This list is about as cohesive as this year has been. From funny memoir to scary true crime to self help to horror, what I am reading is truly reflecting the manic swings of life from day to day in 2020.
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One principle of my reading life continues to ring true – reading is the best escape. When life went haywire somewhere around mid-March, I had trouble concentrating on words on a page. Audiobooks came to the rescue (in particular, the audio of Jessica Simpson’s Open Book and Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please), but then as time wore on and I got used to “the new normal” I gradually was able to get my reading mojo back.
Well, sort of.
Prior to the pandemic, my reading was more on the escapist side with a few nonfiction or heavier books thrown in here and there and now it has swung widely into the “reading to purely transport myself out of reality” realm.
I love new releases but also typically slot in plenty of back list books (older, non-new release) into my reading life. They are typically easier to find and generally more accessible to every reader, so I make sure to include them in my blog posts. More than half of the books on this list are in this category.
So, if you are like me and reading has become less of a hobby and more of a necessity to ensure good mental health and sanity, you might enjoy one (all?) of these books.
Note: My 2020 reading goals included a goal to read more diversely and outside my comfort zone. That has not happened. I partly blame the crazy events of this year and my need to escape, but I also recognize that I need to “put on my big girl panties” and get back to it. One thing I have been awakened to is that there are MANY books in the escape books category (thrillers, fantasy, funny memoir) that are written by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) authors. For the second half of 2020, I plan on being better about seeking these out!
American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan (2019, Viking)
This was one of the first books I read in 2020 and it was terrifying. Even more so when I got to the parts that happened not too far from where I live in Texas. If you love true crime, don’t miss this book. Note: I listened to it on audio (how I read most nonfiction) and the narrator was not my favorite.
Buy Yourself the F’ing Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, From Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster (Feb 2020, Dial Press)
Attracted to the pretty cover and attention-getting title, I read this before knowing or hearing much about it and it was completely refreshing. The importance of self care and its connection to mental health has received a lot of attention lately, but Schuster really hammers it home with this hysterical and no-nonsense take on how to truly take good care of yourself (AND those around you).
Note: I received an ARC from Netgalley and (publisher) in exchange for my honest review.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (2019, Berkley)
Waxman has a true gift for witty dialogue and heartwarming stories that are also not too trite or cheesy. I typically do not go for romance books, but her style is more to sneak in a little romance in the middle of a life story containing incredibly relatable characters and situations. That, I can handle.
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman (2017, Berkley)
Yes, two books by Abbi Waxman made this list and her new book (out last month), I Was Told It Would Get Easier, is next up on my “to be read” list. I loved Garden even more than Nina Hill albeit, only slightly. Waxman is my newest auto-buy author, and her books have me rethinking my feelings about romance being one of my least favorite genres.
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (2013, Crown Archetype)
Every parent will relate to these essays about parenthood and even if you don’t, you will be amazed and entertained by stories about Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan’s lifestyle living with five kids in a two-bedroom apartment in NYC. Gaffigan’s standup is maybe not for everyone, but I believe this book truly is.
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (2014, Dey Street)
I read this when it came out a few years ago and when the pandemic hit, I listened on audio (it’s read by Poehler herself). It was truly a whole different experience listening, with her talented ability to entertain and do funny voices. Including cameos by the likes of Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart and also Poehler’s own parents, this book truly helped me through a tough time as I listened and laughed (and then cried when it was over).
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (April 2020, Quirk Books)
When putting together my most anticipated books of 2020 list, I included this one solely on the strength of the synopsis alone. Seriously, they had me at “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meets Dracula.” Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I am now working my way through his back list (listening to My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which Hendrix says is a sort of companion book to this one) and also looking forward to Horrorstor. So far, I am finding Hendrix’s mix of campy horror alongside interesting, well-written stories to be a true delight.
Open Book by Jessica Simpson (Feb 2020, Dey Street)
I will admit that I looked down my nose at this book at first UNTIL several book lovers I admire gushed about it. Then, I started it and was immediately won over by Simpson’s refreshing honesty and willingness to lay it all out on the table in the hopes that she can inspire others. The audio (read by Simpson herself) is particularly good.