2020. What a year. Reading has always been a big part of my life and one of my main forms of self-care. It serves my value of constantly learning and self-improving. I set a goal to read 30 books in 2020. Despite taking a break from reading for a couple of months back when the pandemic began, I managed to meet my goal plus a few more!
I would like to share with you my book reviews for what I read in 2020 across five categories: Fiction, Social Issues, Non-fiction/Spirituality, Parenting/Motherhood, and Rest & Simplicity. I will give you my ratings and a brief review of the books, with full-length reviews available for some of them on my blog! I would also love for you to follow along with what I’m reading on Goodreads!
Amazon affiliate links included to make it easy for you to find and purchase any of these books!
All ratings out of 5 stars.
I don’t read a lot of fiction because I love learning from non-fiction books. But on vacations or during holidays, I will allow myself to indulge in a good novel! I tend to pick fiction based on my tried-and-true favorite authors or if there is a lot of buzz about a debut writer.
Here are the four books I read in the category of Fiction:
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid–4.5 stars
- Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano–4 stars
- Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan–3.5 stars. I was a little disappointed in this one, since it is from one of my favorite fiction writers. I think this book was trying to be more important that it actually is and send a message about race, class, gender, and politics. Instead, read Such a Fun Age, which explores racism and entitlement much deeper.
WINNER: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld–5 stars!
One of my favorite books of the year, and my favorite fiction book by far. I cried tears at the end, imagining what this alternate reality of Hillary Clinton as president would have been like.
I love reading about social issues, especially racism, gender discrimination, and poverty. With all of the racial injustice this year, I particularly wanted to read more about racism. I didn’t get to as many as I would like, but I have several on my list to read next year!
Here are the five books I read in the category of Social Issues:
- Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land–4 stars
- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond–5 stars! This was a fantastic, well-researched, and compelling read about poverty, homelessness, and housing inequalities in America.
- Know My Name by Chanel Miller–5 stars! A beautifully written first-hand memoir from a sexual assault survivor. Chanel exposes the biases of the justice system and the media and how our “rape culture” treats survivors.
- Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by LaTasha Morrison–4 stars. This is the most accessible and challenging Christian book I’ve read about racism. I loved the emphasis on lament and confession. LaTasha tells her personal story of ministry in mostly-white churches and integrates that with liturgies and spiritual practices. I also recommend her organization Be the Bridge for the incredible work they do on racial reconciliation.
WINNER: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown–5 stars!
I’m grateful for Austin’s courage and transparency to share her story as a black woman in predominantly white spaces.
Non-fiction and especially spirituality are my favorites genres. I read a lot of books written by and for Christian women. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction books that aren’t Christian, but you’ll find a couple here.
I also had the pleasure of reading one book about purity culture— an advanced copy of Talking Back to Purity Culture–and I was so impressed.
Here are the seven books I read in the category of Non-fiction/Spirituality:
- The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman–2 stars. I read this for a book club and was not impressed.
- Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker–4 stars. One of my favorite Christian women authors and this is one of my favorite books of hers! I felt like there was more hard-earned advice and wisdom in this one, rather than humor and fluff. I don’t agree with all of Jen’s theology, so some of her advice didn’t sit well with me. But her message of knowing who you are, what you need, and standing up for what you believe is one that I can get behind.
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle–3 stars. Her writing style is beautiful and she writes with such vulnerability. I like some of her stories, but disagree with most of her fundamental beliefs. As a Christian and a psychologist, I find her philosophies on “knowing” and emotions to be very problematic.
- It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst–3 stars. Love her heart and vulnerability, and she is biblically sound and compassionate. However, her writing style and level of depth is just not for me.
- The Complicated Heart by Sarah Mae–3 stars. I was excited for this book after hearing her share about her troubled relationship with her mom on a podcast, but the story felt incomplete and lacking to me.
- Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin–4.5 stars. The best book I have read with practical guidance on how to study the Bible. My only dislike is the very complementarian practice of Bible study books written specifically for women. The author is more than qualified to teach men too!
Rachel’s book is the ONLY purity culture book I personally recommend. She critiques the harmful messages of purity culture while still adhering to a biblical sexual ethic. Rachel has such a heart for the damage caused by purity culture, especially to survivors of sexual abuse. She addresses the groups that purity culture left out–older singles, couples struggling with infertility, and Christians with same-sex attraction. I really admire her thorough research on the topic; she wrote her Masters thesis on purity culture books! She also deftly critiques the gender stereotypes of purity culture and how these harm both men and women.
I applaud Rachel Joy Welcher for reigniting the conversation about purity culture among conservative Christians. This is a trusted and thought-provoking start to the conversation in our churches and communities. I hope to further that discussion in the purity culture book I am writing to guide Christians toward healing from the shame.
As a mom of a toddler daughter, I’m still learning so much about parenting and adjusting to my new identity as a mom. Becoming a mom is the biggest life change I have ever been through! Even as a psychologist in my 30s, I felt unprepared for the huge transformation.
If you’re like me and were raised in conservative evangelical Christianity, you may want to parent differently than you were raised. I am determined to parent in a gentle, attuned, and empathic way, so I am always looking for resources to teach me.
Here are the ten books I read in the category of Parenting/Motherhood:
- Risen Motherhood by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler–3.5 stars. This is an encouraging read for Christian mothers, especially new moms. The theology is a little too conservative for me and the authors seem to espouse complementarian gender roles, so for that reason, I can’t fully recommend this to everyone.
- How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King–5 stars. The most practical parenting book I have ever read. Very accessible and relatable. My husband and I use these phrases and scripts with our daughter every day!
- No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury–3 stars. I love Janet’s parenting philosophies and her podcast “Unruffled”, but the book is just a collection of her blogs without any cohesive theme to tie them together.
- Cribsheet and Expecting Better by Emily Oster–4.5 stars. Both are data-driven, research-supported but also accessible looks at pregnancy and parenting wisdom.
- Regretting Motherhood by Orna Donath–3 stars.
- The Power of Showing Up by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson–4.5 stars. I’m big fans of this psychiatrist and child psychologist writing team. They turn brain science, attachment theory, and developmental research into practical strategies for every parent.
- The Bottom Line for Baby by Tina Payne Bryson–3 stars. Exactly like Oster’s Cribsheet but with less analysis of the research. If you prefer less detail, you may like this better.
Tie for my favorite in this category!
To Have and to Hold by @mollymillwood–4.5 stars. A clinical psychologist and professor (yay!) writes about marriage and identity challenges in new motherhood. This was EXACTLY what I needed and couldn’t find two years ago when I became a mom, but it still encouraged me today.
Rest & Simplicity
Rest was my theme word for the year, so I planned to read a lot more in this category than I did, but…COVID.
I didn’t have a favorite in this list because none of them earned more than 3 stars. I found most of them to be common-sense advice that wasn’t new to me.
Here are the six books I read in the category of Rest & Simplicity:
- When Less Becomes More by Emily Ley–2 stars. Beautiful book with a much-needed message, but I didn’t find anything new or noteworthy in the book. Just common sense advice and cliches.
- Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons–3 stars. The book is organized nicely with reflection questions and space to journal, but again I didn’t learn anything new. You can read my full review on my blog!
- Mommy Burnout by Sheryl Ziegler—3 stars. I liked the practical advice and I love that a psychologist wrote it! But most of the advice wasn’t life-changing.
- Have Yourself a Minimalist Christmas by Meg Nordmann—3 stars. I love her message of mindfulness and simplicity around the holidays. Some practical ideas and suggestions, but a lot of it wasn’t new to me. Fortunately, I have no problem setting boundaries with my schedule and saying no!
- The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi—3.5 stars. Loved the first half, but the end became too repetitive. I wanted less laundry hacks and strategies and more soul. I love the miracle question and reminder to live in your season and schedule rest!
- The More of Less by Joshua Becker—3 stars. A minimalist classic. I was surprised to find so many Christian themes about service, charity, and simplicity in here. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it might be just what you’re looking for!
What did you read in 2020? Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram (@drcamden) and use the hashtag #whatiread2020 to share your favorites of the year! You can also follow along with me on Goodreads!