My Reading Year: A Recap of my 2020 Books

by | Dec 30, 2020 | Books, Reading | 2 comments

As always, I love setting myself a good reading challenge for the year, and my goal for 2020 was 125 books, considerably more than last year’s goal of 75. I made it to 135 books, which was definitely fun! As usual, the majority of my yearly reading list was comprised of vintage middle grade novels – but there was a bit of variety as well! In 2018, I described my reading journey as an “ongoing quest to find wondrous new books to inspire my writing” – and I found plenty of inspiration over the past twelve months among the pages of these books. So here is a general overview of my 2020 reading year! I’ve organized my favorites into categories, starting off with my Ultimate Favorite Books of 2020. Happy Reading!

Favorite Fiction of 2020

1. Trouble at Fort LaPointe by Kathleen Ernst (1999)

I couldn’t put this book down! Originally part of the series of American Girl History Mysteries, this short but fascinating novel is set on Madeline Island in 1732, in which a young Métis girl sets out to solve a puzzling mystery. I found the historical elements wonderfully engaging, and Kathleen Ernst is a fabulous writer (I love several of her other American Girl mysteries, including Midnight in Lonesome Hollow).

2. Runaway Alice by Frances Salomon Murphy (1951)

This story of a foster child in the 1950s is a powerful, poignant MG novel—and, in my opinion, a retelling of Anne of Green Gables. Alice is unsuccessful in finding the right family until a kind couple on a farm usher her into their home. The way Alice’s life and happiness blossom is beautiful to read, and it’s a meaningful and moving read that will stay with you long afterward.

3. Miss Billy Married by Eleanor Porter (1914)

Oh! The joy of a vintage series where you can’t recall how many proposals the heroine has received! This spring I breezed through the Miss Billy trilogy, which culminates in the humorous Miss Billy Married (the best in the series!), in which a young woman struggles to adjust to married life (but I will not give the spoiler of which suitor she ends up choosing). I always enjoy Eleanor Porter’s books, and this one is a particular delight.

4. The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer (1951)

I was surprised by this book for several reasons. Firstly because of its slim size—a mere 62 pages!—and secondly, because despite its short length, it won the Newbery Medal! But once you begin to read, you understand why it won the medal: its descriptions are luminous, the illustrations captivating, and the message compelling. The perfect holiday tale, The Light at Tern Rock tells the story of a boy and his aunt who agree to look after a lighthouse until its keeper returns for Christmas—but when he doesn’t come, they have to make do on their own.

5. The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz (1958)

I’d heard of this book many times before (Goodreads was constantly recommending it to me), so I decided to give it a try—and quickly fell in love with the sweet story and vividly warm characters. Centering around a little girl who is unhappy with her family’s move to the Pennsylvania countryside in 1784—but who gradually comes to appreciate her new home and friends—this is even more fun for me because it’s based on a true story.

6. A Gathering of Light by Amanda Dykes (2020)

This novelette is brand-new, just released to Amanda’s email subscribers on December 22nd! I read it immediately and adored its Christmassy feel and lovable cast. The story will be especially delightful to fans of Amanda’s novel Whose Waves These Are, as it takes place in the same Maine village and features some of the same characters.

7. Once on This Island by Gloria Whelan (1995)

I greatly enjoyed this first novel in the Mackinac Island trilogy by Gloria Whelan, which features a resourceful teenager who comes up against numerous challenges during her father’s absence from the island during the War of 1812.

8. Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery (1912)

L.M. Montgomery’s classic short story collection was an unexpected joy, because somehow I always forget that Montgomery’s brilliant writing shines even in shorter forms. I loved reading new tales involving Anne Shirley, and also discovering the inspiration behind episodes of the Road to Avonlea TV series.

9. Cherry Ames, Boarding School Nurse by Helen Wells (1954)

I’ve read most of the Cherry Ames mysteries, and this one was a particular favorite! This one details Cherry’s search for a long-forgotten perfume formula secreted away in a historic boarding school.

10. The Cottage at Bantry Bay by Hilda van Stockum (1938)

This is the first time I’ve tried one of Hilda van Stockum’s books outside of the Mitchell family trilogy, and this one was a lovely mixture of humor, heart, and fun featuring a close-knit family (and their mischievous dog!) in 1930s Ireland.

Favorite Cast of Characters

  1. No Children, No Pets by Marion Holland (1957)
  2. Rachel’s Roses by Ferida Wolff (2019)
  3. Ready-made Family by Frances Salomon Murphy (1953)
  4. The Meeting Place by Janette Oke & T. Davis Bunn (1999)
  5. Winterbound by Margery Wiliams Bianco (1936)
  6. Brave Little Peggy by Nina Rhoades (1908)
  7. Stories from the Growing Years by Arleta Richardson (1991)

Favorite New (to me) Authors of 2020

  1. Gloria Whelan
  2. Catherine Woolley
  3. Jean Estoril
  4. Frances Salomon Murphy
  5. Jean Fritz

Best Description/Environment

  1. The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer (1951)
  2. No Children, No Pets by Marion Holland (1957)
  3. Surprise House by Abbie Farwell Brown (1917)
  4. Winterbound by Margery Williams Bianco (1936)
  5. A Gathering of Light by Amanda Dykes (2020)
  6. The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz (1958)
  7. Ballet for Drina by Jean Estoril (1957)
  8. Only Dollie by Nina Rhoades (1901)

Best Feel-Good Stories

  1. Winona’s Pony Cart by Maud Hart Lovelace (1953)
  2. The Golden Name Day by Jennie D. Lindquist (1955)
  3. Runaway Alice by Frances Salomon Murphy (1951)
  4. Blue Skies by Anne Bustard (2020)
  5. A Room for Cathy by Catherine Woolley (1956)
  6. Rachel’s Roses by Ferida Wolff (2019)
  7. The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson (1958)

Most Delightfully Funny Books

  1. Just Patty by Jean Webster (1911)
  2. Miss Billy series by Eleanor Porter (1911-1914)
  3. The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson (1958)
  4. Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes (1943)
  5. Chris in Trouble by Catherine Woolley (1968)
  6. Look Alive, Libby! by Catherine Woolley (1962)
  7. Belles on their Toes by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (1950)

Favorite Rereads

  1. Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace (1950)
  2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)
  3. Plain Girl by Virginia Sorensen (1955)
  4. Sister of the Bride by Beverly Cleary (1963)
  5. Celia’s House by D.E. Stevenson (1943)
  6. Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright (1951)
  7. The Pat series by L.M. Montgomery (1933-1935)
  8. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall (2008)
  9. From Anna by Jean Little (1972)
  10. Party Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1945)

Favorite Nonfiction

  1. Girls’ Club by Sally, Sarah, and Joy Clarkson (2019)
  2. The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (2017)
  3. The Business of Bliss by Victoria/Hearst Publications (2001)
  4. Imagining Anne by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly (2008)
  5. Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson (1994)

My 2021 Reading Challenge

My Goodreads goal for 2021 will be to read 120 books. That means 10 books a month, which is my typical average. I’ve reached this number a couple of times before (the last two years, actually), so it’s not a significant challenge. But I’d like to delve into some longer books this year instead of the generally shorter ones that I enjoyed in 2020, and my hope is that I might find some new gems if I take the focus off sheer quantity. 🙂 I can’t wait to see what books I discover in 2021!

What were some books you loved in 2020? (Feel free to pass along some recommendations!)


  1. Marion

    Hi Anna Rose;
    Love your reading list. Mama’s Bank Account is a book my sister has had in her library for many years. Recently we watched the movie. The movie had three daughters while the TV show had only two. Of course The Pat series is my favorite Lucy Maud Montgomery series. Belles On their Toes is a wonderful sequel to Cheaper By The Dozen. Drina books I love. Jean Estoril has books written under Mabel Esther Allan. Many of the books on your list I have read.
    My favorite books that I read in 2020 were My Dear Hamilton and America’s First Daughter. I have read many Amish books . The American Girl series I am re reading. In 2020 I read the Samantha,Kirsten and Molly series. Other books that have been my favorite that I read years ago are Ivanhoe,Ramona,Lorna Doone,A Tree Grows In Brooklyn,The Cousins Of The Doves series. and Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser.

    • Anna Rose Johnson

      Thanks so much, Marion! I enjoyed Mama’s Bank Account a lot, and was curious about the movie. I really want to find the sequels to the Drina books, and I’m hoping to read more books under the Mabel Esther Allan pseudonym. Glad to hear you found some fun reads in 2020! I read the Kirsten series this summer as well as the Caroline and Josefina books, and that was a treat. 🙂


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