Everyone has their ways to try to manage the insanity that has been 2020 — bingeing TV, making sourdough — and I read. Reading is BY FAR my favorite escape from reality, and boy oh boy did I want to escape this year. So I read 75 books. Last year, I read 27. So there’s that.
So I might not read all the most popular books. It’s no secret that my very favorite genre is cozy mysteries, the sweet kind of mystery where you don’t have to read about any scary or gory, the sleuth is usually an amateur who owns a bakery or a bookshop, and they come to a nice conclusion. Ok, they’re totally old lady books but I don’t care because they are so much better than real life! And I’m in my mid-40s so I’m probably just an old lady now anyway 🤷♀️. I made it a point this year to try reading different kinds of books, too, like witches and fairies and magical children, romance of all shapes and sizes, and even a creepy phase around Halloween (books 50-53).
I wanted to give you a quick idea of how I felt about each book, so here’s my rating system:
👍 — good
👍👍 — really good
👎 — not so good
And here’s all the books I read this year, in order (the photos are actually backwards, but you get the point!):
1. A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) – Deborah Harkness 👎
2. Love and Death Among the Cheetahs (Her Royal Spyness #13) – Rhys Bowen 👍
3. The Golden Tresses of the Dead (Flavia de Luce #10) – Alan Bradley 👍👍
4. The Long Call (Two Rivers #1) – Ann Cleeves 👍👍
5. A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #12) – Louise Penny 👍
6. Henry & Eva and the Famous People Ghosts – Andrea Portes 👍
7. The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) – Erika Johansen 👍
8. The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #2) – Erika Johansen 👎
9. Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) – Maureen Johnson 👍👍
10. The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) – Maureen Johnson 👍👍
11. Glass Houses by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #13) – Louise Penny 👍
12. Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #3) – Erika Johansen 👎
13. The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious #3) – Maureen Johnson 👍👍
14. Long Bright River – Liz Moore 👍👍
15. Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) – Deborah Harkness 👎
16. The Recipe Box – Viola Shipman 👍
17. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman 👍
18. On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mystery #1) – Cleo Clyde 👎
19. Spider Woman’s Daughter (Navajo Mysteries #19) – Anne Hillerman 👍👍
20. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid 👍
21. Masked Ball at Broxley Manor (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries #0.5) – Rhys Bowen 👍
22. Through the Grinder (Coffeehouse Mystery #2) – Cleo Clyde 👎
23. Rock With Wings (Navajo Mysteries #20) – Anne Hillerman 👍👍
24. Brownies and Broomsticks (A Magical Bakery Mystery #1) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
25. The Alice Network – Kate Quinn 👍👍
26. Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti (A Magical Bakery Mystery #2) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
27. Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1) – Jacqueline Winspear 👍👍
28. Becoming – Michelle Obama 👍👍
29. Daisy Jones & The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid 👍👍
30. The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) – Deborah Harkness 👎
31. The Murder at Sissingham Hall (Angela Marchmont Mystery #1) – Clara Benson 👍
32. Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2) – Jacqueline Winspear 👍👍
33. The Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin #1) – M.C. Beaton 👎
34. Charms and Chocolate Chips (A Magical Bakery Mystery #3) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
35. Some Enchanted Eclair (A Magical Bakery Mystery #4) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
36. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead 👍👍
37. The Plot is Murder (Mystery Bookshop #1) – V.M. Burns 👍
38. Read Herring Hunt (Mystery Bookshop #2) – V.M. Burns 👍
39. Song of the Lion (Navajo Mysteries #21) – Anne Hillerman 👍👍
40. Magpie Murders – Anthony Horowitz 👍
41. Magic and Macaroons (Magical Bakery Mystery #5) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
42. One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London 👍👍
43. The Lions of Fifth Avenue – Fiona Davis 👍
44. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax – Dorothy Gilman 👍
45. No Offense – Meg Cabot 👎
46. Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs #3) – Jacqueline Winspear 👍👍
47. Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston 👍👍
48. Spells and Scones (A Magical Bakery Mystery #6) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
49. Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #14) – Louise Penny 👍
50. The 7-1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton 👍👍
51. Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts – Kate Racculia 👍
52. Things in Jars – Jess Kidd 👍👍
53. Mr. Flood’s Last Resort – Jess Kidd 👍👍
54. The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) – S. A. Chakbraborty 👎
55. Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall 👍
56. Potions and Pastries (A Magical Bakery Mystery #7) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
57. The Last Mrs. Summers (Her Royal Spyness #14) – Rhys Bowen 👍👍
58. The Guest List – Lucy Foley 👍👍
59. The Novel Art of Murder (Mystery Bookshop #3) – V.M. Burns 👍
60. Chocolate Cream Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen #24) – Joanne Fluke 👎
61. Coconut Layer Cake Murder (Hannah Swensen #25) Joanne Fluke 👎
62. Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes 👍👍
63. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill – Abbi Waxman 👍👍
64. A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) – Brittany Cavallaro 👍
65. A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) – Deanna Raybourn 👍👍
66. Cookies and Clairvoyance (Magical Bakery Mystery #9) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
67. Witches and Wedding Cake (Magical Bakery Mystery #10) – Bailey Cates 👍👍
68. Mr. Malcolm’s List – Suzanne Allain 👍
69. A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell #2) – Deanna Raybourn 👍👍
70. The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2) – Brittany Cavallaro 👎
71. The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow 👍👍
72. The House in the Cerulean Sea – T.J. Klune 👍👍
73. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) – Sarah J. Maas? 👍
74. The Switch – Beth O’Leary 👍👍
75. A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell #3) – Deanna Raybourn 👍👍
Choosing favorites was really hard, so I’m doing my best to narrow it down to 10 I liked best:
10. The Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn (starting with A Curious Beginning) — This is a cozy mystery series set in Victorian London, with a main character who is intelligent, independent, unconventional, and totally capable of both getting herself into trouble and getting herself out of it. I’m reading another book in this series right now, so I’ll probably actually finish the year with 76 or 77 books… but 75 is such a nice number!
9. The Truly Devious series — Truly Devious, The Vanishing Stair, and The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson — I loooooved this series that follows a high school student at an elite, isolated New England boarding school who’s determined to solve a notorious crime that occurred at the school a century before… and then new crimes start happening. The books are aimed at young adults and are full of pop culture references, definitely leaning “teen,” but I still found them well written and lots of fun to read. It’s the kind of series that I didn’t want to end, and I wish there were more mysteries for Stevie and her quirky group of friends.
8. The Magical Bakery series by Bailey Cates (starting with Brownies & Broomsticks) — I read all ten of the books in this cozy mystery series this year and really enjoyed them, even though the concept is a bit ridiculous. The main character moves from Ohio to Savannah to open a bakery with her aunt… then she finds out she’s actually a witch… then she solves a whole bunch of murders. It’s silly but fun and light and a great escape. Every time life got particularly stressful this year, this is the series that I turned to first.
7. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn — This book was so good. It follows the stories of a young socialite looking for her cousin in post-WWII France and a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France in WWI. Learning more about the atrocities of both wars, and the role women played in the resistance is something I will not soon forget.
6. Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston — Imagine a world in which a woman won the 2016 election, and her son falls in love with the Price of England. This book made me laugh and cry and cringe and cheer. Honestly, it made me feel hopeful for humanity, which is something I desperately needed in the pre-election, everything-is-terrible, summer days of 2020.
5. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead — What if the Underground Railroad was an ACTUAL railroad with conductors and engineers? This book follows the life of an escaped slave as she travels from state to state to escape the terrors of enslavement and experiences our nation’s more appalling history firsthand. This one will really kick you in the pants, but it’s eye-opening and powerful.
4. The Guest List by Lucy Foley — I listened to this audiobook while driving 12 hours round-trip to our cabin all by myself and it was glorious. The book was good too. As guests arrive at a high-society wedding on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, everyone’s secrets are slowly revealed, and a dark mystery ensues, including murder. With twists and turns I never saw coming, I loved tagging along to this wedding, but I’m so glad I didn’t have to work at it!
3. The 7-1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton — Ooooh, this one was FUN. Andy and I actually read this at the same time, which was awesome because we were constantly juggling to get ahead of the other and then stopping to watch for each other’s reactions because this book was chock full of surprises. The story: Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every night. For eight days until you solve the mystery of her murder. And every day you will wake up in a different body to gain clues. It’s totally bizarre with a dose of creepy and a whole lot of WHOA.
2. One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London — I’m obsessed with this story that follows a plus-size blogger who unexpectedly finds herself the next Bachelorette. It’s real and raw, hilarious, heartbreaking, and really just the most fun read.
And my absolute favorite book of the year…
1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune — 10 stars out of 5! Loooooved everything about this book so much. Absolutely the best book of the year! I love the characters, the story, the sweet romance, it’s just… read it and you won’t regret it.
I got every one of my books at the local library, almost all as ebooks through the Libby app that I read on my iPad with the Kindle app, but I am also a big supporter of Bookshop.org, which is an online bookseller that gives a portion of all profits to independent bookstores. You can choose to have money go to a specific bookstore in your community or spread among all participating bookstores. In case you want to do some shopping or read more about any of these books, I’ve created a Bookshop.org page with all 75 books! (We would get a tiny portion of the proceeds as well if you made a purchase.)
So now I want to know what you recommend — there’s always 2021!!