I cannot believe that this will be my fourth time writing a “Favourite Books of the Year” post! Where has the time gone? In past years, I was always able to pick out one book that stood out among the rest. In 2017, it was The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill. In 2018, it was Never Let Me Go by Kazua Ishiguro. And, in 2019, it was Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller. It is worth noting that all three of these authors have books coming out in 2021, so it will be interesting to see how I feel about them! What makes 2020 different is that I couldn’t choose an ultimate favourite. So many of the books on this list were incredible and I would consider them all-time favourites!
Talia Hibbert has quickly become one of my favourite romances writers. I loved Get a Life, Chloe Brown, but Take a Hint, Dani Brown took it to another level. The chemistry between Dani and Zaf is off the charts, and I am not one for book boyfriends but Zaf is just too adorable and sweet. I really love their banter and how different they were. This book is fake dating at its best!
Emma Donoghue is one of my autobuy authors, and The Pull of the Stars reminded me why. She has this way of perfectly balancing dread and hope in her stories. I was not sure that I was prepared for a pandemic book, but The Pull of the Stars was exactly the book that I needed. It was hopeful in a very unexpected way. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer. I could have spent much more times with these characters.
How do I even begin to talk about The Fifth Season? N.K. Jemisin’s world building is on another level. I don’t think I have ever read another book that was this intricate. I am one of those people who picks up a book as soon as they finish one, but I had to take some time to let The Fifth Season process. It still haunts me all these months later! I have plans to finish the series in 2021, but I don’t know that I am prepared for it. This has potential to become my new favourite series!
For as incredible as Raybearer is, I do not think that it has gotten nearly enough attention. I don’t think that I have ever included a YA fantasy on my favourites list, but Raybearer has opened my eyes to how beautiful and impactful the genre can be. It has helped me get closer to understanding the kinds of YA fantasy that I love. What stands out to me are the characters and the bonds between them. This is the found family trope at its best. The world and magic systems are unique and there were so many twists and turns. I cannot tell you how excited I am for the next book in the series!
Alice Hoffman has been one of my favourite authors for years, and I particularly love her Practical Magic series. I always say that The Rules of Magic is my favourite witchy book, but I think it is fair to say that Magic Lessons has surpassed it. I loved getting more background into the Owens’ family curse, and Maria Owens was a fascinating protagonist. Her story brought us from England to Curaçao to Salem and then to New York. It was interesting to see each of these places from her point of view. Magic Lesson may have been too quiet for some readers, but I appreciated how thoughtful it was.
I could have included any of Tiffany D. Jackson’s novels on this list. Of the three that I read this year, it was next to impossible to choose a favourite. I settled on Grown, as it is her newest release and it had a huge emotional impact on me. Jackson has this way of writing thrillers that are so deeply gut-wrenching because of how fleshed out her characters are. You feel a connection to them in a way that I never expect to feel when I pick up a thriller. Grown was difficult to read at times but it is one that I would put in the hands of many.
The Midnight Library was the book that I needed to read this year. It has some heavy themes, but it is ultimately a hopeful and inspiring story. I loved it for its predictability. If you have ever read anything by Mitch Albom, I think you will appreciate The Midnight Library. This is one of those books that I would gift to just about anyone in my life. I think most of them would take something away from it!
Plain Bad Heroines completely caught me off guard and I was surprised by just how much I loved this 600 page novel. It is told in two timelines, and I found both of them equally compelling. What is it about mysteries set at boarding schools that is so engrossing? The twist in this one is that the second timeline is about the making of a movie of the events of the first timeline. It is so intricate and masterfully written! You will never look at wasps the same way again.
Maggie O’Farrell wrote one of my favourite memoirs, I Am, I Am, I Am, but Hamnet was my first time reading any of her fiction, and it blew me away. I am not at all surprised that it won The Women’s Prize for fiction this year- it is incredible. Even though I knew what was coming, I found myself emotionally wrecked by the end. I went into Hamnet expecting a book about Shakespeare and the making of Hamlet, but what I got was something I appreciated so much more. At its core, it is a story about family, and it is beautiful.
For the last few years, I have been fascinated by Greek myth retellings, and I know that I am not alone in that! While Madeleine Miller’s books started me on this journey, it was A Thousand Ships that really lit that fire for me. I am even planning to read The Iliad in 2021- the translation by Caroline Alexander, of course. I loved how many perspectives we got throughout A Thousand Ships and it really shone a light on the impact of war. I cannot wait to read more from Natalie Haynes!
That’s it! What a year it has been! What was your favourite book from 2020?