Dori’s Top Ten of 2020

Yikes – what a year, right? I’ve been caught between not being able to focus on reading at all, with my concentration as slippery as an eel, and total and complete immersion in a book, with a desire to never leave!

What that means in terms of the quantity of books read is that I did not read a lot, but those that I did read I sunk into and they felt like the perfect book to read at the time. Lots of historical fiction, a graphic novel, essays about nature and climate change, and an endearing fable all provided me with an outlet, an escape, or an insightful way to get through this year. I hope you found similar ways to take your mind off 2020. Here’s to getting to 2021!

Hamnet: a Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell: a story about the family of William Shakespeare and the death of his young son, Hamnet, from the plague. The best of historical fiction, O’Farrell tells us the story from multiple perspectives, focusing on Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes.

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel: sad, but expected, the fascinating trilogy about Thomas Cromwell had to end, but it was a riveting journey.

Weather by Jenny Offill: I read this early in pandemic shutdown time and it just was a perfect fit – a meditative look at a woman and her family and her future; funny and prescient.

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza: this is the kind of book that I love – it’s narrated by an art historian in Argentina and each chapter she talks about a piece of art that she’s affected by and weaves the story of the artist and artwork into stories about her life and family in Argentina.

Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley: ok, this may seem like a silly book, a book with talking animals, but it’s not at all cheesy, or sickly sweet. It’s Smiley writing well, a lovely story about what all of us need, love, freedom, respect, and to dream.

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon: I love Yoon’s writing; his latest is set in Cambodia and we see the effects of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War through the eyes of the 3 friends.

Trieste by Dasa Drndic: I picked this up because it was on my list to discard from the collection, then I read about it and took it home and became immersed in the story. I have read many things about the Holocaust, but this one has a new perspective – it’s fiction, but uses historical facts to tell the story of the Holocaust in Northern Italy and children removed from their parents. Challenging but worth it.

Sapiens: A Graphic History, The Birth of Humankind (Vol. 1) by Yuval Noah Harari, Daniel Casanave,  and David Vandermeulen: This book is based on the author’s book Sapiens, which I never read (but should now) and is volume 1 of the story of the evolution of humanity – clever and eye-opening.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King: King’s Euphoria was a favorite of mine a few years back; this one is altogether different – set in the present, a woman writer finding her way.

Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald: MacDonald’s H is for Hawk took the world by storm and this new book of collected essays continues with her focus on the natural world and climate change, with glorious writing to boot.

A joyful holiday season to all –

~ Dori

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