Much like….. everyone else, I sure read a lot in 2020. Not counting unpublished works (of which I’ve read a few, but I can’t track those in Goodreads), and ones I forgot to list, I read 87 books and plays this year, for a total of 22,500 pages. I read more last year (nearly 100 books), but I think this is still pretty good. You can follow me on Goodreads for a full listing, but here are some top picks.
Thirty-five of those were books that JC and I read aloud to the kids. They’re at a fun age, where we are rereading books we loved as kids, but also really enjoying the new books we’re discovering together.
We read a lot of great series, including:
- Lois Lowry’s Giver quartet (which, btw, I consider the three subsequent books a great big “TOLD YOU SO” to my fourth grade teacher who always insisted that Jonah died at the end of the first book. I was so mad because I knew he didn’t, and I felt vindicated when Lowry came out with these other books that feature Jonah as an adult.
- Chasing Vermeer series by Blue Balliet. Wonderful series of art detective mysteries with some magical realism thrown in. We were all enthralled with them.
- The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede. Dealing with Dragons was our favorite, by far, but we also enjoyed the others. Funny fantasy, right up my kids’ ally.
- The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart. Another set of mysteries starring kids.
Other (non-series) highlights included:
- Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren. The cartoon adaptation is word-perfect true to the book, and why would they change anything? It’s practically perfect in every way.
- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Another mystery starring kids. The central character was born without arms and, crucially that is just an incidental detail. The problems she has in the book are interesting, relatable, and not centered on her disability. She’s funny, determined, and kind. There is a sequel, but we didn’t like it as much–too middle school romancy for us.
- Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke. Another funny fantasy with a strong female lead. I guess that’s been the pattern for this year.
Reading *on my own*, I had a pretty good year. There was a fair amount of escapism on my list. Lots of fast reads, a bit less nonfiction than in the past.
- I read a ton of Geraldine Brooks. I think everyone at my church passed around the same copy of Year of Wonders, about a village that voluntarily quarantined during the plague. After that, I read People of the Book, the story of a 14th-Century illuminated haggadah, and March, which retells Little Women from the perspective of the father. I can’t say which I liked the best. They were all beautiful and challenging in their own ways.
- Little Fires Everywhere is a brilliant novel. I usually don’t read things set in the past 50 years or so, but I loved this one so much! I’m excited to see the adaptation with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
- Scott the Bookman recommended Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books, about an 11-year-old chemist/detective, to me, and I find them so lovely and comforting. Definitely cozy and calm, for when my brain needs a quiet place.
- Parker Palmer’s On the Brink of Everything, which I started before the pandemic, is about…uhm… death. So that was appropriate, it turned out. Seriously, though, I love him. I love his sense of humor and his unwillingness to take himself too seriously. I love his gentle nudges, and the way he just invites the reader to travel alongside him. Amazing.
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, is one that I read back in March and I want to read the rest of that series. I can’t stop thinking about it.
- Katherine recommended Lady Romeo, a biography of Charlotte Cushman, and my little nerd heart thrilled at this deep dive into the life of a female actor in the 19th century. I would have loved to meet her. Fun fact: The Angel of the Waters statue in New York was created by Cushman’s girlfriend and is modeled on her.
- I just absolutely inhaled Anais Mitchell’s Working on a Song, which is a “how I made this” of the songs in Hadestown. Hamilton: The Revolution was super fun as well, and much the same kind of book. I’ve also been reading Sondheim’s similar Finishing the Hat, but I’m far from done with it. I love these glimpses of other people’s process.
- I’ve read a lot of theater practice books, which I’ve written a bit about on my directing site:
- An Acrobat of the Heart, by Stephen Wangh
- Staging Sex, by Chelsea Pace
- Speaking the Speech, by Giles Block
- I’m pretty sure I’ve now read everything by Brene Brown. She’s brilliant and I adore her. I think Dare to Lead is my favorite, but it’s hard to say.