At the beginning of 2020 I made a goal to read 50 books. Honestly, I’m not sure what possessed me to make this goal. It was a pretty audacious goal given how many books I typically read in a year. I love to read, always have, but especially in the early years of our kids’ lives reading really took a backseat. In 2019 I probably read a dozen books AT MOST. That would be a book a month and I’m not sure I was even doing that. Let’s say 6-12 books a year prior to this. So yeah, 50 would be a major increase.
Fast forward to less than 3 months into 2020 and a pandemic hits. Hello stress, anxiety, etc etc. Reading was really hard during the height of the pandemic, my mind had a really hard time focusing on books, and even if I could focus I couldn’t handle any subject matter even remotely serious/sad/etc. But I didn’t give up! And miraculously, I finished 2020 with 51 books read!
I get asked a lot how I could possibly find the time to read 50 books in a year. And before last year I probably had myself convinced I didn’t have the time for that, either. But as it turns out, you find time to do the things you enjoy. I always read in the morning while I drink my coffee (I try to wake up an hour before the kids to have some time to myself before they’re up for the day) and I always read before bed. When I’m near the end of a book sometimes I’ll even use the kids’ quiet time to read instead of clean or prep dinner. I also love to read with my 6-year-old daughter. We sit together each reading our books and it fills my heart with so much joy to share my love of reading with her! There are always chores to do, so if I waited until there was nothing to do around the house I would never read! I give myself the gift of reading time to rejuvenate and recharge me. I recently read something in Oprah’s book “What I Know For Sure” that really resonated with me and how I feel about books and reading:
MY TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2020
(in no particular order)
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone This is a book I slowly devoured and was in no rush to finish. Reading it felt like a warm hug. It is the personal memoir of a therapist and her own journey in therapy as she grapples with heartbreak, but also weaves in the stories of six other patients dealing with many of life’s most common and painful issues. I had recently returned to therapy after more than a decade when I started reading this book which might be why I found it particularly fascinating. It’s also a beautiful and relatable reflection on what it is to be human.
The Happy Ever After Playlist Admittedly it was hard for me to read many serious books in 2020. In the midst of the pandemic I needed books that would transport me to happy places and this book delivered! One of my favorite books of 2019 was The Idea of You, a book about a middle-aged woman who takes up a steamy love affair with a young and famous musician. The Happy Ever After Playlist has similar vibes, but it’s much more PG than The Idea of You! If you need a happy, easy “beach” read this one would be a great pick!
Untamed So I started listening to Glennon Doyle’s latest book on Audible and a few chapters in I knew I needed this book IN MY HANDS so I could underline and highlight to my hearts content. This is a book I will keep in my home and read over and over again (which is rare for me!). Untamed explores what it means to be a woman in today’s society, and what it looks like to abandon the expectations of those around us and start tuning in to and trusting the voice — the knowing — deep inside us. It is chock full of so much wisdom and so many life lessons. If you are needing an empowering and inspiring book, this is a must read.
The Vanishing Half In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement that was waking our country up last year I made a promise to myself to go out of my way to read more books by black authors. I strive to read at least one a month, at the very minimum. Brit Bennet has such a unique and beautiful writing style that I absolutely loved devouring. The Vanishing Half tells the story of identical twin sisters who ran away from their small, southern Black community and eventually ended up living polar opposite lives — one lives in the town she grew up in (and had once attempted to escape) with her black daughter while the other secretly passes for white. Not even her own husband knows the truth about her heritage and where she comes from. This story has you thinking deeply about issues of race among much else. I should also mention The Vanishing Half was voted Book of The Month’s book of the year!
Summer of ’69 If I had to pick my absolute favorite genre I would have to say it’s historical fiction. But I’m also a sucker for a good romance. So when I saw that one of my favorite romance authors Elin Hilderbrand wrote a historical fiction novel set on Nantucket in 1969 I knew I’d be a big fan. I was captivated by the characters in this story, each unique and magnetic in their own way. It was easy to read, but also touched on some serious topics but in a palatable way for me even when feeling low myself. This is absolutely one of my favorite Hilderbrand books and that’s saying a lot as I’ve read many.
28 Summers While we’re on the topic of Elin Hilderbrand, she was by far my most read author of 2020, clocking in at a total of 9 books (!!!). This is a book I wasn’t sure I’d like because of the premise, but I kept hearing about how AMAZING it was, so I thought I would give it a try. Truth be told, the first few chapters I wasn’t hooked right away. I found it almost depressing. The book is based on the film Same Time Next Year and tells the story of Mallory Blessing and Jake McCloud who meet one Labor Day Weekend in Nantucket and, after having an instantaneous connection, reunite on Nantucket each LDW thereafter, no matter what is happening in their lives — that’s right, no matter what. Meaning other relationships, careers and more. I’m not a fan of infidelity so at first that was hard for me to get past, but once I did I was completely enraptured by Mallory and Jake’s love story and quite literally couldn’t put this book down and finished it in less than 24 hours. In the end, I loved it, but I will warn you — have your tissues ready for this one!
The Danish Way of Parenting My sisters like to joke and call me “expert mom” — I can assure you I’m far from it, but much like literally anything else in my life, I like to research the hell out of any subject I am partaking in. It could be a home project, choosing a car, or in this case, parenting. I am fascinated by all the different parenting styles and philosophies out there and really enjoy reading articles here and there about different approaches to whatever I’m experiencing with my kids in the phases we’re experiencing. Then of course I take what serves me and leave the rest. The Danish Way of Parenting is one of maybe three actual books I’ve ever read on the subject of parenting and I found it absolutely life-changing. The book explores the things it believes makes Denmark the happiest country in the world and how Danish parents raise happy, confident, successful kids. The principles felt commonsense and really jived with the gentle parenting style we believe in in the Denfeld house. I took away so many helpful ideas and philosophies and have found it a very positive approach to bring into our home.
Signs by Laura Lynne Jackson I’ve raved about Laura Lynne Jackson’s first book The Light Between Us. It truly changed my life. Before reading The Light Between Us I was deathly afraid of death. I was crippled by thoughts of what I might do if someone close to me died. Thus far in my life I have been very lucky as to have never lost anyone I am very close to, and the more years I’ve lived without this experience the more paralyzed I’d be by the fear of what would happen and how I would deal with it if and when I did have to experience the loss of a loved one. Laura Lynne Jackson changed everything for me. Now, I should probably mention Laura Lynne is a psychic medium (she has been certified and studied at length, proven her abilities to speak to those on “the other side” as she calls it without a shadow of a doubt) and I realize that might be little too out there for some of you. But if you could just open your mind and heart to the possibility, I think Laura’s books can truly help heal the world and help us think about life in a much bigger way. I might have even liked Signs more than her first book, but it’s hard to say. Just read them both!
Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller You probably wouldn’t recognize Chanel Miller’s name right away, but you would remember “Emily Doe” in the Brock Turner trial. This unforgettable memoir is Chanel Miller’s reclaiming of her identity as more than just “Brock Turner’s victim”. It is a startling and unforgettable memoir that poignantly illuminates “a culture biased to protect perpetrators and indicts a criminal justice system design to fail the most vulnerable”. It will make you cry, it will make you hot with rage. It will make you feel helpless and then hopeful. This book will forever change the way you think about sexual assault and should be required reading for every person — man, woman, young, old — in this country. I highly recommend this as an audiobook narrated by the author herself. It is incredibly moving to hear her story in her voice.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue This was one of my last reads of 2020 and it was a good one! I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d love this one as it has some elements of fantasy, which I’m not typically a fan of, but after reading it I am certain there is something for everyone in this book: a little fantasy, romance, history and more. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is the story of a young woman who makes a deal with the dark side — she lives forever, but in exchange, she is to be forgotten by everyone she meets. It really makes you think about the important role relationships play in our lives, perhaps THE most important? You follow Addie’s life through centuries and continents until 300 years after making her deal she comes across a man in a hidden bookstore who remembers her name. I don’t want to say too much, but this is a story that will make you think and sticks with you for a long time.