Finally! I get to write a post sharing the best books of 2020. I have been excited to put something like this together for a while. When I first started planning ideas, I was going to repeat last year’s post and share only my 5-star reads. In 2019, there were 12. But 2020 has given me a higher number of new favourites. After a brief whinge on Twitter and a notebook of comparisons, I managed to whittle it down to 25 of the best (sort of).
This year was certainly the year of reading for me. Unlike 2019, I also found that some of the best books I read were not necessarily 5-star reads, but enjoyable nonetheless. So, instead of just the ones with all the stars, I’m sharing the ones I sincerely love. The books that I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up again, and the books I’d recommend to friends.
2020 was… I’m still thinking of a word. I had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to grow, and a lot of time to read. It’s been both a remarkable and a disappointing year. I know I have never been so drained and overwhelmed. There have been huge highs and devastating lows, so it’s difficult to truly articulate the last 12 months in a blog post. But what I can very easily write about are books.
I didn’t set reading goals for 2020, but I’m happy to see a little more diversity in my reading list in comparison to last year. There’s a range of authors, genres, and formats in this list – which all lists should have! So, in no particular order, here are 25 of the best books I read in 2020.
Check out my review here! Where the Crawdads Sing is an incredibly deep and moving novel that I have no doubt I will forever remember. Owens’ rich and eloquent reflection on humanity paints a vivid picture from the first page. The author’s passion and understanding of nature is evident in her descriptive poetic prose. It’s a moving and inspiring story about survival against the odds. Themes of family, love, prejudice, poverty and loneliness are insightfully explored in this truly gripping story. There is diversity in the characters, the style and the emotion. It’s not only a novel that will have you sobbing by the last page, but also stuck in awe and wonder at the natural beauty of Delia Owens’ words and descriptions.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown is the hilariously romantic tale of Danika Brown and Zafir Ansari. Both the protagonists are bursting with personality in this book. Their sharp back-and-forth highlights Hibbert’s talent for playful conversation. I found the dialogue to be one of the most captivating elements of this novel. And I’ll forever be a fan of Hibbert’s writing. The way she portrays thought, emotion and awareness always makes her books so compelling. Dani Brown is an awesome sequel to The Brown Sisters series. If you’re a fan of the friends-to-lovers and fake relationship tropes, as well as diverse romance, this is the book for you.
Party of Two is a wonderfully charming love story, and another brilliant addition to The Wedding Date series. I loved Olivia’s no-nonsense attitude from The Wedding Date, so I was eager to dive into her story in Party of Two. A good chunk of the novel is happy fluff, and I welcome it. I absolutely adore the way Guillory builds a love story. Even from The Wedding Date, I have loved the gentle but emotional bond the builds between the two characters. It has a natural depth to it, the makes it really easy to invest in. The characters are the perfect mix of authentic and dreamy and there’s a steady balance of romance and drama to keep the plot moving. Principally, Party of Two is a lovely novel. The romance is as swoon-worthy as always, and the plot is incredible easy to fly through.
Check out my review here! Beach Read is a delightfully captivating romance, and a touching gem for happy ending devotees. The witty back-and-forth between January and Augustus is the most enjoyable part of the fiction for me. From the moment they spoke to one another, I was happy. Then to see their connection evolve, I was even happier. The author so perfectly creates a charming chemistry in just a few sentences. The dynamic between January and Gus isn’t an all-out enemies-to-lovers trope, but has a very similar feel. Henry’s writing is addictive, and her powerful romance is definitely a new favourite.
The best thing about Ghosts is Nina. She’s a loveable protagonist. It’s not just that she’s relatable, there’s something refreshing about her. I also like how this story explores the mindset of someone who feels left behind. It’s a very real and common worry that I found relevant and comforting. This book really hooked me. And I’m so happy about it. The poignant theme of holding on to one’s identity as life curves and changes really touches the heart. Alderton’s humour is perfectly displayed through Nina, and the contemporary exploration of a millennial in London makes for a truly enjoyable read.
Check out my review here! I did not expect a book about hockey to affect me as deeply as Beartown did. I don’t care much for the sport, but this book totally and completely stole my heart. I’m so happy I chose to read it. Backman masterfully establishes a foundation for each character before they affect the storyline. In just a few sentences the people of this small community come to life. As a reader, I really felt like I was being sucked into this town, and began to evaluate different aspects of my life in the same way the author dissects the characters’ lives. Peer pressure, prejudice, corruption and idolisation are all rife in today’s modern world and this book shines a bright torch on that. The fictional story is enlightening and acts a mirror. When you read you have no choice but to look and analyse. I recently purchased its sequel, Us Against You, ahead of the third, Those Who Run Towards Fire!
Dear Edward is an emotionally gripping and deeply moving novel about a survivor and his grief following tragic loss of his family. It’s a thought-provoking tale of the struggle to heal after trauma, and the ability to find a place in the world after leaving another one behind. The book seamlessly hops back and forth between two timelines: the lives of the passengers before the crash, and Edward’s life after it. Ann Napolitano has crafted a beautifully poignant coming-of-age tale. It pulls sympathy from the reader in the right places, with the perfect balance of heart-wrenching reservations and life-affirming revelations. Dear Edward is a captivating journey through an unimaginable scenario, and a read I’ll remember for a long time.
The Deep Blue Between is a strikingly historic tale about love, loss, family, and hope. Ayesha Harruna Attah’s vivid and enchanting descriptions Brazil and the Gold Coast brilliantly establish the impassioned atmosphere for this book. Her writing style stirs up a courageous spirit that makes The Deep Blue Between a really comforting read. This beautiful story is rich in both culture and emotion. It takes place during a dark era of history but emphasises the importance of endurance and faith during the most difficult of journeys.
Check out my review here! There could be 100 books about the Barbie and the Yeti, and I know I’d read every single one of them. A large portion of the book concentrates on Calla’s personal character growth since the events of the first book. This book is a journey, but a charming one. It’s humorous, heart-warming, and enchanting. If there’s a third book in the series, I don’t think I’ll be able to resist buying that plane ticket to Trapper’s Crossing. Compared to The Simple Wild, this book feels longer and slower. The pacing slows in some places, but is perfect in others. Understandably, it’s not as emotional, but twice as romantic.
Frying Plantain is a semi-autobiographical anthology of 12 linked coming-of-age stories. The cultural disparities between Canada and Jamaica are brilliantly mapped out in this book. And Reid-Benta’s writing is refreshingly clear and gratifyingly fluent. But it is still full of life with an airy and playful tone that adds levity to the character’s heavier challenges. Frying Plantain successfully delves into behaviour modification, racial prejudices, and family dynamics. It’s easy to read but carries emotional weight, especially for those who can relate to its multidimensional characters.
Check out my review here! I absolutely loved this book. I’m a huge fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, and it was perfectly executed in this book. The romance was brilliantly balanced too. It’s never too heavy, too rushed or to extreme. Christina Lauren’s writing is just delightful! At no point did I feel like I was reading two books from two authors, the entire story felt whole and full. There was more to the story that two people hating each other, and I liked that different elements like career, family and marriage played into the plot. This is the kind of book, I would read to pull me out of a slump.
Check out my review here! Such a Fun Age is a refreshing debut novel that explores privilege, racial biases and millennial anxiety. It highlights some of the racial prejudices and micro-aggressive behaviours that most common today. My favourite thing about the novel was the light and easy writing, despite the book’s heavy themes. The characters in the novel are well-developed and skilfully used to move the narrative along while teaching the reader an important lessons on biases and stereotypes. The background and conversation between the characters fleshes out their personalities, which makes the book all the more compelling. Such a Fun Age is the perfect book to construct diverse and interesting conversation.
Check out my review here! The Midnight Library is a captivating, inspiring and uplifting book that is a delightfully heartfelt reminder to do more than exist. It’s a reminder that we must truly live. This novel truly is an immersive reading experience. When it comes to visiting The Midnight Library, I’m immediately lost in its rich, dreamlike atmosphere. It is essentially an elegantly mapped out set of messages beneath an entertaining plot. There’s something safe and cosy about this book, despite the Library sitting in the void between life and death. It’s the kind of narrative I’ll never get tired of reading, because it’s a soothing but powerful push to keep going. Very easily in my top 5 of 2020!
I was hooked on this book from start to finish. Every time I put it down, I just wanted to pick it up again. To me, that’s always a sign of a good book. The twists and turns in the book keeps the plot moving at an engaging pace, which is essential for a thriller. I didn’t expect the book to be as emotional as it was, but it really touches the heart. The perception of love and family is explored in the book, and it really adds a refreshing fold to the overall suspense of the story. It also covers enslavement and captivity, as well as the role of women in the 1720s. And this layered approach to historical fiction is what made the book so captivating to read.
Check out my review here! The Switch is a wholesome, heart-warming and unbelievably charming story. It was delight to read, and reminded me exactly why I’m such a fan of Beth O’Leary’s voice. I sincerely laughed out loud reading this book. The humour is well-timed and well-placed, never feeling gawky. It’s intelligent and occasionally subtle, which really contributes to the engaging dialogue between characters. It may not be a story I’ll rush to reread, but I definitely don’t regret picking up this book. With a picturesque English village, compelling characters, and comically charming wit, The Switch makes a gratifying summer read.
Raw. Honest. Heart-breaking. Jacqueline Woodson and her magnificent ability to convey so much heart in just 196 pages is a read I’ll never forget. Her writing is remarkably powerful. In my opinion, there’s no other way to interpret it. Her words carry weight and emotion but are formatted in short and smooth sentences. The novel teaches us how impactful our decisions can be. It may be short in length but is rich in wisdom. Everything about Red at the Bone is impeccable. The spotless prose, the authentic characters, and the diversified presentation of each of its themes. It never feels overcrowded, sluggish, or insignificant. A must-read!
An American Marriage is a vividly painful and emotional read. It examines the ugliness, beauty, and complexity of love and commitment. This rendering tale of love and loss cuts so deep, its influence is inevitable. The book also explores racial inequality within the criminal justice system, and how these prejudices can tear apart families and destroy lives. It’s tragic and crushing, but within the story there is still growth and hope. It’s one of those books that just cannot be put down. The story and the characters are too addictive. Jones pushes the reader to wonder whether we really do have control of our emotions, or freedom in our lives.
Check out my review here! Anxious People is “about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots.” That’s the best way to describe this refreshingly hilarious but genuinely heartfelt read. Backman writes this novel in the third person, but the variety of voices and personalities stop the story from feeling one-sided. That’s probably because the personalities are perfectly fabricated and brilliantly developed. Fredrik Backman has created an incredibly impressive web of characters in Anxious People. And like his many other works, they’re so fun to explore. And by the last page, I was crying, laughing, crying, and then laughing again. If you’re thinking about picking up this book, stop thinking and just do it.
Check out my review here! The Vanishing Half is a magnetic slow-burner of a novel. A tale of twins born into the same world, yet escaping into two different ones. Each character in this novel is constructed in such a mesmerising way. As the plot constantly moves forward, the characters move effortlessly with it. They’re three-dimensional, with flaws and mistakes that make it easy to attach to them. In reality, the summary of this book doesn’t provide even a quarter of the complex journey within its pages. It explores powerful themes such as race, class, freedom and family. And it is a truly enchanting and insightful read that all can experience.
In this emotive historical masterpiece, Maggie O’Farrell tells of the life and death of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet. But there’s so much more to this heart-stopping tale of love, loss, and grief. O’Farrell’s precise and vivid descriptions of the emotions of both the children and the parents is my favourite aspect of this book. It’s what gripped me, and what really touched me. This is not a book about Shakespeare. His name is not even in the book. But O’Farrell weaves a rich tapestry of Shakespeare’s early life, his marriage and his family. Hamnet deserves its wealth of applause and acclaim, it’s stunningly beautiful tragedy.
A charmingly cosy and surprisingly hilarious murder mystery with the coolest group of seniors I have ever met. Osman has an easy writing style that perfectly suits a cosy mystery like this one. Within the third person narrative, there are personal diary entries from Joyce that give an alternate perspective to the investigation’s twists and turns. I wouldn’t say this book has much thrill, but it does have an air of mystery that maintains intrigue. British humour is out in full force in The Thursday Murder Club, and many of the one-liners left me laughing out loud. The long-buried secrets mixed with exciting revelations and unexpected twists makes this read well worth it.
Check out my review here! Undercover Bromance is a fantastic sequel to The Bromance Book Club. There whole series is becoming a favourite, and I hope to read the third book in 2021! I loved the way the protagonists personalities fit together. here were many moments that made me laugh out loud, between Mack’s natural charm and Liv’s ruthless teasing, the conversation is enjoyably engaging. The great thing about this book is that Lyssa Kay Adams calls out both men and women for fragile thinking. For me, the winner of this book is Braden Mack. I’d happily read another book full of his mis-adventures as a hopeless romantic in Nashville.
Check out my review here! A thoroughly enjoyable, heart-warming, modern love story with all the romantic comedy magic. McFarlane has once again created characters that seemed so real, I felt as if I’d look them up on Instagram just to keep the story going in my head. This book is indisputably hilarious. The witty dialogue and banter between Laurie and Jamie was so enjoyable to read, especially with such an engaging plot. I enjoyed this book from the first word to the last. Even the ending was realistic! Although I would have loved an epilogue to find out a bit more about the protagonists after the final chapter.
Always Only You is a diverse, hilarious, and heartfelt love story with a magnificently no-nonsense heroine and super sweet hockey star. It’s the perfect slow-burn romance to curl up with. With a sentimental layer, this romance is truly enjoyable from start to finish. The characters develop and mature brilliantly from their first interaction, helping to keep the entertainment going, even during the slower moments. I also had no idea Always Only You is part of an ongoing series, which only attributes to the author’s ability to create a unique love story as part of a bigger universe. I’m reading it’s sequel Ever After Always now!
This book has it all: the sweet romance, the lovable characters, the strong narrative, and all the feels! The Minute I Saw You definitely has the characteristics of a slow burn. But like most books with this trope, it’s well worth the wait. The dynamic between Hannah and Sonny is established from the beginning and tensions only begin to build as the chapters go on. It’s a poignant love story. It’s humorous and moving, an ideal combination for a compelling summer read. It dives beyond the surface and explores loss, trauma and heartache. Paige Toon’s writing has always had a heart-warming quality and The Minute I Saw You is no different.
Honourable mentions (as if 25 wasn’t enough):
What was your favourite read of 2020?