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Carolyn Lists Her Top Twelve Books from 2020 to Read in 2021

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson shares writers’ resources on her award-winning blog Sharing with Writers

A Dozen of My Best Reading of 2020 for You to Read in 2021



Compassion, Michigan: The Ironwood Stories by Raymond Luczak, published by Modern History Press. Remembering that some of this nation’s truest story were written by and about people in small towns with very cold climates, Luczak’s stories harken to that tradition but, it seems, short stories are suited for these times and especially stories like these full of character and full of characters with character who manage to make do just as many of us are doing in these times of Covid. I guarantee readers will find comfort in both the length of these stories and in knowing those people he writes about. ISBN: 9781615995271 Available on Amazon in paper, hardcover, and ebook. 


Words and Bones by LB Sedlacek. A poetry chapbook published by Finishing Line Press, (2018). Easy-to-read poetry, each beautiful in its simplicity. ISBN 97881635346329 Available at


How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech by Dr. Judith Briles, published by Mile High Press, Ltd. (2018). Great reread for the Zoom (call that Covid!) era. ISBN: 978 1885331670. Available on Amazon.


When God Says No: Revealing the Yes When Adversity and Loss Are Present by Judith Briles, published by Mile High Press, Ltd. Inspiration for the time of Covid. ISBN: 9781886431731 ©2019. Available on Amazon as hard cover, paperback and e-book. 


Life Is Basically Tragic—But Not Mine by Evelyn Blocker. Published by A Mojave River Valley Museum Publication, Barstow, CA. where her life is celebrated in a permanent display. The author’s daughter said, “My mother told us that the reason she wrote her story is so that we and our children and our children’s children would know, truly know, about how life was in the in 30’s and the 40’s, most particularly the depression and how life went on and people adapted, learned, grew, and went on!” ISBN: 0918614120 ©2003. Available as a paperback on Amazon.


Mine to Carry: An Irishwoman’s Journey Through Forbidden Pregnancy, a memoir by Christine (“Cris”) Mulvey, is’s 2020 #NorthStreetBookPrize winner. Independently published by This memoir is a warning—and a reminder—of the dangers of allowing one group of human beings or countries to impose their values on individuals unlike themselves. ISBN: 978-1-543957288 Available on Amazon. 


The Benefits of Breathinga collection of stories by Christopher Meeks (Foreword by Roderick Clark). White Whisker Books. Reviewer Grady Harp says this book will “provide proof that we have a superior writer of the genre in our presence.” ISBN: 978 0 9863265 Available on Amazon. Disclaimer: Meeks is my former student at UCLA and a well-known writing teacher at universities in the Los Angeles area including UCLA, USC, Santa Monica Community College. 


Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever by Gavin Edwards. Published by Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow. ISBN: 9780062950741 (2020). Pages 246. 


The Simple Facts about Self-Publishing: What indie publishers need to know to produce a great book by Jacquelyn Lynn. Published by Tuscawilla Creative Services. This is among my my few first-read recommended books for any would-be author considering publishing—indie or traditionally. ISBN: 99781941826324 . Available on Amazon


Finding Joy Journal by Jacquelyn Lynn. Published by Tuscawilla Creative Services. LLC. The perfect gift for a journaler, would-be diary keeper, poet, author, or anyone else with the will to write or a dream to do so. It’s also a curative and inspiration. ISBN: 9781941826195 Available on Amazon


Diversity: Embracing Our Shared Humanity. A workbook by Daralyse Lyones from Loving Healing Press seems a double-duty exercise book to me. A perfect way for authors inspired to us diversity as a theme in their writing to sort out their thinking or inspire new ways to tackle a familiar theme or simply as guided journaling that would benefit most anyone in these days of changing demographics. ISBN: 0781615995363. Available on Amazon.


Trish: A Story of Survival and Recovery by Patricia Byrnes. A memoir published by Modern History Press. A personal story but also a story for readers interested in the US penal system. PEN America might be interested for their program designed to shed light on mass incarceration. ISBN: 9781615995141. Available on Amazon


About This Post


Carolyn writes the Back to Literature column for the review website She is also the author of How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing careeravailable on Amazon at and other books including fiction and poetry. 


 Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the multi award-wining author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter (, now offered by Modern History Press in its third edition. Carolyn’s latest is in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. 
Carolyn has two booklets in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series, both in their second editions from Modern History Press. Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers ( and The Great First Impression Book Proposal ( are career boosters in mini doses and both make ideal thank you gifts for authors. The Frugal Editor (, now in its second edition, is the winningest book in the series. Carolyn also has three frugal books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it helps them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques ( In addition to this blog, Carolyn helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at She also blogs at all things editing–grammar, formatting and more–at The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor ( Learn more and follow for news on her new releases direct from Amazon:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the multi award-winning author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for authors and retailers. She was named Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by members of the California Legislature and was an instructor for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program for nearly a decade.


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