Time to look at my Top Ten Books of 2020!
This year I have read 120 books. I am thrilled with this as I had set my target at 95, which I actually met in October. It’s a good job as I ended up with a pretty slumpy November and December
I’ll write about this properly in another post, but I’m considering how to revamp my reading a bit for 2021. I’ve found that this year (and also last year), the books I’m picking up haven’t been amazing. That’s possibly because I’ve been picking up the new, shiny, over-hyped books
Anyway, whilst normally I split these into two categories – Gold for the ones I definitely had to have on this list and Silver for those that didn’t immediately spring to mind and I had to go looking for – this year, I’m going to have to add a Bronze section as well. That will be for those that were still slightly better than others I had read… but only just.
As always, I’ve only included books I have read for the first time this year.
Find my previous ‘Best of… Lists’ below.
Gold Tier Books
1) The Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1) by Robin Hobb
If I had to choose only one book from 2020, it would definitely be Ship of Magic. I was absolutely blown away by the world-building, the characters, the plot, the emotions… if there was ever a perfect book, it’s this one.
“What really made The Ship of Magic stand out for is how I was made to personally feel everything that happened. I was alternately outraged, thrilled, sad and disgusted by/with each of the characters and the events that occurred, and those feelings stayed with me long after I put the book down. I caught myself thinking about it in the shower and after I’d turned the light out in bed. It’s a book you carry with you, even when it’s not open in front of you.”
2) The Dragon Republic (Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang
Unusually, I am definitely of the opinion that the second book of this series is the best. I liked The Poppy War well enough, but it didn’t make me feel all the things that The Dragon Republic did. It was brutal and epic, whilst at the same time being touching and emotional.
I was 100% engrossed in this book at all times. When I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be.
“I cried, I actually cried. I never cry at books. And yet The Dragon Republic makes you so invested in their characters and the outcome that it actually hurts when something bad happens. Which it did. I just cared about everything that happened far more than I did with the first book.”
3) A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr
Oh, I loved this and I can’t wait for the next book, A Crown of Talons, to come out in January. It was so beautifully written with a unique and twisty plot, and I loved every second. I’d also forgotten how much I had appreciated the ending until I went back to my review. It was honestly perfect.
“The ending is perfect, and I loved how grey it is. It’s not an idyllic, romantic rainbow ending, nor is it an awful, dark cliffhanger. It’s an ending that makes absolute logical sense in the circumstances, and I really, really appreciated the authors’ willingness to go down the path of realism. So much respect for that ending, honestly.”
4) Five Dark Fates (Queens of Fennbirn #4) by Kendare Blake
This series is amazing, and it says that way right up to (and including) the end. I’m not great at finishing YA series, but I devoured this one. By the time I read the dark and gripping ending, I couldn’t think of one single negative about these books.
“It walks just the right side of dark. This is not a twee, cutesy series, even though it might technically be about magic sister princesses. People die. They get their throats cut, eaten alive, poisoned, mauled, scarred, stabbed, amputated… I freaking love it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never quite gory or graphic, but it’s a refreshing change from books that just aren’t brave enough to take that step. I have a lot of respect for Kendare Blake for making difficult choices to progress the story.”
5) Lies, Damned Lies and History (Chronicles of St Mary’s #7) by Jodi Taylor
This is a series based on time-travelling historians (although they’re definitely not allowed to call it that), so naturally I’ve loved the whole thing from beginning to end. They’re mostly light-hearted fun, with a bit of drama, although sometimes there’s a particular sentence or phrase that really packs a punch.
This book though, oof. It really, really got me. It’s much darker, much more morally grey than the others and I absolutely loved it. I felt like I’d been smacked in the stomach every time I picked it up, but it was the most impactful of all the St Mary’s series thus far.
6) The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
This is a relatively short historical fiction about Hedy Lamarr, the beautiful silver age film star who also developed what would later become bluetooth, assisted Howard Hughes with aviation issues and carried out work with Jewish refugees. She was an amazing woman whose achievements are often overlooked and this book really brought that home.
“Her life was so ridiculous that, whilst I was reading, I caught myself thinking, ‘Well, THAT’S not realistic. THAT wouldn’t happen.’ And of course, it absolutely did.
This is why the facts of the story are so interesting, although Marie Benedict can hardly take credit for those. The Only Woman in the Room, however, does deserve some recognistion for crafting Hedy Lamarr’s story into an accessible, fascinating and yet not overwhelming story.”
7) The Queen of Blood (Queens of Renthia #1) by Sarah Beth Durst
This is the first book in the Queens of Renthia trilogy, all of which I actually managed to read this year. It’s just proper fantasy, you know? Queens with magic, elementals, traitorous plots, the works. I really don’t think this series gets anywhere near enough love.
The Queen of Blood was definitely my favourite, mostly because the second and third books have the addition of a character I really disliked, although the storylines and writing remain really great. I have two of Sarah Beth Durst’s other books lined up, and I’m really looking forward to reading them in 2021.
8) Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
This is a sort-of memoir told using simple drawings, and it is hilarious. At times I genuinely laughed until I cried and I had ugly tears dripping down my face. Allie Brosh has a real talent for capturing wonderful expressions in her drawings that crack me up every time. It’s hard to tell from the cover, but they work so well.
In this book, however, she also discusses (with cartoons) the death of her sister, her own severe illness, her divorce, and the toll all of that took on her mental health. Solutions and Other Problems is very nicely balanced between the hilarious and the poignant, and I had so many different emotions whilst reading through it.
9) Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender
When I picked up this book, I would never have expected to be including it on my Best Books of 2020 list… and yet here we are. There’s just no getting around the fact that I did really love it. It’s just light and fun, and I have only great memories of reading it! It was really well executed (ha).
“Also, the romance. I tend not to be a big fan of romance, especially in YA novels, but it was nice here. It definitely wasn’t the major point of the book, which I appreciated, but it added a bit of charm. I think Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer would be poorer if it wasn’t included… and that’s not something I say often. And it ends on a realistic, age-appropriate (and not overly sappy) note.”
10) Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell
I really wish I had read this years ago – and if I’d known it was a loose Musketeers style thing, I would have done! Traitor’s Blade is a perfect mix of bickering colleagues, great fight scenes and plenty of twists and turns. I had meant to get to the second book this year (I bought it before I had even finished this one), so it will just have to do for next year instead!
“Traitor’s Blade is written in a sort-of sassy, dry tone that fits perfectly with the characters. It strikes a perfect balance between accessibility and skillful writing. The dialogue is unstilted, the background information is seamlessly interwoven and the plot is just fast-paced enough. There are some dark moments (mostly in flashback-style memories), but on the whole its relatively light.”
What was your favourite book of 2020? Please let me know down below – I need some recommendations for 2021! 😀