Well, the time has come to pick my top ten books of 2020! I didn’t have quite the reading year I thought I’d have; in fact, I had to lower my Goodreads goal from 78 to 60 some time around August when it became very clear that 78 would be unattainable. However, I will be able to meet my goal of 60 — I’m at 59 right now! — which I still deem quite respectable!
For the first time, I actually didn’t have too much trouble picking my top ten books this year! The reason, however, was surprising: these ten books were my only five-star ratings this year. 2020 held a lot of three-star reads and, unfortunately, quite a few below that as well, but no book is without its merit! Just because it wasn’t great for me doesn’t mean it’s not a favorite of someone else!
This was also not my best blogging year…. I hardly shared any reviews!!! So, I’ll explain more in a forthcoming post of 2021 reading goals, but we’re going to redouble our blogging efforts next year, right? Right!
But I digress. Let’s get to the main event! In no particular order, here are my top ten books of 2020!
In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn
WOW. This book was absolutely fabulous. A little bit YA, a little bit drama, In an Instant is a fast yet incredibly layered read. A traumatic event causes ten people to have to weigh decisions they’d never dreamed they’d have to make — and live with their choices forever. It’s a story of connection, conscience, and social responsibility.
Backman is an auto-buy author for me and this certainly did not disappoint. Anxious People is a moving, funny, relatable(ish!) tale of how life can go totally awry sometimes despite our best intentions and efforts, and how we bounce back from the detours.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Just truly luminous. I was a little bit late to the game on Transcendent Kingdom, but from the first few chapters I knew I was in for a masterpiece. A very moving story of addiction and mental health, the relationship between science and spirituality, and motivation and impulse, with a heart-wrenching narrative to string it all together. Transcendent Kingdom got a LOT of action in the online book community, and very rightfully so.
Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett
I don’t read a ton of non-fiction, but this was the selection for a book club with my college friends, and I am SO glad I read it! Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Marc Brackett details the science of emotions, the importance of having a vocabulary with which you can accurately express those things, and how our lives — and the lives of those around us — can be significantly impacted for the better when we become more in tune with these things. Highly, HIGHLY recommend. This book will help you be a better human.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Another piece that got a lot of well-deserved attention online. A multi-generational saga, The Vanishing Half follows two separated twin sisters and their lives after high school, reflecting on how the past and our past do or don’t define us, what we can overcome, and what we can’t always leave behind.
The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine
This one surprised me! It wasn’t until after I’d finished the novel and couldn’t stop thinking about it for days that I realized how much I truly enjoyed it. Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends meets Elif Batuman’s The Idiot in a quirky coming-of-age story that follows the only child of a not-so-secret affair between a French politician and a famous actress and examines how much it really costs to tell the truth.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I listened to this in the wake of the George Floyd protests this year and am ardently thankful that I did. This is another book that had been sitting on my TBR for a long time and I finally committed to it to take a look (or listen) at a story of a world and a life that I will never be able to even imagine. I remember the acclaim surrounding The Underground Railroad when it came out in 2016, and can thankfully add my voice to the many praising its bravery, ferocity, and literary beauty.
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Many years ago a piano teacher of mine massively twisted my arm and made me read The Chosen. I picked it up solely out of obligation and was mostly disinterested and, surprise! I loved it. As a result, I immediately added My Name is Asher Lev to my list and now, ten or so years later, I have finally read it. It’s the story of a Hasidic Jewish boy with an intense gift that his parents don’t quite understand, and his journey through life exploring and reconciling with the joys and challenges his talent brings him. It’s absolutely stunning and far exceeded my (already high) expectations.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Goodness gracious. I remember devouring this toward the beginning of the pandemic. I hadn’t just sat down and marathon read an entire book cover to cover in probably a handful of years, but this was so enthralling and emotive and poignant in true Hosseini fashion (Kite Runner, anyone???) that I simply could not put it down.
This was one of my first reads of 2020 and I LOVED it. I found it so humorous and clever, and I know this one gets a lot of flack as not being one of Austen’s best, but I really enjoyed it. Quick, delightful, even tongue-in-cheek at times, and really a great entry point for Gothic literature, too!
Did you read and love any of these books this year? What are your top titles for 2020?