2020 was a bad year for *many* reasons, but it was a good year for reading. I have read some incredible books over the past 12 months: I’ve discovered new authors, binge-read series, fallen in love with new genres and created a very wobbly, tall stack of books to read in 2021 — and an even bigger wish list.
It was both very difficult and incredibly easy to compile a list of my top 10 books of 2020. It was a struggle to narrow it down to just 10, but adding each of these books to my favourites list was a no-brainer. Interestingly, only one of the books I listed on my top 5 books of 2020 (so far) post made it onto this list — and I don’t think anyone will be shocked by which one it is. I haven’t ranked them (that would be too difficult) so these appear in no particular order. I’ve also integrated non-fiction with fiction.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
In the Dream House is an incredible memoir that examines the author’s experience of a same-sex abusive relationship through multiple narrative lenses, from fairytales to horror stories. The writing is stunning and so varied, working brilliantly across a range of styles and genres. It is heartbreaking and difficult to read at times, but I would definitely recommend it if you enjoy memoirs.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
This is an incredibly poignant memoir detailing George M. Johnson’s experiences growing up Black and queer. It is raw and honest, heartbreaking and uplifting with beautiful, moving writing. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by him and I really enjoyed it in that medium — it was like listening to him telling his story to me — but afterwards I had to buy a physical copy so I can reread it in the future.
It is very hard hitting and deals with a lot of sensitive topics, and the trigger warnings are listed at the beginning of the book.
Taking Up Space by Chelsea Kwayke and Ore Ogunbiyi
This is a must-read book for learning about the experiences of Black women and people who have lived experiences of misogyny at university, with a focus on the Oxbridge experience. Taking Up Space focuses on barriers to education, mental health and the whiteness of academia, combining descriptions of the two authors’ personal experiences of university with frankly scary statistics about the education system. They also invite contributions from their friends, making it an incredibly informative read that deconstructs the challenges they faced in getting to university and throughout their time there.
Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall
Who I Was With Her is a beautiful tale of grief and loss after a girl finds out her girlfriend — who no one knew she was with — is dead. It focuses on Corinne trying to mourn someone no one knew she was with and come to terms with her identity. The stream-of-conscious writing style was messy and chaotic and perfectly aligned with Corinne’s emotions and thoughts. It made for a really fast-paced read. Instead of a chronological timeline, one timeline chronicles Corinne’s present and a second showcases Corinne’s relationship with Maggie in a way that relates to Corinne in the present. It was incredible, especially for a debut novel, and I am looking forward to Nita Tyndall’s next book.
Expectation by Anna Hope
I do have a full review of Expectation because I absolutely loved it and want to recommend it to everyone. It is a beautifully crafted and intricate character-driven novel following three women across multiple timelines. It is a novel of female friendships, losses, loves and the intricacies of life, written in stunning prose. The writing style is descriptive, lyrical and filled with character introspection and metaphor. It’s effortless and I knew from the beginning that I was going to love it. Anna Hope is definitely an auto-buy author from now on and I need to read the other two books she currently has out.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
I really started to love fantasy again this year and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is definitely at the top of my list for fantasy books I love (and will continue to love, no doubt, when the sequel comes out later in 2021). It is a dual perspective narrative, told by two people who have committed to killing each other. It is a slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers romance and is completely gripping. Though the characters were my favourite part of this novel, the plot remained complex and intriguing throughout and I am very excited to see where it goes in the second book.
The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
This is a surprising favourite; it came out of nowhere and stole my heart with it’s heart-wrenching plot, adorable demon and beautiful writing. It makes me truly love the book community because I bought it on a whim after seeing a recommendation on twitter and I never would have known about it otherwise. It is both the cutest and the darkest middle-grade I’ve ever read and I loved it. It explores jealousy, friendship and Malaysian folklore and is the perfect cosy, creepy read.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Good Omens took over my life in November and December — the book, the series and everything in between. The book became a new favourite and this was only cemented by watching the 6-part series (and re-watching it a couple of times!) as well as reading The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book after receiving it for Christmas. I also received the Good Omens Illustrated edition for Christmas and look forward to rereading the book in that gorgeous edition.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Talia Hibbert became a new favourite author for me in 2020. I treated myself to signed copies of Get a Life, Chloe Brown and Take a Hint, Dani Brown and binge-read the two books back-to-back because I couldn’t get enough of Talia Hibbert’s incredible writing, wittiness and loveable characters — and I NEVER read books in a series close together, usually I forget about them for about a year. I now can’t wait to read the third instalment in the Brown Sisters series, Act your Age, Eve Brown, and hope to read the rest of Talia Hibbert’s work in the future too.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Remember at the beginning of this post when I said the books appear in no particular order? I lied.
The Starless Sea is, without a doubt, my favourite book of 2020. In case you hadn’t noticed — from the profile picture showing it off to the Instagram feed that is two photos away from being a Starless Sea fan page — I loved this book from the moment I picked it up. It is everything I want from a book: beautiful and lyrical writing, witty protagonists, stories within stories, mystery, myth and adventure (and a surprising number of cats). I can understand that it is not a book for everyone, but if we share similar tastes in books I would highly recommend picking it up. I definitely need to reread it soon and fall in love all over again.
Do you have any favourites from 2020? Or any recommendations based on my favourite books?