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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.
  13. Summer Longing by Jamie Brenner * — A baby is left on the doorstep of a Cape Cod beach house. A summer person has just arrived, seeking a place in the community and her version of what’s next. Estranged from her daughter, she has no intention of raising another baby, but as things progress intentions change. I found this book compelling and engaging. It was perfect for reading while walking.
  14. A Week at the Shore by Barbara Delinsky * — Three sisters reunite in their Rhode Island family home that happens to be a beach house. The things that have kept two away for years and years, melt away and they find their lives and relationships altered. Another engaging book perfect for listening to on long walks.
  15. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty — I was inspired to read this after watching the Hulu series. It’s about a group of women at an Australian school, and the dramatic, unusual experiences they have. There is bullying, spousal abuse, cheating and more. And while I didn’t find this as engaging as I hoped (the beginning, to me, was slow), it was an enjoyable read.
  16. Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch — Cleo McDougal is a freshman senator with a laser-like focus on goals. She’s going to announce her candidacy for president and continue riding her wave of success to the White House. But when a former friend pens a piece exposing her imperfections, Cleo starts thinking about her secret list of regrets — and maybe even making amends. This entertaining and insightful book holds a magnifying glass to politics, personal regrets and private lives. It’s a vigorous read that I loved.
  17. Writers & Lovers by Lily King — This is a book about writers — aspiring ones, successful ones, encouraging ones — and lovers too. The title is succinct in that way. And while I wasn’t sold for the first few chapters, I found myself caring about the main character and her life more and more. This is a beautiful novel.
  18. Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan —
  19. Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews — A successful journalist is about to move from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., to start a dream job — when the dream job dries up. The funding for the publication is lost and the successful journalist is left astray. She returns to her family home and finds herself drawn into the family business — a weekly newspaper — even though she doesn’t want to be there. This book is light and airy. It’s also a bit corny at times. But it also ticked the boxes of personal interest since I am a journalist. I really enjoyed it
  20. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner — What does it mean to be a social media influencer? This novel takes a look at the inner workings of social media through the lens of an influencer with a growing audience. When a former friend strolls back into her life, seemingly using her influence but offering amends she craves, the juxtaposition of what’s publically visible and privately true is a good lens into the false flawless lens of social media.
  21. Belabored by Lyz Lenz — With so much going on these days, I don’t dive into nonfiction that often. But this book — about birth, childbearing, the medicalizing of the process and the patriarchy — was too good to skip. Through the thoughtful blend of memoir-style writing and historical, factual and data-driven reporting, Lyz Lenz creates an eye-opening look at modern reproduction that had me thinking back to my own births, unmet expectations and complex feelings.
  22. The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs — During a particularly cold and snowy winter years ago, I fell into the writing of Susan Wiggs and loved it. She builds neighborhoods with her woods and creates characters you care about. This book is no exception. And that it’s set in a bookshop makes it all the sweeter for me.