My Favorite Books from My Year of Reading for Pleasure

This year, I have read and listened to 40 books. Non-medical books! A big deal for this full-time working doctor mom. All blurbs are from Goodreads.



Here are my 10 favorite books from this year:



Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

A literary masterpiece. I know I must be the last person to ever read this book. It starts slow, but keep at it. It is a little far-fetched at times. The writer herself is a wildlife scientist, and you can tell this is a very well-researched book.


Blurb

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.


But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life's lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.



The Help

Kathryn Stockett

This is a historical fiction novel set in Mississippi in 1960s. What I found most fascinating about this book was the way it taught me a glimpse of what America was like for Black individuals in the 1960s in the south. I only became American recently. The stuff in this book is not something you learn while studying for the naturalization exam. I watched the movie and did not enjoy it one bit. I highly suggest reading/listening to the book. This book is about race, love, friendship, perseverance, and challenging the status-quo.


Blurb

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.


Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.


Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.


Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.


In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends, view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.



Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman

This is an unputdownable novel written through the eyes of Eleanor, who herself is going through mental health issues and might be a high-functioning individual on the spectrum. The writing and the characters are just spectacular.


Blurb

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she'll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all. Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart.



Animal Farm

George Orwell

One of the most life-changing books to me growing up was 1985. This is another George Orwell masterpiece that is definitely top 5%. I never read it in school, even though we had a couple of copies in the house. It is quite short and is often required reading for middle school. If you haven't read it, consider giving it a shot.


Blurb

A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.



The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky

I loved this YA read (Young Adult, for those unfamiliar). It is a coming-of-age story of teenagers and will take you back to those awkward years. This book was published in the 90's and those kind of books always make me nostalgic. There is a movie starring Emma Watson if you are interested. However, I recommend this short book over the movie (as I always do with a good novel).


Blurb

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.



The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas

I read this a week after George Floyd's death. It is a story of an unarmed black man wrongfully murdered by police brutality. The main character was his 16 year old female friend, who was in the car with him and witnessed it all. It is beautifully written and painful to read, in a good way. The characters and story and narrative is very real.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.


Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.


Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.


But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.



How to Be an Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi

I think this should be required reading for all people. I did not grow up American, and I am often left confused by what goes on here. Not that racism does not exist anywhere else. It delves into the history of racism in America. It is extremely well-researched and beautifully presented.

Blurb

Ibram X. Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America--but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.


In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.



The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book was impeccably written and captivating. It is a love story. It opens up your eyes that love is love is love. It is a memoir of a fictional actress and it goes through her entire life story (apparently this is a theme of a good book). Give it a go and thank me later.


Blurb


Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.


When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.


Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.



City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert

Another audiobook masterpiece, that feels more like a movie than a book, in a good way. It is a fictional memoir of a young woman's life in New York City in 1940's until present day.


Blurb

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves - and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.


Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life - and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. "At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time," she muses. "After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is." Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.


Daisy Jones and the Six

Taylor Jenkins Reid

This is my favorite book of 2020 (tie, see below). I highly recommend listening to the Audiobook version. It is read by actors and you feel like you're in a movie. But it is even better than a movie, because you don't just see emotions, you feel them. Note: the band is fictional.


Blurb

Everyone knows Daisy Jone & The Six: The band's album Aurora came to define the rock 'n' roll era of the late seventies, and an entire generation of girls wanted to grow up to be Daisy. But no one knows the reason behind the group's split on the night of their final concert at Chicago Stadium on July 12, 1979 . . . until now.


Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it's the rock 'n' roll she loves most. By the time she's twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.



The Heart's Invisible Furies

John Boyne

My favorite book of 2020 (tie, see above). This is a long book, longer than the average book - 582 pages to be exact. But it is worth it! It is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. I believe it may become mandatory high school reading one day. The plot has it all: love, violence, loneliness, homosexuality, politics, religion. I found myself listening to this book everywhere: before bed, during yoga, while cooking, driving, it is that good.


Blurb

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?


Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead.


At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.


In this, Boyne's most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart's Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.



If you want to know HOW I managed to read this many books, see this post.


Have you read any of these? What did you think? Do you agree with my reviews?

What is your favorite book?


You all know I am always looking for book recs!


If you are interested in more book recommendations, head to my Amazon storefront to see all my favorite adult books (only 4+ star books make it there).



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#booklover #readingforpleasure #booklist #bookish #audiobooks

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