2020 Annual Reading List

I don’t blog often, but when I do, it’s for the annual reading list.

This being the year of the pandemic, I read a lot more, fulfilling the commitment I made last year. This year, I finally moved into the digital era, and read more on my Kindle than ever before (although nothing still compares to the feel of physical books).

One thing I found interesting about this year is that while I read many good books, I wasn’t as willing to place as many books in my top x. This is primarily because I got more critical with what I place in higher regard, but also because I’m in a different mindset now, and I look to get more out of my books.

Without any further ado, here are my top books of 2020:

The Top 4 Books

  1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

    I read this book very recently, and it instantly became one of my favorite books of all time. When my sister first told me about this book, I paused — I hadn’t watched much of Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, and I just knew he was a comedian. “What would a comedian put in a book?” — 2 pages in, I understood. Trevor’s incredible life story of growing up in South Africa under Apartheid sounds like it’d be mostly depressing yet eye opening, but Noah instead inspires you further by showing his outlook on everything. Despite everything happening to him, Trevor shows his (or his mother’s) impossibly optimistic view on life, and writes with remarkable relatability that you can’t put the book down. I won’t spoil anything, but after reading this book, I just really want to become friends with Trevor Noah — he just seems like a cool dude to be friends with.

  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Another book I was skeptical about, I was curious what Michelle Obama was going to write about. Like many Americans, I knew little about the First Lady, other than she did cool stuff as the First Lady, and that she gave incredible speeches. Her book proves that she isn’t going anywhere — with an incredible life story, she infuses the pages with stories from growing up (with astounding detail, I might add), and takes the reader along her own journey, coming of age, mid life crises, and twists. It’s easily one of my favorite biographies, and you can’t help but relate to her.

  3. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

    As you might have guessed, it’s a good year for biographies. Unlike the other biographies on this list, Jobs isn’t as easily relatable — his life is chaotic, nonsensical, and wildly intriguing. I’ve found myself inspired, appalled, and in admiration of his thought processes and actions. Isaacson weaves together different events and themes across Steve’s life, letting you remark every once in a while as he explains how Steve Jobs set out to make a dent in the universe. With any luck, I — and millions of other readers — will do just that.

  4. 2 States by Chetan Bhagat

    While not officially a biography, 2 States is based off of the author’s life story, making 2020 the year of biographical books. The story is fascinating, but what I enjoy the most about it is how open Krish is about his thought process to us (the reader). It’s what drives the plot, and what makes it such a great read, and what makes Krish so relatable. While the movie is definitely good, it doesn’t bring forth the thoughts racing through Krish’s heart, which is what makes it so great. The movie also skips what I think is the biggest lesson from the entire book — that “Forgiving doesn’t make the person who hurt you feel better, it makes you feel better”.

Honorable Mentions

These are all fantastic books. I just simply didn’t feel right placing them in my tops for the year, but each and every one of these books is well worth reading.

  1. Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden

    2020 saw me rekindle my relationship obsession with Star Wars. Inferno Squad tells the story of Iden Versio, an Imperial born-and-raised special forces soldier, and how she fights against the terrorist Rebel Alliance. It’s a fantastic flipped perspective, and it taking place in a universe that you’re at least somewhat familiar with greatly enhances the story. Seeing the world through the side of the enemy is always interesting, and Inferno Squad goes above and beyond. I’m really thrilled that this story gets expanded on in Battlefront II (the video game), and I’m excited to play the game when I get the chance.

  2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

    I didn’t expect to like this book this much. I read it as part of a book club, and didn’t allocate much time at all for it, but it finished itself, quite literally. The book hits really well on several topics, but the part that hit me (and made me cry) was the slow degradation of the sibling’s relationship, and it really drives the point of communication home. One thing I’ve taken from this book that I’ll never forget — you never really know what’s going through someone else’s head, but you can start to form a picture by talking with them.

  3. Dune by Frank Herbert

    Dune’s a classic, but it’s not my kind of sci-fi. It’s a slow burn, fantastic, incredibly complex, and has many elements I look for, but it’s pacing is why I can’t place it higher. I still enjoyed the book nevertheless, and it’s one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. It’s one of those books that you pickup on many more details on another read, but it’s something that exhausts you when reading it.

  4. Thrawn: Alliances, Treason, and Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising all by Timothy Zahn

    I finished what I started last year, and finished the Thrawn Trilogy, then read more. The character is easily my favorite, and his mention in The Mandalorian only excites me further. The character’s cunning and wit is coupled well with Zahn’s world building, and I look forward to reading more of his work (and seeing him hopefully come in live action!). The books continue to showcase a bit of a political thriller and complex world building, although none of the books are quite as strong as the original (but still really good).

  5. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

    A classic Dan Brown book to the end, the DaVinci Code requires a mention just because of the sheer content in it. I learned far more about pagan and biblical influences than I ever thought I knew, and as always, the best part is everything he talked about is based in a high amount of reality. The fascinating history of the Church and the intense thriller keeps you interested, and it’s a super good read.

  6. Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat

    I love this book, but I loved the movie adaptation (3 Idiots) more. It’s probably the only one of a few books that stand in this class, but the fact is that 3 Idiots greatly improves on the messaging of the book. That being said, Five Point Someone does an incredible job of putting us into Hari’s footsteps (just like 2 States), and drives you through countless emotions. I ultimately ranked 2 States higher than Five Point Someone, but it wasn’t an easy decision.

Other Good Books I’ve Read

These are also great books! I just didn’t have much to say about them.

  1. Physik by Angie Sage
  2. A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
  3. Lost Names by Richard Kim (read this in a class I never attended, but this is a really good book!!)
  4. Better by Atul Gawande
  5. Artemis by Andy Weir
  6. Tarkin by James Luceno

See you next year!