Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

January 11, 2021

The Best Books I Read in 2020.

      2020 wasn't as quite of a big reading year for me as 2019 was (when I read 52 books- a book a week!), but I still read some great titles last year, and still exceeded my reading goal! I set a goal of reading 25 books in 2020, and I managed to read 36 thanks to the extra time at home. 

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      I've been an avid user of Goodreads (follow me here!) for the past few years, and for today's blog post I wanted to round-up all of my 2019 books that I gave a five star rating to. Despite the fact that I love reading books and also love reading book reviews on other blogs... I don't particularly love writing book reviews myself. 😅I feel like I either write too much about the book that I give the whole plot away, or I write too little that it's super vague haha! But I do like sharing an annual list of my absolute favorite books of the past year, which is what I'm doing today. 

     For the first time ever, I had more five star non-fiction reads than I did fiction. I still read a good amount of fiction this year, but found a lot of the titles I picked ended up getting only two or three stars from me. The four novels that I did give five stars to were all wonderful though! 

Best Fiction Books of 2020:

*American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins - This novel got a lot of buzz in early 2020, but unfortunately a lot of that was due to controversy with the author. I waited on the reading list for it for a long time at my local library, and once my copy came in I did decide to still read it. I hope this isn't too unpopular of an opinion, but I thought this story was incredible, while also realizing there are some valid criticisms of the author and story. Does that make sense? Kind of like how you can really love a TV show or movie that is super unrealistic. Anyways, this book is about a Mexican woman named Lydia and her son Luca, who quickly have to flee their city in Mexico after members of their family are brutally murdered by a gang (the book opens with the murder scene). It follows their journey to the United States with other migrants. I could not put this book down once I started reading it. I do recommend it- but I also recommend educating yourself with some of the negative publicity that the book and author got around this time last year- as I think that is all valid and good to be aware of.

*American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld - For me to give a book a five star rating, it has to be good enough that I keep thinking about it long after I read it. I read this novel last winter and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since! It might be the book I've thought about the most in 2020. American Wife is based on the life of former First Lady Laura Bush, except the main character in this book is named Alice. The book starts when Alice is a young child, and follows through until she is First Lady. While parts of Alice's story are pure fiction, it is heavily based on the life of Laura Bush. There are some heavy moments of adult content in this book (sex scenes and substance abuse, etc), but I still found the story incredibly captivating. One thing though that I absolutely recommend is to read Laura Bush's autobiography Spoken From the Heart (included in the non-fiction section of this post) before you read this one! It helped me easily decipher what was fact and what was fiction in American Wife. 

*The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin - I've read most of Emily Giffin's books and I usually give them three or four stars- I enjoy them but don't find them to be the best books ever. This book is by far my favorite I've ever read from her! It's about a young woman named Cecily who is living in NYC in 2001, and a new relationship she gets into that summer, in the months before 9/11. Everything changes for her with this new relationship post-9/11, but not in the way you might expect. I found this book very unpredictable and I kept guessing about what would happen right up until the final chapter! I always love it when you can't predict an ending. It was a wonderful read, and also a unique perspective on what 9/11 would've been like for a young woman in NYC. 

*The Lion's Den by Katherine St. John - This was probably the juiciest book I read in 2020! It was hands down the best "escape read" that I read to mentally get away from the current events of this year. And out of all the books I read this year, this is the one that I am most hoping that film or limited series rights are sold for- I would love to see this story play out on a screen. This story is described as being a soapy and melodramatic plot about money, friendship and travel, which I'd say is accurate! Belle and Summer have been best friends since high school, but their friendship hasn't come without its fair share of ups and downs, and some serious drama. Summer is now dating a wealthy older man, and invites Belle and some other friends on a trip aboard his new yacht in Europe. Belle hesitantly says yes to the trip... and has no idea what all is in store. The ending on this book surprised me a lot, and I was sad to see it end! 

Best Non-Fiction Books of 2020:

*Go Syndicate Yourself by Randy "R Dub" Williams - This book probably wouldn't be relevant to a lot of you, but if you work in radio (or want to learn more about where the industry is going) this is a must-read! R Dub is a successful syndicated night show host- his popular radio show Sunday Night Slow Jams is heard on radio stations all over the US, as well as some in other countries! He wrote what is essentially the bible of how to achieve radio syndication (syndications means getting your show played on stations all over. This book made me realize that 1) it is a dream of mine to be syndicated someday, but 2) 2020 wasn't the year to start pursuing that dream! There's more work than I imagined that goes into it, and I want to feel a little more stable in my career before working towards this dream. But thankfully I have my copy of this book to keep referring back to!

*Live in Love: Growing Together Through Life's Changes by Lauren Akins - Thomas Rhett is one of my favorite country stars, and I love following him and his wife Lauren on social media. I love how they share their faith and family with the world in such a beautiful and authentic way. When Lauren announced she was writing a book, I knew I had to read it! This book chronicles Lauren's childhood and upbringing, how she and Thomas Rhett first dated in high school, her college years, and the early years of their marriage and his career. I learned so much about Lauren through this book, and I can't recommend reading this enough. It's a beautiful story of faith, and also staying grounded once you're in the spotlight. (Also- Lauren is a fellow ADPi and a sorority sister of mine. So cool!)

*Open Book by Jessica Simpson - My favorite celebrity memoir of the year!! Oh my goodness I loved this book, and I'll definitely re-read it at some point. Jessica Simpson held nothing back in her memoir of her life and career. It starts with her childhood, and goes right up until the past couple years. She talks about her career beginnings, marriage and divorce to Nick Lachey, turbulent dating relationships after, starting her clothing and shoe line, and much more! Although I am a big early 2000s pop culture fan, I was always more of a Britney Spears girl. But after reading Open book I have so much more respect for Jessica Simpson than I did before. At some point I want to go back and watch episodes of her and Nick's reality show- I think they're on Hulu.

*Spoken From the Heart by Laura Bush - I absolutely loved reading former First Lady Laura Bush's memoir. She is such an incredible lady, and also accomplished so much as First Lady! One part of the book that I especially loved was learning about her 20s- she pursued her education and a career and actually didn't marry George W. Bush until she was 30. Since I'm in my mid 20s and have spent almost all of that single, I found this part of her story to be especially inspiring. I also loved learning about all she accomplished as First Lady. I was quite young during the Bush presidency, so I learned a lot about this time period from this book. Another five star read for me this year was American Wife, which is included in the fiction part of this post. I highly recommend reading Spoken From the Heart and then American Wife after! (I also want to note that I did read Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming this year as well! I liked Michelle's book a lot too, I gave it four stars so it just missed being in this post.) 

*The Dating Manifesto by Lisa Anderson - I've read my fair share of Christian books on dating and singleness over the years. This is hands down the best one that I've ever read! If you're a single Christian young adult, this is a must read. Lisa Anderson is the host of the popular Christian singleness podcast Boundless, and she's a single woman in her 40s, so she truly gets what it's like to be single in the church as an adult. This book doesn't sugarcoat things, and Lisa gets honest about the highs and lows of being single years passed when you thought you'd be married. I own my copy of this book and have a feeling if I'm still single in a few years around my 30th birthday, I might read it again. 

*The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin - 2020: the year America fell in love with Clea and Joanna of The Home Edit! I've been following The Home Edit on Instagram for at least a couple years, so I was super excited when their books and Netflix show were announced. The Home Edit is their first book that came out in 2019, and I got it for Christmas last year. I loved reading it!! It tells the story of how Clea and Joanna's partnership came to be, breaks down their organization methods, and features more details on some of the celebrity organization projects that were featured in their Netflix show. I just got their newest book for Christmas this year, and they have another coming in 2021!

     Cheers to more reading in 2021!

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese 



  1. It sounds like you read your fair share of excellent books! I love that one of the things about enjoying reading is that it brings you together with other bookworms, even if you don't have the same taste in books hehe. I can't wait to see more posts like this throughout 2021! :)

  2. You know I just read American Dirt and loved it - I had no idea there was controversy! I'm going to need to educate myself on that asap!

  3. I feel great when I read about the booklists. I also am in search of great titles like this. I want to share my readings about sad books about love


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