My Favorite Books From 2020
This year, I had the chance to read 80 books comprised of 25,723 pages. Four of those books were re-reads from past years. You can find my full read list here if you’re interested.
For the past several years, I’ve concluded the year by sharing some of my favorite reads in Q&A format, adapted from a set of questions created by the blog Perpetual Page Turner.
Here were my favorite books that I read in 2020.
1. Best Book You Read in 2020?
Nonfiction: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
Farrow led the journalistic charge in taking down Harvey Weinstein. In this book, he exposes not only Weinstein’s heinous acts, but also the elaborate plot at the highest levels of media, politics, and espionage to cover it all up.
Fiction: Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
This book instantly became one of my top 10 favorite novels of all time. Gates of Fire is a work of historical fiction about the battle of “300.” Although the book version doesn’t contain an oil-slicked Gerard Butler (sorry, ladies), it places you in the middle of the action as the Spartans battle the Persians in Thermopylae.
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going to Love More But Didn’t?
How Will You Measure Your Life? by Christensen, Allworth, and Dillon
I really wanted to like this book, but I don’t understand what all the buzz is about. It’s a pretty ordinary book about trying to live for more than money. I prefer a lot of other books on that topic, including David Brooks’s The Second Mountain, which I read this year.
3. Most Surprising (in a Good Way or Bad Way) Book You Read?
A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin
The storytelling mechanism used in this book makes it one of the most interesting novels I’ve ever read. As a little teaser, here’s what Stephen King has to say about this book: “[The novel’s] real screeching bombshell is neatly tucked away about one hundred pages into the story. If you should happen upon this moment while thumbing randomly through the book, it means nothing to you. If you have read everything faithfully up to that point, it means…everything.”
4. Book You “Pushed” the Most People to Read (and They Did)?
The Running Man by Stephen King
This is one of the books that King published under the pseudonym “Richard Bachman.” It tells the story of Ben Richards, a poor man in a dystopian world that pits “runners” against trained killers in a reality game show. The longer Richards survives as the runner, the more money he wins for his impoverished family. I encouraged a couple of friends to read this book, and they also enjoyed it.
5. Best Series You Started in 2020?
The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Okay, I kinda cheated on this one. I didn’t start many new series this year, but I did really enjoy this Hunger Games prequel.
6. Favorite New Author You Discovered in 2020?
Levin passed away in 2007, but I just discovered his work this year. I loved his books so much that I read three of them within a month: Rosemary’s Baby, A Kiss Before Dying, and The Stepford Wives.
7. Best Book from a Genre You Don’t Typically Read/Was Out of Your Comfort Zone?
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
I don’t usually read many graphic novels, but Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and Watchmen may have converted me. Not only are this book’s illustrations amazing, but the storytelling is up there with any novel I’ve ever read. The character “V” is a cunning anti-hero with a compelling backstory and one hell of a vendetta against the British government.
8. Most Action-Packed/Thrilling/Unputdownable Book of the Year?
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
You may have seen the Netflix movie with Sandra Bullock. The book is equally thrilling.
9. Book You Read in 2020 That You Are Most Likely to Re-Read Next Year?
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
A new mentor in my life recently recommended this book. I had never heard of the book or its author before, but it’s definitely a top-tier writing craft book that should be regarded right up there with Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephen King. If you’re curious, you can read Stein’s top 13 writing tips here.
10. Favorite Cover of a Book You Read in 2020?
11. Most Memorable Character of 2020?
Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Wow, this dude is a psychopath. If you’re not familiar with the book or the movie adaptation starring Matt Damon, you should definitely check out this story.
12. Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2020?
We Are Okay by Nina Lacour
Sad but beautifully told, this story centers around the life of a young woman named Marin who (unsuccessfully) tries to outrun tragedy by moving from California to New York.
13. Most Thought-Provoking/Life-Changing Book of 2020?
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Lawyer Bryan Stevenson tells the story of Walter McMillan, a Black man who was sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. McMillans’ story is a horrifying and saddening example of the systemic issues that plague our criminal justice system.
14. Book You Can’t Believe You Waited UNTIL 2020 to Finally Read?
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
If you haven’t read this book, it’s super weird but also fascinating. Vonnegut is one of a kind.
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From a Book You Read in 2020?
From Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”
From Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
“I will tell His Majesty what a king is. A king does not abide within his tent while his men bleed and die upon the field. A king does not dine while his men go hungry, nor sleep when they stand at watch upon the wall. A king does not command his men’s loyalty through fear nor purchase it with gold; he earns their love by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake. That which comprises the harshest burden, a king lifts first and sets down last. A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them. He serves them, not they him.” -Spoken by Xeones (injured Spartan squire) to Xerxes (King of Persia)
16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2020?
17. Book That Shocked You the Most?
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
I was astounded by how many people knew about Weinstein’s actions for years and tried to cover them up.
18. Favorite Book You Read in 2020 from an Author You’ve Read Previously?
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
I’ve read nearly two dozen books by King, and this one quickly became one of my favorites.
19. Best Book You Read in 2020 that You Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation from Somebody Else?
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
This book wasn’t on my radar at all until my friend Dan recommended it. I’m so glad I read it. It’s an exceptional book and a heartfelt story about the relationship between a dog and his owner.
20. Best 2020 Debut You Read?
21. Best World-Building/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
This dark dystopian tale follows a rebellious teenager named Alex who leads a group of young criminals who take pleasure in violence. Burgess even invents a slang language that mirrors the youths’ attitudes and their perspective on the world.
22. Book that Was the Most FUN to Read?
American Kingpin by Nick Bilton
I love true crime stories, so I flew through this tale about the creation (and takedown) of the “Silk Road,” a billion-dollar online black market for drugs and other illicit materials.
23. Book That Made You Cry or Nearly Cry in 2020?
24. Hidden Gem of The Year?
The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan
I stumbled upon this book at Powell’s Books in Portland. I had heard of Cahalan before (she wrote the bestseller Brain on Fire), but I had never heard anything about this one. It’s 400 pages long, but I blazed through it in three days. It’s the story of a psychiatry study from the 1970s that forever changed the way we understand mental illness.
25. Most Unique Book You Read in 2020?
The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman
I’m a huge Gaiman fan, so I wanted to check this one out. The story is dark, but it’s masterfully told and beautifully illustrated.
26. Favorite 5 Nonfiction Reads of the Year?
- Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
- Pity the Reader by Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell
- American Kingpin by Nick Bilton
- Blind Eye by James B. Stewart
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
27. Favorite 5 Fiction Reads of the Year?
- Gates of Fire by Stephen Pressfield
- The Dead Zone by Stephen King
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
- The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
- Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
1. One Book You Didn’t Get to in 2020 But Will Be Your Top Priority in 2021?
The Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov
I’ve wanted to read this for years, and my wife just bought me an awesome leatherbound version of it for Christmas, so this will be one of my first reads in 2021.
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating in 2021?
Think Again by Adam Grant — Release Date: February 2nd, 2021
I love Adam Grant’s work, and I’ve reviewed two of his past books on my site: Give and Take and Originals. I pre-ordered this one and am looking forward to reading it in February.
A World Without Email by Cal Newport — Release Date: March 2nd, 2021
Newport is another one of my favorite authors. I just learned about this forthcoming book, so I had to include it here as well!
3. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2021?
Doors of Stone (Kingkiller Chronicle #3) by Patrick Rothfuss — Release Date: ???
I included this on my Year in Review post last year and it still hasn’t come out, so I might as well carry it over to this year! Rothfuss has been working on this novel for years and fans have been dying to read the conclusion of the series. I have no idea if this will actually come out in 2021, but I hope it does!
4. One Thing You Hope to Accomplish or Do in Your Reading/Blogging Life in 2021?
What were your favorite reads from 2020? I love hearing book recommendations, so please leave a comment with your thoughts!
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