This year is almost over, and I think we are all glad that it is. I had such high hopes for 2020, and needless to say it was pretty disappointing. And that includes my reading year. Last year, I struggled to narrow down my favorites list. This year, I ended up reading less than half of what I read last year and struggled to find ten books to put on this list. Not only did I read less, I also read kind of a lot of not great books.
That said, I did still read some pretty great books this year. Definitely some new favorites, including a few that were totally unexpected. The books on this list are the books that have stuck with me ever since I turned the last page. Some of these are books I put off reading for years, others are new releases by authors I plan to read more of. And a few have even been added to my all-time favorite books list. They’re all great books, and I loved reading them.
So, without further ado, here are my top ten books of 2020:
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
This was actually one of the last books I read in 2020 (as of my writing this, it’s actually the most recent book I finished). This is the story of a Jewish family in Poland during WWII. During the war, they are separated and thrust into unspeakable hardships. But they all survived. Like the title says, they were the lucky ones. It is actually based on a true story, told by one of their descendants. It has been a while since I’ve read a WWII novel, and I think it’s going to be hard for another one to compare to this one. It is definitely going to stay with me for a very long time.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
I distinctly remember my aunt recommending this to me when I was maybe thirteen or so. And then I put off reading it… for eighteen years. But I finally did it, and I can definitely say she was right, this book was incredible. To be fair, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much at thirteen as I did at thirty-one. I loved this book so much. Not just for the story itself – which is amazing – but the whole culture and atmosphere. I can’t think of another historical fiction novel I’ve read that’s set in Japan, and I certainly haven’t read anything else about geishas. And they were fascinating. I just really enjoyed everything about this book.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
This book is kind of a mashup of two of my all-time favorites. The beginning reminded me a lot of The Pillars of the Earth, and then it morphs into something a lot like The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Needless to say, I loved it. I haven’t been able to stop recommending it to people. I cannot believe I put off reading this for as long as I did. Had I actually read the synopsis instead of being an idiot, I definitely would have read this sooner. Even worse? I don’t think I would have read it this year either if it hadn’t been for Buzzfeed telling me to read it. (I still can’t get over how well that post turned out.)
Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
I read and absolutely loved Wilder Girls last year, so it’s no surprise I was really excited about this one. This is easily one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, but I loved it! Not to brag, but I’m pretty good at guessing twists in books. But I never in a million years could have seen the twists in this book coming. It was absolutely bizarre, but so, so good.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Over the past few years, I’ve discovered how much I like reading memoirs. And this is definitely one of my favorites. It is so powerful and relevant, but also just really beautifully written. It was not an easy read by any means, but was absolutely, one-hundred-percent worth it. I listened to the audiobook, and I have no idea how Chanel Miller got through reading aloud the account of her own sexual assault and the aftermath, but I was so inspired by her strength. I’m also kind of sad I can’t keep reading her writing, because it was some of the best I encountered all year.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Yet another author I put off reading for no reason at all. I’m a little bit annoyed with myself for not having read Octavia Butler sooner. But I’m still very glad I did this year, because I absolutely loved this book. I think this was the perfect book of hers to start with. It was a wonderful mix of sci-fi and historical fiction, which just really worked for me. I read this at the beginning of the year, and honestly haven’t stopped thinking about it. I can’t wait to read more of her work.
Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, this probably comes as absolutely no surprise. The Wayward Children series is one of my favorite series of all time, and this is definitely one of my favorites of the series so far. Each book follows a different set of characters, but this book revisits the characters from book two. Which I’m absolutely fine with, because they’re some of my favorites. This is dark and intriguing and somehow manages to fit an entire fantasy story in just over two-hundred pages. I also love how diverse these books are. They just make me really happy.
Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
This is not one of those books I would say is an enjoyable read. It was definitely a difficult book to read, and not just because it’s very long. Racism is not a fun topic, but it’s one I think is important to learn about. And this book really brought to my attention just how much learning I still have to do. Not only do I know far less than I would have liked to think I do, quite a bit of what I was taught about our history is wrong. Which is kind of upsetting because I literally have a college degree in American history. But I am so glad I read this book so that I can work on fixing my own knowledge base, and both feel better about my own education and be a better anti-racist.
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
Yes, there are two Seanan McGuire books on this list. Both of them fantasy novels about twins, but so different from each other. While I love the other for being a series, I really appreciated this one for being a standalone. I also loved reading a book about characters in their thirties that wasn’t a romance or family drama. It was just really great.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t know what I was getting into with this book. It was kind of a mixture of me seeing it everywhere at the beginning of the year and me just really liking the cover. But regardless of why I picked it up, I’m really glad I did. I thought this was a great portrayal of racial issues in the US right now. It made some great points, especially about how white people tend to not deal with racism well, regardless of what side they’re on. But also, it was just a really interesting drama and a good read.
Those are my top ten books of 2020! I’m really happy that I managed to read these books this year, because I did really love every single one of them.
What was your favorite book this year?