Anna’s Top 10 Books of 2020

2020 was a year for the books (ha). This year, I read a total of 84 books. I’ve heard many other readers say that living through a pandemic has helped one thing-their reading life. I read the same amount of books annually that I normally do, but being forced to stay home for the majority of the year helped me focus on reading a little more slowly and perhaps a little more intentionally.

A year in reading: Like usual, the majority of the books that I read were literary fiction by women authors. Like in 2019, I read a mixture of audiobooks and physical books. I’ve significantly trimmed down my physical TBR, and I’ve gotten in the habit of selling or donating all books I rate under 4 stars. I didn’t read nearly as much fantasy as I normally do, and I liked even less of what I read in the genre. I re-read some old favorites, like Princess Academy (still amazing) and the Harry Potter books (I re-read the entire series before J.K. Rowling and her Trans-bashing). I was lucky enough to land on Algonquin’s mailing list, and I reviewed their most popular book of the year, His Only Wife. I also rediscovered a love for middle grade fiction. I continued fostering my love for contemporary Irish literary fiction in Exciting Times, Marlena, and Tana French’s newest, The Searchers. Perhaps most surprisingly, a thriller even made it onto my favorites list for the year, something I never thought possible!

  1. Writers & Lovers by Lily King
A classic tale of a struggling writer trying to make it big. Complete with a love triangle, commentary on the love/hate relationship with an artist and their craft, and the overall theme of reaching for your dreams no matter what, I loved everything about this book. And it has a happy ending! Great for writers and dreamers.

2. Long Bright River by Liz Moore

I’m not a huge reader of thrillers, but this book broke my heart. Fast-paced yet character-driven, this is a book about duty and sisterly love. Tigger warnings for sexual violence and drug abuse.

3. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

A modern Great Gatsby. If you’re looking a richly written and seductive book about the extravagance and of the New York upper class, told by an outsider, this is the book for you.

4. Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

My favorite middle grade book of the year. This spooky first in a series is all about friendship, grief, and finding your way. It’s a lot scarier than I expected, too! Its sequel, Dead Voices, is just as good, and I can’t wait for book three to come out later this year!

5. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House is one of the few fantasy novels I read this year. Watch out fans of Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology: this is not YA! Besides the unique and bloody magic system, the coolest thing about this world is that it reimagines Yale’s secret societies as deadly magic groups who are up to no good.

6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

I’m years late to this party. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is just as good as everyone promised. This is the ultimate coming out book that paved the way for LGBTQ+ YA fiction as we know it now (stories about queer teens, not stories centered purely around coming out).

7. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Another book that I should have read years ago. Just Mercy brings to light mainstream systems of abuse and oppression in the American prison system, specifically in regards to the amount of African Americans wrongly convicted of the death penalty in the South. If you haven’t read this yet, you need to.

8. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolf

This is a wonderful coming-of-age novel about a young girl who stands up to the town bully, starting a chain reaction of sinister events in her small, rural town. Trigger warnings for death and physical abuse. This was dark!

9. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Marchad

My favorite memoir of the year. Machado chronicles her abusive relationship with her girlfriend. In the Dream House is told through lyrical and imaginative fragments, and Machado also includes commentary on the lack of research available on abuse in same sex relationships.

10. The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donaghue

I love Emma Donoghue’s writing, and this new 2020 release didn’t disappoint. A deadly flu breaks out in Ireland during World War 2. I love dystopian literature, and a global pandemic didn’t stop me from reading The Pull of The Stars. The book follows a few devastating days in the life of a labor and delivery nurse who battles to save the lives of sick mothers and their babies. Don’t read this is you’re squeamish about birth!

My 2021 reading goals are to:

Read more books from diverse perspectives. As I mentioned, I read a lot of women authors. Some of my favorite reads from this year featured LGBTQ+ authors. This coming year, I’d love to read books by more people of color as well as more translated works.

Read more nonfiction besides memoir. Will I ever read as much nonfiction as I read fiction? Probably not. But I want to make an effort to reach nonfiction that expands my worldview and knowledge in valuable ways as Just Mercy did this year for me.

Read more classics that I actually enjoy. For me, this means Victorian novels. I’m still making my way through the only one I started this year, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. There are books in this category that, embarrassingly, I’ve never read, including Wuthering Heights or any Dickens.

Here’s to a year of healing, another great year of reading!

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