25 Books in 2020 Challenge

January 2020, I received a message from my nephew, Aaron, with a Family Challenge to read 25 books in the Year 2020. Incidentally, Aaron is a prodigious reader, his last update saying that he had a 1300 page book ready for our Family Challenge 2021. I signed up to the 25 in 2020 challenge along with six other family members. Every month, we would receive Aaron’s inspiring update encouraging us to keep reading.

December 2020, I received the latest update from Aaron, with a new challenge:

I would love everyone to reflect on the reading they have done and pick a top 5 for the year and then from there select one book as your favorite book of the year.

Here is the challenge! I would then like you to make a short blurb about this book to sell someone on your top selection. Think “Back of the book” style blurb to hook someone in. I will then take the blurbs submitted and let your words try to sell your best book of the year to not one, but two independent individuals who will select the book of their choice based on only your blurb. If you could have the write ups sent by December 22nd, I will engage the two individuals selecting shortly after Christmas so we can have the winners in time for the 2021 kickoff.

Godspeed to everyone and let me know if there are any questions or concerns.

There will be prizes for the two selected.

So with Aaron’s challenge in mind, I decided that I would submit my blurb in video format. So, without further ado, here are my 5 top books for 2020 in alphabetical order. You will find my top pick recorded in the video.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Circe by Madeline Miller

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia by Dave Astor

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

35 thoughts on “25 Books in 2020 Challenge

  1. I loved your comments about A Gentleman in Moscow, Rebecca. I have not read it. Now that I have recovered from my anguish over the ending of All Quiet on the Western Front, I am ready for a new classic and am going over to Amazon to have a look at this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m in the middle of “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I’m taking it very slowly as there is a great deal of emotion held in this book. “We have so much to say, and we shall never say it.” Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
      “A Gentleman in Moscow” came at the right time for me to read. Actually I listened to the audiobook as I read along. (The Vancouver Library has a marvelous collection of audiobooks via the Overdrive App.)It was like having someone sitting in my living room sharing a cup of tea. Amor Towles allows us to see history evolve through the lens of one man. It is upbeat even as there are moments of profound sorrow. Looking forward to your thoughts!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Rebecca. I feel the same way about All Quiet on the Western Front. I haven’t written my review yet because I am still coming to terms with this book. My oldest son is 18 and could be Paul. I have bought the audio book of A Gentleman in Moscow. Hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A delightful post, video, and subsequent conversation! I just reviewed the list of books I read in 2020, and I easily choose poetry, with Robert Fillman’s November Weather Spell taking the top spot as my favorite.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a fun thing to do as a family, Rebecca! I love it that you have an avid and enthusiastic book-lover in Aaron, someone who encourages the whole family to read. I’m going to steal this idea and encourage my family to do the same this year. And I agree with the other commenters that having Aaron on a podcast would be great fun. Here’s to a Merry Christmas and a happy healthy 2021 full of good books. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Diana. I just spoke with Aaron and he has great plans for next year. Reading has become an essential outlet during our time of Covid19. Thank you for being a writer – your efforts give much back to a world that needs stories. I believe that books allow us to explore ways in which to connect within a complex, ever-changing mercurial existence. Sorry for the late response. My computer said it was time for me to move on so I was busy setting up my new computer these past couple of days. Merry Christmas – I am looking forward to meeting up with you in the New Year! Hugs!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m cheering for you too, Rebecca! Book talk is always the most fun talk (says a fellow bookworm)! I enjoyed A Gentleman in Moscow too, but who could ever have imagined Count Rostov being enviable for having a entire hotel during during ‘house arrest?’

    If I were playing along with my own family, these would be my favorites from 2020:

    Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
    The Cave by Jose Saramago
    Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
    Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
    The Glass Kingdom by Lawrence Osborne

    I choose Mason & Dixon and here’s my blurb:

    Unique. Difficult. Fascinating. Humorous. Fantastical. Esoteric. Brilliant. Ridiculous. Erudite. Speculative history and fictional account of the creation of the Mason-Dixon line by same astronomer and surveyor. Visit America in 1763 and rediscover a wild and rebellious colony, one you haven’t been told about in most history books. You’ll want a dictionary and need to follow the Wiki footnotes dedicated to it. It was well worth the labor and journey, but I’m simply too exhausted to write a comprehensive review. There are some spooky and prescient passages, considering the novel was written in 1997.

    I read 3/5 of your favorite selections for 2020 and look forward to more with On the Road Book Club in 2021!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, Mary Jo!! Thank you for these delicious titles and brilliant blurb. Jamaica Inn was my favourite Daphne du Maurier book. I had “Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate downloaded and ready to read – I think you mentioned the title in a previous conversation. I now have Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon downloaded – the reviews are overwhelming. Is this a novel or non-fiction? I read that Hilary Mantel has given a glowing report for The Glass Kingdom. I think my 2021 dance/book card is all filled up now. I hope that you will send me a letter in 2021 on your book choices for a letter/podcast! Onward to new adventures in book reading. Sending many hugs and love your way…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh Becky, what a marvellous inspiration you and your family are! I have really enjoyed learning about Aaron’s challenge and how so many family members have joined in. I think you need to get him on the podcast to talk about how to encourage people to read more. Meanwhile, I love your top five list. As you know, I have been aiming to read the Towles for ages. This year has been mostly a reading-free zone for me as it turns out. But I am slowly, slowly getting my reading mojo back. Any book praised by you is one I want to read, so I shall redouble my efforts to finish this one over the festive period! X 💙📚

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I would love to have Aaron on a podcast so I will send him a message that his 2021 challenge is to join the TTT Conversation. I just read a wonderful book that Elisabeth Van Der Meer suggested: Three Apples Fell from the Sky
      by Narine Abgaryan, Lisa C. Hayden (Translator). It was a wonderful story – perfect for our time of isolation. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53547707-three-apples-fell-from-the-sky. The book challenge was a great motivation for me in 2020. I read very slowly, savoring ever chapter and every twist in the book. So to complete 25 books it took me a year. Someone suggested that I read a couple of “short books” just in case I didn’t make the 25! LOL. The Gentleman in Moscow took me two months. There was so much to digest, every morsel delicious and satisfying.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. What a great post! I love your top 5 and have heard very good things about the two books in it that I haven’t read yet (1 in particular;-)).
    Who knows what the year 2021 has in store for us? But I know one thing, books will be read!
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you to win. Take care, hugs!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am ready to start “War & Peace” By the way, I think I’m mispronouncing “Leo” Yikes! Anyway, I need your opinion on which translation I should chose to download from Kindle. I read that Anthony Briggs (Penguin Classic) is one of the best. Which one would your recommend? I think that War & Peace should count as 4 or 5 books. I read a quote by Virginia Woolf on Leo Tolstoy: “Tolstoy seems able to read the minds of different people as certainly as we count the buttons on their coats.” 2021 is going to be a fabulous year of reading.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. In Russian his name is Lev, pronounced as Lyev, it means Leo. The English version of his name is generally accepted though 😅
        I have the Dutch translation, but I heard very good things about the Briggs translation. And Virginia Woolf is spot on!
        Looking forward to discussing War and Peace with you!

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I am very much looking forward to our discussion, Elisabeth. I have always been afraid of War & Peace on several counts: 1) I wouldn’t understand the nuance of language/translation 2) The many stories in the grander story 3) the amount of people who are involved in the narrative. The question I asked myself – would I be able to fully engage in the story. I think that 2021 is the year for War & Peace.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Tolstoy wrote to entertain. War and Peace was first published in instalments in a popular literary magazine. There are cliffhangers and multiple storylines, just like in a modern day Netflix series. Once you’re used to the names, the rest will be easy!

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I have you invaluable “Name Guide” by my side. By the way I found another Virginia Woolf quote: “There remains the greatest of all novelists—for what else can we call the author of War and Peace?”

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you, Becky, for your encouragement for the 2021 Aaron’s challenge again to read books. This is exciting, and I will be joining you and others are we embark on another challenge. We do things new and better with others! ! ! Yay for 2021 Book Challenge! ! !

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I agree – reading is both an individual and community event. I have enjoyed this “virtual book club” As we discussed a couple of days ago, when we share books there is a deeper engagement with the stories. For example, Elisabeth Van Der Meer’s guidance on Eugene Onegin was critical to my enjoyment and understanding of the narrative. Looking forward the 2021 Book Challenge. I wonder what Aaron has in store for us in the New Year!

      Liked by 6 people

  8. Hi Rebecca –

    It’s been a while since we’ve connected. I just read your post/saw your video, and was prompted to respond.

    What a cool family project! And I have to tell you – our book club read “A Gentleman In Moscow” and we all loved it. I have Amor Towles next book waiting for me on my Kobo. This year I, like many, have done a lot of reading. (I just started book #49) Much of my reading has been light, but I’d love to share a couple of highlights with you in case you are looking for titles for next year’s challenge.

    I’m a fan of mystery stories, and I discovered Ruth Ware this year I’ve now read several of her books, all worth while. A couple of other mystery writers whose works I’m reading my way through are Louise Penny, and CJ Sansom. If you don’t know of him, his stories take place in Tudor England, and his history is well-researched and fascinating, and his characters draw you back again and again.

    I read a book entitled “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish which was different from your average historical fiction, dealing as it did with the story of a young Jewish woman in plague-ridden London, and her theological dialogues with forbidden philosophers of her day.

    If you haven’t read “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” by Christie Lefteri, add it to your must-read list. It’s the top contender for my best book of the year. It’s sad, so sad, but a beautifully written and compassionate look at the plight of Syrian refugees in novel form.

    Other top reads – From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman Travelling With Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

    It’s good to see you looking so well, I hope you are staying safe and healthy. Have a blessed Christmas, whatever it looks like for you this year,

    Karen Saunders


    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hi Karen – I am beyond thrilled to read your recommendations – everyone a delicious intro into a new reading genre. For the past few years, I have been into non-fiction so have come back to novels just last year. It is good to be back, I think the last novel that I read several years ago was “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver.

      I have now added these books to my 2021 Challenge – already downloaded from Kindle. (I have a feeling that Aaron will up the book number so your suggestions came at a pivotal time)

      * Ruth Ware: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
      * Louise Penny: All the Devils are here.
      * C.J. Samson: Tombland
      * Rachel Kaddish: The Weight of Ink
      * Christy Lefteri: The Beekeeper of Aleppo
      *Jessi Thistle: From the Ashes (thank you for adding a non-fiction book)
      * Sue Monk Kidd/Ann Kidd Taylor: Traveling with Pomegranates.

      Thank you so much for connecting. I would enjoy hearing more about your book club, Karen. Are you meeting virtually during Covid19?

      All is well on our side of the bridge. Keeping safe and learning that home is the best place to be. The Christmas carol “I’ll be home for Christmas” has new meaning this year.

      All the very best of this festive season to you and yours.
      Hugs and love,

      Liked by 5 people

  9. Excellent post, Rebecca! I enjoyed your words about the book challenge, the fantastic photo on top, and the entertaining video — including your comedic plea for “the judges” to choose you. 🙂 And thanks so much for including my literary-trivia book in your top five! I am flattered and truly honored.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Dave – 2020 was fabulous year of reading and more waiting for us in 2021. Thank you for adding so much to my reading challenge – loved your book! I would never have thought of Henry James’s “The Aspern Papers.” And today, I started “The Shadow over Innsmouth” by H. P. Lovecraft. I did a brief look into Lovecraft’s bio and found that he was friends with Robert E. Howard, the pulp fiction writer known for his character Conan the Barbarian. I’m heading down a rabbit hole and it is going down, down, down….

      Liked by 5 people

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