This year I set a goal to read 40 books. Back in December, when I set the goal, I worried that it was too ambitious for our busy lifestyle. Little did I know what waited around the corner in March, 2020. Books became a great solace during lockdown, and as I adjusted to a quieter life at home, I delved into books. I ended this year having read 44 books. These are the 10 best books I read in 2020. (Please leave your favorite books for the year in the comments. I am always looking for great books to read!)
#1The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is hands down my favorite book this year. This story stayed with me (and still is with me!). I can’t wait until the movie comes out (now slated for December 2021). This book is about two sisters living in France during the German occupation. Both resist the Germans, though in different ways, and each woman’s life is changed because of the decisions she makes.
#2 Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker was the most disturbing book I read this year. The Galvin family have 12 children within 20 years. Ten are boys, and the youngest two are girls. They are important members of their Colorado community, and the mother, Mimi, likes to cultivate the image that her family, especially her children, are bright and perfect. That image is shattered when their oldest child is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Within time, six of her 10 sons are diagnosed with schizophrenia. This book troubled me and stayed with me for months.
#3 The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
The Things We Cannot Say is an historical fiction book set in two different times–World War II and present time. During WWII, the story is about Alina, a 15 year old Polish Catholic girl whose life is turned upside down by invading Nazis. During present time, the story is told by Alice, a woman raising two special needs children. Alice’s 95 year old grandmother, on the verge of death, asks Alice to go to Poland for her and track down the relatives she lost during World War II. Unbelievably, Alice does, and what she discovers changes everyone’s lives.
#4 The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
After The Nigtingale, I decided to try Hannah’s The Great Alone. I wasn’t disappointed. Leni and her family are heading up to Alaska to claim land her dad’s buddy left for him. Leni’s dad is a Vietnam POW and a conspiracy theorist seeking a fresh start. Their Alaskan neighbors are quick to teach them what they need to know to survive Alaska in the 1970s, but Leni and her neighboors soon realize the real danger for the family isn’t outside, but inside, their cabin. This is a gripping read, and one I enjoyed thoroughly.
#5 The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
I’m always interested in World War I fiction, but there is much, much less of it out there than World War II fiction. However, The Alice Network was a great book about World War I, and the time right after World War II. The story follows two women–Eve and Charlie. When the story opens in 1948, Charlie is 19 and pregant. Her mother’s taken her to Europe to get rid of her “little problem.” Charlie’s not interested, and as soon as she can, she ducks her mother and sets out to find her cousin who disappeared in World War II. She stumbles upon Eve, who is a washed up fifty-something alcoholic woman. Little does Charlie know at first, but Eve used to be in the spy network, The Alice Network, during World War I. This is a great book, if a bit risque in some places.
#6 The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
I enjoyed The Girl with the Louding Voice from the moment I began the story. The protagonist, Adunni, is married off at a young age to a much older man. Adunni is his third wife. She is miserable and soon finds herself enveloped in a scandal that has the potential to change her entire life as well as those she loves. This book was difficult to read as most of the women in the story live miserable lives, but there is hope by the end of this story.
#7 The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
I’m not much into love stories, but The Stationery Shop was different. Set in Iran and the United States, the story follows a passionate young couple in Iran who hope to marry. However, the revolution erupts, and their lives change in ways they couldn’t imagine. This was a beautifully written story; one of my favorite love stories, which says a lot since I generally dislike them!
#8 The Boy Who Followed His Father Into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield
The Boy Who Followed His Father Into Auschwitz is a true account of the Kleinmanns, a not particularly devout Jewish family living in Vienna. They initially think they’ll be safe from the Nazis, but they soon find out how very wrong they are. Matriarch Tini does everything she can to protect her four children and get them out of the hands of the Nazis. She is successful with some of the children, but before she can save her son, Fritz, the Nazis take him to a concentration camp along with his father, Gustav. This book is compelling, heartbreak, and at times graphic, but it is a story worth reading.
#9 The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
The Book of Lost Names is a work of fiction about a Eva, a Jewish woman who flees Paris with her mother. Because she’s so successful with her forged documents, she finds a job working as a forger, helping hundreds of people escape to Switzerland. I love that Harmel exposed a facet of the war I hadn’t thought much about. However, I did have to suspend my disbelief for some parts of the story.
#10 Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard
I read Killing Lincoln early in the year, and it sent me on a journey to learn more. I then read both Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and Mrs. Lincoln’s Sister. If you love history, you’ll love this story. Of course, most of us are familiar with the details of the Lincoln assassination, but this book gives a behind-the-scenes look to events you may not be as familiar with. Fascinating read about how history was altered and how close the events of that April night came to not happening at all.
If you enjoyed reading about the 10 best books I read in 2020, check out the 8 Best Books I Read This Year for a recap of the favorite books I read in 2019: