Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books Of 2020 (So Far)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, I’m writing one of my all-time-favorite blog posts. We’re talking about the best books of 2020 (so far). In 2020, I’ve read 61 books. Choosing favorites was difficult, but I did it because I love making these lists. I love looking at other people’s best books lists, too. If you’ve made one, please leave a link in the comments. I’ll come visit you. I need to know what to read. I can't decide on my own!

*This post contains affiliate links. I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Best Books Of 2020 (So Far)

Adult Fiction

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Horror Comedy

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

Why it’s a favorite: I’ve rediscovered my love of horror this year, which means it was hard to choose one horror book for this list. I’ve read a bunch of good ones! I picked Horrorstör because it’s unique. It’s a horror novel that’s packaged to look like an Ikea catalog. It even has illustrations of furniture and various torture devices! Since it’s a horror story, it has gory moments, but it also has all the ridiculousness you’d expect in a tale about a haunted Ikea. It’s fast paced and clever. Give this book as a gift to anyone who has ever been hopelessly lost in a Swedish furniture superstore.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Historical Mystery

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Why it’s a favorite: The nature writing. This is the most beautifully written book I’ve read in 2020. The North Carolina marshes are so vividly described that I can picture every detail, even though I’ve never seen them in real life. The mystery is compelling too. Did Kya murder Chase Andrews? I spent the whole book changing my mind about that question. The author kept me guessing until the very end.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Historical Fiction

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn's luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the '80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn's story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique's own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Why it’s a favorite: That ending. OMG. Evelyn Hugo is a new all-time-favorite fictional character. She’s confident, cunning, and will do anything to get what she wants. Her story is full of twists and surprises. I couldn’t put this book down until I learned every scandalous secret Evelyn was hiding. (There are a lot of them.) This is a novel that will keep you reading all night and stick with you after you finish it. Evelyn is unforgettable.


Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover


Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag." In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Why it’s a favorite: If I had to choose one favorite book of 2020, I’d reluctantly pick this one. “Reluctantly” because every book on this list is amazing. Educated lives up to the hype! I read it way back in January and still find myself thinking about the resilient author and how she took control of her life. Her childhood is so wild that you’ll have to keep reminding yourself you’re reading nonfiction. How did she survive all this?

Becoming by Michelle Obama


In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world.

In her memoir, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.

Why it’s a favorite: On the surface, it seems like I’d have nothing in common with Michelle Obama, but I found this book surprisingly relatable. Michelle talks about perfectionism, infertility, health problems, money, life-altering career switches, and the struggles of balancing work and family. She is very honest about her life. I highly recommend the audiobook for this one. The author narrates it herself. The tone is conversational, like a chat with a friend.

Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger And Mourning On The American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild


In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets—among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident—people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Why it’s a favorite: This book is a psychological study of the Tea Party. That makes it sound boring. It’s not! I promise! It’s a compassionate examination of coastal Louisiana and the people who live there. If you’re interested in environmental issues, then this is a must-read. I learned a lot about the impact that oil and chemical companies are having on the health of people and wildlife. I also learned why people choose to ignore problems that are literally killing them. This book is fascinating, eye-opening, thought-provoking, infuriating. I especially recommend it if you liked Hillbilly Elegy.

Young Adult & Middlegrade Fiction

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

Contemporary Graphic Novel

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems.

Why it’s a favorite: The artwork! This is the prettiest graphic novel I’ve read in 2020. Actually, it’s one of the prettiest graphic novels I’ve read ever. This is a must-buy if you’re interested in drawing. The Tamaki cousins are amazing illustrators, and I can’t wait to “read” more of their work. The story is sad and funny. The authors perfectly capture that uncomfortable “tween” age. Rose and Windy are dealing with grown-up problems, but everyone treats them like children who aren’t capable of understanding what’s happening. It’ll take you back to your awkward middle school years.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum


When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Why it’s a favorite: It’s written in vignettes, so it’s super quick to read. It’s also a mixed-media book. There are photos, drawings, music playlists, and different colored pages. I loved the reading experience. Each page is like a new surprise. The plot structure is unique too. It’s a mix of fantasy and reality. One character lives in the real world while his best friend lives in a magical hallucination. If you liked Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep or Robert Cormier’s I Am The Cheese, check this book out.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

Modern Classic

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

Why it’s a favorite: I’ve read a few excellent classics in 2020, but this one entertained me the most. That’s why it made the list. I really wish I had read it as a kid. I had a few experiences that were similar to Margaret’s, and it may have helped me feel less alone. This book is relatable and hilarious. It deserves its status as a modern classic. If you have a young person in your life, please give them this novel! Especially if they’re going through puberty. They may need realistic preteen characters more than you realize.

Nevermoor: The Trials Of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend


Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks—and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart—an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests—or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

Why it’s a favorite: I have blathered about Nevermoor nonstop for months. I’m completely obsessed with this magical middlegrade series. It reminds me of the excitement and happiness I felt while reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Harry Potter as a kid. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, ridiculous, action-packed, and perfect for kids who love (mostly) lighthearted fantasy (or giant talking cats). I’m impatiently awaiting the next book in the series. This is the epitome of escapist literature.

Board Books For Babies

I know this is supposed to be a top ten list, but I have extra bonus books! Baby Brooklyn is 17 months old and starting to have opinions about everything. I thought I’d share 5 books she makes me read over, and over, and over, and over. These are Brooklyn’s favorite books of 2020 (so far).

Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill

The simple text and colorful pictures will engage a whole new generation of pre-readers as they lift the picture flaps in search of Spot. A number 1 bestseller since it was first published in 1980, this interactive favorite has stayed in the charts ever since.

Why it’s a favorite: Brooklyn prefers interactive books. She understood the lift-the-flap concept instantly and grabs the flaps before I can finish reading the page. She owns a few flap books, but Spot seems to be her favorite, especially at bedtime. We once had a minor crisis when she lost the book. We literally had to find Spot before she would take a nap. Clearly, this is an important work of literature in her life.

Peek-A Who? by Nina Laden

Peek-a-Who? takes the most loved baby and toddler game and puts it in book form! Colorful pictures and simple rhyming texts help children guess what's peeking through the die-cut windows in this fun board book. The anticipation of what's hiding on the next page and the bright, engaging illustrations will keep little ones guessing and giggling all the way to the surprise ending.

Why it’s a favorite: Another interactive book. You peek through the holes in the pages and try to guess what’s coming next. Once you know the simple rhyme scheme, guessing isn’t too hard. *Spoiler alert!* The “surprise ending” is a mirror, which pleases Brooklyn because she’s a tiny narcissist who enjoys staring at herself.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as the bear begins to despond, a deer comes by and asks a simple question that sparks the bear’s memory and renews his search with a vengeance.

Why it’s a favorite: This favorite is baffling to me because it doesn’t have flaps or mirrors, and Brooklyn is too young to understand the humor. I suspect she likes it because the main character is a bear. She loves her teddy bears and the cartoon Masha And The Bear. “Bear” was one of her first words. I guess she has a thing for bears? I need recommendations for more bear-themed books.

First 100 Words by Roger Priddy

Features 100 everyday words for children to learn and help build their vocabulary. Beautiful color photographs. Simple design in a sturdy format.

Why it’s a favorite: The book is a photo dictionary of objects that babies encounter in their daily lives. The pictures are simple and colorful, which makes it easy for uncoordinated kids to find objects and point to them. Brooklyn doesn’t talk much, but I know she’s learning words because she can find them in the book.

Halloween Flip-A-Flap by Rosa Von Feder

What's inside this cheerful trick-or-treat pumpkin? Parties! Costumes! Parades! And lots of fun things to look for and talk about. Just right for little ones who are excited for trick-or-treating.

Why it’s a favorite: Brooklyn is too young for trick-or-treating, but that doesn’t impact her love of this book. It’s shaped like a trick-or-treat candy bucket, which makes it perfect for little hands to drag around the house. You don’t often come across a book with a handle. The illustrations are joyfully chaotic (with many intriguing flaps to flip, of course). The text asks kids to find and count objects in the pictures. Brooklyn can’t count, but she’s developing a talent for locating cats and bats.

What is your favorite book of 2020 so far?


  1. Yes, Becoming was incredible!

    My TTT .

  2. I am glad to see you are reading the classics with your niece. Spot is a definite favorite.

  3. I do want to read Becoming, and Horrorstor. I FINALLY read Nevermoor and loved it and I need to get the second one ASAP. At least I know the third is coming out next month. LOL I guess that's one plus of being behind on reading books in a series. And yesss The Wicker King is amazing.


  4. HI AJ! I still want to read Horrorstor... I saw it here on your blog a couple of weeks ago and it landed on my TBR list! Educated is on audible, haven't listened to it yet. Maybe I'll let it jump the queue a bit. I saw Nevermoor is being translated into Afrikaans (that's my native tongue). I think I'll try it then.

    You have had a good reading year so far. Happy for you! Here's my 10 reasons why reading and blogging is good for you

  5. I was really pleasantly by how impressed I was by Educated. You've got a lot of greats on your list! :)

    Lauren @ Always Me

  6. Love seeing Evelyn Hugo included. She really is an unforgettable character.

  7. Awesome list. Horrorstor, Where the Crawdads Sing, and This One Summer need to go on my wish list. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is one of my favorite books. Thanks for sharing.


  8. I have read Nevermoor a while back and I still think it's a bit overrated. I mean, I like the world and characters and everything but I do find the magic stuff a bit dull toward the end. I think my expectations were too high.

    The boy from tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis and The boy, the bird and the coffin maker by Matilda Woods are two of my favorites from this year but I don't know if they are released this year.

    Have a lovely day.

  9. What a bunch of excellent choices. BECOMING< EDUCATED< WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

    1. All excellent choices. I think you've hit the jack pot with you choices.

      Have a good week.
      My Top Ten favorite books by month

  10. Great idea for a topic! Your list has some of my all-time favourites.
    Here's my TTT list this week.

  11. You've had a fantastic reading year so far based on just these books.

  12. Horrorstor sounds like a trip. and I've heard so many good things about that TJR book.

  13. I’ve just scheduled my review for Horrorstor, I loved it!! Im looking forward to listening to Becoming, I’ve heard so much praise for it and I have educated to read to.

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. Yay for Evelyn Hugo! Love TJR! I just finished The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires and now I want to read more from Grady Hendrix!

  15. This post is awesome! I loved Evelyn Hugo, Becoming and Nevermoor! A few books are on my TBR! The Wicker King sounds so interesting!

    My Top Ten

  16. My favorite so far this year is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

    Here's my TTT if you want to check it out https://readwithstefani.com/10-books-i-want-to-read-by-the-end-of-2020/ Have a great day ahead!

  17. This is such a great list, AJ, and I love that you broke them up into different categories too -- the kids books especially, I'm always looking for stuff for ym nephews! Horrorstor sounds amazing and might be the first time i've ever seen horror comedy as a genre -- and a haunted Ikea, with illustrations? LMAO!

  18. Horrorstör sounds like so much fun! Which is not something I was expecting to say about a horror story

  19. Crawdads was phenomenal! I couldn't stop reading it. I thought about Strangers in their Own Land, and even had a copy of the book someone had given me, but reading about society these days is just depressing -- so I let it go.

  20. Horrorstor and Becoming are on my list and I'm still considering the Nevermore series.

  21. I´ve read Where the Crawdads sing, The seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Educated and I really loved them. thank you for sharing and for stopping by my blog!

  22. I've had my eye on many of these especially the Michelle Obama one and Horrorstör. Great list!

  23. I've also read most of the books on your list and agree - all great reads! Thanks for the visit to my blog!

  24. Educated was amazing! And Becoming is on my tbr. Great list!

  25. Ahh what a great list! I love Evelyn Hugo with all my heart, I'm so happy to see it here. And I really want to give Michelle Obama's book a try :D

  26. Very interesting list. All of the Adult fiction you listed is intriguing, although I don't think I can take much horror. And I loved the board books you are reading to Brooklyn.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

  27. Where The Crawdads Sing is such a beautiful book! I still need to get my hands on Educated.

  28. Wasn't Evelyn Hugo incredible? I wasn't sure what to expect going into that one, but it really blew me away.

  29. I've heard good things about the Wicker King, must add it to my list.

  30. You've read some great books this year. I keep thinking I'm going to read Nevermoor and then Paris in July appears and completely shifts my reading plans. Re-adding Nevermoor to my to-be-requested list at the library.

  31. I really enjoyed Becoming too.

  32. The first five books on your list are all books that I loved! I just read Becoming and Educated this year, and couldn't stop talking about them. Loved Evelyn Hugo, Horrorstor, and Crawdads too. It's so great to see your comments on Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. I've wondered whether kids today would still find this book meaningful. This was THE book to read when I was a tween -- my friends and I were all pretty obsessed with it.

  33. I read Where The Crawdads Sing this year too, it was so wonderful!!

  34. Several books on here that I absolutely loved. I have such a hard time picking my top ten. I loved The Book Women of Troublesome Creek, that would be one of my top ten.

  35. I've heard so many good things about The Wicker King, but the hype surrounding it makes me a little nervous to pick it up. Although hearing that it's a fairly quick read does make me feel a little more excited for it.

  36. I think I devoured every Judy Blume book when I was a teen, including Are You There God. I'd like to read Educated and Becoming.

  37. I read Becoming earlier this year and I agree, it's a wonderful read. I read Are You There God, It's me Margaret a few years ago and it's my favorite book by Judy Blume to date.

  38. I haven't read any of these yet, but I'm definitely putting some of them on my TBR right now

  39. I have read Strangers in Their Own Land, Becoming and Where the Crawdads Sing, all of them fantastic. Educated has been on my wishlist for a while, I guess I'll have to add Horrorstör and The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. And of course, I know some of the children's books. Great list.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT about debut novels earlier.

  40. Ooh, Horrorstör sounds hilarious! Evelyn Hugo and Becoming have been on my to-read list for a while, but now I'm going to move them higher up.

  41. The jury's out for me on Educated. I usually love memoirs but I wondered about the reliability of the author at times. Great list. I want to read Evelyn Hugo!!!!

  42. I want to read SO many of these! I need to read Evelyn Hugo, Becoming, and The Wicker King for sure. And that is so cute that Brooklyn is enjoying books now! May I recommend Karen Katz's lift the flap books? Both of my kids were OBSESSED with them! Here's a link, they loved ALL of these, I had to buy multiples of the Belly Button one! https://amzn.to/33a4zQC

  43. Aw, Where's Spot was my favourite. I really need to read Evelyn Hugo - I liked Daisy Jones a lot.

  44. Fabulous list of books - and your account of Spot brought back many happy memories of reading it with my own children and grandchildren... I'm very drawn to Where the Crawdads Sing... thank you for sharing!

  45. Becoming, Where teh Crawdads Sing and the Seven Husband are AMZING

  46. I even want to read I Want My Hat Back, ha ha. The cover is wonderful. 💜

  47. Awesome list! Some of these are on my TBR! I hope to get to them soon! :)