My Favorite Reads of 2020

It was the year of nonfiction for me this year! For the first time ever, my list has more nonfiction than fiction. I did read some great fiction books though as well! I narrowed my list to my top seven. Let me know if you have read any and what you thought!

Let’s begin, shall we?

These were the three standout fiction books that I read this year, and my most recommended to people throughout the year.

Mexican Gothic is hands down my favorite book of the year – it was just so much everything. Plot, characters, quirk, atmosphere, twisty and scary and horrifying. And this cover is amazingly beautiful. Have any of you seen the Instagram posts where people are recreating this cover? I can understand why, it is so rich and warm and lovely.

My Sister the Serial Killer was a surprisingly amazing read for me. I thought I would enjoy it, but not necessarily love it as much as I did. I think it is such a unique take on family relationships and love, and of course, a bit of creep factor as well.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was such a fun fantastic read! I loved it so much. It reminded me of a Westing Game for adults.

The Call of the Wild and Free was a book that really changed our lives! If you are a regular reader here, you may have seen my posts where I talk about how it really spoke to me and about how to frame our homeschooling experience. It is not the right experience for everyone, but it is perfect for us right now.

The Creative Family Manifesto is another book that heavily influenced our lives this year. Because of this book, we were inspired to take drawing books with us on picnics and have lazy days drawing away. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination but I am enjoying what I am creating and that is the most important thing…right? Wyatt loves drawing and painting and that is something I want to encourage, and we have art supplies always available to him for when he feels like making or creating. Most nights now he will sit quietly happily drawing away.

The Cider Revival. I just really enjoyed this book! It was a fascinating look at apple orchards and the cider industry, especially all those small cideries out there. Plus, we had a fantastic night of cider tasting after I read this book.

The Salt Path was amazing. I have never read a book like this before. I have read many memoirs of people hiking and walking long distances, but never for these reasons. I loved the journey start to finish, and I am looking forward to reading Winn’s follow up. I am a person who underlines and makes notes in their books and this passage from The Salt Path was just so powerful.

I was a part of the whole. I didn’t need to own a patch of land to make that so. I could stand in the wind and I was the wind, the rain, the sea; it was all me, and I was nothing within it.

What did you read that you loved this year?

Cider, The Cider Revival, and Fire

I have always loved apples, apple orchards, cider, and all that goes with it, including Johnny Appleseed (whom we chose as one of our family heroes for Wyatt’s studies this year). Every January, we pull on our boots and hats, and troop outside to our suburban front yard, and wassail our apple tree. If our neighbors were to look outside during this time, they would probably think we were crazy. If they came out to ask what we were doing, I would offer them cider.

It was I used to reserve all of my cider drinking for fall. I even took a tiny poll last year asking my closest friends when they thought the cut-off for drinking cider was. This year, I decided I didn’t care and started drinking it over the summer, sticking to the more fun ones like Virtue Michigan Cherry, and Virtue Rose. Now it is finally fall and I am branching out into new cider territory, finding new ciders to enjoy.

I recently read The Cider Revival: Dispatches From the Orchard by Jason Wilson, and absolutely inhaled it. Usually it takes me a while to finish a nonfiction book. That was not the case this time. Wilson states that cider is familiar, American, not exotic. It is seemingly “genderless” in ways that some people might view wine drinking or whiskey drinking (not me, whatever floats your boat!) And once was the drink of choice in America, until Prohibition left cider orchards to decay and die off. But cider is having a revival, with craft ciders and cideries, pommeliers and more commercial brands are becoming more and more popular again. And I for one am here for it.

There was no way that I could read The Cider Revival without wanting to explore different ciders. So, I texted my brother and asked if he wanted to have a cider tasting and fire at his house this weekend, and he of course agreed, as they are cider fans as well. We only had the ciders available at our local liquor store to choose from, and while they are pretty varied, it was still limited to one four foot section in an otherwise enormous store. They are pretty cool though and will order anything, so we are going to explore that option next time. However, we had a blast tasting the ones we did have, and there were some definite favorites!

The lineup: From Virtue: Michigan Cherry, Brut, and Sidra de Nava; From Shorts Starcut Line: Pulsar, Magpie, Octorock, and Mosa; then from a local orchard, Broken Barrel.

We didn’t know how to do a proper tasting, where to start and where to finish, so we started with the more appley, dry versions and worked our way to the more flavored ones, and decided to end with Sidra, because it was the most expensive.

The verdicts:

Billy: Hands down loved the Broken Barrel as his clear favorite, followed by the Michigan Cherry.

Me: My favorites were the Pulsar, which was mellow and dry yet had just a little more oomph that I wanted. My second favorite was the Michigan Cherry.

Chrissy: Chrissy had the same favorites as Billy, the Broken Barrel followed by the Michigan Cherry. She felt that the Broken Barrel was perfect, fresh tasting, and like pure apples. (she is right)

Devin: Again, Broken Barrel and Michigan Cherry were the winners.

Honorable Mention: The Mosa by Starcut Ciders. We all agreed it did not taste really like cider, but if you had to drink cider for breakfast, it was the one to choose. It was actually very delicious.

And the finale: The Sidra de Nava. I chose this one because it is a cider made in the Spanish style by Virtue Ciders, and I had read that Spanish ciders are pretty important in the cider world. I don’t know if it was just this one, but Billy, Chrissy and I did not enjoy it. It was too – astringent? I think Chrissy said it best when she said it smelled like nail polish remover. We even checked the bottle to see if had expired, as the three of us could not even drink it. Devin however liked it, but it was not a favorite. We will probably seek out a different version one day, hopefully an actual Spanish import to compare it too, but perhaps our palettes are just not ready.

We had so much fun, and we all felt so much more relaxed than we had felt in weeks. We plan on doing another tasting this next weekend, this time with craft beer. It should be interesting, especially since I am not a big beer drinker.

If you are at all interested in reading about cider, I highly recommend reading The Cider Revival. And then maybe have a little toast to the author over a warm fire on a chilly autumn night, for introducing you to a whole new world.

Nonfiction November- Wk 2: Book Pairings

This week of #NonFicNov is hosted by Julz of JulzReads

This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

This one was such a fun one last year!

“The beauty of cider lies in its simplicity..” The Cider Revival: Dispatches from the Orchard

The Simplicity of Cider is one of my favorite books – I love Amy E. Reichert, and this book was a delight to read, full of cider and apples and family and magic. I have been having my own little love affair with cider this year, so when The Cider Revival recently hit my radar, I gobbled it up. Like, just read the heck out of it and then regaled my husband and family with a multitude of cider facts for days. I feel so well-versed in the world of cider!

This book even inspired a cider tasting and fire night with my brother and sister-in-law this weekend!