My Top Twelve Books of 2020

I posted all the books I read this year, but I also like to share my top ten or so favorites (forgive me for doubling posts today—I’m trying to fit a few things in before year’s end). But it’s so hard to narrow them down. These were not all published this year: some are classics that I recently discovered. All except the last link to my reviews.

  1. Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope. This was a cozy story, similar in ways to Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. A country doctor had taken in his niece, who fell in love with the young man set to become the village squire. But her position in society is lower than his, and his mother objects. Plus his father is in debt, and he’s encouraged to “marry money.” It was a little predictable, but very enjoyable.
Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

2. Amberwell by D. E. Stevenson is about five children in Scotland raised by aloof parents. By the time the children become adults, the estate had fallen into disrepair. But it draws them all back like a beacon. The children each have distinct personalities and heartaches and joys. I loved getting to know them and Stevenson’s work.


3. None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing by Jen Wilkin. There are some attributes of God we can’t emulate, but they inspire our worship. This is a book I feel sure I’ll read again.

4. In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin. There are some attributes of God we are supposed to reflect as we draw closer to and rely on Him. And I am likely to read this multiple times, too.

5. The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan. This is about the history of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC, and the family who built it. The Biltmore is a favorite place to visit and a lovely work of art. 

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan

6. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles tells the fictional story of a man in 1922 Russia placed under house arrest for the rest of his life in an upper room in a hotel. It’s a secular book and had a couple of objectionable elements. But I loved the Count, the way the story unfolded, the wry sense of humor, and the peek into this era of history. I love how Towles had the Count maintain his gentlemanliness despite all circumstances and made the best of them, yet showed in subtle ways how the situation affected him.

7. If We Make It Home: A Novel of Faith and Survival in the Oregon Wilderness by Christina Suzann Nelson tells of a reunion of college friends who close in school but hadn’t spoken in 25 years. They take a survival trip in the Cascades which brings out the best and worst of each. I loved the author’s phrasing and the spiritual and mental journey each women went through.

If We Make It Home

8. Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words by Rachel Coker. A teenager is the main caregiver for her mother, who suffers from a brain tumor. When her mother dies, she’s uprooted and sent miles away to live with a single woman. She closes herself off from faith, friendship, and romance. I loved her stepmother’s persistent but not pushy love and the daughter’s slow unfolding.

9. A Very Bookish Thanksgiving by Kelsey Bryant, Rebekah Jones, Sarah Holman, J. Grace Pennington, and Amanda Tero is a collection of five stories which take place around Thanksgiving and tie in with a classic novel. I loved Thanksgiving as a setting. And I also loved the book references and parallels.

10. The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels has a lot going on: a loner who takes on an assumed name to hide the fact that her senator father is on trial for murder and her opening a bookstore and suddenly receiving anonymous packages. It’s a story of how people survive excruciating pain, judgments and misconceptions that are sometimes wrong, and words and their effect.

11. A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White. I could have named several of White’s books—and nearly did. But I decided to choose just one as a representative. This story involves a thief recruited into espionage during WWI. She’s a self-taught violinist sent to retrieve a cypher from a world-renowned violinist whose father worked with cryptography. At points, I wanted to set everything aside and just read this book. I love that Roseanna writes true Christian fiction. Some in this genre feel they can only hint at or suggest spiritual answers to issues, but Roseanna isn’t afraid to get into the meat of wrestling with faith and life. Her writing always gets me in the heart. Plus the story introduced a favorite character, Margo, who appears in further books in the series and whose own story is told in The Number of Love.

12. Stranger Planet by Nathan Pyle. I didn’t review this book, but it’s based on an online comic strip (on Facebook here and Instagram here) about aliens and their observations of life on earth. They’re funny, sometimes sweet and sometimes poignant. They’re perfect for a little relaxation.

I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about these books and sharing them with you. What were some of your favorite books read this year?

(Sharing with Let’s Have Coffee, Carole’s Books You Loved,
Booknificent Thursday, Grace and Truth, Hearth and Soul)

25 thoughts on “My Top Twelve Books of 2020

  1. Barbara, I love posts like this one as I enjoy seeing what others read and what I can read in the year ahead. So I am scrolling and enjoying your list and found a few to put on my “to read” list. But then I got to the Stranger Planet book and laughed out loud. That book is sitting atop my desk – a gift from my daughter-in-law last year 🙂 It is a whimsical book which provides a breath of fresh air when I need a break from the world.

  2. I enjoyed reading this, all the while thinking it would be so hard for me to decide my top however-many books of the year! At least Goodreads makes it easier to see easily what we’ve read when. I too loved A Gentleman in Moscow and felt it was the perfect read for 2020, when many of us felt so isolated, as he was. Interesting that 2 Jen Wilkin books made the list — love her. Thanks to you, I’ve added a Stevenson book or two to my to-read list, and hope to get to them soon.

  3. I so enjoy posts like this as I contemplate the books I want to read next year. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about these books. Happy New Year to you!

  4. Both of my daughters read A Gentleman in Moscow and both loved it. It’s on my 2021 list! I’m currently reading the first book in that Roseanna White series: A Name Unknown and I’m really liking it!!
    That one about made in his image looks like something i’d enjoy. I’ll have to look for that one.

    If we make it Home is also one that sounds really good!!

  5. So excited to see so many books here that I have yet to read! Fresh picks for the future. 🙂 It is hard to pick our favorite books, but it’s also a fun walk back through time to see what all we read. Thanks for sharing with us. Hope you and your family have a wonderful New Year!

  6. ‘Amberwell’ and ‘The Last Castle’ sound like books I’d enjoy! I haven’t heard of them. That’s what’s fun about reading these ‘best of’ posts, always finding new interesting reads! Thanks for sharing and for stopping by my blog as well. : )

  7. Pingback: End-of-December and 2020 Reflections | Stray Thoughts

  8. Thank you for your good book reviews. You do read an eclectic mix of books, which I think is a good thing. I am putting those Jen Wilking books on my list as well as the Stranger Planet one. I always like to have recommendations from a friend to point me in the right direction!

  9. I love book lists! And it was neat to see the book about the Biltmore House mentioned. I live not far from there and bought a family member this very book for Christmas this year! 🙂

  10. I love book list posts. I like to look and see how many books I have read. I have read 4 on your list. The next thing I like to do it look for recommendations. I want to read Amberwell. I loved Miss Buncle so I am sure I will enjoy this. I posted my top 10.

  11. Looks like a lovely selection of favourites from 2020, Barbara 😊 I particular like the look of the two Jen Wilkin’s books, as I too love reading Christian non-fiction, but have not heard of this author before. Thank you for sharing on Carole’s Chatter! 😃

  12. Oh my goodness, Barbara! So many great books! I love anything and everything Jen Wilkin writes, including the two you mentioned! I really like how she mentions in None Like Him that there are some attributes of God that He does not share with us because we are not meant to imitate Him in those specific ways, such as Infinite, Omnipotence, Omnipresence. Whenever we try to be any of those, we fail miserably and often are filled with shame, weariness, and sometimes lead to sin. I had never thought of it that way. I am so interested in Amberwell. Is it a clean book (no questionable sensual scenes or language?) same question for The Last Castle and If We Make It Home. I am trying to be a lot more discerning in the secular books I pick up this year, so I try to know ahead of time.

    Here are my favorites of 2020, if interested!

    • I can’t recall anything sensual or any bad language in any of those books. I try to avoid books that have those elements, but sometimes they surprise me. That’s why I try to mention it if there is, so others can be aware.

      I hadn’t realized until reading Jen’s book that sometimes our scramble for control is trying to act like I am omniscient or omnipotent. Yikes!

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