Although I didn’t read nearly as much as I have in the past, these are the books I read in 2020. Here is my 2020 book list.
I do love reading. When quarantine started in March I honestly thought that I would have a ton of time to devote towards reading. Unfortunately, that is not how this all turned out. I spent a great deal of time engaging with my children and bonding as a family. Of course, I absolutely don’t regret that at all!
This year was also spent homeschooling. This was the first year where I taught both boys. My youngest is in kindergarten and I also taught my two-year-old in tot school which is actually just purposeful playing but it requires me to be present because I teach as we play. ( You can see my Kindergarten reading list here.) After a few bumpy months, we found our groove. We’ve gone a little slower than anticipated, but that’s okay. In my spare time, I spent lots of time working on my Etsy shop which had great success this holiday season. With all that happened, I admit, my reading fell by the wayside once November came. I still have some unfinished books as well as books I meant to read this year.
In this list, I am only going to mention the books I actually read. There are several books I started and did not complete. I will include those in a separate post for the books I intend to read for 2021. Let’s get started. Here is my 2020 book list.
Washington’s Spies: America’s First Spy Ring
Washington’s Spies was by far, my favorite book I read this year. Alexander Rose, is a masterful storyteller and he begins his book with an introduction to Nathan Hale and his friendship with Benjamin Tallmadge. Tallmadge, who while serving in the Continental Army, would go on to lead America’s first spy ring for General George Washington, the Culper Spy Ring.
In the book, we learn of the heroic contributions of those who would become our first spymasters within the ring. The ring itself was a hodgepodge of talent and disciplines – Benjamin Tallmadge, a cavalry soldier, Abraham Woodhull a cabbage farmer, Anna Strong (America’s first female spy), Robert Townsend a Quaker torn between politics and family, Caleb Brewster a blacksmith, and Austin Roe, a tavern owner among others. Their shadowy missions, which primarily take place throughout Setauket, Long Island, and other parts of New York, combine the use of double agents, double-crossing, dead drops, disappearing ink, codes, and ciphers, and signals on laundry lines. The book painstakingly recreates the precarious missions of the ring which ultimately, also smokes out the infamous turncoat Benedict Arnold.
The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers
After reading Washington’s Spies, I was eager to read more on some of its major players, one of which is Robert Rogers. Rogers was a frontiersman who served in both the French and Indian War as well as the American Revolution with the Queen’s Rangers on behalf of the British. This particular book written by Timothy Todish is actually partially autobiographical. A large portion of this book, The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers, is written from the narrative of Roger’s own journals. Missing historical gaps and additional context are supplemented by Todish which makes for a thorough retelling of Roger’s life and military career.
Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge
Again, after reading Washington’s Spies, I wanted to read further about Benjamin Tallmadge. I absolutely fell in love with this heroic man who contributed so much to the revolutionary war. I found the Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, written by Tallmadge himself. This autobiography covers Tallmadge’s friendship with Nathan Hale along with his emotions over his execution. Tallmadge records his experiences as a cavalryman in the Continental Army as well as his relationship with Washington.
One thing that is lacking in this book is a telling of Tallamadge’s movements as spymaster of the Culper spy ring. This memoir, originally written for his children, is surprisingly tight-lipped about his spy days. This is a little disappointing because most readers gravitate towards this memoir to learn exactly that. He does write about it some, but don’t expect sensational details about his spy tactics. Still, this book is a gem for those of us who love American Revolution history.
You’ll Get Through This
I typically enjoy Max Lucado’s books. After receiving some disturbing news this year, I decided that I wanted a book to aid me through my emotional response. You’ll Get Through This frankly did not give me the substance or comfort I have found in other Lucado books. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, but I felt more connected and comforted by other Lucado books. I think it is a worthwhile book that you will enjoy if you need hope in your current situation.
This book uses the story of Joseph and his betrayal of his brothers and his being sold into slavery. The book continues to teach through Joseph’s struggles, which God uses for His glory and for the good of Joseph. If I am being honest, this book, seemed to regurgitate much of Lucado’s prior works. If you are looking for other good Lucado books, I highly recommend He Chose the Nails, It’s Not About Me, and For the Tough Times. The general message in this book is something that really needs to be impressed upon the modern-day Christian. God may not remove the circumstances but we can be assured that he will use it for our inevitable good.
The Original Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln: As Reflected in His Letters and Speeches
This book, The Original Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, is a compilation of various speeches and personal correspondence. The most apparent quality of Lincoln’s writing is that he was a masterful composer of sympathy and compassion. Some of his most provocative compositions are letters of condolences to grieving families. Here we get a more intimate look at the man who ended slavery as he writes to military subordinates as commander in chief during the Civil War. We also get to discover the more private Lincoln from his correspondence with friends and family.
The Haunting of Hill House
After watching the original Netflix series, Haunting of Hill House I was eager to read the original source material knowing full well the Netflix series varies greatly from Jackson’s artful story. Still, I had started reading this book years ago but never finished. I never went back to it, so naturally, I decided to remedy that. Shirley Jackson crafts a classic haunted house story.The gothic horror story centers around Eleanor, a fragile, lonely recluse who after caring for her ailing mother agrees to be a part of a psychological study conducted in a stately home. Theodora, a Bohemian artist and the heir to the home Luke Sanderson also join her for the study conducted by Dr. Montague. Once there, supernatural happenings and poltergeist activity begin to sinisterly torment the inhabitants and their psyche.
Happiness is a Serious Problem
Dennis Prager, know as a conservative talk show host discusses happiness at its core. Although religious himself (he is an Orthodox Jew), Prager explores happiness as a human condition, but not necessarily from a religious viewpoint. How we respond to circumstances in our life, our attitude, and everyday choices are components of a pragmatic approach to happiness. Prager manages to break down these components into chewable portions that one can apply to his or her life.
This was an interesting book but one that should be read slowly and with sips. Like philosophy, I found that there is lots of food for thought nestled in the pages. Also as a side note, I purchased this book as an audiobook. The audiobook is not narrated by Prager who has a very distinctive voice. Instead, a drab narrator has been supplanted for Prager. Stick to the printed version if you can.
12 Rules for Life
12 Rules for Life, written by world-renowned Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, is not an easy read. In fact, this actually took as much concentration from me as other complex writings like Freud, Dostoyevsky, and Chaucer because there is so much to consider in a single sentence. Love him or hate him, Peterson himself has become a controversial figure for his outspoken political statements. He strikes me as a classic liberal but in recent years has become outspoken about certain progressive political policies.
As the title suggests, Peterson cites twelve profound rules for life that are built upon a number of influences such as mythology, biblical archetypes, historical context, and social constructs among other things. One should note, Peterson does not consider the bible to be divinely-inspired rather a tool of moral relativism. Like Peterson himself, many of his conclusions may be controversial and in today’s political climate, often waffles from left to right at times. I enjoyed reading his book even though I do not agree with all of his conclusions and I certainly have respect for him as one of the finest minds alive.
What Are You Reading?
The volume of my reading this past year was a little pathetic by past standards. I’m hoping I can do a lot more reading this year. In the comments below, I’d love to hear about the books you read this past year.