Time for my annual post of great reads for the previous year. Without further ado, here is the post my newsletter subscribers got to read LAST NIGHT (hint, hint) entitled: My Best Reads of 2020.

My 2020 in Books

  1. Number of books read: 69
  2. Ratings: 5 stars = 15; 4 stars = 31; 3 stars = 18; 2 stars, 1 star, or unrated = 5
  3. Fiction: 58; Non-Fiction: 11
  4. Books with a Minnesota connection: 14 (12 rated 4 or 5 stars)
  5. Pages read = 20,764

The Best Book I Read in 2020–Finalists

  1. Frederick Backman–A Man Called Ove
  2. Nelson DeMille–The Charm School
  3. Dr. Michael Greger–How Not to Die
  4. Jack London–The Call of the Wild
  5. Isabel Wilkerson–Caste, The Origins of Our Discontent

My Best Read of 2020–WINNER

Isabel Wilkerson–Caste, The Origins of Our Discontent

WHY? The competition was stiff this year. Any of the other four might have been my best read of the year if I hadn’t read Caste. But Caste got the nod mainly because it’s a new book and the subject matter is too important to ignore. America has been undergoing massive struggles to eliminate racism over the past 160 years (at least) and matters intensified to the boiling point in 2020. I called it a must-read for good reason. Everyone, no matter their skin color, should read this book to understand how deep-seated racism is in this country (and in many other parts of the world too). The book doesn’t give solutions but rather gives us a better understanding that socioeconomic status plays a huge role in our caste system because whites are in as many or more castes as minorities in this country.

My Rating System

I follow the guidelines. A three-star rating means I liked a book and thought it was better than average although not a book I would enthusiastically recommend. The curve is naturally skewed because truly awful books rarely get published, despite the revolution in independent publishing that literally allows anyone to publish any piece of writing for a relatively low cost. I also factor in my reading experience and ability to filter out the worst books from my reading list and populate that list with books I expect will be better than average.

I put a lot of stock in the consensus of reviews, especially when a book has received enough reviews that the rating will be representative of a large number of readers and not skewed by “friends-and-family” reviews.  F-and-Fs are reviews that seem to be written by people who know the author and either want to give or are coerced into giving a glowing review because of personal pressure or a sense of obligation. Those reviews are pretty obvious when a book has less than ten or twenty reviews, especially when there exists a one- or two-star review that takes the author to task for poor editing, proofreading, or in some cases, inferior craft. A few books received no stars– not because they were worse than one-star books, but because I chose not to rate them for personal reasons.

My Questions for You: How many books did you read in 2020?  What was your “best book I read in 2020?” What do you think of my finalists?


Online reviews are crucial for the survival of most authors. Good or bad, a review indicates that someone took time and/or spent money to read a book and share their opinion. The more reviews posted, the more likely it is that others will buy the book and read it. And especially this past year, book sales by non-bestsellers have suffered. Why? Because we can’t meet readers and customers live at bookstore signings and book festivals. So if you read a book, especially a book written by a less well-known author, please consider posting a brief, honest review of that book on,,, or any other online review website.

If you’d like to post a review or rating of either Straight River or Castle Danger, click on the images below, which will take you to their respective pages.

Straight River Cover

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