I’m in the process of selecting the books I want to read in 2021 as part of my “syllabus” and I’ll be sharing those soon. But in the meantime I thought I would share my favorite books of 2020. I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked but I think we should all cut ourselves some slack where 2020 is concerned. I did read 26 books so I suppose that’s not too bad. My son, however, put me to shame by reading 113 books and graphic novels.
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Favorite Books of 2020
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
This is a charming story of a quiet and unassuming man who steps outside his comfort zone and learns a lot about himself in the process. Arthur Pepper stole my heart.
Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.
But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met—a journey that leads him to find hope and healing in the most unexpected places.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
I consider myself a relatively accomplished home cook but I learned a lot from this book. I listened to the audio version but I will be purchasing a copy to keep on hand for reference. Highly recommended!
In the tradition of The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything comes Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, an ambitious new approach to cooking by a major new culinary voice. Chef and writer Samin Nosrat has taught everyone from professional chefs to middle school kids to author Michael Pollan to cook using her revolutionary, yet simple, philosophy. Master the use of just four elements—Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food—and anything you cook will be delicious. By explaining the hows and whys of good cooking, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will teach and inspire a new generation of cooks how to confidently make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients, anywhere, at any time.
The Dutch House: A Novel by Ann Patchett
If your preference lies with fast-paced, action oriented stories, this one probably won’t do it for you. But if character-driven family sagas suit you, The Dutch House is worth the read. It felt perfectly paced for life during a pandemic.
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.
A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles
I simply cannot imagine a better book to read during quarantine. While our state never fully locked down, I have chosen to remain home since March due to personal health risks. I’m sure that sounds horrible to many – and I do miss restaurants, travel and a handful of people – but I have found plenty to occupy my time and mind. Count Rostov is a fine example of one who not only adjusts to changed circumstances but does so with grace, poise and dignity.
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
What were your favorite books of 2020? I’d love to know.
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