The Best Books I Read in 2020

Everyone is doing it and I can’t help but join in! Today, I’m adding my own list of favorite books I’ve read this year.

I’m amazed that I read 70 books this year, and narrowing down my top three in each category was brutal. In fact, I had to add some honorable mentions and some “Most Likely” awards at the end because there are so many wonderful titles I would recommend to you!*

Reading is one of my favorite things to do, and talking about books gives me great joy (if you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to connect!) So here they are! My favorite books of 2020:

Best Fiction

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall: This was such a beautiful story about a 40 year friendship between two pastoral couples. Each sentence was a work of art and I fell in love with the characters. I was so sad to see this one end!

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger: This moving coming of age story kept me turning the pages. Set in the 1930s in a boarding school for Native American children, the story follows the journey of four orphaned boys. I loved the themes of family, home, and finding God. And I fell in love with the characters!

Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: This is the story of librarians on horseback in the hills of Kentucky during the Depression. Really, it’s the story of Alice who first seeks to escape a boring life in England, and then seeks to escape a bad marriage. It’s about friendship, love, loyalty, and passion. If you love strong female characters and books you can’t put down, this one is for you!

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon: Based on the true story of a female spy and military commander (!) during World War 2, this was another book I couldn’t put down!
This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel: I didn’t think I’d like this book at all, but it quickly became one of my favorites. At its heart, it’s a modern day fairy tale about parenting. It took my breath away!

Best Christian Nonfiction

The Myth of the American Dream by D.L Mayfield: The message in this book is so needed, even though sometimes it made me squirm in my seat! The author did a great job shining a light on how individualism, wealth, power, affluence, and concern for our own safety has prevented the kingdom of God from flourishing.

Native by Kaitlyn B. Curtice: I love how she talked about faith and identity in this book! This was a moving, powerful, and poetic read, and the message was so important for both individuals and the church at large!

A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson: This book was part memoir and part commentary on racism with the story of Moses weaved throughout. I enjoyed the depth of the author’s insight and would highly recommend it to any Christian I know!

Best Memoir

Ruthless River by Holly Fitzgerald: A gripping story of love and survival upon a raft in the Amazon. I couldn’t believe it was true, and I absolutely couldn’t put it down. Put this one at the top of your to-read list!

I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown: This was an easy to read, thought-provoking, powerful blend of essays and personal narrative explaining what it’s like to be a black woman in America. I highly recommend it!

Rage Against the Minivan by Kristen Howerton: A beautiful memoir about parenting! I’ve been following Kristen’s blog for years, and I really enjoyed reading more of her personal story. This book is vulnerable, honest, insightful, and funny too!

Best YA (Young Adult)

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum: This may be one of my favorite YA novels! It’s a love story with a bit of a mystery involved. It was such a well-written story, going deep into many tiny moments. I fell in love with the main character. The ending was so satisfying, too!

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Nevin: The unusual characters really shine in this book! I really enjoyed this story about seeing people and loving people as they truly are.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz: This is the story of Sal, a senior in high school who is struggling to define himself. I fell in love with the characters, and thought the themes of identity and friendship were so well-written!

Most Likely to….

Most likely to deepen your faith
With by Skye Jethani: This book has been around for quite awhile, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up! I really appreciated the author’s wisdom and insight about the main ways in which we relate to God.

Most likely to improve your writing
Wild Words by Nicole Gulotta: Both poetic and practical, this book spoke to the seasons in a writer’s life – how to make the most of them and how to move through them. If you’re a writer who’s looking for encouragement AND practical ways to improve, this book is for you!

Most likely to make you cry
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: I’m not a crier but this book wrecked me. What a beautiful story about friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness!

Most likely to make you think
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby: This was a call to the American evangelical church to do better and be better than our complicit history with racism. A must read for anyone who wants ALL of God’s people to flourish!

Most likely to provoke lively discussions
Talking Back to Purity Culture by Rachel Joy Welcher: This book is a balm to all the hurting souls who survived purity culture (myself included!). The author did a thorough job researching and exposing the many forms of harm purity culture inflicted on Christian youth. Although she is more theologically conservative than I am and I disagreed with some of her points, I love that she opens the door to a more nuanced conversation about Christians and sexuality with this book. She did a fantastic job with the reflection questions and points of discussion at the end of every chapter.

Most likely to knock you over with its beauty
All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo: Beautiful and profound reflections on belonging through the lens of race, culture, and place. Poetic and deeply moving!

Looking Ahead

Shameless plug: I hope that my own book Around the Clock Mom: Make the Most of Your God-Given Time (releasing Jan. 18th) will make your list in the upcoming year, under “Most likely to be helpful and encouraging!”

Your Turn

What about you? I’d love to know what your favorite reads were this year! Let me know in the comments – I love adding titles to my “to-read” list!

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The links I share are from Amazon, where I’m an affiliate. This means if you happen to purchase through my link, I’ll earn a few pennies on the dollar at no extra cost to you.

*Feature Photo by Benjamin Raffetseder on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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