I love reading. For education, for entertainment, lighthearted books for passing the time, heavy books to challenge my reading skills…
2020 was going to be my year of finally getting through my massive “To Be Read” book list but, alas, the library closed for quite a few months and derailed that plan. However, I was still able to read through a variety of books, and took the library closure as an opportunity to read through some of the unread books on my own shelves too. I didn’t quite succeed in finishing off my personal collection, but still managed to read 40 books this year, so it was a good year for reading! Thankfully the library opened again in the fall, so I was able to get a few more to last me for the next while. When you’re stuck at home on a bleak winter day, there’s nothing better than curling up in a blanket with a book and a cup of tea, right?
I thought I would share a few of my favourites today, so if you are looking for some books to add to your list, here are my 2020 reading highlights (in order of when I read them).
Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
I’ve watched the BBC version of Wives and Daughters and it is excellent. It stars Francesca Annis as one of the main characters, and she is really good in that role. I read North & South last year, (I asked for books for my birthday and Christmas gifts, and was happy to get copies of both North & South and Wives & Daughters.) and was able to get through Wives & Daughters early on in the year. I quite like Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing. There weren’t any surprises, since I have watched the film, but it was still an enjoyable way to spend a few days. I would like to read some of her other works- I’ve added Mary Barton to my list.
The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin
I heard about this book a couple of years ago, and had it on my library list for quite a while. It delves into the history of vaccinations and all of the scandals and cover ups that have come along with them (and that still plague us today). It kind of sounds like a boring topic, but it is actually a really good book. It is quite well written and surprisingly engaging. 10/10 would recommend this one if you like medical history and science!
Quiet by Susan Cain
I had also heard of this one a couple of years ago, from Susan Cain’s TED talk, so I added it to my library list. It wasn’t mind blowing, but it was a helpful book for me to read, to learn about some of the differences between introverts and extroverts, and how to use my introvert tendencies as a strength instead of a limitation. It’s a slower paced book, but was well researched and informative.
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
Hands down, this was one of the most enjoyable reads of my year. This is an interesting overview of the human body, but it was funny and witty as well. It is a thick book, but is broken up into small, manageable sections, so you can pick it up and read a little bit without losing your place and having to start over. I never understand why textbooks can take an interesting topic and distill it down into the most boring format possible- this book is really the furthest thing from being a textbook (it’s actually fun to read) and I learned so much. I also thought that the index was good, so you can find sections easily if you want to read about a certain topic again.
The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth by Thomas Morris
Another medical book (What can I say? I love reading about science and medicine!) This book recounts some of the hilarious, horrifying and miraculous medical cases from historical medical journals. The book is compiled of excerpts from journals (all written in proper Old English, which makes it even better) but the best part of the book is the commentary that Thomas Morris offers alongside. He has the perfect dry/dark sense of humour that lands just right. I read this one, and then I made my sister and mom read it too!
King Raven Series (Hood, Scarlet & Tuck) by Stephen R. Lawhead
This series is a reimagined version of the tales of Robin Hood, set in Wales during the 11th century. It’s the perfect blend of history, action and adventure. Each book is told from the perspective of a different character (Robin Hood, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck) and I really enjoyed the story. The author did so much research into this time period and his world building was very believable and realistic. Even though Robin Hood is likely a legend, after reading this series he definitely seems real! I do love a good historical fiction series to escape into and I can see myself re-reading this series again in a few years.
How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
I had heard good reviews of this book, but after reading the back cover, I was kind of wondering whether it would be one of those “corsets are oppressive” sorts of history books. However, I was pleasantly surprised as it was nothing like that! I learned quite a bit about daily life in the Victorian era- the author is a British historian and was actually part of BBC’s historic farm television series. She had a lot of insight about what life could have been like (of course, she points out, we’ll never know completely) during the era. This book was also broken up into manageable sections, so you can pick it up and put it down as you have time. As a lover of vintage and history, this was a great one to read!
You’re Not Enough (And That’s Okay) by Allie Beth Stuckey
I listen to Allie Beth Stuckey’s podcast occasionally, so was interested to read her first book. She tackles the self help and self love culture that is so prevalent today, and how it is ultimately unfulfilling and empty. There was lots to ponder in this book, and I am debating adding this one to my library so I can re-read and refer back to it in the future.
Death in the Clouds and The Hollow by Agatha Christie
I do love a good murder mystery, and if you haven’t read any of Agatha Christie’s, you are missing out: there is a reason why she is the most popular writer of the 20th century! I received a whole stack of her books for my birthday in October and, while I haven’t gotten through all of them yet, these are my two favourites so far. Both of them are Poirot mysteries, and very quick enjoyable stories. I can never guess who the murderer is!
Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsely
My last read for this year was this biography of Jane Austen (who is also one of my favourite authors!) I have watched some of Lucy Worsely’s BBC histories, and have found them engaging and entertaining; her ‘If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home” series is a really good one. I’ve read a couple of other biographies of Jane Austen, but I quite liked this one. Of course so much has been lost to history, and we’ll never truly know Jane, but I feel like I got a glimpse of her in this book, and she really does feel like a kindred spirit. I am also debating adding this one to my personal library too!
Fields of Joy by Ruth Chou Simons
Ok, actually my last book of the year, which I haven’t completely read, is this one, Fields of Joy. My friend gave it to me for Christmas, and it was the most unexpected, yet lovely, gift! It’s not a book designed to be read cover to cover, but is filled with pages of verses and watercolour artwork, so you can read a page each day. This is going to be a good one to keep on my bedside table to refer back to often.
So, those are my favourite reads from this year! Have you read any of these titles? What were your favourite books from this year? Do you keep track of how many books you read each year?
(Also, on a side note, I noticed that my library prints on their receipts how much money you’ve saved by using the library, instead of buying books, and I saved $363.43 this year!)