Books I Read and Loved in 2020

I did a lot of reading in 2020. Here are my favorite books, in no specific order.

Fiction:

The Institute by Stephen King

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Night Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Secrets and Other Stories of Suspense by Carolyn Hart

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country by C.J. Box

Nonfiction:

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala

Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person by Hugh Prather

Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory Among Gullah/Geechee Women by LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion By Jia Tolentino

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean

The Art & Craft of the Short Story by Rick DeMarinis

Please let me know if you’ve read any amazing books this past year, including any on this list. I’m excited about the ones still to come! Happy New Year’s, Everyone, and Happy New Year of Reading! 😀

How Do I Find Books to Read?

As a book-lover, I am constantly on the hunt for books to read. But with all the books in print today, how do I find ones that appeal to me and are worthy of my time and attention?

First, I read books that some of my favorite authors have either recommended, cited in their own work, or said have inspired their own work. Chances are higher I will enjoy this unknown (to me) author’s work because of my favorite author’s vouching for them.

Second, I Google topics I’m interested in learning more about or simply enjoy and I have Google recommend books to me. I then check their ratings and reviews on Goodreads to see what other readers have to say about them.

Third, I check my hometown library’s web site to see which books the employees are recommending. I figure they come across a lot of books and many are book aficionados and so if they’re recommending one as stand-out, it’s probably worth giving it a try.

Fourth, sometimes I will be reading a news article on a topic that interests me, and the writer will cite a book as a resource used in their research. I then see if my local library carries that book.

Fifth, I tend to avoid highly-prolific, famous authors, while seeking out Nobel-prize winning authors. In the first case, I feel all of their work ends up pretty similar to each other because they get complacent and also because their agents push them to get new work published. I also feel like once an author has a big enough name they become “too big to fail” and their works will continue to be published simply because of their household name even if the content isn’t high quality. I seldom read these authors unless the book description really captivates me. Nobel-prize winners, on the other hand, have earned their status, their works have important global themes with inspiring and new ways of thinking, and have gone a long way to changing the world for the better.

What are your favorite ways of picking new books to read? Perhaps you relate to many of the above or perhaps you are a member of a book club or use an app or scout out great books in other ways. Let me know!

Reading Fiction

Anyone else having a hard time nowadays reading fiction? I used to love it and read nothing else. The past few years, I have gotten much more into reading non-fiction. I think for me it’s everything going on in this world and the fact that there’s so much to learn. It feels like wasting time to read fiction when there is so much more I need to learn to live a fulfilling, responsible, and informed life. Fiction simply doesn’t offer the same level of satisfaction it used to. I believe a lot of it has to do with depression. I have a hard time, in general, feeling pleasure anymore. Most things I used to enjoy now feel like a chore. Just wanted to check in to see if anyone else is experiencing the same thing.

Why I Love Reading But Don’t Own Books

Some people might think it’s odd that I love reading but don’t own any books. Some might ask, “Why don’t you at least own your favorites?” Eight years ago, I donated all my books to the library and started using the library exclusively for my reading material. I had amassed so many books that they took up tons of room to store, and moving with them was a real chore. The great majority of my books I didn’t read twice, and some of them I had never read at all (the ones I got as gifts that didn’t interest me). I figured it made more sense to donate them to the library so everybody could get use of them and so I could be freed of dozens of possessions I really didn’t need or get any value out of owning. Nowadays, if I can’t find something at the library, I will request it through an interlibrary loan. If I’m unable to get it that way, I will buy it at a discount, read it, and then donate it to the library. A few weeks ago, my mother and I went to a used book store and bought several books. We have no intentions of keeping them. We will either donate them to the library or sell them back to the used book store. I feel like the library is a great, often untapped resource for community members that many people forget about once their school days are over. Are there any other lovers of books out there who feel the same way about owning books?

I Miss the Library

Has anybody else been feeling the poignancy of the temporary loss of libraries in their life? The ones in my area have been closed for almost a month now, without notice. It was with heavy heart that I placed my last set of borrowed books in the return slot outside, not knowing when it would re-open.

Walking into a library (or writing about one, I’m now finding) never fails to lift my spirits. My mom instilled in me a love for reading since before I even learned how to read, and my great uncle took my younger sister and I to the library, as children, on a weekly basis to check out books, read the paper, read articles on microfiche, and attend (free) classical music concerts.

Many people only picture books when they think about a library. Libraries are about so much more than just books, although those do happen to be some of my favorite things in this world (at least, the kind you can hold in your hands with real pages to turn that have that “classic book smell”).

But the library is more than a convenience, luxury, or entertainment venue. It’s an essential asset to many members of the community, especially those belonging to vulnerable populations. The library allows access to a safe, warm, quiet environment with a bathroom. It offers internet access so that those without computers or internet access at home, as well as those without a home, can create a resume, apply for jobs, print paper documents, and learn about what’s going on in the world.

Libraries also offer DVD’s, CD’s, board games, and, depending on the library, other items such as work tools and musical instruments for rent. They offer free, fun, educational activities for kids and teens. They offer workshops and classes for adults, such as tax prep, gardening skills, mental health, etc. They offer resources to victims of domestic violence. And yet they are constantly on the front lines facing threats of defunding.

I’m sure I will make it until my library opens back up. I know I have other alternatives available to me, such as ebooks and ordering used books online for delivery. And I am lucky enough to have a warm, safe home, internet access, and even a job, to say nothing of my comparatively great health in a time when so many others are getting sick.

Keep your chins up, fellow library fans! Our precious institutions of old will not be inaccessible to us forever. In conclusion, I will leave some of my favorite library-related quotes for you to enjoy.

Books I Read and Loved in 2018 and 2019 *Updated December 2019*

Fiction:

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Oxford Book of American Detective Stories by Tony Hillerman and Rosemary Herbert

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (my favorite author!)

1984 by George Orwell

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Lyndsay Faye

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Non-fiction:

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness by Daniel G. Amen

The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why by Amanda Ripley

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine

Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence by Rachel Sherman

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker

The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan

Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein

Essentialism by Greg Mckeown

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B Crawford

Not Finishing Books (or Other Things) We Start

I’ve loved books since before I could even read, starting when my mother read to me as a baby. I used to feel bad about not finishing a book I had started. However, as I got older, I realized how fleeting time is and how many books exist, and began to “quit” some books early. It might not be that I quit some forever, but rather that I pick them back up at a later date when the time is right and they are ready to “speak” to me. Some may never have anything to say that I want to hear (here’s looking at you, As I Lay Dying, third time did not end up being “the charm” :-/). Do you stop reading before the end of a book if you’re not enjoying it/getting anything out of it? Could this concept of putting it down to perhaps pick up again later at another time in your life apply to other endeavors you “quit”, as well?