Books. Are. Magic

Last January I set a goal to read 50 books this year. As a mere mortal, I had no inkling that the world as we knew it would halt, my office would become the $15-mid-March-OfferUp- procured desk jammed next to my bed, or that I’d leave my job. All setting up for BIG READING ENERGY IN 2020.

As a better reader than accountant, it took me longer than it should have to export my Goodreads and cross-reference against my bookshelf to compile the list below of the 60 books I read this year. Quick highlights (below) and longer ponderings (below below) can be skipped if you want to get right to the list.

Tl;dr: Highlights

My three favorite books this year were:

  1. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (Fiction)
  2. Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power (Memoir)
  3. Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Self-Help/Memoir)

My favorite bookstores to support are: Books Are Magic, Three Lives & Company, McNally Jackson, The Strand, Literati Bookstore, 2 Dandelions, and Source Booksellers.

Some Ramblings on Reading:

Thank you for entertaining my childhood aspirations to be a book editor which was really a guise to be able to read all the time and talk about books. And look at us now! The year is 2020 (for briefly longer, good riddance), there are no parties to make excuses not to go to, so we can just… read.

I personally had a mini-Renaissance, returning to my book-kid roots and reading more fiction and memoirs than I have since grade school. In years past, I’ve admittedly over-indexed on self-help and business books, so this is a great re-righting of the ship. Makes sense that in a year when we weren’t able to live out our own stories that we would escape into those of others, both real and pretend. When it comes to escapism versus reality, maybe it is a matter of “both, and” (more here on this from NPR).

This is also the year that I discovered my real love language is actually just sending books to, and receiving books from, people that I love or have crushes on. The caveat here is that it must be a book that I will like and it must be from a person that I like. This was a delightful way to receive Little Weirds, Zero to One, and a book of short stories; and to gift 9 copies of Untamed in mid-March.

On a tangential note, many of the memoirs I read this year discussed therapy at length (Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Group). To my surprise and dismay, reading about therapists doesn’t actually have the same benefits as going to therapy itself. As such, I took the advice that Lori Gottlieb’s title suggests and started talking to someone.

The author I’m most grateful to have discovered this year is Melissa Febos. I’m eagerly anticipating her next book, Girlhood, out in March. Coming across Melissa Febos in The Sewanee Review is potentially the best thing to happen to my 2020. I also learned that many of the authors I deeply admire are all friends and were published in The Sewanee Review in the early days of their careers (Melissa Febos, Stephanie Danler, Lisa Taddeo, Garth Greenwell, & more). A bit like running into your college professors at a bar and realizing they’re all best pals!

A book that has stuck with me through the years in concept, (though the characters have largely escaped me), is The Little Paris Bookshop. If I remember correctly, the protagonist was a bookseller who would “prescribe” specific books to cure his customers of the specific emotional hardship that was taxing them. That being said, one of my greatest joys is recommending books. No, I’m not claiming to be a book doctor. Though if you tell me what you are looking for and I’d be delighted to share a title or two that might do the trick.

As Emma Straub says: Books. Are. Magic!!!

Without any further ado, I present to you, 60 books in 2020!

60 BOOKS IN 2020 (A-Z):

Please buy local if you choose to buy!

  1. Abandon Me: Memoirs; Melissa Febos
  2. All Adults Here; Emma Straub
  3. American Dirt; Jeanine Cummins
  4. Becoming; Michelle Obama
  5. Beloved; Toni Morrison
  6. Between the World and Me; Ta-Nehisi Coates
  7. Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies; Tara Schuster
  8. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators; Ronan Farrow
  9. Cleanness; Garth Greenwell
  10. Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love; John M. Gottman
  11. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine; Gail Honeyman
  12. Everything I Know About Love; Dolly Alderton
  13. Flights; Olga Tokarczuk
  14. Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls; Nina Renata Aron
  15. Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction; Tracy Kidder
  16. Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life; Christie Tate
  17. Home; Toni Morrison
  18. Home Body; Rupi Kaur
  19. How to Change Your Mind; Michael Pollan
  20. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman; Nora Ephron
  21. I'm Supposed to Protect You From This; Nadja Spiegelman
  22. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption; Bryan Stevenson
  23. Less; Andrew Sean Greer
  24. Little Weirds; Jenny Slate
  25. Luster; Raven Leilani
  26. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone; Lori Gottlieb
  27. Middlesex; Jeffrey Eugenides
  28. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore; Robin Sloan
  29. My Year of Rest and Relaxation; Ottessa Moshfegh
  30. Rules of Civility; Amor Towles
  31. Small Fry; Lisa Brennan-Jobs
  32. State of Wonder; Ann Patchett
  33. Stray; Stephanie Danler
  34. Such a Fun Age; Kiley Reid
  35. Talking to Strangers; Malcolm Gladwell
  36. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World; Dalai Lama XIV
  37. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting; Milan Kundera
  38. The Defining Decade; Meg Jay
  39. The Education of an Idealist; Samantha Power
  40. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell; Robert Dugoni
  41. The Faithful Gardener; Clarissa Pinkola Estés
  42. The Glass Castle; Jeannette Walls
  43. The Light We Lost; Jill Santopolo
  44. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone; Olivia Laing
  45. The Moment of Lift; Melinda Gates
  46. The Other Side: A Memoir; Lacy M. Johnson
  47. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake; Aimee Bender
  48. The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative; Vivian Gornick
  49. The Surrender Experiment; Michael A. Singer
  50. The Undying; Anne Boyer
  51. The Vanishing Half; Brit Bennett
  52. The Water Dancer; Ta-Nehisi Coates
  53. The Year of Magical Thinking; Joan Didion
  54. Uncanny Valley; Anna Wiener
  55. Untamed; Glennon Doyle
  56. What I Loved; Siri Hustvedt
  57. Whip Smart: A Memoir; Melissa Febos
  58. Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me; Adrienne Brodeur
  59. Women and Desire; Polly Young-Eisendrath
  60. Zero to One; Peter Thiel

From you, my dear readers, I would love to know:

  • What books did you love this year?
  • What is on your list for next year?
  • What bookstores do you love to support?

P.S. Want to caveat that there were three weeks when I was in between jobs and all I did was read. If you are my new employer and you are reading this, I promise I’m doing the job I am being paid to do!!!


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