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Melissa's Best Books of 2020

2020 was a strange year for reading, at least in my case. Pre-lockdown, I was reading books like crazy—around two per week! Once we hit heavy quarantine, though, that stopped. It came to a complete halt at one point… I think I read one book between April and June (and that was The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I will always be at the mercy of Suzanne Collins), and didn’t start reading again until late summer with The Lies that Bind by Emily Giffin (which was a huge disappointment. Using 9/11 as a plot device? I’ll pass.) I kept up speed from September to late October, zipping through my list, until I hit yet another roadblock.

Throughout November and so far in December, I haven’t been all that excited about reading. I have a long train commute to and from work and, for a while, I was using it to read. Now, once again exhausted by life, I’m using it to sleep. I’m sure I’ll experience an uptick again, but for now I’m just glad that I hit the goal that I made in January to read 65 books in 2020. It was like my brain packed up and went home once we checked off that box.

Here is an all-encompassing list of the 65 books I read this year—in order! I expand a little bit on my favorites.

1. In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner (US / UK)

2. Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough (US / UK)

3. Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates (US)

4. The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke (UK)

5. The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

Before this, I had never read anything by Carolyn Parkhurst. I picked this up at a thrift store and was pleasantly surprised. It was one of those books with a plot that had its strands floating everywhere during the middle, but they all tied up at the end. So satisfying.

(US / UK)

6. Here’s To Us by Elin Hilderbrand

I’ve been loyal to Elin Hilderbrand since I was a teenager. The multiple POVs in this story set on sunny Nantucket (of course) helped me escape from a gray, never-ending Chicago winter.

(US / UK)

7. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner (US)

8. Dating Big Bird by Laura Zigman

9. One Child by Torey Hayden (US / UK)

10. The Breakdown by B.A Paris (US / UK)

11. The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner (US / UK)

12. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

This was about a girl who had been abducted, told from the perspective of both the girl and her mother who eventually, after years had passed, was forced to stop looking for her. It was intriguing and consuming.

(US / UK)

13. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

The end of this one had a twist that I don’t usually expect from Jodi Picoult. I won’t give away spoilers, but it centered around death and made me cry very cathartic tears after losing my grandma.

(US / UK)

14. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (This deserved a comment, not because I loved it… the opposite. I HATED THIS BOOK!)

(US / UK)

15. Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

The way the title tied into this one… chef’s kiss! I love Jennifer Weiner and the characters in this book (sisters Jo and Bethie) were so different yet they defined the essence of family. I saw my own family in theirs.

(US / UK)

16. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova (US / UK)

17. Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner

I’m a sucker for a story on motherhood. I don’t know why. I am not a mother. But Jennifer Weiner sure knows how to write the ins and outs of raising children - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

(US / UK)

18. The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward (US / UK)

19. Rescue by Anita Shreve (US / UK)

20. All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

As you can see, I was on a Jennifer Weiner trend this year. This one sucked me in because it was about addiction - a topic that I didn’t expect from this author. It was told in an especially real way that I appreciated. I truly felt for the main character.

(US / UK)

21. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy (US / UK)

22. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid (US / UK)

23. Ghost Girl by Torey Hayden (US / UK)

24. Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner (US)

25. Nine Inches by Tom Perrotta (US)

26. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

This plot centered around a woman who lost the use of the left side of her body due to brain trauma. It was interesting and sad, and even funny at some points. I literally laughed out loud a few times. That goes to show how talented Lisa Genova is.

(US / UK)

27. A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand (US / UK)

28. You by Caroline Kepnes (US / UK)

29. Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates (US / UK)

30. Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (US / UK)

31. The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand (US / UK)

32. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner (US / UK)

33. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Of course this book had to make the favorites list. I used to be obsessed with The Hunger Games series, so jumping back into that universe was a comfort in the midst of a pandemic.

(US / UK)

34. The Lies that Bind by Emily Giffin (US)

35. The Other Mother by Gwendolen Gross

36. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (US / UK)

37. Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki (US / UK)

38. Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner (US / UK)

39. Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan (US)

40. Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta (US / UK)

41. California by Edan Lepucki (US / UK)

42. Come Closer by Sara Gran

This book had been on my to-read list for AGES. I love horror, and it was a story about demonic possession told from the perspective of the possessed. I finished it in the span of about three hours. I was enraptured.

(US / UK)

43. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Being that I was a nanny for so many years, I jump at the chance to read fiction about nannies. This book was the talk of 2020 for a reason. Not only did it speak to what childcare workers deal with each day (regarding attachment to children that are not and will never be yours), but it goes even further to highlight the racial discrepancies between a Black nanny and a white mother.

(US / UK)

44. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (US / UK)

45. Jessica’s Promise by Jill Childs (US / UK)

46. Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (US / UK)

47. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Tom Perrotta is one of two male authors that I enjoy. (The other is Markus Zusak). Usually, I’m not crazy about fantasy, and I was reluctant to pick up this book because of the fantastical premise. I was so glad that I took the plunge, though, because the way Tom Perrotta mixes the strange with the mundane is masterful.

(US / UK)

48. East Coast Girls by Kerry Kletter (US)

49. Hold Still by Lynn Steger Strong (US / UK)

50. Election by Tom Perrotta (US / UK)

51. Joe College by Tom Perrotta (US)

52. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Yet another Lisa Genova pick. This one made me cry on the train. It’s about a professional concert pianist who gets diagnosed with ALS, therefore losing his ability to play. It was heartbreaking.

(US / UK)

53. The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell (US)

54. Summer of ‘69 by Elin Hilderbrand (US / UK)

55. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (US / UK)

56. UnSweetined by Jodie Sweetin (US)

57. The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls (US / UK)

58. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (US / UK)

59. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (US / UK)

60. Reputation by Sara Shepard (US)

61. It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell (US / UK)

62. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Yet another amazing thrift store find! This story followed the main character as she and her mother made a life in America after immigrating from China. It was full of heart, sadness, and beauty.

(US / UK)

63. The Party by Robyn Harding (US / UK)

64. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (US / UK)

65. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (US / UK)

For 2021, I plan on setting my ‘to-read’ goal a little higher (at 70), and hopefully keep better consistency when it comes to a reading schedule. But even though my hopes are high, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and a paradigm shift. If reading helps me escape from that, then I’m into it. But if it becomes a chore to think about, then I know the time has come to give myself a break.


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