Carla’s reading report for 2020 was 54 books. They lifted her spirits like never before.


COOPER, Iowa, Feb. 6, 2021 – For at least 18 years, during which I’ve kept a log of the books I’ve read, my goal has always been at least 52 books in a year.  In the earlier years, I didn’t come close.  But for the last 10 years, I’ve almost always read more.  In 2015, I set my personal record – 66 books, including the Bible cover-to-cover!

I’ve now finished my reading log for 2020, and given my health challenges, I’m happy to report I made it to 54 books.

Most of you know I am now in hospice care at home with my adenoid cystic carcinoma cancer.  I spent 2020’s first three months very ill, felt better through spring and mid-summer, and got the bad news in August that treatments were no longer working.  Now, as I look back over my list of titles and authors I read, I realize that during early parts of the year, which included radiation and heavy medication, I remember little about some of those.

Nevertheless, reading became more important than ever to me.

First of all, it’s one of the few things you can almost always do.  It has helped me fill time when all I could do was take medicine, rest and eat.  It also can be an escape when you’re feeling particularly fragile, worried or frightened.  When you don’t want to think about how you are dying, you can lose yourself in stories about somebody else’s garden.

You all ask me every year what the best book I read was, and for 2020, it was “Dear Edward,” a novel by Ann Napolitano about a young boy who is in a plane crash.  And that is all I’m telling you about it.  I am not one of those people who spills the beans on what the story line of a book is.

Carla with Dear Edward book in eaerly 2021.jpg

Carla Offenburger with her pick as the best book she read during 2020.

“Dear Edward” was a selection for the book club in Jefferson I am in, picked by our member Wendy Vander Linden.  We all liked it. So read it yourself.  You’ll be glad you did.

Here are the books I read in 2020 – in the order I read – and their authors:

“Giver of Stars,” by JoJo Moyes.

“Talking to Strangers,” by Malcom Gladwell.

“Through a Country Town Cookbook,” by Evelyn Birkby.

“Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens.

“The Little Women Cookbook,” by Wini Moranville.

“My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry,” by Frederik Bachman.

“The Twelve Tribes of Hattie,” by Ayana Mathis.

“The Overstory,” by Richard Powers.

“This is how it always is,” by Laurie Frankel.

“The Way I Heard It,” by Mike Rowe.

“Westering Women,” by Sandra Dallas.

“Britt-Marie Was Here,” by Fredrik Bachman.

“Five Presidents,” by Clint Hill.

“Woman of the Boundary Waters,” by Justine Kerfoot.

“Furious Hours,” by Casey Cep.

“Charms for the Easy Life,” by Kaye Gibbons.

“Number the Stars,” by Lois Lowry.

“A Night Divided,” by Jennifer Nielsen.

“The Body,” by Bill Bryson. And gave it a second reading, too.

“The Recipe Box,” by Viola Shipman.

“The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society,” by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows.

“Hey Ranger! (True Tales of Humor & Misadventure from America’s National Parks),” by Jim Burnett.

“The Yankee Widow,” by Linda Lael Miller.

“A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle.

“The Charm Bracelet,” by Viola Shipman.

“Dear Edward,” by Ann Napolitano.

“Nothing Ventured,” by Jeffrey Archer.

“The Bookshop of Yesterdays,” by Amy Meyerson.

“The Heirloom Garden,” by Viola Shipman. Note: This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, by far, but it is another favorite for this year. Shipman’s use of the garden and plants to frame the chapters and characters makes it valuable to me personally.  And I’ll add that had this book been the last one I was given the chance to read, I’d die happy. Just sayin’.

“The Girl You Left Behind,” by JoJo Moyes.

“The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek,” by Kim Michelle Richardson.

“Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit,” by Amy Stewart.

“A Walk Along the Beach,” by Debbie Macomber.

“The Oysterville Sewing Circle,” by Susan Wiggs.

“Between Sisters,” by Kristan Hannah.

“This Tender Land,”by William Kent Krueger.

“Kopp Sisters on the March,” by Amy Stewart.

“The Story of Arthur Truluv,” by Elizabeth Berg.

“Winter Garden,” by Kristan Hannah.

“Gray Mountain,” by John Grisham.

“American Dirt,” by Jeanine Cummins.

“Jane Austen was Here: An Illustrated Guide to Jane Austen’s England,” by Nicole Jacobsen and Devynn Dayton, with illustrations by Lexi K. Nilson.

“When Books Went to War,” by Molly Guptill Manning.

“The Quilter’s Legacy,” by Jennifer Chiaverini.

“The Pioneers,” by David McCullough.

“People of the Whale,” by Linda Hogan.

“The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas.

“Final Transgression,” by Harriet Welty Rochefort.

“The Christmas Basket,” by Debbie Macomber.

“The Splendid and the Vile,” by Erik Larson.

“The Heart Hungers for Wildness: Poetry,” by Diane Glass.

“The Book of Two Ways,” by Jodi Picoult.

“Live as If…A Teacher’s Love Story,” by Frye Gaillard.

“The World of Winnie-the-Pooh,” by A.A. Milne.

You can write the columnist by email at, or comment directly about this column by using the handy form below here.


12 thoughts on “Carla’s reading report for 2020 was 54 books. They lifted her spirits like never before.

  1. Carla, our neighborhood book club has read several of the books you’ve read. We just finished reading “The Girl With the Louding Voice.” It was good. My two favorites are “Dear Edward” and “Giver of Stars.” Excellent stories! So glad that your love of books continues! There’s nothing like snuggling in on a cold winter day with a great book and a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate. ❤

    Cindy Jensen, West Des Moines

  2. What an interesting and diverse list of books! I have mountains of books saved to read when I have time. Well, I think it is time! You are an inspiration, Carla. God Bless!

    Cathy Ritz Barnett

  3. Carla, you are a true inspiration, demonstrating how to live on the mountaintop, and much more importantly, how to live to the max, even as you transverse the darkest, deepest valleys. May our loving, compassionate God continue to bless you as you press forward on your valiant journey.

    Ronn King, Sioux Falls, SD

  4. What an accomplishment, Carla! You’ve set — and met — a goal that most of us can on dream of! ENJOY!

    Larry Stone, Elkader IA

  5. I will make a list and do my best to follow it, although it will take me five years to read through them all. However I have already read quite a few. Am just finishing up “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.” Thanks so much for letting us all know what you enjoy, and we can feel that from you when we read them as well. Think of you everyday and lift up a prayer for comfort and peace.

    Kathy Mathews, West Des Moines & Arizona

  6. Great list! Adding some of them to my “to read list.” I just finished “Jack,” #4 in Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” series. Really enjoyed it.

    Margot Fosnes, Cross Plains TN

  7. Carla, loved the list, and appreciate the recommendations. My list overlapped with yours on several books. A couple of recommendations for the coming year: “Missionaries” by Phil Klay, “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead, “Race and Reunion” by David Blight. Prayers, good wishes, and love to you.

    Don North, Houston TX

  8. What a list! I look forward to looking up some of these titles and finding new books to read and enjoy. Thanks for reading my book, by the way! No matter what the book, the experience of reading is such a treasure, one that you have always taken seriously and that has given and continues to give you joy. And on top of that you have a goal of reading a certain number of books and stick to your goal through thick and thin, as they say. What an accomplishment!

    Harriet Welty Rochefort, Paris, France

  9. WOW!!! You never cease to amaze me, Carla!!! The first book I want to read is your favorite, “Dear Edward “and I will be ordering it later today. The only book I was going to suggest to you was, “Live As IF” and you have already read it. This only fortifies my belief that you are the most courageous person I know and I’m so happy that we are close friends. You bless me immeasurably.
    We love you ever so dearly,
    Molly for Doug, too.

  10. As always, thanks for creating your list and telling us about the books you read in 2020. I’ve read some of your titles. I look forward to reading Dear Edward. You may or may not know about a fairly new novel, The Butterfly Effect, by Rachel Mans McKenny, who lives in Boone and is an English instructor at Iowa State. This novel is set in Ames, and you will recognize many of the settings. I’m glad you continue to enjoy reading–and share your passion with others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *