My favorite books of 2020
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I do think the passing of an old year provides an excellent opportunity to pause and look back. For me, one of the things I was happily surprised by is how many books I read in 2020.
As a book reader, I’m usually not terribly adventurous. I read through the entire “Harry Potter” series at least once every 24 months or so, and I regularly return to some of my favorite series like the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Dresden Files.”
So as I was poring over my library and reflecting on my past year’s reads, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I actually read several books that came out this year. I purchased many of them from Next Page Books and Nosh, which recently released its own staff picks to check out.
Here are a few of my favorites that came out this year:
‘Ingredients: the Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us’ by George Zaidan
The specter of processed food has been a substantial part of recent debates in nutrition. Combine that with a continual media stream covering new food studies of varying quality, and it can make you wonder if nutritional science is anything you can rely on.
George Zaidan’s book reflects on the tenuous definition of what processed food is and digs into some of the history of our understanding of what is good to put in and on our bodies.
Amid the pandemic, it also served as an important reminder of the nature of scientific studies and the media’s role in communicating findings.
‘The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life’ by Alex Trebek
Perhaps one of the most revealing things in this book: Alex Trebek swears. I normally wouldn’t spoil that, but he brings it out right in the intro, so I don’t think it’s too startling.
That revelation sets the tone for what is a fairly candid look back into Trebek’s life. Trebek has been an essential part of my life since I was a game-show-obsessed 3-year-old, though at the time, I was much more absorbed by his time hosting “Classic Concentration,” which sadly doesn’t get any mention in the book.
Trebek strikes a refreshing tone with his book. He mainly just reflects on his life and career but never comes across as over-nostalgic or self-indulgent. For anyone who has fond “Jeopardy!” memories, this is very much worth your time.
‘You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington’ by Alexis Coe
George Washington probably has more biographies written about him than any other U.S. figure, but this one is a refreshing add to the bookshelf. Alexis Coe is not inherently critical of Washington, but also tends to shy away from the apologetics that some biographers are tempted to engage in. The book lends a frank look into a remarkable man who, like everyone in all of history, had his fair share of flaws.
Coe paints a frank and relatable portrait of Washington. Nothing in here is groundbreaking, but Coe’s perspective cuts through some of the mythologizing we are tempted to engage in as we look back on one of our most important Americans.
‘A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor’ by Hank Green
I’ve read several sequels this year, but this one is particularly poignant amid the current time. Hank Green is probably best known for his YouTube videos, including a wide variety on educational topics, and perhaps this novel (the second book of a two-part series) is suited for his experience with online fame.
The book continues the work of its predecessor, “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” as it delves into the world of modern fame, internet celebrities, authenticity and contemporary dialog through a sci-fi lens.
Steven Josephson is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News.
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