Since childhood, reading for entertainment has remained a staple in my life. At the end of a long day, there’s nothing better than giving myself time to drift off into another world. For years, I’ve read almost every night before bed, even just a little bit. And when I’m laying awake, ruminating over everything on my to-do list, nothing puts me to sleep faster. Reading is my #1 form of self-care.
Over the past year, I’ve read a lot of books, and these are my top 20 recommendations for you to try in 2020. There’s a little something for everyone in here, so take some time for yourself, and get your READ on!
1. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
If you haven’t read this one yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. This was hands-down the most heart-tugging book I read all year. Set in 1969 on the North Carolina coast, it follows the story of Kya, who’s been ostracized from the community her whole life. It’s a little bit coming-of-age, a little bit murder mystery, and it cannot be beat.
2. The Immortalists, by Choe Benjamin
Confession: I haven’t finished yet, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be in my top 5 on this list. It’s another 1969 novel, this time set in NYC. Four siblings visit a psychic who tells them the exact date they will die. The story then follows their lives over the next four decades. While very sad, it’s a beautiful story that examines themes of family and destiny.
3. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sanchez
This is a great YA novel about a Mexican-American teenager working to find her identity and trying to navigate the conflict between her parents’ expectations and her dreams.
4. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
This is the first of three Fredrik Backman novels on this list, because once I read this one I needed more! It’s told from the perspective of 7-year-old Elsa who has just lost her grandmother. Together they had created a stunning, complex fantasy world, which Elsa remains deeply grounded in as she completes tasks requested in a series of letters from her late grandmother.
5. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
If you’re one for wry humor, this one is for you. At once both very dark and heartwarming, it follows the story of Ove, a bitter old man who is tortured by the friendship of his new neighbors. After you read the book, you can follow up with the movie on Amazon Prime Video.
6. Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
Britt-Marie is the most uptight, unreasonable, obnoxious character you’ll ever meet, and by the end it’s hard not to love her for it. When she leaves her cheating husband, she finds herself in a small town where she becomes a very uncharacteristic soccer coach. It’s less dark than A Man Called Ove, and in my opinion, funnier.
7. All the Flowers in Paris, by Sarah Jio
This book connects the stories of two women in Paris, one present day and one trapped in WWII Nazi-occupied territory. If books were judged by the number of tears shed, this one would be the highest rated of all time. This one was especially tough as a new mother, but 100% worth it.
8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer
This is another WWII tale, but it’s so different from any other I’ve read. In 1946, Juliet Ashton becomes penpals with a host of residents on the island of Guernsey, all members of the aptly named Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I laughed and cried along with these fictional characters while also learning the very real and unique history of the Nazi occupation on Guernsey. Watch the movie on Netflix when you’re done!
9. Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
I’m a sucker for YA fantasy, and Leigh Bardugo wrote some of my favorites. I particularly liked that Ninth House takes place on Yale Campus in New Haven, so close to where I grew up. Combine secret societies with magic, and you’ve got yourself a best-seller.
10. Circe, by Madeline Miller
Circe tells the tale of the mythical nymph for whom it’s named, tying in countless characters and stories from both Greek and Roman mythology. Before this book, I knew close to nothing about mythology and I still loved it, so I’d say it’s a must-read if you’re already a fan.
11. Everless, by Sara Holland
Everless is the first in a series that follows Jules Ember, who lives in a kingdom in which time is currency. Desperate to save her father, who is low on time, she embarks on a dangerous mission.
12. Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple
This is the story of quirky Bernadette Fox and her complete and utter meltdown. Eventually she disappears, and her teenage daughter, Bee, sets out to find her by connecting the dots between a series of absurd emails and invoices. It’s ridiculous and hilarious, and you should read it. Afterward, watch the movie, starring Cate Blanchett, on Amazon Prime Video.
13. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
This one is eerie, creepy, and excellent. Switching back and forth between the viewpoints of psych ward patient, Alicia, and her psychotherapist, Theo, this murder mystery will take you for a real ride.
14. Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five, by Dr. John Medina
In my opinion, theory is interesting, but facts are better. In this book, Dr. John Medina explains recent research and leverages it to give practical parenting advice for pregnancy through the first five years. I listened to the audiobook and found it entertaining and easy to absorb.
15. Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three, by Paula Polk Lillard
I don’t ascribe to any particular educational theory, but I love learning more about various methods and picking and choosing what makes sense for my baby and me. I loved that this book clearly explains Montessori concepts and gives actionable suggestions for implementing them at home.
16. Baby-Led Feeding: A Natural Way to Raise Happy, Independent Eaters, by Jenna Helwig
If you’re wondering what the heck to do when your baby starts eating solids, this is a great book for you. It’s particularly great if you’re interested in jumping straight into finger foods or a mix of finger foods and purees. It’s full of fantastic advice, recipes, and pretty food photos.
17. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama’s memoir follows her childhood, early career, life in the White House, and beyond. Goodreads does a much better job of describing it than I can: “Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.” I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Mrs. Obama herself, and she’s an exceptional story-teller.
18. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
The story of Henrietta Lacks and her HeLa cells is fascinating and controversial. It’s a real-life story of groundbreaking science backed by injustice and one that everyone should be aware of.
19. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK, by Mark Manson
Loaded with F-bombs, this book suggests that the key to happiness is caring a little (or a lot) less. While not my favorite book on this list, I did find the message helpful at times. Sometimes it’s better to accept things as they are rather than trying to force positivity into everything.
20. Girl, Wash your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be, by Rachel Hollis
This book is the antithesis of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK and yet equally helpful in its own way. Rachel Hollis is a gem. Her voice is real and relatable, and her guidance is passionate and inspiring. I’d be lying if I said she didn’t have something to do with me gaining the courage to start this blog.