The year is almost over—finally!—and while there are a lot of outstanding questions from a tumultuous year, there’s one big one that we all need answered, stat: what was the best book of 2020?
With so much time in quarantine, it’s safe to say that most of us spent a chunk of it nose deep in a book (or two, or three!) and there were a ton of good ones this year. But which one reigns supreme? Well, we can’t possibly pick, so we turned to the Camille Styles editorial team to share their number one read of the year and we weren’t disappointed—there are so many amazing books on this list.
So, grab a cup of tea and get your Amazon cart ready because we guarantee you’ll want to add all of these to it.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Kelly Krause | Contributor
Why I Recommend It: Humans are complex, and Gladwell highlights just how hard it is to understand one another. Two people in the same conversation can often leave with two completely perspectives and stories about how the conversation went. It reminded me to activate empathy and vulnerability first before I judge how someone showed up or participated in the conversation.
Favorite Quote: “We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy. If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy.”
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Riley Blanks | Wellness Editor
Why I Recommend It: Simply enthralling—this book will continue to sit with me for years to come. It was triggering, assuring, provocative, entertaining and healing all at once. I found myself learning from the three women’s lives depicted while being challenged to sift through my own chapters. Typically uncomfortable topics, particularly around the topic of female sexuality and relationships, were made human and tangible. Taddeo’s use of conversational writing and run-on sentences had my eyes seamlessly moving across the pages. This one resonated on a whole other level.
Favorite Quote: “Many people, men, and women alike, who otherwise accepted Maggie’s truth, said to me, Well, she wanted it. She asked for it. But to me, Maggie Wilken did not ask for it. She accepted it, the way any child accepts any decoration, any gift. Women have agency, but children do not. Maggie’s desire for love, for someone to tell her she was a valuable being in the world, was attacked, in the end, for its impudence.”
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Michelle Nash | Senior Producer
Why I Recommend It: I love a good twist, and this was one of the most unpredictable books I’ve ever read. It’s a gripping psychological thriller that you won’t be able to put down. You follow the story of a therapist who’s pursuing a patient that has been deemed “untreatable” and uncover some secrets along the way, along with some interesting revelations about human nature and mental health.
Favorite Quote: “Somehow grasping at vanishing snowflakes is like grasping at happiness: an act of possession that instantly gives way to nothing. It reminded me that there was a world outside this house: a world of vastness and unimaginable beauty; a world that for now, remained out of my reach. That memory had repeatedly returned to me over the years. It’s as if the misery that surrounded that brief moment of freedom made it burn even brighter: a tiny light surrounded by darkness.”
There There by Tommy orange
Lauren Zielinski MSN CNM | Contributing Editor
Why I Recommend It: This book is about life from the perspective of a variety of Native Americans in the US. A collection of short stories in their perspective, highs, lows, struggles, normal day to day as a native person. I read it to have a better understanding of the native perspective now that I live in New Mexico.
Favorite Quote: “If you were fortunate enough to be born into a family whose ancestors directly benefited from genocide and/or slavery, maybe you think the more you don’t know, the more innocent you can stay, which is a good incentive to not find out, to not look too deep, to walk carefully around the sleeping tiger. Look no further than your last name. Follow it back and you might find your line paved with gold, or beset with traps.”
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
Lauren Zielinski MSN CNM | Contributing Editor
Why I Recommend It: This book is an amazing insight into the real lives and reality of some of the most impoverished citizens in the US in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Based on fieldwork collected by the author details the reality of rent, landlords, and eviction when you’re living on $20 a month. Racism. Economic exploitation and how insanely prevalent evictions are in current times are all explored.
It’s all portrayed through the eyes of real people living the heartbreakingly painful life of a renter who is evicted, sometimes one month after the next. I read this book to deepen my understanding of poverty, eviction, and economic exploitation, this helps me better understand life from the perspective of a lot of my patients here in NM.
Favorite Quote: “If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor Black men were locked up. Poor Black women were locked out.”
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Lauren Zielinski MSN CNM | Contributing Editor
Why I Recommend It: The book is about many sensitive and huge issues currently occupying the mind and national attention of the US and abroad. I read it to deepen my understanding of race, the Black perspective in America, and racism.
Favorite Quote: “If you live in this system of white supremacy, you are either fighting the system or you are complicit. There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice, it is not something you can just opt out of.”
You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy
Camille Styles | Editor-in-Chief
Why I Recommend It: Since “become a better listener” shows up on my New Year’s resolutions list year after year, I couldn’t wait to read this book when it hit shelves in January and it did not disappoint. Since it feels like our society is incredibly noisy right now, this wonderful book about the power of listening is more important than ever and shows how when we neglect this practice, we end up lonelier and less tolerant. Through her stories, Murphy gleans lessons from the best listeners out there to show us how we can sharpen our own skills.
Favorite Quote/s: “Listening is about the experience of being experienced. It’s when someone takes an interest in who you are and what you are doing.”
“When you leave a conversation, ask yourself, “What did I just learn about that person? What was most concerning to that person today? How did that person feel about what we were talking about?”
Know My Name, A Memoir by Chanel Miller
Anne Campbell | Contributor
Why I Recommend It: I devoured Chanel Miller’s Know My Name at the beginning of the pandemic when emotions were raw and exposed, and mass anxiety was running rampant. So, was it the best choice for my just-before lights out reading? Possibly not, but even still, Miller’s memoir was the best read I had all year. In it, Miller’s beautiful writing is harshly juxtaposed against her depiction of loneliness as a sexual assault victim in the infamous People vs. Brock Turner case on the Stanford University campus. She displays how being the center of a very public case, while also losing her identity throughout the process (Miller was referred to as ‘Jane Doe’ during the court proceedings and her real name was never disclosed), can lead to extreme isolation and despair. Miller’s fight to find herself is an inspiration and, despite it all, is a very uplifting and powerful read.
Favorite Quote/s: “And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you.”
“This book does not have a happy ending. The happy part is there is no ending, because I’ll always find a way to keep going.”
“But living is an incredible thing, just to have been here, to have felt, if only briefly, the volume and depth of others’ empathy. I wrote, most of all, to tell you I have seen how good the world can be.”
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Bridget Chambers | Intern
Why I Recommend It: In the craziness of this year, I found myself reading to escape reality. Like all of Kristin Hannah’s books, Firefly Lane sucked me into an entirely different world, making me feel like the characters were my friends and their stories were my own. The novel follows the lives of best friends Tully and Kate as they navigate high school heartbreaks, complicated mothers, all-encompassing romances, and devastating losses.
It’s an honest illustration of how the people closest to you know exactly how to build you up and exactly how to tear you down. I found myself laughing, crying, and dying to be a part of their holiday cocktail hours where the women ignore their duties in the kitchen to just sit and catch up for 60 blissful minutes. Firefly Lane is both heartwarming and heartbreaking and coming to Netflix as a new Drama series in February, so get reading!
Favorite Quote/s: “That was the thing about best friends. Like sisters and mothers, they could piss you off and make you cry and break your heart, but in the end, when the chips were down, they were there, making you laugh even in your darkest hours.”
“She knew this pain would fade again; like a sunburn, it would heal itself and leave her slightly more protected from the glare.”
Brave Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani
Brandy Joy Smith | Motherhood Contributor
Why I Recommend It: I recently had a baby girl. This has had me thinking about all of the narratives around being a woman that I want to drown out for my daughter. Brave Not Perfect tackles one of my personal struggles, how the quest for perfection limits our ability to be brave and how that hinders us in our life from our relationships, careers to our dreams and goals in general.
I appreciate this book because it helps you identify these “baked in” narratives and gives you practical skills to challenge them. It inspired some journaling and personal reflection for me. I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t had a ton of time to read this year with a new baby, and this book gets the point across quickly and concisely!
Favorite Quote: “It takes bravery to give yourself a break and refuse to let guilt dictate your daily life and to model self-compassion for your kids by letting them see it’s okay to screw up”
Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul by Melody Beattie
Sacha Strebe | Deputy Editor
Why I Recommend It: I discovered this book through Nikki DeRoest’s Instagram. She often posts passages from its inspiring pages on her stories so I ordered it online—and I’m so glad I did. This book is different in that it isn’t something you can sit down and read all at once. In fact, it will take you an entire year because you can only read one of her daily aphorisms, or as she calls them, meditations, a day.
This book is brimming with beauty and gentle reminders to live in gratitude, seek out love, trust the process, and overcome. After surviving abandonment, kidnapping, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, divorce, and the death of a child, Beattie took to the road across the Western parts of the U.S. and wrote this book. I look forward to reading a new entry every day to connect with myself and my true purpose and begin each day with a positive intention.
Favorite Quote: “Life is more than setbacks, and it’s not static. Appreciate and respect where you are now. But let yourself move to the next level when it’s time. Celebrate your breakthroughs when they come. Listen to that quiet voice, that fleeting thought that says, Why don’t you…?, even if it’s something you’ve never done before.”
What was your favorite book of 2020? Share it with us below!