2020 books in review

December 21, 2020 § 2 Comments

Here we are then, at the end of the year, a time of reckoning. We look back and see hardship, but also such goodness sprinkled throughout. This is life, yes? The good mixed with the bad, sadness and joy, fear and courage. As usual, I am being too poetic. Here is my reckoning: books read for long hours in a yellow bungalow that’s slightly tilted to one side.

It is good to be at home, even if we are restless. It is good to sit and sift through pages. What is so very wrong with escape? If we can escape to worlds of imagination, of ideas, worlds that bring us the very courage we need to make it through yet another day of real-life madness.

All right, I’ll get on with it. Here are the books I read in 2020, novels, memoirs, short stories, poems, and more. The ones with an asterisk (*) are my favorites. The ones with two asterisks (**) hit me in that soft spot that somehow feels like my soul. I will return to these special books again and again and again, and still I will not drain every drop of wonder.

What did you read? Do you have recommendations to pass on? The next year is coming, and I am readying a new list.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel*

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel*

Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley*

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

22 Minutes of Unconditional Love by Daphne Merkin

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr*

Short Story

Florida by Lauren Groff*


Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett*

This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession by Cameron Dezen Hammon

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem by Rod Dreher

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro**

The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander**

What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forche*

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver*

Leap by Terry Tempest Williams**

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed**

My Victorians: Lost in the Nineteenth Century by Robert Clark


A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Still Life by Louise Penny*


Where Goodness Still Grows: Reclaiming Virtue in an Age of Hypocrisy by Amy Peterson

Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller


Lines of Defense by Stephen Dunn

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

The Best Poems of Jane Kenyon by Jane Kenyon**

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri*

Graphic Novel

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

On Writing

The Author’s Craft by Arnold Bennett

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