If you want to see who might have come close to making the cut, you can check out my 2020 reads here on Goodreads, sorted by star rating for you. Or scan the original list here on LJ for bolded titles.
1. Saddle a Thunderbolt - Jo Sykes (1967)
I generally buy a lot more old horse books than I actually get around to reading in a given year, but when I'm finally in the mood for one they really hit the spot. This one, set out on a Montana ranch over the summer that a 17-year-old boy is trying to keep afloat while his dad is in the hospital out of town and his mom is with him, had all kinds of great focus on various horses (both ranch-owned and wild), as well as lots of riding over and camping out on the ranch land.
2. Dandy's Mountain - Thomas Fall (1967)
Darling book about a girl's summer on her small dairy farm in the Adironacks, starting on the last day of fifth grade, featuring horses and a wonderful setting with a girl who likes to be outdoors as much as possible.
(side note: I love the coincidence of there being two books specifically from 1967 -- especially given that I read 30 books published prior to the year 2000 -- followed by a time jump longer than my entire life so far)
3. Nature Girl - Jane Kelley (2010)
I read this on the day I decided to do an 8-mile walk on a similar trail myself (I brought the book with me and paced myself carefully, stopping to read every 2-3 miles), and it was just PERFECT as far as walking motivation, because the main character is exactly like my own inner 11-year-old when I get petulant and vow to spite everyone who has wronged me. She actually starts out hating nature and hiking, she just wants to see her friend who lives far away, but then decides to stick it out from sheer stubborness after she gets lost and finds herself on the Applachaian Trail. Plus she has the little family dog with her so it's extra cute!
4. The Lost Husband - Katherine Center (2013)
Tough call between this and Everyone Is Beautiful as far as the best Katherine Center book I read this year, but although that one had a more satisfying relationship, I'm giving this one a slight edge due to the wonderful farm setting and the fact that no kids were in diapers.
5. The Shadow Year - Hannah Richell (2013)
My first Richell book, hopefully not the last, because this story sucked me in and brought me two kinds of abandoned-house stories I love: one where a woman is trying to repair and rehabilitate it (with a side of grief recovery from the loss of a premature newborn), and one where the house is just unused and features a group of idealistic young people deciding to homestead there and live off the land. The two timelines also gradually weave together to reveal and resolve A Mystery that kept me reading for six hours straight.
6. Burying Water - K.A. Tucker (2014)
This book blew into my life and gave me a book hangover. All the hurt/comfort! The most beautiful and picturesque rural setting! I swooned so hard over Jesse I think I spent about 2 weeks in a fugue state afterward, unable to think about anything except how much I wanted to spend a day in Water's shoes in her new life at the end of the book.
7. Me & Mr J - Rachel McIntyre (2015)
One of the best student/teacher stories I've ever read because it's so innocent for so long, which is all I ever want from these stories. PLUS a heady side of hurt/comfort and white-knight desire to protect and reassure. This book also made me cry SO hard about everything she goes through, it was like I was living it.
8. Littler Women - Laura Schaefer (2017)
Retelling my beloved classic as a modern AU, with the characters aged down a few years to better retain the innocent spirit of the times? What is: my dream and also my favorite daydreaming activity. It was everything I wanted it to be.
9. The Other Side Of Lost - Jessi Kirby (2018)
Speaking of walking motivation -- between the thru-hiking in a beautiful setting, the sympathetic side of Instagram influencers, and the wonderful journal excerpts from and flashbacks to the late cousin, this was the PERFECT summer adventure. One of the rare books i had to read slowly to soak it all in.
10. I'd Rather Be Reading - Ann Bogel (2018)
Even though I've never read her blog, nearly every line of this book spoke to me. I couldn't even pull favorite quotes, because it was every quote. Just a constant cycle of THAT'S SO ME!
I decided these were not eligible for the list above, because why steal space from something that may only have one shot at being a Top Ten? And if I reread a book, it's usually because it's 5 stars. And so:
+ Little Women: A favorite since I was 9, now read three times.
+ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Second Summer of the Sisterhood: First time reading them in 15 years; loved book 1 just as much and book 2 even more, now that Bee has become my favorite of all (aided in no small part by my intense Bridget/Eric shipping flag, born of remembering Mike Vogel played him in the movie)
+ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: First time reading it in 13 years; first time ever reading the (beautiful) illustrated edition, courtesy of the library.
+ Mandrake Root - Janet Diebold: The uber-obscure 1940s novel I bought at a random estate sale and cannot concisely explain the plot of, I just love the setting and writing style.
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