My 2020 Year in Books

Thanks to Covid, I read 70 books this year. Yes, that’s astonishing, even to me. When the pandemic first hit I found I was unable to read, I couldn’t concentrate or focus, but as the weeks crawled by and my anxiety subsided I turned to books for comfort and pleasure. Don’t ask me what’s hot on Netflix or Crave, I haven’t a clue, but I do have some great books to recommend. And this was the year my tastes turned to non-fiction. I suspect my thirst for information was also a by-product of Covid. 

Here are my favourites, divided into Young Adult, Nonfiction, Fiction, Currently Reading and books-I’m-really-looking-forward-to-reading. Let me know if you have some favourites for my 2021 list.

Young Adult

He Must Like You (Danielle Younge-Ullman)  

“An authentic, angry, and surprisingly funny and romantic novel about sexual harassment.” (Google Books).

Younge-Ullman handles the subject matter very sensitively. I could have used this book when I was a young adult. 


Fishtailing (Wendy Phillips)

“Teen violence, bullying and the burning quest to fit in are presented in the poems of four unforgettable high school students: Natalie, Kyle, Tricia, Miguel. Their stories unfold in this explosive new book told in free verse.” (Google Books)

Wendy Phillips is a master of prose poetry.

Me & Banksy (Tanya Lloyd Kyi)

“A Banksy-style protest against cameras in classrooms brings a group of middle-grade students together.“ (Google Books)

Tanya Lloyd Kyi really gets to the heart of matters in her well-written novels.


OC Daniel (Wesley King)

“Complex and satisfying. Written from Daniel’s point of view, this perceptive first-person narrative is sometimes painful, sometimes amusing, and always rewarding.” (Google Books)

The reader can’t stop rooting for Daniel as he struggles to understand and cope with his mental-health challenges.

Fighting Words (Kimberly Brubaker Bradley)

“This powerful novel explodes the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humour,  (Goodreads)

I admire Brubaker Bradley for taking on this subject, and she handles it brilliantly.

Out of the Easy (Ruta Sepetys)

The daughter of a prostitute has to make her own way in the world. I loved this book for it’s strong characters and the opening scene is one I’ll never forget.




I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)

This has been sitting on my pile for years and I finally read it. Why did I wait so long? Now I can’t wait to read the remaining six in the autobiographic series (when I can track them down.)


The Bonobo Handshake (Vanessa Woods)

I stumbled across this book when I was doing research on the great apes. Admittedly, I have a fascination with apes, but the way Vanessa Woods described her time working in a bonobo sanctuary in the Congo is very funny, poignant and illuminating. I am now working my way through the rest of the books she has co-written with her husband Brian Hare.

Walking With The Great Apes: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Birute Galdkas (Sy Montgomery)

I also stumbled across this book and have fallen in love with the author’s writing style.  In this one she compares/contrasts the lives of the three most famous primatologists. She brings compassion, insight and sensitivity to their stories.

The Good Good Pig (Sy Montgomery)

After reading Walking With the Great Apes I started reading other books by Sy Montgomery and simply love her tenderness towards animals, and the insights she brings into our relationship with them.


Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity) Brian Hare & Vanessa Woods

“A powerful new theory of human nature suggests that our secret to success as a species is our unique friendliness.” (Penguin Random House)

This is a fascinating story of evolution and how the ‘friendly gene’ is crucial to our survival. It also explains Trumpism. Very readable.


Girl, Women, Other (Bernardine Evarists)

This story follows the lives of twelve characters whose stories loosely intertwine over several decades. A well deserved recipient of the Booker Prize.



The Glass Hotel (Emily St. John Mandel)

I did not expect to love this book but I did. It deals with the collapse of a Ponzi scheme (the reason I didn’t expect to like it) but Mandel masterfully tells the stories of the many intertwined lives that were affected.


Currently Reading (and loving)

Active Hope (How To Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy) (Joanne Macy & Chris Johnstone)

“The challenges we face can be difficult even to think about. Climate change, the depletion of oil, economic upheaval, and mass extinction together create a planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions. Active Hope shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face this crisis so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power. (Google Books)

Truly inspiring. I have a library copy of this book but I’ll be purchasing my own so I can reread it when I get discouraged.

A Promised Land (Barack Obama)

I’ve only just dipped into this but it appears Obama is not only a gifted speaker but a delightful storyteller as well.



Looking Forward to reading in 2021

The Overstory (Richard Powers)

A sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

The Soul of an Octopus (Sy Montgomery)

Naturalist Montgomery  chronicles her extraordinary experience bonding with three octopuses housed in the New England Aquarium and the small group of people who became devoted to them.

6 thoughts on “My 2020 Year in Books

  1. Lesley

    I hope you enjoy the Shadow of the Wind as much as I did. I am reading a little more these days and will let you know if I come across any gems.

  2. Darlene Foster

    I also have had I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou on my bookshelves for a long time. I must get it out and read it. Shadow of the Wind was the favourite book I read last year. Happy reading for 2021.

    1. Shelley Hrdlitschka Post author

      Darlene, I think it was from you that I got the title Shadow of the Wind. Just didn’t have a copy until now. I’m so looking forward to it.

  3. Kim Denman

    This is a great list, Shelley. Thanks for posting! I too really enjoyed Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. In adult fiction, I loved Dear Rosemary by Gloria Hathaway. 🙂

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