Just Read It: Favorite 2020 Books

I love books. Books saved me as a kid. 2020 was no different…books saved me this year too. I read 70-something books this year (too many of them textbooks for school…but I digress), so I thought I’d share which ones were my favorite and for fun I’ve tried to narrow the list down to 5. Let’s see how that goes…

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Sun Monk Kidd is one of my heros. Her writing is exquisite, but more importantly her life journey has inspired me and kept me pushing forward to discover my own in spite of what the religious world I grew up in would have me believe. She wedged open the door to freedom with her book “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” and the fact that she wrote her first novel in her 50s compels me to keep writing.

So when The Book of Longings was coming, I was excited. The story of the wife of Jesus Christ. YES, PLEASE, and THANK YOU! And the book did not disappoint. The touchstone of the story is a wish, a prayer, a hope. It resonates with me even today:

Bless the largeness inside me, no matter how I fear it. . . . When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: she was a voice.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

I picked this book up because Elizabeth Gilbert was reading it. It has stayed with me. I have recommended it time and again. In a year with so much division (there was much blocking on Facebook to be super frank) and partisan politics, it was so important to be reminded that we are designed for community and human connection. I read this book sitting by a lake on a very lonely vacation during a time of significant isolation, and was reminded that I should miss humans, hugs, and contact. As I have said to everyone: Just read it.

This is a book about a radical idea. An idea that’s long been known to make rulers nervous. An idea denied by religions and ideologies, ignored by the news media and erased from the annals of world history. At the same time, it’s an idea that’s legitimised by virtually every branch of science. One that’s corroborated by evolution and confirmed by everyday life.

So what is this radical idea? That most people, deep down, are pretty decent.

Invisible Women by Caroline Craido Perez

I was reading this book as I transitioned from one job to another. I was reading this book as I was trying to take on the role of the only woman in an all male (and mostly German) leadership team. I was reading this book as I investigated whether or not our products were being designed with Women in mind. And I was reading this book while trying to heal from “bro culture”.

And it opened my eyes to the ways that our data is so heavily skewed towards one population. From the biggest to the smallest decisions are based almost entirely on what middle class white men need and want. And while I have a lot of love for some middle class white men…they DO NOT represent me or the women and people of color closest to me.

The result of this deeply male-dominated culture is that the male experience, the male perspective, has come to be seen as universal, while the female experience–that of half the global population, after all–is seen as, well, niche.

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

This book made me do the work. And I can only thank Ms. Saad for her willingness to teach. She didn’t owe it to anyone and it was from a deeply generous place that she made this offering. For me, the work of looking at race daily as I worked through this book during another heated historical moment about race in the United States was grounding, eye opening, and necessary. I needed to unpack my biases and call them what they are no matter how much my instinct was (is) to hide behind my diverse community of friends. I also needed to reach out and just say “I am here and want to help” to the bipoc I love instead of asking anything more of them. It was necessary…so very necessary to spend the time I spent with this book. It is ongoing and will need repeating.

Remember, white supremacy is not just about individual acts of racism, but rather it is a system of oppression that seeps into and often forms the foundation of many of the regular spaces where you spend your time—school, work, spiritual spaces, health and wellness spaces, and so on

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

I wrote quite a bit about my experiences with this book here. But I’ll say it again. It is masterful. Beautiful. Spiritual. Heartbreaking. Joyful.

It’s worth every single character on the page. Just read it!

The sun was low in the sky, casting slant regal light. As they plodded along, the golden radiance intensified until it seemed to emanate from every feature of the land. Trees, brush, snow, hills. She couldn’t stop looking. The road led past frozen sloughs that bristled with scorched reeds. Clutches of red willow burned. The fans and whips of branches glowed, alive. Winter clouds formed patterns against the fierce gray sky. Scales, looped ropes, the bones of fish. The world was tender with significance.

Because 5 books is seriously not enough…just read these others as well:

  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle
  • The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
  • A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross
  • The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

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