Once again this year, I set a goal of reading 50 books. With just a few more days to go, I should be able to reach it. Some books were more memorable than others, of course. Herewith, then, is the list of my ten favorites (in alphabetical order):
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, by Collin Woodard
What to say about this book. Can I just say “fascinating!” and leave it at that? Such a helpful reminder of the diversity that is, not just the United States, but North America. I was particularly interested to learn of the connection between Minnesota and the northeastern part of the US.
Bear Town: A Novel, by Fredrik Backman
This book may have the greatest opening line of a novel. Ever. It goes like this: “Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s head, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.” If that doesn’t make you want to read the book, nothing well. It’s about a youth hockey team in a small town in Sweden.
The Body: A Guide for Occupants, by Bill Bryson
It’s Bill Bryson, so it’s funny, although not laugh-out-loud funny like his other ones. Lots of interesting facts about this earthly tent we call our body. In this era of COVID, the chapter about the immune system is particularly interesting!
The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe
Every once in awhile I think it’s good to read a “classic” that I somehow missed when it was popular. This was that book for me this year. It’s Wolfe, so, Yowzer!
Finding Gobi: The True Story of a Little Dog and an Incredible Journey, by Dion Leanord
Do you like China? Do you like dogs? Then you’ll love this book. A Brit is in China to compete in a multi-day cross-country race. On the first day a little dog chooses to accompany him. This is their story. I was still living in China at this time, and remember hearing about it from local news reports.
Long Peace Street: A Walk in Modern China, by Jonathan Chatwin
Here’s what I wrote in the review of this book for ChinaSource: “I consider myself a Beijinger. I left eight years ago this month and miss it. A lot. If there was ever a book to grip me with homesickness for Beijing so visceral it almost hurts, Jonathan Chatwin’s Long Peace Street is it.”
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster, by Adam Higgonbotham
This is an in-depth, day-by-day look at what happened leading up to, during, and after the explosion at Chernobyl in Russia. Scary stuff.
The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China, by Frank Langfitt
Here’s what I wrote in my review of this book for ChinaSource: “Somewhere along the line I remember having an idea that it would be fun to drive a taxi and advertise that passengers could practice their English. Of course I never did it. That was left to Frank Langfitt, an NPR correspondent in Shanghai who had the same idea and actually executed it. “Sigh,” I thought as I read it. “Another book I wanted to write!””
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See
Once again, Lisa See does not disappoint! It’s about a girl from a remote village in Southwest China that is famous for Pu’er tea. You can check out my friend Amy Young’s review of the book here.
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan
This book is a gripping account of life in western Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. I had no idea!
What were your favorite books of 2020?
Feature Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash
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