This week, we’re sharing our favorite books of 2020 for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl).
I found it hard this year to identify ten favorite books, maybe because I read more than usual or because I read a wider range of books. Or maybe just because it’s 2020. I found myself struggling to compare books that impacted me more emotionally versus books that had more critical acclaim. Ultimately I went with books that moved me the most. This was a a year I read to get away, to be distracted, and to learn more about the world.
I decided to identify a few books as favorites in five broad categories: contemporary fiction, historical fiction, fantasy/science fiction, romance, and nonfiction.
- Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (audio): I loved this story about a young neuroscientist trying to cope with her mother’s mental illness and the traumatic loss of her brother due to opioid addiction.
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (audio): I really got into this story of two sisters and their two daughters, and how they lose each other and find each other again. Bennett explores complicated issues of race and family relationships. Each of the characters was complex, flawed but sympathetic.
- Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Annaparra: Set in an impoverished neighborhood in India, and told through the eyes of a young boy, the novel explores what happens when children start disappearing and the police have no interest in investigating.
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: I love a really flawed main character and a good story about overcoming trauma. This book feels light, has a sharp sense of humor, and carries an emotional punch.
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (audio): This was easily my favorite of the year, for O’Farrell’s brilliant depiction of life in Elizabethan England, her fascinating portrayal of Anne Hathaway, and her exploration of the art of William Shakespeare.
- The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue: So many books seemed to be about plague this year! This book was a vivid illustration of one city’s experience with the influenza epidemic of 1918. It’s rich in historical detail as well as character development.
- The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich: Erdrich wrote this novel about her own grandfather, a scholar and an activist who motivates his community to fight a bill that would “emancipate” his tribe.
- Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell: I loved the characters in this book, but I loved Mitchell’s look at the rock music of the late 60s even more. I’m not a musician, but it’s a great band story.
- Know My Name by Chanel Miller: Even if you know what happened, Miller’s perspective on her assault and the criminal trial that followed is so powerful. A must-read.
- When Time Stopped by Ariana Neumann: Neumann researches her father’s history as a young Jewish man in Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust. It’s beautifully written and touched me on so many levels, partly because of the similarities to my own family.
- They Called Us Enemy by George Takei: Only the second graphic memoir I’ve read, Takei’s story is humorous and moving and informative. Another must-read, especially for younger people who want to understand the history of the Japanese internment camps.
- No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder: This is a book I recommend to many people, because it discusses the early red flags of relationship violence but it also considers ways to rehabilitate offenders and prevent the escalation of violence. It’s important to see that there are strategies to address relationship violence that go beyond shelters.
- Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (audio): This book blew me away; it follows none of the formulas and tropes of most romance novels, and had two of the most endearing characters I’ve read in a romance, plus it features a biracial relationship and a heroine with a disability. The sequel is great too.
- Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore (audio): I was starting to feel like all period romances were the same, until I read this one. Clever writing, a smart heroine, and a sexy love story, all with the historical background of the suffrage movement in England.
- The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (audio): Fair notice, I’m partial to this novel because it reminded me of my own love story (sigh), but also because I enjoyed Guillory’s snarky writing. Mostly, I like a novel that focuses on day-to-day relationship building rather than crazy plot devices. And it’s got a great sister story as well.
Science fiction and fantasy:
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (audio): This is a story about wishes gone wrong. Addie sells her soul for a chance at freedom, but the freedom she gets is terrifying. This is a fantastic story about what it means to live, to love, and to be remembered.
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (audio): This story about a case worker who’s asked to investigate an orphanage of unusual children is pure comfort reading. I strongly recommend the audio for this one.
- Atlas Alone by Emma Newman (audio): If Cerulean Sea is comfort reading, this one is just the opposite. Newman’s Planetfall series is some of my favorite science fiction and I feel like she’s sadly unrecognized. She’s also a fantastic audio reader. Don’t start with this one if you haven’t read the others though.
- The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow: A fantastic story that combines fairy tales and alternate history. Three sisters who were separated for years come back together in an attempt to bring back the power of women through witchcraft. I enjoyed everything about this book.
I read so many good books this year that didn’t make this list, but you can find more of my favorite reads at these other “Best of 2020” posts:
- My year in nonfiction
- My year in audiobooks
- Best books from around the world
- Favorite books published in 2020
I hope you find something you want to read on this list. Let me know if there are any books you agree or disagree with (I’m always happy to hear differing opinions about books!). In the next few weeks I’ll be posting a wrap-up of my year in reading and blogging, and my resolutions and challenges for the coming year. Until then, wishing you all a happy New Year!