21 Books in 2020

What a year it’s been! I am happy to report on the books I read. As you can expect if you’re a regular on this blog, my list includes books about food, animals, psychology, and writing.

  1. Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal
    Yet another wonderful text from renowned primatologist Frans de Waal. This book contains a fascinating exploration of animal intelligence and emotions, a powerful response to those who claim that animals are just running on pre-programmed routines.
  2. Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch
    This book is more detailed than you can possibly imagine! McCulloch has done thorough research on the advent of online discourse, outlining the different generations who made their way onto the Internet at different stages.
  3. Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You by Clive Wynne
    This delightful and warm-hearted book will make you run out and get a dog if you don’t already have one. Dr. Wynne’s approach is generous, detailed, and full of life. This book isn’t as rigorous as Brian Hare’s The Genius of Dogs, but it’s equally enjoyable.
  4. A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment by Stéphane Hénaut
    For lovers of food writing, history, and light nonfiction, this is a wonderful choice. This book was an Audible recommendation — likely because I’ve read Julia Child’s My Life in France and almost everything by Ruth Reichl and Peter Mayle. A surprising amount of history here, but it’s witty, fun, and, as the title implies, palatable.
  5. Writing and Workshopping Poetry: A Constructive Introduction by Stephen Guppy
    Okay, folks, Guppy’s book is my absolute favorite poetry writing textbook! It’s organized, modern, and insightful. I used this book to teach my first full-term poetry workshop, and I do not regret it. There is no fluff here, just Guppy’s precision and nuance. Amazing!
  6. The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley
    I think Lucy Worsley has done better, though this book was enjoyable. Maybe it’s because the characters she was profiling here were rude, entitled, and awful to each other. But as always, her research is meticulous.
  7. First You Write a Sentence: The Elements of Reading, Writing, . . . and Life by Joe Moran
    As much as I love books about writing and grammar, this one is not extraordinary. I enjoyed it, but it’s not terribly memorable or inventive. Moran doesn’t have much new to say on the topic of sentences, so the whole book is a bit of a stretch.
  8. The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck — 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers by Ron Clark
    What Guppy is for poets, Clark is for teachers! You should definitely listen to the audiobook version, because Ron Clark is a hilarious and engaging narrator! This book is full of extraordinary faith, lively stories, and real advice that works. Brilliant!
  9. Stone Talks: A Conversations by Alyson Hallett
    I read this book for a review. I will share the review later.
  10. Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brené Brown
    I love Dr. Brown’s work, and this is a solid book. I think others on my list are stronger, but there is a lot of good info here.
  11. Let the House of Body Fall by Sara J. Grossman
    Another book for review.
  12. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lancioni
    This book was required reading for my job, and it has some good advice about team dynamics.
  13. The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Food that Cause Disease and Weight Gain by Steven Gundry
  14. I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids by Kyle Schwartz
    Save time and just read Ron Clark. This book is pleasant but not remarkable.
  15. The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne de Courcy
    I could not put this book down! It follows several stories at once, and is absolutely outstanding! If you love the Downton Abbey era, you’ll enjoy this one!
  16. My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl
    As usual, food writer and critic Ruth Reichl does not disappoint. Her vivid writing and candid style create a truly comforting read — even if I never cook a single recipe from this luscious collection.
  17. White Feathers: The Nesting Lives of Tree Swallows by Bernd Heinrich
    Here’s another dependable writer. Bernd Heinrich’s study of tree swallows is methodical, engaging, and contemplative.
  18. Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler
    I read an excerpt of this book on the TED blog, and it was fascinating! Ariely and Kriesler have a witty, fun style, and each study they profile is very interesting!
  19. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
    I read this after Dollars and Sense, and it was good. But Dollars and Sense was way better.
  20. Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
    This is one of her best! Dr. Brown is funny, honest, and very detailed. I so appreciate her research.
  21. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
    This book is built around Dr. Brown’s Wholehearted Inventory, a list of 10 traits that you can use to evaluate how you’re living. This is a lovely little book. I only wish it was longer!

What did you read this year? Leave your recommendations below!


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