By CARLA OFFENBURGER
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 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 carla@Offenburger.com, or comment directly about this column by using the handy form below here.