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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2020

bookshelf full of books


I probably don't need to tell you that 2020 was a weird year. Like the rest of the world, I had to forfeit many plans. My calendar was cleared. My schedule was changed. My days became much quieter. And while Plan Bs often come with their fair share of disappointments, they can also be accompanied by secret gifts. We just have to be willing to look for them.

Isaiah 45:3 puts it this way, "I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name." 

2020 had its dark moments, to be sure. But there were also treasures sprinkled in it too! As I reflect on the last 365 days, I prefer to focus on those. 

Two treasures, in particular, stand out to me.

 

First and foremost, to ensure that patrons had continued access to books even in the midst of a global pandemic, my local library launched a curbside pick-up service. On any given weekday, I was able to drive right up to the library doors, text my order to the hard-working folks inside, and wait as they culled my large stack of books from their shelf. A library staff member then brought my order outside for me to grab-and-go! The entire operation was pure genius.

I'm crossing my fingers in hopes that curbside library service will become a permanent institution of our town even after the Rona problems run their course.

Secondly, since my social calendar has been as empty as a ghost town for the past nine months, I've had plenty of time to devote to the reading life. Not counting the dozens and dozens of books I read to my kids, I finished 44 books this year, my largest annual tally to date!

Some were good and some were only so-so. But a few titles were fantastic and definitely worth telling you about. So, here's a list of the ten best books I read in 2020. 

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The 10 Best Books I Read in 2020 #readinglife #Christianbooks #cleanandcaptivatingfiction

Best of Fiction


5. I, Eliza Hamilton

by Susan Holloway Scott

Don't let the slightly sultry cover fool you. This book is a very clean and captivating retelling of the life of Elizabeth Hamilton. The broadway show Hamilton may have propelled her history to the forefront of water cooler conversations, but it did not necessarily paint the details of her days very accurately.

While well researched and quite fascinating, this book does have two minor flaws. First, like a Charles Dickens novel, it can, at times, be too detailed in places. Secondly, although the title implies that Eliza is the main character, the book mostly just highlights her reaction to her husband's exploits, making her more of a side player in her own story. 


4. The Last Midwife

by Sandra Dallas

Just prior to the official shut-down of my local library, I snagged a stack of novels written by Sandra Dallas--a new-to-me historical fiction writer who came highly recommended by a friend. I read through and enjoyed every single one. While not Christian, her books definitely fall into the clean and captivating category.

The Last Midwife tells the story of Gracy Brookens, the midwife of a small Colorado mining town who has delivered hundreds of babies. Now in the latter years of her life when she's contemplating retiring from her official duties, she finds herself on trial for the death of one of the babies she helped bring into the world.


3. As Bright as Heaven

by Susan Meissner

In a fantastic twist of irony, I read this book just before Covid-19 hit the US this past spring. It gave me a chilling look at the national and global chaos caused by a pandemic as it follows the lives of the Bright family who inherit a great uncle's funeral home during the Spanish Flu of 1918.  


2. Whose Waves These Are

by Amanda Dykes

In the same vein as Lisa Wingate, Christy Award-winning Amanda Dykes has written a lovely story with a dual timeline. One part of the book follows the life of Robert Bliss, the twin brother of a man drafted into the Allied Forces during WWII. The other part skips ahead to 2001 when Robert's great-niece Annie comes face to face with her own long-forgotten past. The two stories eventually intertwine, helping both Robert and Annie heal some rather deep wounds.


1. The Book of Lost Friends

by Lisa Wingate

Based on the real post-Civil war advertisements of black Americans looking for family members that had been sold off to other plantation owners, this book tells the story of Hannie, a young freed slave in search of her scattered family during the reconstruction of the South. Woven loosely in between the pages is the story of first-year teacher Benedetta and her class of unruly high school students in 1987. Benedetta wants nothing more than to give these underprivileged teens a good education, but in the process, she learns quite a bit about them and the surprising truth of the freed black slaves of the past. 


Best of Non-Fiction


5. Before and After the Book Deal

by Courtney Maum

While I think the overall content of this book was excellent, detailing very specific parts of the publication process in ways I've never seen in any other writing craft book and warranting a top spot on my 2020 list, I do not believe the author's continued use of explicit language and political commentary was necessary and often detracted from her voice of expertise. I also feel like the subtitle of "Your first book" was a bit misleading since 80% of the opinions, illustrations, and peer contributions speak specifically to fiction writing. "Your first fiction book" would be a more accurate representation of what a reader should expect to see within the pages. 


4. You and Me Forever

by Francis and Lisa Chan

This is not your typical "make your marriage better" relationship book. In fact, it doesn't really focus on creating a better marriage at all. Instead, it points back to the eternal purpose of two becoming one: That sometimes two can serve God better together than they can apart. It also sends the clear and truthful message that marriage is not about a person's happiness or the happiness of their spouse, it is about a covenant commitment between two people and their God. I listened to this book on audio and loved hearing the Chans read their love story in their own voices. 


3. Mother to Son

by Jasmine L. Holmes

In this compilation of letters written to her young son, Jasmine Holmes masterfully unpacks the racial tension that is still a prevalent undercurrent throughout much of this country. With candid honesty, she calls each of her readers to have better conversations, to advocate for those who can not advocate for themselves, and to be willing to lay their prejudice at the foot of the cross. Holmes' writing is both gracious and pointed. While she's quick to point out the missteps of both the white and black communities, she's also quick to praise God for the healing work He's doing in and through those same groups.


2. Remarkable Advent

by Shauna Letellier

Written as a daily Advent devotional, this book beautifully narrates the stories of the key players of Christmas, from Zechariah and Elizabeth to the lowly shepherds keeping watch in the fields. Each chapter contains a passage of Scripture, a narrative retelling of that passage, a short commentary and application, and a sample prayer.


1. Chasing Vines

by Beth Moore

While I usually enjoy Beth Moore's Bible studies, I've always struggled to appreciate her stand-alone books. They tend to be too meandering for my taste. Chasing Vines is a delightful exception. Moore recalls the numerous vine analogies of Scripture with such imagery that the book reads like poetry. Many sections are jam-packed with so much goodness that I found myself reading and re-reading them again and again to taste and re-taste every word.


Admittedly, this year's list is a bit all over the place, especially the non-fiction section. But, since nothing about this entire year has been normal, I think my book choices are a good sampling of how I've lived and learned this year. As life returns to normal in the coming months, my reading time will, no doubt, begin to dwindle. But, then again, maybe not!

What were the best books you read in 2020?


6 comments:

  1. with great sister christian love, i always enjoy your book lists, but i am highly concerned that you have read several of Beth Moore books. i have often found the things you right about to be very inline with scripture and Beth Moore is definitely off track. please reconsider and find some counseling on her theology.

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    1. I appreciate your concern as I think the world needs more discernment and exhortation, but after reading this book from cover to cover, I can tell you there is nothing unscriptural about it. That said, I don't agree with everything Beth Moore says or does, but I can say that about every single person I've ever met. I don't agree with every writer listed on this list. If I only read books from people who were 100% in line with Scripture, I'd only read from Scripture. I think it's a dangerous idea to only read books from people you agree with. Echo-chamber reading closes you off to learning what the enemy is up to and/or learning that you could possibly be wrong. I read books from plenty of people I don't agree with Scripturally in order that I can have an educated discourse with others about it, combatting the lies or inaccuracy. Case in point, I've read many Rachel Hollis and Jen Hatmaker books, not because I agree with their theology, but because I know many women enamored with their writing and who seek me out for book opinions. I want to be able to give them a thorough and Biblical review. That said, books don't make my best list when they are off-center in doctrine or theology. This particular book was not. It was an exceptional look at Christ's place as the vine and our place as the branches. Again, thank you for weighing in. I truly appreciate the conversation.

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  2. These suggestions look great! I am eager to read the ones I haven't yet. I, too, enjoy Beth Moore's Bible studies and look forward to reading Chasing Vines. Mother to Son and the Chan's book also look wonderful. Thank you for sharing these- and for all your homeschool ideas, too!

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    1. You are welcome! Thanks for reading and I hope you're able to snag a few of these at the library soon.

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  3. I really need to make time for reading for myself. I used to read all the time, but since our library is semi-closed (you can't go in and browse, but you can call them and tell them what books you want) I haven't been reading nearly as much. I often pull my almost 13 year old daughter's book off her shelf and read. Her current favorite author right now is Gordon Korman, so I've read several of his books!

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    1. Yes, closures made everything about this past year difficult. Does your library have an online ordering option? Because although it is not the same as browsing in person, most online catalogs still show pictures or give descriptions. Do you have a good reads account? That's another great way to get recommendations for books that you might like. Follow your friends, follow me, follow anybody you know that is an avid reader and see what they are reading.

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