seven books I read in 2020 (and maybe you should read too)

This post could also be called “seven mini book reviews.” 2020 was a good reading year for me, despite nearly dying in my senior year. I read 54 books and I will be sharing seven of them with you today. I try to read a healthy variety of genres, from productivity to fantasy to history. Each of the following will be in a different genre/area. I hope that you’ll have some good book recommendations after reading this post!

let’s dive in!

circe by madeline miller

mythology/historical fiction

rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

Madeline Miller has crafted an exquisite retelling of the myth of the nymph Circe. You might have heard of this daughter of Helios in Homer’s Odyssey. Miller begins in the Halls of Helios, describing the events that led up to her exile to the island of Aeaea. I found it especially interesting as Circe’s early years have always remained a vague idea to me and the author did a wonderful job of crafting seemingly living and breathing characters, in contrast to the often flat men, women, and gods who populated the ancient myths.

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grit by angela duckworth

productivity

rating: ★★★★☆ (4)

Angela Duckworth talks about her concept of “grit” and discusses the qualities of a “gritty” person and how they contribute to one’s success. I enjoyed reading her explanation of what differentiates a talented person from a really successful person – success isn’t equal to talent. In fact, talent is only a small percentage of success. The larger part is your determination, your persistence, and your willingness to work hard. While I didn’t learn much new information from this book, I did appreciate the case studies she presented.

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far side of the sea by kate breslin

romance/historical fiction

rating: ★★★★☆ (4)

Ahhhh, this was such a treat! I had to stop myself from just devouring it in one sitting. The story is set in 1918, in the middle of World War I. We meet a certain Lieutenant Colin Mabry, who works with the carrier pigeons, having been wounded earlier in the war. He receives a message from a woman he thought long dead, which leads him to France…and danger. There’s romance, adventure, intrigue, and historical details. It was a perfect book to bring on my summer road trip.

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fierce wars and faithful loves (faerie queen book one) by edmund spenser

classics

rating: ★★★★★ (5)

I had to read this for my Great Books class last year. The first chapter was certainly a hurdle, learning to understand Spenser’s English, so different from our own. Once I got past it, I dived into the story head first. It was felt like I was reading a fantasy novel, something in the same vein as the Fellowship of the Ring. This book follows the adventures of the Redcross Knight as he attempts to vanquish a dragon terrorizing the kingdom. I love the phrases and the medieval romance of this book.

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you can do anything: the surprising power of a “useless” liberal arts education by george anders

life/career paths

rating: ★★★★☆ (4)

I read this in preparation for my senior thesis, which focused on a classical/liberal arts education. I found it highly interesting and inspirational. Anders includes many different stories of people who have had atypical educational paths and have gone on to successful careers. I loved it because these people are very real proof that there is not only one defined path to success: sometimes we have to make it for ourselves.

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pygmalion by george bernard shaw

drama

rating: ★★★★☆ (4)

Pygmalion is a retelling of the Greek myth of the same name. A quick summary of the myth: Pygmalion is a sculptor who thinks all women are evil, decides to sculpt his own perfect woman. The woman is so beautiful that he falls in love with her and prays to Aphrodite to bring her to life (spoiler: she does and he marries her). I really love getting the opportunity to interpret the dialogue myself and how this rags-to-riches story, set in turn-of-the-century London, examines themes such as the class gap and what exactly makes someone “sophisticated.”

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a ring of endless light by madeleine l’engle

rating: ★★★★★ (5)

an old favorite (fantasy/YA)

I love this book! I bring it for my bedtime reading during my family’s summer trips. It feels like a piece of home I pack with me, so very comforting. In this novel, Vicky Austin, number two out of four in her family, undergoes a whole range of experiences during one crazy summer while living with her ill grandfather. One of the main themes is death. Vicky learns to deal with it and live in spite of it. It is a beautiful story of confusion, romance, friendship, and growth, especially in the teenage years. L’Engle is one of my favorite writers – she brings this poetic nature to fantasy, while also infusing it with a dose of science. A must read :))

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Have you read of these books? If so, what did you think of them? Are any of them in your TBR pile? I’d love to chat! Leave me a comment below.

p.s. all images from unsplash.com

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