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2020 Year in Reading

Every year, I aim to read as much as I can. And though I haven’t read the 52 books in a year that I dream of, I am proud of the number I do complete each year. In 2019, I read 31 books — up from 30 books in 2018 and 2017.

For 2020, my goal is to read 35 books. But more than that, it’s to read consistently, without the reading deserts I find myself in many years.

  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White * — It had been a while since I dove into this classic story of Some Pig. And I’m glad I did so again. The vivid writing and sweet sentiments in this are lovely, but the clear-eyed views of life and death make this special as a children’s book.
  2. American Cuisine by Paul Freedman * — As a food writer, I am fascinated by cuisine, the development of cuisine and the progression of cuisine. This fed all these interests. Freedman takes us on a journey through several centuries of cuisine in the United States
  3. Riverdale: Get Out of Town by Micol Ostow — I love, love, love Riverdale, the Netflix series, and am really enjoying the fill-in-the-gaps books that correspond with the series. This story was suspenseful in all the right ways. My only complaint though is that these books don’t stand on their own. They are snapshots of days and events not in the series, but there isn’t a sense of closure.
  4. Survival Instincts by Jen Waite — I read this in two sittings, staying up late both times to read more. That’s how much this book grips you, draws you in and makes you want to read more. The suspenseful story is told on two timelines — one more than a decade prior and one set in the present. When they converge, it’s magic. (Due out 7/2020)
  5. The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg — In the early days of food blogging, Molly Wizenberg was a powerhouse. She wrote beautifully woven tales of food and life on her site, Orangette. She parlayed that into a column for Bon Appetit that I adored and then she started writing memoirs. A Homemade Life remains among my favorite memoirs ever. When I heard she had a third memoir coming out, The Fixed Stars, I couldn’t wait to read it. While her first two books have strong connections to food, this one is different. It follows Wizenberg, a married woman who has always liked men, as she reckons with her self and her sexuality following a chance encounter with a female prosecutor who captivated her. With strong overtones of family, self-discovery and navigating personal relationships, this breathtaking book is a brave glimpse into a difficult time of change for Wizenberg, as she realizes that she is no longer the same. (Due out 5/2020)
  6. Trailblazer by Dorothy Butler Gilliam * — When Dorothy Butler Gilliam came of age, women didn’t have many career options. And women like her had even fewer. But despite the limitations of society and segregation, she became the first female black reporter for The Washington Post where she broke ground and fought boundaries to accumulate an amazing 50-year-career in journalism. In Trailblazer, she takes us through the difficult time of losing her father, the challenges to grow and become educated at a time when the color of her skin excluded her from places and to develop a career in a city where black people couldn’t readily hail cabs or dine in restaurants. This memoir is a story of struggle and overcoming, of progress and setbacks, of a changing world where civil rights were fought hard for and of a strong, brave journalist who gave the profession her all.
  7. Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss — True facts: The Sweet Valley Twins series, a spin-off of Sweet Valley High, made me fall deeply in love with reading. I’d always liked books, but it was that series that made me crave books. And it led me to The Baby-Sitter’s Club, Sleepover Friends, Junior High and so many other series that I loved as a girl. Paperback Crush is a celebration of these books and more that delighted readers in the 80s and 90s. I loved every page.
  8. Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill The Bride by R.L. Stine — This was a breath of remembrance for me, as I was swept into the world of Fear Street again. I was such a fan of Fear Street books in middle school and remember reading them for hours and hours on end. In this newer one — release in 2018 — a layered story of the Fear family and a curse unravels page by page. Is it the best book I’ve ever read? Nah. But I loved the nostalgia it came with.
  9. The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis — I was introduced to Narnia as a child and fell in love with the magical realm where beasts talk and a White Witch threatens all. But I never read the other books in the series. So when I found this on a bookshelf, I decided to dig in. Although it was released later, this is now considered the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series. I found this tale intriguing and imaginative. But I was a little surprised by the elements of misogyny in it.
  10. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis — Naturally, after reading The Magician’s Nephew, I wanted to reexperience The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It was just as I remembered it — a story of sibling love and rivalry, good and evil, hot and cold. But I found the experience of reading this second somehow less magical. I already knew what Narnia was (not just because I’ve read it before, but because of The Magician’s Nephew) and who Aslan was. So those points of suspense were no longer suspenseful. It was a different reading experience.
  11. The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliot * — Two unlikely heroes from a clan must come together to save everyone after an attack on their home in mythic Scotland. This is a fantasy fiction YA tale featuring monsters, an epic journey, danger and amazing powers. It was an enjoyable novel to listen to, but not my favorite.
  12. The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner * — Set in Poland in World War II, a mother and daughter lose their family and must find a way to survive together and apart, always in secret. The daughter, only five, can’t help but hum, tap and lightly sing everywhere they are, including in the barn in which they hide. This is a heart-wrenching tale of love, family and the lengths people will go to survive. I chose this because I have been enthralled with the tales of survival during the Holocaust over the last year. But although this one is well researched and written, it didn’t speak to me in the way others have.