I decided I wanted to do a recap post of some of my favorite books from last year, so I went to Goodreads to see what books had been my 5 star reads. However, there were a lot of them. I had given at least 25 books 5 stars. Last year I read 83 books. That means more than a quarter of those reads were given 5 stars. That should mean I’ve read a lot of amazing books last year, right?
But in going over the list – and then reading my own designation for star ratings here on my blog – I feel like I was way too easy on some of these reads. Which is part of the reason I hate giving star ratings, because the rating you give something in the moment may not be how you truly feel about it months later. I’m sure the reverse may also be true – if I looked closely at some of my lower rated reviews, I may find I had been too harsh at the time.
I went through the list and picked out what I feel are my 10 favorites from those 5 starred reviews. I also only chose first-time reads, not re-reads that I had given a 5 star rating. And then I realized I couldn’t cap it at 10, because there was one more than just needed to be on this list. All 11 of these really do deserve that rating, and were my top reads from last year.
- The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: This was one of the first books I read in 2020 and it reamined my favorite read of the year by far. It affected me so much that I still can’t stop thinking about it nearly a year later. (I’m already planning to reread it very soon.) Morgenstern’s style is haunting and lyrical and whimsical – just as beautiful here as it was in The Night Circus. I wrote this in my original review, and I think it’s so true: “I have this theory, that books are like tuning forks set to a certain frequency, and every once in a while you come across a book that matches the frequency of your soul and it’s magical. That’s what I feel when reading both of these novels – like my soul is humming in tune with the book.”
- The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: This was another early read in 2020, but also remained a favorite. It’s a fairly light and quick read. January is a smart and determined girl, to takes us along on her journey of discovery – about the world around her (which isn’t what it seems) as well as her own history. The more fantastical elements blended well with the real world and overall it was very well-done.
- The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman: I don’t think I’ve ever identified with a character the way I identified with Nina. Her introvert personality, her love of books, her love of recommending books, her love of schedules and sticking to them. I am so much like her. It made reading this book an interesting experience for me, that is hard to describe. This wasn’t a book I couldn’t put down – I could, I didn’t feel compelled to read it all at once, but when I did pick it up to read it was like meeting with an old friend. It just felt so good to curl up and catch up with what was going on in Nina’s life. I really loved this book.
- DarkDawn (Book 3 of the Nevernight Chronicle) by Jay Kristoff: So often the final book in a series ends up letting me down, but definitely not this one. On the contrary, this was probably the best book of the trilogy. It made me laugh, it broke my heart, and it was a very fitting conclusion to Mia’s story. So much happens in this book; it’s thrilling and suspenseful and so very hard to put down.
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama: I’ve never attempted to read a presidential memoir before, but I could not wait to begin this one. I thought this was brilliant, well-written, and through-provoking. President Obama gives a terrific account of his first few years in office. This memoir was at times humorous, others somewhat self-deprecating but always felt candid and honest. I look forward to reading the second volume.
- What You Wish For by Katherine Center: I loved this book so much. I’ve only read a few of Katherine Center’s novels, but so far this was definitely my favorite. At the time I read this I really needed something light and fun, and this fit that perfectly but with a little something more. The main theme of this book is choosing joy, and I think we can all use that message right now.
- The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: I did not expect to love this book. I had been unimpressed with the original Grishaverse trilogy (unpopular opinion, I know) and haven’t tried the related duology because of that. This is also darker and more bordering on horror than I would typically read. However, I was intrigued and before long I couldn’t put it down. I was impressed with the number of threads she had woven through this book and how well she tied them together in ways I couldn’t predict. This book surprised me and I really can’t wait to read more about Galaxy Stern.
- The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: Back in the spring I was really craving some good epic fantasy and this fit the bill perfectly. Do not let the size of this novel intimidate you – once you dive into this world it’s completely engaging and compelling. Sanderson’s world building is incredible. It took me a few chapters to acclimate myself, but after that I was completely engrossed. The second installment was equally compelling and enjoyable (and sizable). I haven’t yet read the third, but I really love this series so far.
- Fierce Free and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You by Jen Hatmaker: I honestly had no idea how much I needed this book until I started reading it. Jen’s writing is raw and honest, comforting and motivational, and she just spoke to my soul. She covers all the topics that affect women – your body, connection to friends and family, just being YOU – and empowers you. This book is incredible and it speaks to ALL women. The minute I was finished reading I just wanted to pick it up and start all over again. In fact, just writing this review makes me want to pick it up and start reading again. Jen Hatmaker is a treasure, and I am so grateful this book came into my life when it did. I will be recommending it to every single woman I know
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown: If you’re looking for a good book to open your eyes to the privilege of being white, this is it. Brown is open and honest sharing her experiences and perspective, and she opened my eyes to things I’ve never even thought about. Her writing is straightforward and easy to read – I read through this very quickly.
- The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani: This book is beautiful. I’m not sure I know any other way to describe it. I love novels that completely immerse you in another culture, with well-developed and relatable characters that show we’re all human, and we share desires, motivations and fears. This boon did just that. I was so deeply absorbed in this story I just couldn’t put it down, and yet I didn’t want it to end. It is rich and wonderful and heartbreaking and beautiful.
And there you have it! My favorite reads from the past year. All of these had an affect on me in some way in the past year, and each of them are books that I would recommend to anyone who asks. I loved them all and am so glad I read them.
What are your favorite reads from 2020? What should I be sure gets onto my TBR for 2021?