by Jenna Kutcher
I set out to read 20 books this year and have almost surprised myself that I’m on track to reach that goal by the end of the year! Truth be told, reading has always been a safe space for me, and I usually don’t go a day without it. Even if it’s a late night, there’s nothing better than reading a few pages to soothe me and wind me down for rest.
It’s been extra-special this year because I’ve been doing a book club with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law, and we’ve been able to have the richest discussions around so many books I maybe wouldn’t have found or read if we didn’t tackle them as a group.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really have a “type” or narrow genre I’m drawn to specifically when it comes to books. And (this might surprise you) but I’m not a HUGE business book reader. Don’t get me wrong—there are so, so many brilliant ones out there, and I’ll pick them up every so often for work-related research. But when it comes to relaxing with a book before bed, a good story is all I crave.
The best books I’ve read this year
These books are ones I’ve read, devoured, and absolutely LOVED this year. From juicy mysteries and page-turning romances to historical dramas and one of the best pieces of non-fiction I’ve read maybe ever… there’s a little something for everyone in here! Happy reading!
Suspenseful and twisty, this one is about a close friendship between a local and a summertime visitor in a town on the coast of Maine. When one of the friends dies, the other tries to piece together what REALLY happened—and clear her name at the same time. It’s a can’t-put-down mystery that I flew through.
What could go wrong with a wedding off the Irish coast between a handsome TV star and a magazine publisher? Well, things start off beautiful, like most weddings, before chaos ensues and one guest ends up dead. I couldn’t get enough of this thrilling mystery and it kept me guessing til the end!
Man, oh man, this one was an absolutely unbelievable story about a newly married couple ready to settle down… until the husband is suddenly arrested and convicted to 12 years in prison for a crime the wife KNOWS he didn’t do. She tries to help him… and eventually he does get released early. I won’t spoil too much, but it’s fascinating to see how relationships morph and move forward when such peril gets thrown into the mix.
If you’re a planner, you know the terror of a plan going COMPLETELY wrong. The main character in this book HAS a plan… she has a dream job and a dream man, but out of the blue, she wakes up and spends just one hour in her life 5 years down the road, and it’s nothing like what she’d planned. Like, different man, different home, different everything. And she has to figure out what to do next.
This story is a fascinating look at how history affects our present when two Black twin sisters who were raised in a small Southern town end up pursuing totally different lives… one raising a Black daughter in the same community they were raised in, the other married to a white man in a community far away. It looks at the complexities of race, family relationships, and expectations with a raw lens that was incredibly eye-opening.
This is a FUN beach read. A friendship between two women that ended in flames six years ago gets reignited when one asks the other to be the maid of honor in her wedding, seemingly randomly. They spend a weekend at a Cape Cod mansion together that ends up being a boatload of trouble, and you already know… drama ensues.
I just love Elizabeth Gilbert. This fiction novel is set in the ‘40s about a 19-year-old who’s been kicked out of college for poor academics and gets sent to live with her charismatic aunt in Manhattan who owns a lively theater. It’s a story about connection and desire and how our choices can live with us the rest of our lives.
This is one of those books with a turn you don’t expect but that is totally satisfying. A conwoman preys on a rich couple, befriending the wife to try to get to the husband in order to seduce, win over, and marry him herself. I won’t give the rest away, but trust me, IT IS GOOD.
It’s just not working out for this married couple so… they do something totally unheard of. They take a year “off” from each other. There aren’t any rules except that they can’t contact each other. Ultimately, they’re seeking happiness and love together once again, but the journey to get there is totally unexpected and unconventional.
I’m sure you’ve heard already but, you MUST read this book. Like… must. The tagline is, “This is how you find yourself.” It’s the book that gives women unabashed permission to stop being “good” (good mothers, good wives, good employees, good friends) and to instead unearth our own voices and be who we’re ACTUALLY meant to be. (But in so much more eloquent, charming, and hilarious words.)
I’ll admit that I listened to this on Audible after hearing Monica on a podcast. It’s been a book I’ve passed on to countless friends and family members who are grieving a loss. If you’ve dealt with any sort of grief or loss of any kind (which hello, is all of us) then this book will be so healing and powerful for you. Monica shares real stories and empathic insight into the healing process that is incredibly powerful.
I’m a Taylor Jenkins Reid fan and this book lives up to the rest of hers. The main character Hannah isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her life after living all over and working tons of jobs. When she’s home and out at a bar with a friend, she runs into an ex-boyfriend who invites her to hang out for a while. The story continues in two parts: the one where she goes with her friend and the other where she stays with her ex.
My mom read this one for her book club so it landed in my shared library and I’m so glad it did! This book is set partially in the ‘50s in Havana, Cuba when a high-society young woman falls in love with a revolutionary… and her granddaughter in 2017 returns to the beautiful but polarizing country to scatter her grandmother’s ashes. It’s one of those eye-opening family history-meets-historical unrest tales that I liiiive for.
This was a super eye-opening read on so many levels, a great examination of bias in our world. When a Black nanny gets accused of kidnapping the white little girl she’s in charge of looking after just because they’re at the grocery store late at night, a whole slew of messiness ensues. Assumptions are made and it’s clear that many people don’t understand the depths of their biases in this complex novel.
I think I am still recovering after this one. Such a powerful read that doesn’t leave once you close the book. This is a heart-aching story of a Jewish man who becomes the tattooist of a concentration camp during World War II and works tirelessly to use his more “privileged” position to help anyone he can. It shows how humanity can show up even in the darkest of places and is a beautiful real story of bravery and love.
Probably one of my favorites (and fastest) reads of 2020. It’s no secret I love Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing style and her writing in this book is so fascinating. This story follows a fictional ‘70s rock-and-roll band through their wild and quick come-uppance… and the quick, until-now unknown demise of the group. It’s a juicy read all about how living fast and making money doesn’t make you happy after all.
Whew! Reading has been a huge part of my life and this year and it’s been such a retreat to get lost in these good reads. In sharing my favorite reads, I’m inviting you to be a part of a sort of virtual book club! I hope you find a new page-turner to love (or a few) from this list! I can confidently say they’ve ALL added something valuable to my life, so you really can’t go wrong. Enjoy, enjoy!