early in 2020 (so my memories are a little foggy), but I remember especially loving Ng's writing style. The characters are so beautifully crafted and interested.


Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

💘💎

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Two sisters with magical abilities learn about the value of love and friendship throughout the course of their life, with a splash of "No Body, No Crime (ft. Haim)".

I loved this book! I think the way it's written is unique, as it spans decades and lingers on moments in a really special way (hard to explain, but what a delight). I love the way they use magic throughout the book. I love the way family and particularly sisterhood is explored. So good!


Modern Love edited by Daniel Jones

💘😭💎

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: A collection of essays about people's love stories.

I almost put this book down because I disliked the first part so much, I'm very glad I didn't. It's composed of essays from various authors and I found it to be very hit or miss, but the good essays are well worth the bad.


Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

😢😍

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: YA

Summary: Twilight from Edward Cullen's perspective.

I refuse to apologize for loving Midnight Sun. I needed it in quarantine and honestly, it is a significantly more nuanced look at the events of Twilight. You can rip those five stars out of my cold dead hands.


Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

🍆

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Romance

Summary: The president's son has an enemies-to-lovers romance with the prince of England.

This book was significantly less emotional than my other romance favs, but it was just a really fun time. The premise is amazing (the president's son falls in love with the prince of England) and the main characters are just the best.


Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

💎💎💎

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Non-fiction

Summary: Elizabeth Gilbert teaches you how to be creative and live your truth.

I read this book for the first time back in 2016, shortly after I graduated from college. I decided to reread this year and I'm so glad I did! This book is full of so many excellent reminders about how to live a creative and courageous life. (December)


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

😭 💎

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: Follow Yale, a gay man, during the height of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago, and Fiona, his friend's younger sister, as she searches for her daughter (who was in a cult for a minute) in Paris.

The Great Believers follows people in two timelines, the first (and for me the far more impactful timeline) was in Chicago during the 1980s AIDS epidemic. (The Hours by Michael Cunningham is another excellent book that talks about this time period). The other follows a woman in modern-day Paris. I found it to be a little on the slower side, but it is a truly beautifully devastating story of family and loss.


City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

💎

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: In the 1920s, Vivian moves to New York to live with her aunt who owns a theater and along the way she learns some hard lessons about friendship and betrayal.

I read this at the same time I was reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which made it feel even more magical. I loved the characters, loved the setting; an all-around great time.


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

😍

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Classic

Summary: The Bennett sisters are getting old (aka over the age of twenty) and they need to get husbands pronto, so when some rich guys show up in town they get up to all sorts of regency activities like balls, carriages, and letters.

I typically don't count rereads in my books of the year, but I hadn't read this book since I was 15, and it was a completely different experience. This book is so funny and charming. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. (I also listened to Jennifer Ehle reading the book aloud as I went, and I'd highly recommend it!) (December)


The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

😭😍🍆💎

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Romance

Summary: A single mom starts up a romantic relationship with a member of her daughter's favorite boyband.

The ending of this book broke me. Robinne Lee I need a sequel! Also, this book introduced me to the wonderful world of Harry Styles as a solo artist and I spent a long chunk of pre-pandemic 2020 listening to Fine Line.


The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

😢💘

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Romance

Summary: Rebecca and Nick (who is the Prince of England) are now married and scandal and drama ensue.

This sequel was even better than the first book! I loved following along on their married life together. It takes such real-world problems and just sets them in Buckingham Palace. So good!


Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

😢💘

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Romance

Summary: Hannah moves back to LA after years of unfilling life choices, but on her first one small choice leads to two completely separate possible lives.

After Evelyn Hugo, I needed more Jenkins Reid. The premise of this book is so interesting and so well done. I felt like it was a good life lesson too (not in a cheesy way). (December)


Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

💘💘💘

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Fantasy (maybe magical realism?)

Summary: A woman is asked to nanny two children who spontaneously catch on fire when they're upset and then grows to love them.

This book warmed every corner of my heart. The concept is strange AF (children that spontaneously catch on fire), but it's so good.


No Exit by Taylor Adams

👻

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Thriller

Summary: While stuck at a rest stop in the mountains of Colorado in a snow storm, Darby finds a kidnapped child in one of the other stranded passengers cars and she decides she must rescue the little girl.

By far my favorite thriller of the year. I love the scale of the setting, which is a small rest stop over the course of one night. The tension is built incredibly well it was a very enjoyable read.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

😢

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Contemporary

Summary: A child, who accidentally stole a famous painting during a terrorist attack on an art museum, grows up.

The Goldfinch took me FOREVER to read, not because I didn't enjoy it, but the story and the writing are so delicious that I wanted to savor it.



Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

🍆

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Contemporary

Summary: Hillary Clinton never marries Bill Clinton because he's a creeper and then is widely successful, but at what cost.

I have complex thoughts around Rodham (which I articulated more here), but I am always on board for a book about being a woman in politics. I am fascinated by the way power is gained and used by women. Also, the intricate ways that perception must be manipulated really appeals to the Slytherin in me. (November)



The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Historical (ish)

Summary: Twin sisters lead very different lives as one chooses to live as a black woman and the other passes and white; we follow their lives from their teens until their daughters are teens.

This book got all the buzz (very deservedly) when it came out. I love stories with sisters and I loved following these sisters for most of their lives. I was especially connected to the stories of their daughters.



The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

🤢👻

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Horror

Summary: Several women in a neighborhood start a true crime book club because the regular book club is boring and then their next-door neighbor is a vampire who is eating all their children.

The tone of this book is everything! I love dark humor and I think it's hard to do well and this book did it exceptionally well. I was scared and laughing, maybe the best combo.


We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Contemporary

Summary: A Olympic skier doesn't want to ski anymore for a mysterious reason, so she moves to Buenos Aires and takes dance lessons.

I love the Olympics with my whole heart, so I'm pretty much always up for an Olympian's story. This is sometimes classified as a thriller, but although there is a mystery, I think this book is better thought of as contemporary. It's a little like Eat Pray Love, but in Argentina with an Olympic skier, more dancing, and a mystery element.


Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Romance

Summary: Evvie Drake's husband died, but turns out she didn't like him much, and then a former professional baseball player moves into her guesthouse and there's romance.

This book is cute. I don't remember much (it was a pre-pandemic read), except the fact it warmed my heart and there's baseball. It feels very much like a Hallmark movie.


The Comeback by Ella Berman

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre: Contemporary

Summary: Grace, a starlet who suddenly left Hollywood due to an incident, is making her comeback and also plotting revenge.

This is another book that I think is misrepresented as a thriller. The thriller/mystery element of this book is the least interesting part of the story. I loved the main character, Grace, she's complex and fascinating. I was really invested in all the characters and the choices they made. I think Berman did a great job of creating empathetic, but broken characters.


Luster by Raven Leilani

💎

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Contemporary

Summary: Sometimes when times get tough, you've got to move in with your boyfriend, his wife, and his adopted black daughter and then make art.

Luster was a story that was incredibly uncomfortable to read in the best ways. It was another twenty-something anxiety novel, but this one felt grittier. The writing of this one was really unique and poetic.


My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh

👻

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Contemporary

Summary: The very extreme version of taking a nap and hoping you feel better when you wake up.

This book really stuck with me! It's both incredibly relatable (emotionally, not actually), but also so haunting. Probably the scariest book I read in 2020, even though it is def not a horror novel.


The Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: What if Voldemort came back and Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to fight him again, but they all had really bad PTSD and you needed magic jewelry instead of wands?

I love love loved the idea for this book. The title and my understanding of the premise was the seed from which my novel, Henry and Lucy, stemmed from. The book was a different story than I was anticipating reading, it was much more sci-fi than contemporary fantasy, but I still really enjoyed it.


The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Romance

Summary: While studying abroad at Oxford, Rebecca starts dating the Prince of England.

This book gave me so much more empathy for Megs and Harry leaving the royal family. Also, wish-fulfillment to the max. Who didn't want to fall in love with a prince when they studied abroad at Oxford?



Normal People by Sally Rooney

😍😢

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Romance

Summary: We follow Marianne and Connell through high school and college, where they are pretty consistently in an on-again, off-again relationship.

I can't even fully remember this book, because the television adaptation was so so good. I'm now obsessed with Paul Mescal (I've spent an embarrassing amount of time watching his interviews on youtube).


The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

👻

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Thriller

Summary: FBI agent in training Clarice tries to track down a serial killer with the help of imprisoned serial killer and cannibal, Hannibal Lector.

There's a reason this is a classic. It was very good.



The Guest List by Lucy Foley

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Thriller

Summary: During a wedding on a small island off the coast of Ireland, there's a murder and everyone on the guestlist is a suspect.

The setting is really the star here. I love a wedding and the remote island and the storm made it even more spooky and gothic.




Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

 😢

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: YA

Summary: Two girls with the same father, one who lives in New York, the other in Puerto Rico are brought together when their father dies in a plane crash.

This novel is told in verse and does a brilliant job exploring the grief of these two young women, as they learn about their father and themselves. The novel does a truly beautiful job conveying the complex emotions of these two.



I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: Austin Channing Brown shares her perspective on the ways she experiences racism and the ways in which anti-racist actions often fall short.

Like many other Americans, I was compelled to read some anti-racist non-fiction books this summer. I picked up Austin Channing Brown's book with hopes that she would talk particularly about anti-racism through the lens of her experience in the evangelical church. While it did touch on that briefly, it was a much broader look at her experience. (If you are still looking for anti-racist books, one of my favorites was Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which I read a few years ago and completely changed the way I look at the world).



The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

😍🍆

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Romance

Summary: Two coworkers hate each other, but then they fall in love.

This book is the perfect enemies to lovers book. It's a simple premise, but it's done well and I loved their love story.



The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

💘🍆

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: Romance

Summary: After getting trapped in an elevator together, Drew convinces Alexa to serve as his fake girlfriend at a wedding.

Grace and Becca (from the Bad on Paper podcast) have mentioned Jasmine Guillory on multiple occasions, but this was my first book from her. And I enjoyed it! (December)


A Court of Roses and Thorns by Sarah J. Maas

🍆

⭐️⭐⭐️⭐

Genre: YA

Summary: It starts out like the Hunger Games with a girl hunting in an illegal forest, but then instead of a government-sponsored murder game show, Feyre is kidnapped by fairies and then Beauty and the Beast.

If you have spent any time on book Tik Tok or book Instagram you have most certainly seen this book (or Sarah J. Maas's other series). I'm not a big high fantasy lover and a book with a map in front is usually not for me, but I found this world to be fairly accessible and mostly enjoyed the story. (December)