The Books That Got Me Through 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, I made the New Years' resolution to read more for pleasure. I decided that before going to bed, I didn’t want to spend time on my phone, but wanted to read so that I could detox from technology and unwind. When quarantine started, I realized I needed books more than ever to escape what was going on and help me relax when stressed.


Recently, I discovered Bookshop--an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. The following list includes the books that have gotten me through 2020 (descriptions are from Bookshop), and I hope they bring you joy and help relieve the anxieties you may be experiencing as well.


A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.


A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. Lorraine Hansberry's award-winning drama about the hopes and aspirations of a struggling, working-class family living on the South Side of Chicago connected profoundly with the psyche of black America--and changed American theater forever. The play's title comes from a line in Langston Hughes's poem Harlem, which warns that a dream deferred might dry up/like a raisin in the sun.


The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker. The first book in the Art of Hearing Heartbeats series, this is a passionate love story, a haunting fable, and an enchanting mystery set in Burma. When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be...until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father's past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader's belief in the power of love to move mountains.


Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society--where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York's social strata, its intricate imagery, and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.


The Paris Architect

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure. In 1942 Paris, architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money--and maybe get him killed. All he has to do is design a secret hiding place for a Jewish man, a space so invisible that even the most determined German officer won't find it while World War II rages on. He sorely needs the money and outwitting the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city is a challenge he can't resist. Soon Lucien is hiding more souls and saving lives. But when one of his hideouts fails horribly, and the problem of where to conceal a Jew becomes much more personal, and he can no longer ignore what's at stake.


The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. Achilles, “best of all the Greeks,” is everything Patroclus is not—strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess—and by all rights, their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative connection gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper—despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.


The Plague

The Plague by Albert Camus. The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation, and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr. Rieux, resist the terror.


Looking for more to read?


To view my other favorite books of all time, head to my bookshop at bookshop.org. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


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