books to read on bench

Whether it’s historical fiction, sci-fi, coming of age novels, biographies or the classics, here are 20 books to consider reading.

I love reading all types of books and I’ve made it a habit to read 30 minutes every night before bed. It’s usually my way to unwind, but sometimes the stories are so intriguing, that I can’t fall asleep right away. Does this happen to anyone else? It may not be the best habit to adopt for better sleep, but I have been doing this for years. This would be hard to change.

So, if you also love to read or would like to start reading a bit more and need some inspiration, below is a list of the books I have absolutely enjoyed reading in 2020. Even more so this past year, since our lives have been hijacked by COVID-19, reading has been a way to ease a lot of tension. Living vicariously through your character’s stories is a great escape.

Great Reads

reading list 2020

Educated By Tara Westover

Tara was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family forbade education, western medicine and instead prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling weapons, food and healing herbs. This memoir recounts overcoming her survivalist Mormon family in order to go to college, and emphasizes the importance of education.

From my reading list

Americanah By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning novel is about a young Nigerian woman, who immigrates to the United States to attend university. She struggles with racism, relationships, and identity. The novel then follows Ifemelu back to Nigeria and back to her first and true love, Obinze. The narration switches to describe the difficulties he faced as an illegal worker in London and his quick rise to wealth upon returning to Nigeria.

for my reading list

Calypso By David Sedaris

Do expect to laugh your way through this book, like other books from Sedaris may have. Except, be prepared for a darker and more cynical view of his over-the-top family. It is amazing the power Sedaris has to shock readers with his raw and sorrowful observations.

reading list

A Place For UsBy Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us tells the story of an Indian-American Muslim family living in California. First generation siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, reconciling their present culture with their parent’s faith, unaware of how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals. It is a deeply moving portrait of what it means to be an American family today.

feminist reading

Men Explain Things To MeBy Rebecca Solnit

What goes wrong in conversations between men and women? Rebecca Solnit writes about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how the absence of credibility to female voices in the male mind discount issues like violence, death, abuse, harassment, and rape.

book quotes from authors - reading
feminist read

A Room Of One’s OwnBy Virginia Woolf

Woolf addressed the status of women, and women artists in particular, in this famous essay, which asserts that a woman must have money and a room of her own, if she is to write. She describes how centuries of prejudice and financial and educational disadvantages have inhibited women’s creativity.

books for reading

Jude The ObscureBy Thomas Hardy

Hardy’s approach to subjects like love, marriage, class, religion, and sex were very controversial when he published this book in 1895. It is only fitting for the times that this story end in tragedy, but OH! The tragedy!!! I especially love Hardy’s description of the British countryside.

reading black authors

Sula By Toni Morrison

Morrison’s second novel, is a story of motherhood, friendship, and love. It follows two girls, Nel and Sula, from childhood to adulthood and describes the way their deep bond is tested by societal norms. Especially by Sula’s attitude toward conformity and tradition. Set in a mostly black town in Ohio, the relationship between women in the segregated and patriarchal South is at the forefront.

reading list

I Know Why The Caged Bird SingsBy Maya Angelou

A coming of age story of a precocious but insecure black girl in the American South during the 1930s and subsequently in California during the 1940s. Maya begins life rejected by her parents, which leads to feelings of failure and disparagement. Very early on Maya suffers a trauma, for which she feels guilt and shame. At this point, she loses her ability to speak. Only until she finds stability back with her grandmother does she meet an educated woman in the neighborhood, who teaches her to read out loud. This gives her the courage Maya needs to regain her voice. Here she begins her journey of dignity and self-worth.

reading black authors

The Underground RailroadBy Colson Whitehead

This is the story of Cora, a runaway slave from a plantation in Georgia. She travels north, from state to state, riding in the boxcar of a secret underground train. Pursued by a slave catcher, Ridgeway is all the more determined to catch her, because of his failure to catch her runaway mother years before. Primal instincts take Cora on a journey of escape, capture and escape through several US states. Each time helped by the mysterious underground network, who’s members’ lives are also in constant jeopardy.

book quotes from authors
reading list

The Fountains Of SilenceBy Ruta Sepetys

This historical fiction novel is set in Spain during the 1950’s, when the country and its citizens are in the grips of a very brutal and vindictive dictatorship. Meanwhile, tourists are frolicking in the sun and businessmen are signing deals, while locals rights are being suppressed and the media is controlled to cover the dark secrets many in the country are hiding.

reading list 2020

The Secret Lives of BeesBy Sue Monk Kidd

Set in South Carolina during 1964, this novel tells the story of a fourteen year old white girl, Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the mystery of her mother’s death. In search of the truth, she escapes her abusive father with Rosaleen, her black housekeeper, who would otherwise be facing death by racist townsfolk. Lily’s quest for love and belonging is made possible by three beekeeping sisters, their mesmerizing world of bees, and the Black Madonna. A remarkable novel about divine female power and community.

the summer queen

Summer QueenBy Elizabeth Chadwick

After visiting Bordeaux this past year and learning of the real Eleanor of Aquitaine, I became intrigued. She is a 12th century icon whose life was full of scandal, passion, tragedy and triumph. In this historical fiction, Chadwick brings Eleanor to life, the first in a trilogy of novels, depicting the life of the medieval queen. After her beloved father died in the summer of 1137, she was made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week into the marriage she becomes a queen and her life changes beyond recognition. I loved this portrayal of Eleanor and cannot wait to read the next in the trilogy.

reading classics

The Invisible Man By H.G. Wells

This sci-fi novel was published in 1897 and tells the story of a mad scientist named Griffin. Ironically, he makes himself invisible, hoping to gain instant fame. He then dreams of all the things he can get away with by using his new power. Instead, he experiences a complete reversal of expectations.

great expat book

Pachinko By Min Jin Lee

Pachinko tells the story of Korean immigrants living in Japan between 1910 and today, a family saga that explores the effects of poverty, abuse, war, suicide, and the accumulation of wealth on multiple generations. – The Irish Times review

great expat read

Everyone Knows You Go HomeBy Natalia Sylvester

A novel about immigration and the depths to which one Mexican American family will go for forgiveness and redemption. The book also details the dangers faced by undocumented immigrants, beginning at home, during their journey and continuing throughout their lives, even after reaching their destination.

reading list 2020

Dominicana By Angie Cruz

Fifteen-year-old Ana never dreamed of moving to America, like most girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age or that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her to prosper and to bring her family out of political turmoil. Unfortunately, she falls into the hands of a controlling and abusive husband. Ana must decide between her future and her duty to her family.

reading list 2020

The Dutch HouseBy Anne Patchett

At the end of World War II, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves. When suddenly thrown back into poverty, the siblings find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

last book of the year 2020

The Ride Of A LifetimeBy Robert Iger

Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, shares the ideas and values he has used to reinvent one of the most beloved companies in the world, and inspire the people who bring the magic to life.  Since his arrival, Disney has become the largest, most respected media company in the world. Now he shares the lessons he learned along the way and explores the principles that are necessary for true leadership. – Goodreads review

reading classics

Silas MarnerBy Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot)

Published in 1861, Silas Marner is a weaver in the English countryside in the early 19th century. Like many weavers of his time, he is an outsider and considered unusual by the villagers. Betrayed and falsely accused, he exiles himself to another village. He finds solace with his loom and his money until an unexpected visitor arrives. Notable for a variety of issues ranging from religion to industrialization to community, family and hope.

More Reading Tips

  • When I need some reading inspiration, I usually visit Goodreads for book reviews and recommendation.
  • If you prefer reading physical copies of books, don’t forget to visit your local bookshop. The one in Munich I like to browse and choose to support is The Munich Readery

Credit: Featured Photo by Ergita Sela on Unsplash

Additional Reading

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Road Rules – Riding your Bike in Munich

Is Munich´s Hard Water Wreaking Havoc on Your Hair & Skin?