Forever late to the party, I’ve finally narrowed my top 18 books of 2020 (which in itself was a task) down to my absolute favourites. This was a cracking reading year for me (thanks COVID), with a good 90% of the books recommended by the Bookstagram community and ones I would never have picked up otherwise. Apart from my top two (nine and ten), these are in no particular order because otherwise, I’d still be here in June trying to decide.
1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
I was definitely in the minority of people who hadn’t seen or read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I finally put that to rights in March with my only regret being to not read it sooner. The writing was captivating, written entirely in epistolary (letter) format, which was pretty unique but totally worked. It was witty and insightful with a strong storyline, relatable characters, a dash of tragedy, and the perfect ending.
2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
While we’re on the subject of books that everyone has read but me, The Nightingale was another I finally got around to picking up in 2020, thanks to The Uncorked Librarian’s 2020 Reading Challenge for WWII books. It captured the events of the war in a way I have never seen before and is one such book that everybody should read in their lifetime. It was atmospherical, incredibly detailed, heartbreakingly raw, and above all, unique to a saturated genre.
3. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
The 2020 award for ‘Biggest Achievement’ goes easily to all 1,263 pages (including teeny tiny writing) of Les Misérables. Was this book intimidating? Uh, yeah. Was it worth the six months of slow reading? 100%. I can honestly say that Les Mis is one of the greatest novels of all time. Yes, there are heavy historical and political parts, as well as a whole section dedicated to the sewers of Paris (actually, I quite liked that part💩) but the interweaving plots, complex characters, and edge-of-your-seat tension ticked all the boxes for a five-star read.
4. Kokomo by Victoria Hannan
Kokomo was one of those novels I kept seeing but flicking past because it didn’t catch my eye. How many times do I have to be told never to judge the book by its cover?! When I finally caved, I found the story to be fresh, bold, and empowering. It unravelled the broken relationship between Mina and her mother, who hadn’t left the house for 12 years following her husband’s death. It was character-driven from the start and painted a raw picture of love, despair, hunger, and power.
5. Persuasion by Jane Austen
After placing Emma top of the Austen podium in February, I wasn’t expecting to read Persuasion and love it as much as I did. Unlike other heroines, Anne was introverted and mature, blending into the background because she didn’t force herself to be heard. This story had plenty of wit and irony, as well as fully-formed characters and dramatic tension. Austen’s morals are still so relevant today, which made this novel even more perfect in my eyes.
6. People Like Us by Louise Fein
You can see how much of an impact WW2 books had on me in 2020 (this is the third and not even final one). People Like Us (also known as Daughter of the Reich) is told from the eyes of Hetty, the daughter of a highly-ranked and respected SS Officer, who disagrees with the Nazi ideologies and falls in love with Walter – a Jew. The book painted a tragic love story impossible to maintain when the freedom to love was forbidden. It was bursting with emotion and left me physically gasping for air – a book that evokes those feelings definitely deserves a spot in the top 10.
7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I finally picked up Rebecca in October and, in between devouring it, berated myself for leaving it so long to read. Whatever expectations I had were utterly exceeded. Du Maurier absolutely hit the mark – a creepy, gothic setting, a secretive husband, the ghost of his wife, and a twist that gave me actual chills.
8. The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
Set in Iceland during the late 1600s, The Glass Woman was a mysterious tale of love and deception, chilling me right to my bones. The harsh setting, traditional sagas, complex characters, and cultural diversity made it easy to get swept up in the story, leaving me wanting to explore much more from this era and country.
9. Questions of Perspective by Daniel Maunz
Rolling in at number two is a book I have raved about all year and will continue to do so. Questions of Perspective quite literally blew. me. away. Don’t let the paranormal fantasy genre throw you – this book is impossible to ‘put in a box’ and really is its own unique story and genre. I was captivated from start to finish and months later, I’m still contemplating the life lessons that this book brought to the surface. If you read just one book from this list, READ THIS ONE.
10. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
And hellooo number one! Despite reading The Things We Cannot Say in February, it was SO good that it remained my number one for ten months and nearly 100 books later. It was harrowing, heartbreaking, and vividly real. A multi-layered family saga, it alternated between two unique POVs; one in present-day America and the other in Poland during the occupation. Not only was it impossible to put down, it also had those kinds of jaw-dropping twists that you never see coming. If I could award five stars +++ then I absolutely would.
Here are the other books I loved that didn’t quite make it onto my top ten but that I still want to give worthy mentions to (p.s. the links go out to either my Bookstagram or Goodreads review):
- Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
- Emma by Jane Austen
- Home Stretch by Graham Norton
- Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer
- Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune
- The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
- Nothing Ventured and Hidden in Plain Sight by Jeffrey Archer
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
Do we have any joint favourites? What were your top reads of the year? Let me know in the comments 👇