Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How did I do on 20 in 2020

This is the best I've ever done on one of these lists!  For 19 in 2019 I got a 72% and a whopping 25% on 18 in 2018 (to be clear, that year we also adopted a surprise baby which pretty much negated that whole list).  This year (drum roll please)...I got a 85.75% which is a pretty solid grade.  The quarterly check-ins really help me stay motivated as well as keeping a manageable list (my 18 in 2018 list was WAY over reaching, even without a new baby).  It feels good to get projects crossed off, no matter how small, and too see all the things we got done in a year, especially a year like 2020.  

We also tackled two long overdue projects: I painted inside our final kitchen cabinet (I never put it on one of these lists because I didn't actually want to have to do it!) AND dealt with our compost that was long overdue needing to be dealt with!  And we repainted the whole (outside) back of our house (when we were supposed to be on vacation) AND did some other outside painting projects.  Feels like a pretty productive year, which is good since we were home more than ever!

Original 20 in 2020 List

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Home related
1) Figure out over the dining table (100%)
DONE.  Last update the light had been delivered but not the light bulbs but in October we got the light bulbs and Matt got it hung.  Turns out...15 light bulbs are VERY bright.  So we got a dimmer switch.  SO GLAD we finally got this done!  (And an in-progress picture of a #20!)

2) Replace end table (5%)
This is lingering at 5% because we agreed on a design but it hasn't been built yet.  How many lists should I put this on before I finally get it done?

3) Replace night stands (100%)
DONE.  SO HAPPY with these!

4) Replace nightstand lamps (100%)
DONE!  Well, we bought zero but we have a situation we are happy with so this is done.  I kept my blue shaded light that we registered and got for our wedding.  Matt has a lamp that he "gave" me (we picked out together) for the Valentine's Day right after we closed on our house 15 years ago.  It's bounced around between my office and the boys' bedroom (where it hadn't been plugged in in over a year) and now it's on Matt's nightstand.  He has a green lamp shade and we both like the zero cost solution to his many years broken lamp!

5) Replace bedframe (100%)
DONE!  Thus, bringing to an end our multi-year project of redoing our room (I painted it almost a year before we got Sam...).  We still "need" some art in one corner but I am in no hurry. 

6) Put in raised garden beds (100%)
This was originally "put in sandbox for the boys" that I changed to "put in raised garden beds" because we spent a lot of time on that project and it was all part of a big dirt moving project that should end with the sandbox.  The beds are done and will just need some dirt topping off in the spring but were mostly filled with our old compost bin WHICH also knocks off an item from 19 in 2019, I feel like I should get extra credit for that!

7) Add lights to the backyard (100%)
DONE and one of the best projects we did this year.  Not a lot of work beyond the shopping and brought a lot of joy to our 2020!

8) Organize Luke's Legos (100%)
DONE although keeping them cleaned up to Diana standard is another project BUT we have a system and they are (mostly) all off the ground!

Nagging Tasks
9) Clean converse sneakers (100%)
DONE.  Did this in the spring, probably need to redo at least once every year.  Especially because I've worn them more in 2020 than any other year.

10) Figure out how to use Fitbit (100%)
Well, I did this and wore it for a few months before the dying battery made it too frustrating to deal with.  It did help me get in more steps in our first lockdown which was very appreciated and made it worth it.  

11) Renew passports (100%)
DONE and we got the new ones right before Christmas!  We had been putting this off for years and were finally motivated before Matt's was 5 years expired this spring and it would cost more to renew.  We have no plans to travel internationally anytime soon (even without a pandemic) but feels good to have them current.

12) Shorten our blind (100%)
DONE, this was an easy one to check off in the spring!  Part of helping our room feel more finished!

13) Use face things (50%)
My skin issues were a huge source of frustration this year, dealing with the allergy check and then my psoriasis diagnosis.  My face has taken the worst of it and I just never seemed to have it all balanced enough to try another new thing.  Eventually, if I can get the psoriasis under control.

14) Meet our neighbors (50%)
Well, we've officially met one of them.  To be fair, we lived next door to our other neighbor for ~5 years before we really spoke sooo...I don't feel horrible about this, also, pandemic.

Fun(ish)
15) Replace my standard cross-body bag (100%)
DONE.  Matt got me one for Easter that I use constantly now!

16) Go on 6 dates (100%)
DONE.  Maybe one of the items on here I am most proud of (and there are many I am proud of).  The most dates we've had in a single year since becoming parents AND we did it in a pandemic (A LOT of picking up food eating outside).  We did 4 of our 6 between August and December and it become the (nearly) once a month we could talk without kids interrupting or us being exhausted once they are in bed.  It's been wonderful.

17) order 5 photobooks (100%)
Only ordered 4 but calling it done since the 5th was for the vacation COVID stole.  So all caught up!

18) Start allowance with Luke (100%)
DONE!  We still aren't in a routine of paying him regularly but we do catch up eventually.  Partially because we rarely have the right cash on hand.  I need to stock up on $1s (he gets more than $1 a week but less than $5) at the bank every quarter-ish so we can stay current on this.

19) Travel map (10%)
I, naively, thought I'd get to this in December.  HAH.  Nope.  I do know where it will go though AND I have an idea in my head of what I want so I gave myself a tiny bit of credit.  Still deciding if I want to mark all the places I went with my family before Matt & I were married.  I like it documenting all the places we've been as a family (or a couple, in our pre-kid days) but my parents also took my sisters and I a lot of cool places as kids.  So...I'm open to opinions!

20) Paint star background for Christmas nativity (100%)
DONE!  After thinking about this for YEARS Matt helped me knock it out, mostly in 45 minutes, while we had on some Friends Christmas episodes.  Then I was delighted to add the glitter (and send a picture to my sisters to show all their glitter-adverse husbands).  We even have a place to store it so it can go back up next year!  It was the last Christmas decoration to come down just last week! 

I am finalizing my 21 in 2021 list and that should be up on Thursday!  It's exciting planning things that we'd like to happen this year and then roughly slotting them into the calendar.  These list have really helped us knock some long nagging tasks off the to-do and also just some things I'd personally like to get done.  It's motivating to think of all we can accomplish in a year! 

If you do any sort of 21 in 2021 list, I'd love to see it!  Let's motivate each other!

3rd quarter update

1st quarter update

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Quick Lit - January

Happy first Quick Lit of 2021!  I've said it many times but it is a bit refreshing to dive into a new year of reading, especially mixing in more new to me reads and non-fiction after a pretty hard fiction run in December.  That said, I was also making this list, writing down names of books I reread every December and thinking "Ohhh...I miss those books!"...that I read less than a month ago.  This list leads a bit Christmas heavy and 7 of these are books I've read for many Decembers now (I like what I like!) and therefore have written about many times.  December is a busy month, even in a pandemic (it takes a lot of time to wrap gifts and decorate the house and bake all the cookies) so it's nice to spend very little time (next to none) planning my reading!  At least, that's my story!

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy, I'm on Goodreads here (that is very updated), and Instagram here (active but not always talking about reading). 

Other book posts this month:


 And now everything else!

Winter Street, Winter Stroll, Winter Storms, Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand
Among my very favorite books to read in December, I've read the first in the series for seven Decembers straight now!  All about the Quinn family who run an Inn on Nantucket and their various romantic entanglements, largely set in December but the later books spread to more of the year.  These are so cozy and are such a part of my December reading rhythm now.  I wrote a post about the series here!  4.5 Stars

The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught up in the Story of Jesus by Daniel Darling
This was a new read for December, in the midst of all the books I reread every year.  It took some of the background characters, and some not background (Mary got a chapter), and explained more about their Biblical impact and the history around parts.  It was mostly interesting although not everything seemed to line up with my Catholic beliefs.  It was a helpful way to focus my December energy towards Jesus though!  3.5 Stars

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp
My annual "advent" (really, December 1st - 25th) devotional read, using the Jesse tree to meditate on Jesus' story.  I like this enough that I've read it many Decembers in a row now!  4 Stars

HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes
This was a book that I strongly suggested Matt give me for Christmas (he did).  I read it that lovely week between Christmas and New Years and loved it so much that it made my Favorite Reads of 2020 List.  Deep dives the fashion of Queen Elizabeth; Diana, Princess of Wales; Kate, Duchess of Cambridge; and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.  SO INTERESTING the possibly meaning behind much of what they wear.  We all wear clothes, might as well make it meaningful when you are in a position like theirs!  4.5 Stars

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
I have never been able to narrow down my favorite 3-5 books but I do know this one would be on that list.  I've read it around New Years for many years now and even though I know all the plot points I still really enjoy it.  Set in the 1930s, about Lily and her romantic entanglements (I read a lot of books about romantic entanglements).  I love the hopeful tone and the time period, right before the war.  Lily's loyalty and naivety.  I will keep reading it every year for the foreseeable future!  4.75 Stars

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl
For some reason, I blame the 1994 movie mostly, Little Women is a "Christmas" story/movie in my mind so reading this reimagining of it shortly after Christmas felt right.  However, the story felt a bit less right.  It's a Jo & Laurie set story that felt rather meta since in this book, Jo in between writing her two books, just like Little Women was originally written as two separate books.  I just couldn't really get into it, as much as younger me though Jo & Laurie made more sense than how either of them ended up.  3.25 Stars

Adventures in Opting Out: A Field Guide to Leading an Intentional Life by Cait Flanders
I don't do many audiobooks but I did her first one like that, often listening during my 3am feedings of baby Sam (I DO NOT MISS THOSE).  (And we always brought Sam downstairs for his middle of the night feedings since we needed the fridge AND the sink, both of which are downstairs.  And didn't want to wake the rest of the house.  Which is why I could listen to audiobooks.)  This one was a paper read and I appreciated the message to step outside my comfort zone but I'm not sure all the analogies to a hike worked (maybe I just haven't done difficult enough hikes?  Although I have done one she specifically mentioned).  Didn't get out of it quite what I expected but that doesn't mean it's not right for someone else!  3 Stars

A Front Page Affair by Radha Vatsal
I picked out this book from a list published on Modern Mrs. Darcy.  This list also had the Molly Murphy series that I read last year (maybe a post coming on that) and another historical fiction mystery series I plan to pick up next.  This "series" is only two books with the last one published in 2017 so I don't feel like there are more coming.  It starts around 1916, just a few years after Molly Murphy left off so I had some familiarity with that time in NYC (says the person who was born many, many decades later).  The writing wasn't as strong but the mystery did pull me in a bit and I didn't get it all figured out before the characters (I might just also be really bad at figuring out mysteries).  It was fun and I do plan to read the second soon.  But I'd recommend Molly Murphy first.

Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade by Adam Minter
I'm not sure what made me add this to my TBR but I am glad I did.  It's all about the scrap business, largely scrap metal but also paper and electronics, and what happens to all those items Americans put in their recycle bins.  I said on Goodreads that I rounded up my star rating just for making it all interesting and readable.  I kept summarizing parts to Matt and was astounded by what I learned (there are reasons China gets most of our reusable/recyclable waste that isn't used in the US).  The scrap metal yard where Matt takes our scrap metal even got a few mentioned!  I had no idea it showed up.  A worthwhile read if you are interested in the topic but it was dense and took a bit to get through (under 300 pages though). 3.75 Stars

Majesty by Katharine McGee
This is an alt world story on if George Washington had been made king instead of president and then his descents continued the royal family tradition.  In this book, Beatrice, is a newly crowned (although not yet actually crowned), young (early-mid 20s?) Queen, the first reigning Queen of America.  She has various romantic entanglements (the young man she SHOULD marry, the one she WANTS to marry), as well as a complicated relationship with her sister and the whole business of reigning.  It was fun and light and nice to counteract all the heaviness around us right now.  3.5 Stars

Read with Luke
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
I first read this to Luke during December 2019 and we both enjoyed the experience so we repeated it in 2020!  It's very short (under 100 pages) but I almost tear up every time.  It's so sweet and he's gotten more into it since he has a familiarity with the Herdmans since we've read (and reread) all the books in the series. 4.5 Stars

How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T. Smith
This was a new to us Christmas story told in 24½ chapters (although the ½ chapter was longer than some of the actual "chapters" that we managed to read nearly every day in December (a few we missed but the chapters were so short it was easy to make up the missed days).  A Christmas story about a mouse who is trying to deliver a kid's Christmas letter by Christmas Eve...even though he starts on the evening of Christmas Eve.  It was fun!  I ended up buying it since the copy I purchase requested for the library was immediately put on hold by someone else.  Yes, I was a little grouchy about that.  3.5 Stars

Betsy's Busy Summer by Carolyn Haywood
I received this book as a gift from my godparents when I was around 7-8 and I read it many times as a kid.  I remembered this one more than Betsy's Little Star that I got for the same birthday and read to Luke in the fall.  Takes place in the 1940s or 1950s and, in my opinion (although it might just be my familiarity with it), has the best stories of any of the Betsy books.  Super charming, even as a January read about summer. 4 Stars

What have YOU been reading?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

2021: Small

There are the people who repeatedly declare this time of year that January 1st is just an arbitrary date and that the new year means nothing (but I have heard less of that this year, maybe we were all at least somewhat glad to see 2020 gone?).  

I am not one of those people.

I feel a fresh burst of energy at the start of the year, inspired to get rid of half our belongings (this never happens), make the perfect routines (ditto), and accomplish every single house project on the pending list (um...never).

Regardless of my best intentions never succeeding all the way through December, I LOVE the fresh start energy at the start of a new year.  LOVE. IT.  This is just helped by the simplifying of packing away Christmas and going back to our normal decor.  (Although, this year, I am having a hard time packing it all away!  I was really happy about my Christmas decor this year and I'm trying to figure out what I liked about it so much so I can replicate it in normal life.  This will NOT include a giant dead tree inside year round.)

My "word of the year" is really more of a "word for the 1st quarter" before I get distracted by flowers growing and being social more (pending COVID and last year was an exception to almost everything) or at least spending a lot more time outside.  The first quarter really is an ideal time for me to buckle down and work on some things around the house since it's generally too cold for much outside things and I'm in the middle of Christmas prep for much of November and all December. 

I'm proud to say, after much thinking, that I was able to come up with my word of the year for 2020 WITHOUT checking the blog.  I'm very proud of that.  It was Early and I think we did that to some effects (certainly not for school drop-offs and pick-ups by December.  Luke had one tardy on his 1st quarter report card, his first, and it really could have been at least a dozen possible days, depending how fast he walked to his classroom.)  BUT back in the spring we tried to be early with his online school (to varying success) although we did finish ~4 days before the official end of the school year so that was something! 

My early was also helped by Matt's new work schedule in March and since I started getting up with him very early, I had time to do a full workout most days before showering and getting the boys up.  I very rarely did this with his old work hours so getting that 30 minutes of me time in the morning, since I was getting up early, was very satisfying.  (Last year I said, and I quote: "Really, school runs can be blamed for a lot of the rushing but school isn't going anywhere"....OH JANUARY DIANA.  How little did you know.)

I've really been thinking, between the multitude of other things I do in a given day, about what I want to focus on in 2021, when, hopefully, we'll be back to "normal" by the end of the year (Matt got his second vaccine shot yesterday!).  2020 had a lot of hard stuff but it wasn't nearly all bad for our little family.  There are parts of this weird life that I do want to carry on with us.

So my word for 2021 is "SMALL".  I spent a lot of time in 2020 focusing inward, on what we could do to improve life for the 4 of us in our house.  What little nagging points we could eliminate and also house improvements we could make.   But also focusing inward, trying to make sense of all the differing opinions on COVID and race in America and our extremely messy political situation.  Trying to listen and figure out what I believe.  But I didn't want to make inward my word because that sound rather selfish and it didn't fully convey what I hope to continue to work on in 2021.

One thing about 2020 that we want to continue is prioritizing supporting small, especially local, businesses.  All of our dates in 2020 involved a local restaurant (luckily we packed in many during the warmer months so we could do a lot of eating outside!) and we're trying to stop relying on big box stores.  OF COURSE I'll still be shopping at Target since we buy nearly all of our toiletries and house cleaning things there (are there local stores that sell those???) but we're really trying to do more shopping small, as budget and other constraints allow.  Especially with restaurants, we don't do much fast food besides Luke's monthly Book-It so it's pretty easy to buy from local places instead. 

I also want to continue to make small but meaningful improvement around our house.  Packing away Christmas helps me look at our house with new eyes and see things we can improve, often for little time or expense.  And I ALWAYS want our number of possessions to be smaller (Christmas decor aside, maybe books too...) and Matt even suggested a joint closet clean-out last week (not that it's a competition...but I got rid of one more thing than he did).  

Small also means finding small way to make a change with the MANY issues facing our country right now.  I don't know what all of those are yet or how they will happen.  There are a lot of troubling things happening and it's very confusing to try to make sense of it much less know what to do to help anything.  But I want to find SOMETHING to do, even if it's small things.  I'll be on the lookout for those.

I have also picking back up a Bible reading habit, with the small intention of reading at least one verse a day.  I am going to be happy with small progress on good habits!  Small is better than none!  Or good intentions for big changes that then go by the wayside pretty quickly! 

So 2021, the year of making small but lasting changes.  Who knows what crazy this year will bring, hopefully more normal than a new kind of crazy but who really knows anymore.  I am hopefully and optimistic and ready to see what is coming. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Most Popular Posts of 2020

It's always very interesting to me to see which posts really resonate in a year.  And in 2020, it was a lot of Mixed Drink Monday with a many years old cleaning post being, by far, my highest seen blog post ever.  I guess that is what 2020 needed, cleaning and alcohol.  

I did remove my Quick Lits from the list since I link those up and a list filled with those isn't the most exciting (although, July was the most read, if you are curious).  FOUR of the posts below were on last year's list too, which I find surprising.  And ONE of them has been in my top 10 posts for 3 years in a row now (which is as long as I've been doing these).  And not necessarily the one I would have picked to have the most staying power!  Only two of these were actually published in 2020 which...I'm going to have to reflect on THAT a bit.

Without more of my rambling...here we go!

#10 A Big Cloth Diapering Post (Pub. June 2013)
This was the first cloth diapering post I wrote, when we were about a month into cloth diapering baby Luke.  We were much more serious about cloth diapering him and did have to change up our routine a bit but he was mostly cloth diapered until he was potty trained.  This is all about how we did it!  Sam was still in cloth most of the time but we never did cloth with him overnight (we were tired) and not long for naps (because I didn't want to have to change him before running to school pick-up) but still largely how we cloth diapered Sam!  I've spent nearly 5 of the almost 8 years we've been parents doing cloth diapers!

#9 Mixed Drink Monday: Sweet Tea Margaritas (Pub. May 2019)
This is one that was also a top 10 post in 2019.  And for good reason, they WERE good and I think the picture came out nicely which is a big influence for how it does on Pinterest (although there were plenty more that I think also had good pictures that haven't done as well on Pinterest).  Maybe we all just needed margaritas last year?

#8 Favorite {Grown-Up} Reads of 2019 (Pub. January 2020)
One of my favorite to write so I like seeing that it's a well-read one too!  Really, my blog is mostly about reading and alcohol.  Whatever that says about me!


#7 Mixed Drink Monday: Pineapple Wine Punch (Pub. June 2020)
This may have been the weekend I forgot to take our DSLR to the lake and had to do all my drink pictures with my phone.  It DEFINITELY was a time I got MULTIPLE different drinks out of one bottle of wine.  I have a strange and rarely needed talent to really maximize my drink making with one ingredient like that!

#6 Lemur Cupcakes (Pub. April 2017)
This is the one that is on this list for the 3rd year in a row.  I NEED to connect with all these other mamas of lemur lovers because we have SOMETHING in common.  I honestly don't think I ever thought about a lemur ever in my life until Luke was gifted his beloved stuffed one at a baseball game when he was 17 months old.  Now I think about lemurs daily, mainly reminding the boys to get them off my floor.  Also, I've spent countless hours in front of their cage at the zoo. 

#5 Mixed Drink Monday: The Fizzy Flamingo (Pub. June 2018)
We're going on a bit of a streak with a theme here!  This is another one that was on the list last year too.  Honestly, it's far from the best drink I've made for this on-going project.  I was solely drawn to the name, and that the ingredient list wasn't too far out there.  But I'll take the blog traffic!

#4 Mixed Drink Monday: Cran-Apple Sangria (Pub. December 2019)
This one really is just from December traffic so I am glad that it was pinned to reference again a year later!  It also helped remind ME to make these (I was lost in wrapping 20 picture frames AND HAPPY ABOUT IT).  Although, I couldn't, with multiple stops at multiple stores over multiple weeks, find fresh cranberries for the life of me so this became a Rasp-Apple Sangria for us this year.  Not quite as festive but still delicious (we just finished it on New Year's Eve!)

#3 Mixed Drink Monday: Blackberry Long Island Iced Tea (Pub. July 2018)
See, THEME.  Also, another one that was on the list last year too.  Look at that pretty red color!  Did this drink have limes???  I've made a lot of drinks and they can all blend together easily (not literally, I don't think you'd actually want to blend them all together).  I DO remember liking this one, more than a straight Long Island which was SUPER strong as I made it so I'm pretty sure I made this less strong, alcohol wise.  Which is probably why I liked it.

#2 {17} Books for a Fresh Start to a New Year (Pub. January 2019)
Don't we all especially need a fresh start this year?  I LOVE the fresh start feeling at the start of every year and this year is no different.  I definitely dive into reading more non-fiction after all fiction (besides some Advent devotionals) in December.  It's a nice brain reset as we get back to real life!  There's some (17!) books I really enjoyed on this list!

#1 Stripping: Laundry Style (Pub. April 2017)
This post accounts for almost 10% of the blog traffic I've had over the life of this blog.  It is BY FAR my most popular post ever (it has more than 4x's the hits as #2 on my all-time list).  It multiplied by Amazon affiliate revenue by 6-7xs, thanks to the affiliate links in there.  And, hopefully, helped a lot of people super clean their laundry!  I haven't done this again yet, even though the 4 year old post I said I was going to do it again the next year.  OOPS.  (To be fair, a year later we had a newborn Sam and were about to embark on a trip to NYC with our parents and an 11 week old.  And Sam's punitive father hadn't cleared.  Nobody was sleeping enough.  I HAD OTHER THINGS ON MY MIND.).  I'm glad a lot of people did this during quarantine (it was the most popular from April - June) and maybe I'll finally get back to it myself!  Also, I still have that striped shirt and Luke still has the robot blanket on his bed (even though he's too tall for it now).

Those were my most read posts in 2020!  Maybe for 2021's list I can get a few more recent ones on there!

My 10 Most Popular Posts of 2019
My 10 Most Popular Posts of 2018

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Favorite {Grown-Up} Reads of 2020

This is one of my favorite posts to write each year!  After reading, managing my reading life is one of my biggest personal hobbies.  And writing about my reading life.  And analyzing my reading life.  And managing the picture books I am going to read to my kids.  I might spend more time managing books and finding books to read and all of that than some people spend reading in a year...

I finished 175 books this year, the third year in a row that has been my number (helped by all the chapter books I read to Luke.  Don't even try to tell me those don't count!).  Of those...

  • 35 were rereads (20%)
  • 18 were books I read to Luke (some of which were also rereads) (10%)
  • 50 were books I/we own  (29%)
  • 14 were books I bought before reading them (5 of those were digital with Amazon credits because that's the only way I could get them, a few more of those were due to desperation/wanting to support indie bookstores while the library was closed, and a few were heavily suggested gifts Matt gave me). (8%)
  • 3 more books I bought later on in the year after enjoying them so much (2%)
  • 38 were non-fiction (22%)

And we checked out 1,378 library books/movies this year between all 4 of our cards (145 on mine, 1,233 picture/easy readers, etc. for the boys).

Of the 50 books I've featured as my top 10 for the past 5 years, I now own 25 of them, 9 alone from the 2017 list!  Only 2 of 2019's!  I find this to be an interesting (to me) measure of what has stuck with me over the years.  (I already own 5 of the 10 listed below.)  Usually if I like a book enough I want to own a copy.

I always remove rereads when doing this list since I liked them enough to read them again in the first place!  And may have already listed them before!  Not all of these were published in 2020, although most were.  These maybe weren't the best books written but they are all ones I really enjoyed (/appreciated in a few cases). 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, links for which are included within this post, at no additional cost to you.  Thanks for helping support this blog!   Of course, utilize the library or shop used or from an independent bookstore!  

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland
When I was starting to brainstorm for this list, before going through my Goodreads, this is one of the books that immediately came to mind.  I loved this story of a Jewish family on the East Coast in the 1930s.  The family is close knit but still has their secrets and problems.  It very much reminded me in tone of one of my all-time favorites, A Hundred Summers which I reread every year.  It was exactly what I was hoping this book would be; a rare time expectations match reality.  I wrote a whole post about it here!  (This is one I have since bought my own copy of.)
 
Beach Read by Emily Henry
This is a romance book about two college rivals who end up living next door to each other for a summer, on the coast of Lake Michigan (I refuse to believe that anyone is lying on the beach reading books next to Lake Michigan.  We've been there in the summer and it's always been cold.  I think there is one or two weeks a summer that it's actually comfortable to get in the water).  He writes serious literary fiction.  She writes romance.  They both have writers block.  They (for some reason) decide to switch genres and they each will spend the summer writing a book that the other would normally write.  They work through some personal issues along the way.  I bought this one sight unread and was so glad I did.  
 
The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History by Andy Greene
I initially bought this book to support an indie bookstore back in the spring but then I was really glad I purchased it and wasn't just waiting for the library to reopen before I could get it.  The Office is one of my all-time favorite shows; Matt introduced me to it the summer after we got married, between season 2 and 3 airing on tv.  I loved the people involved telling the story behind it, how it came to be, certain characters' arcs.  It was such a fun read and made me want to watch the whole show again (even as I slowly work through it with The Office Ladies podcast, even though I'm pretty behind them).  I gave it a whole post in the spring and my thoughts are all pretty much still the same!
 
I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
This is one I put on library hold mid-summer and think I read on my phone since my library didn't have a paper copy of it (or maybe the digital line was just shorter).  It was a quick read but left a lasting impression on how life can be different for black people than white people in America.  I appreciated that she approached it from a faith-based lens since that's where I am as well.  Deeply moving and hard to read at points but I am glad I did.
 
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
One of the authors who I've read every work by.  I always eagerly anticipate her new books and while I've enjoyed nearly all of them, I don't always remember much of the plot.  However, this one I loved AND remember!  A "same time next year" plot where two singles have a lovely (read into that what you will) Labor Day weekend together by accident, on Nantucket, naturally.  Then they keep it up every Labor Day weekend until of of them is sick and her son doesn't understand why his dying Mom wants him to call the man who is married to the woman who is about to become president.  Ok, so maybe it doesn't sound the best but I loved it.  She did recaps of what we were all talking about for each year and some of those were off a bit, in my opinion, but it was a fun and enjoyable read.  This is another one I have bought since.  
 
The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar
I remembered liking this book but couldn't remember many plot details but then saw I did read it in January 2020 and then read nearly another 170 books...so I think I can be excused forgetting the details.  What initially drew me to this book was seeing that the protagonist was a female pilot in the 1940s, but I was REALLY drawn in when I saw the story started at Pearl Harbor in the fall of 1941.  I love Pearl Harbor the movie quite a bit (it's easily in my top 10) so I was all in on a book about a woman pilot there.  Even though women pilots were not allowed to fly in combat over seas, they could still help the war effort by moving planes around the states and other help in the US. There are many books about World War II (two just on this list) but I liked the female friendships in this one, how they stuck together and helped each other through the exhaustive training and their war efforts.  It got it's own post back here!

HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes This is the second year in a row that a book I've read the week between Christmas and New Years makes my top 10 list!  This is why I can't write this earlier in the month!  I've been following Elizabeth Holmes for a year-ish and love her fashion takes on Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) and Meghan (Duchess of Sussex).  Matt (after some strong suggestions) got me the book for Christmas and I devoured it over a few days.  It covers Queen Elizabeth; Diana, Princess of Wales; Kate; and Meghan and their different styles and how they dressed for the job (and after it, in Diana's and Meghan's cases).  A lot goes into their looks and I appreciated more insight on that and how fashion can be more important than just clothes.  The British Royals are the only celebrities I really follow and I loved this deep dive into their styles.  
 
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff
This would definitely fall more under the "I appreciated it" umbrella rather than "I loved this!" because it has a very difficult subject - real people telling their real stories of 9/11.  I read this book 3+ months ago and have still had my library copy sitting next to my desk, waiting for the time to write a whole post about it.  I usually try to write those right away, before the details fade, but in this case, it has stuck with me.  I was a new college student on 9/11, I was not even within a couple hundred miles of any of the sights hit that day.  It was incredibly interesting and heartbreaking to read the stories of people who were on the ground and in the air and who experienced real terror on that day.  Highly recommend to all who can handle hard things (it's not very gruesome, just heartbreaking and sad), especially Americans.  So many people did amazing things on 9/11 and their stories deserve to be told and heard. 
 
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
There are countless World War II novels and I've read a decent share of them.  A lot of them can blend together but I actually remember this one months later which is noteworthy!  I gave it it's own post back in August even.  It features women getting things done, working under pressure, and saving Jewish kids from the Germans.  Also, wartime romance and an elderly woman being very excited to see a book featured on tv in 2005.  It completely drew me in and captivated me. Loved it. 
 
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
This was a fun rom-com featuring two former Olympic level gymnasts, only one of whom got to actually go to the Olympics, which means failed dreams for one of them.  He is coaching an Olympic hopeful for the 2020 games that didn't happen, she is coming in to consult.  MAYBE sparks fly.  I took gymnastic classes as a kid (never got beyond a round-off) and gymnastics is about my favorite summer games sport so this was just a delight to read.  I, obviously, since it's on this list, enjoyed it.  

Those were MY favorite reads of 2020, I'd love to hear some of yours!

Favorite {Grown-Up} Reads of 2019
Favorite {Grown-Up} Reads of 2018

Favorite {Grown-Up} Reads of 2017
Favorite {Grown-Up} Reads of 2016
Favorite {Grown-Up} Reads of 2015