Favourite Books of 2020
I can’t believe that we’ve got to that point of the year where it’s time to share my Favourite Books of 2020. It feels like last week I was doing my Favourite Books of 2019 list.
I’ve read over 100 books this year, and it’s been amazing. The only positive of Lockdown was that it gave me the chance to read a lot more than normal. I also managed to tick quite a few books of my book bucket list.
To round-up the reading year though, here is a look at my favourite books of 2020.
At the end of 2019 everyone was abuzz about Such a Fun Age, and with good reason. It’s a relatively straightforward women’s fiction novel, when described at its most basic. But, at its heart it is a book about white privilege and race. The fact that this is a commercial novel with literary pay-off is very impressive and I really enjoyed it.
I’ve never read a Maggie O’Farrell book before. I’d heard okay things about her writing, but I got the impression that her books were a bit hit or miss. And then Hamnet was released and suddenly everyone was reading her. Breaking away from her usual writing, Hamnet is a historical fiction novel following Agnes Hathaway, wife of playwright William Shakespeare. I love it when stories give voice to forgotten women, and this book does just that but with even more heart than most. It’s stupendous. Utterly unforgettable and beautiful. A top read for anyone looking for something different in 2021.
After watching the Modern Love series on Amazon Prime, I decided to download the audiobook of the collection of articles that the series is based on. It was brilliant. My favourite was an article a woman wrote about her husband and what a perfect man he was. She was dying and she wanted to help him find a new partner by writing his dating profile for him. It was heart wrenching and utterly lovely. The whole collection did a brilliant job of showing that there are many types of love out there, not just the ones we read about in the romance section of Waterstones.
I’d seen this book everywhere in 2019 and finally I bit the bullet in the New Year and got the audiobook. It was brilliant. It was like listening to a Fleetwood Mac documentary, complete with a full cast and conflicting stories filled with humour and malice. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook for a fully immersive experience.
I picked up Before the Coffee Gets Cold in a charity shop in early January. When we went into Lockdown I had started to get into Japanese translated fiction so I decided to add this to my to-read list. It’s a magical realism story, set in a cafe where you can travel back in time but with very strict rules. It was originally a play and you can tell that when reading the book, as it reads very much like a play with a one-set stage. But it’s very emotional, and utterly believable even when the story is about time-travel.
I picked up The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid for a book club. A lot of my friends had read and loved this book, and I now know why. This has to be one of my Top 5 books of the year. A gorgeous LGBTQA, historical fiction set in the golden era of Hollywood. Amazing. A book I recommend to everyone.
I have officially read every Jane Austen novel! And I left the best until last. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy Pride and Prejudice because of the ultimate hype that this book is surrounded by. But I adored it. Finally, I can understand why everyone loves it and says it’s Jane Austen’s best book. It is.
I had been seeing The Outsiders on a lot of book recommendation sites during lockdown so I asked for it for my birthday. I read it in two sittings and thought it was utterly spectacular. Another Top 5 book for me. This is a very big book in America, that is studied at school, so everyone seems to have read it. In the UK it’s not so big, but it should be. It’s really easy to read but packs a punch. A definite re-read in the future for me – which is high praise coming from me!
Okay, I get the hype surrounding this book now. I love a solid modern day romance and this one is the epitome of lovely. It’s a hug in a book. The characters are warm and genuine, and you feel like everything that happens to them could happen to you. Even sharing a bed with a stranger to keep rent down. It’s plausible.
After the Black Lives Matter movement expanded in the summer I really wanted to read more fiction by black authors. The classic first choice was The Colour Purple by Alice Walker. I’ve never seen the film or studied the book, but I can honestly say that the book was fantastic. The story has so many layers to it, and the characters are fabulous because they’re all so flawed and human.
This year was all about classics for me. I love the BBC North and South TV adaptation which stars Richard Armitage, and I’ve been meaning to read the book ever since I first saw it back in 2012. I got the audiobook to listen to while I was pottering about the house, and I was so addicted I would lay on my sofa and just listen to it. Juliet Stevenson was the narrator and it was the perfect reading experience.
I’ve always been fascinated with the Holocaust, but I don’t always like to read about it. Because it’s such a hard topic to discuss and process, I feel like I have to be in the right frame of mind to read a memoir or non-fiction depicting the horrors of that time. Night gave a really good insight into the experiences of Jews in Poland in the later years of the Second World War, whilst at the same time drawing you into the humanity of the jews as they went through this beyond-traumatic experience. This book will break your heart, but it’s an important read.
I’ve read Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie, but never her most famous novel. I finally picked it up in Autumn and it was brilliant. I couldn’t put it down, even though I knew the ending from watching the TV adaptation a few years ago. There’s a reason that it’s her bestselling and strongest book.
My friend Rob said that this was his favourite book of 2019. Quite a recommendation. To make sure I read it, and got a chance to discuss it in detail, I chose it as my book club pick when my turn came around. The four of us in the club all felt it had a slow start, but when it picked about halfway through the punch was massive. All four of us were in tears by the end of reading it. A truly heart wrenching story about the Aids crisis in Chicago in the 1980s, and the effects it had on those that survived.
And finally, a book about books. I’ve never read Cathy’s previous book The Last Act of Love which is a memoir about the death of her brother. But this book is part memoir, part book recommendation catalogue. Cathy was previously a Waterstones bookseller, and recommending books is clearly still a big thing for her if this book is anything to go buy. If you’re not sure what to read, but want something light and easy then this is the perfect book. Also, you’re likely to find your next read whilst enjoying it too.
And that’s it. Those are my Favourite Books of 2020. What books have you loved in 2020? Let me know in the comments below.