Books Magazine

Best Reads of 2020, So Far

By Curlygeek04 @curlygeek04

We’re a quarter of the way into the year — does anyone else feel like March has gone on forever?  I’ve been having trouble coming up with meaningful things to write about, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite books so far. It seems like some of you have a lot more reading time on your hands, and some of you, like me, are struggling to concentrate.  Whatever your situation, I hope you can find something in this list that sparks your interest.

Best Reads of 2020, So Far Best Reads of 2020, So Far Best Reads of 2020, So Far Best Reads of 2020, So Far

Fiction:

  • Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout: I’m guessing Strout has never written a so-so book.  This is about a relationship between a mother and daughter in a small town.  Isabelle has raised Amy on her own and feels like an outcast in their small Maine town.  Amy is a teenager who is starting to rebel against her strict upbringing when she develops an interest in one of her teachers. This was Strout’s first novel, and it’s beautiful. I loved the audiobook version.
  • With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo: A new favorite author, this is a book about a teen (I seem to be reading a lot about teenagers right now) who has a baby and is struggling to finish high school as a single parent and pursue her passion for cooking. I plan to read everything Acevedo has written.  I also listened to this on audiobook, narrated by the author.
  • Atlas Alone by Emma Newman: If you’re a science fiction reader, run don’t walk to Newman’s Planetfall This one, the fourth in the series, is particularly good.  A lot of it is set in virtual reality, game-like settings.  It’s all about AI, government control, and privacy, set on a spaceship of people traveling to find a new world. It’s seriously disturbing though.
  • Old Baggage by Lissa Evans: This book is pretty hard to describe, about a group of aging suffragettes in 1928 Britain.  The main character, Mattie, is struggling to feel relevant in a now-quiet world. She starts working with teenage girls so they can be more informed intellectually and politically, while at the same time a friend of hers is creating a teen group to support the fascist movement.  It’s a thoughtful, character-driven novel about an interesting time in history.
Best Reads of 2020, So Far
Best Reads of 2020, So Far
Best Reads of 2020, So Far
Best Reads of 2020, So Far

Nonfiction:

  • They Called Us Enemy by George Takei: This is Takei’s graphic memoir of his time in internment camps during World War II. It’s a powerful story with a surprising amount of historical detail, and I learned a lot from it.  Takei is so inspiring and I’m glad he continues to tell his story.
  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller: I can’t say enough about this book. Miller tells her story with a lot of detail and feeling.  Her story is one that every woman will relate to – even if we haven’t experienced sexual assault, we have all been in situations where we feared it.  I liked the comprehensive nature of her memoir, from the legal process to dealing with the aftermath of assault.  Miller raises so many important issues that we need to think about.
  • Shrill by Lindy West: I really enjoyed the TV version with Aidy Bryant, but as is often the case, the book is so much better. West raises a lot of issues that women deal with every day, but she does so in a really humorous, personal way.  A lot of her book is about fat-shaming but it goes beyond that, to issues facing all women like abortion and menstrual health.  In short, she writes about the things we don’t talk about.
  • Popular by Maya Van Wagenen: another teen-oriented book on my list, this is a book actually written by a young teenager.  Maya finds a book from the fifties about how to be popular, and she decides to try applying it to the modern world. It’s easy to be cynical and say this is all a publicity stunt; in fact Maya is very clear from the beginning that she wants to be a writer and this is her way of writing a book. But it’s also a really powerful story about how our fears about not being liked hold us back, and how social status and appearance aren’t what matters most.

I listened to six of these eight books as audiobooks, three of which were narrated by the authors.  I continue to be surprised how much I’m enjoying audiobooks, when a year ago I thought listening to a book couldn’t possibly compare to reading one.

Right now I’m reading a really good book that will probably end up on my best-of list,  Claire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had (also on the longlist for the Women’s Prize).

If you’re looking for something a little lighter, this year I’ve particularly enjoyed The Hating Game, The Unhoneymooners, and Hunted, which blends Russian folklore and the Beauty and the Beast story.  I can also recommend Ayesha at Last, a modern take on Pride and Prejudice about two Muslim families.

Those are my recommendations for the year so far!  I hope you’re all doing well, staying healthy, and reading something that gives you comfort.


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