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Favorite Reads of 2020

Truthfully, I'm not very good at sticking to resolutions especially if it involves exercise, getting to bed earlier, ect. Shortly after we started staying at home more and more it occured to me that I missed reading. Like stay up until midnight because you couldn't put a book down reading. I did what many of us do (and I still sometimes do) and scrolled on my phone before going to bed. I also have a daughter who loves books, but doesn't feel very confident in reading out loud. I wanted to model a parent who read even if that was in the short snippets of spare time I had. 

So I printed off a habit tracker I found and started keeping track of the days I read, even if just a few pages. As of today, I have read almost every day for the past two months. It's such a simple goal, but one that I'm proud of actually sticking to.

One secret that I had to learn the hard way is that certain types of books pull me in and if I'm not engaged, I'm not as eager to pick the book up. There are a handful of books I read in 2020 that really stuck with me. Most of these are new releases but a few have been around. 

1. Where the Crawdads Sing

I picked this one up at the end of 2019 and finished it just into 2020. The story is about a young girl, Kya Clark, who grows up to survive on her own in rural North Carolina in the 1950's. Curiosity and the draw of others brings her in contact with some of the locals, including two boys. It's part love story, part mystery and part nature writing. 

The wilderness of Kya's home almost takes on a character of its own as Owen beautifully describes the setting. This story stuck with me well after I was done reading it. 

2. This Close to Okay

I first heard about this book in a list of new recommended reads and loved it. It's a heavy subject as the story is about a psychologist, Talli Clark, comes upon a man, Emmett, about to commit suicide. Convincing him to come get a coffee with her, they slowly open up to each other over a long weekend. Emmett isn't the only one with a painful past they are still working through.

If you have ever dealt with trauma or mental health issues, this book will hit close to home. I found myself rooting for and concerned for the two main characters. It touches on the messiness that can happen in relationships, racism and it's deeply felt impacts and the role of therapy.

3. Anxious People: A Novel

I'm a huge fan of Fredrik Bachman. If you haven't pick up A Man Called Ove as it's funny and sad and just damn brilliant. Anxious People is part mystery, hugely funny but also tinged with sadness. An apartment open house sets the stage for a group of strangers to be taken hostage by a bank robber. Filled with many twists, we learn about these memorable characters and why and how they ended up in their situation. 

Backman has a way of writing characters who are messy and so human, yet you grow to care about them. If you need a funny read then I can't recommend this enough.

4. The Hate U Give

After the murder of George Floyd, I picked this book up. Starr Carter is a teen growing up in Garden Heights who lives a double life. She goes to a predominantly white private school. She feels like two people, Garden Heights Starr and Williamson Prep Starr. She witnesses a cop shoot her childhood best friend and the aftermath of that event. 

It's heartbreaking, very honest, thought-provoking and timely as our country faces the effects of police brutality and racism on the black community. It's a hard read, but a necessary read. 

5. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

As a young woman in the early 1700's, Addie LaRue makes a deal with a demon on her wedding day to live forever but at the cost of being forgotten by all she meets. Navigating through time and learning how to survive, she manages to make her mark on the world, even if in small ways. One day she meets a man in a bookstore who remembers her and everything changes. 

I so loved this book. Addie is a woman who is clever and tough but also vulnerable. The story is rich, heartbreaking, romantic and beautifully told. It was extremely hard to put down and led to many late nights for me.

6. The Starless Sea

First, go read Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. It's such a beautiful story and one of my ultimate favorite books. Okay, now onto The Starless Sea. This is one book where I felt like it was a little slower to get into, then I couldn't put it down, then I kept wondering how this was going to end. It's very difficult to explain the plot because it's really unlike any other book I have ever read. 

Zachary Ezra Rawlin is a grad student who through finding a book at the school library - one that includes a story about something that happened to him as a boy - learns of a world underground filled with stories and the Starless Sea. The story alternatives between what seems like random stories and Zachary's adventures, but eventually they come together. It's layered and mysterious and filled with love stories. And cats. Lots of cats. It's also very long, but worth picking up as it is one of those books that sticks with you.