Over the past couple of years I have rekindled my love of reading. I grew up reading and being read to, had a huge bookcase full of various collections and always had a book on the go. This love of reading dwindled as I went to university and completely fell out of the habit. At that time, I was happy if I read even one or two books a year.
However, in 2018, I decided to try and turn this around. I set myself reading goals. It began as a way to try and disconnect from technology and instead spend time reading and falling back in love with books. Over 2018 and 2019, I read somewhere in the region of 15 – 30 books in each year. This was a massive achievement for me.
Of course, nobody could have predicted how 2020 would play out – but in trying to find glimmers of positivity in a year that has been at best difficult, and at worst devastating, 2020 has thrown me full force back into my love of books. With a lot more time spent at home, reading was the obvious relief to turn to during a tumultuous time. Since January, I have read 92 books (which is a figure I could never have imagined saying before!) but it’s not only the incredible books themselves that have had a huge impact on my life – it’s everything else that came with it over the last 12 months.
In 2020, reading has led me to:
- be welcomed into the wonderful Cardiff Feminist Book Club
- take part in the Reading Women campaign with The Reading Agency and Women’s Prize
- connect with publishers to read proof copies of books (I still pinch myself about this)
- join the amazing Women’s Writes book club
- interview amazing authors and publishers such as Miranda Roszkowski about 100 Voices and Verity Holloway about Disturbing the Body
- talk to independent bookshop owners in Wales about supporting small and local
- become part of a wholesome girl gang, our wonderful Book Babes group (huge love to Ellie, Nicole, Sophie M, Alison and Sophie W)
- spend time doing some of my favourite things with Ellie (hello coffee and bookshop dates, drinks in the harbour and bird watching in the Wetlands)
- join an inspiring prose and poetry workshop with Lucent Dreaming
- create a poetry and art collaboration with Heather Parr called R.S.V.P.
- be published online (Growing out of the Ashes: Examining Christina Thatcher’s How to Carry Fire), in a journal (The Future is Non-Binary) and in a book (a poem titled Blood and Water, coming 2021)
- start writing my own short stories inspired by my love of horror
This is not to brag, but simply to acknowledge and say that I feel immense gratitude for all of the above. Each of these things has been a shining light in what could have been, and for many has been, one of the darkest years.
But let’s get to why you’re really here – my favourite books of 2020! The books on this list are obvious, no-doubts picks for me. They’re books that I immediately fell in love with, that I can’t stop talking about, that I recommend at any given chance, and have had a lasting impact on me.
So, let’s get into it.
I adored this book. It’s an absolute stand out of this year. The storytelling and imagery kept me hooked right until the very last line. Honestly, I think about the last line of this book (amongst others throughout) more often than you’d imagine.
I haven’t stopped talking about how great The Fisherman is and how much I enjoyed reading it, so I can definitely see why John Langan won the Bram Stoker Award in 2016 for this novel. Read my original review here.
Another book that I haven’t stopped talking about is I’m Thinking of Ending Things. I get shivers just thinking about how much this book messed with me. This is the kind of book that I read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open and then woke up early just so I could finish it before work the next day.
I wish I could forget this book, just so I could have the pleasure of reading it all over again. Read my original review here.
Wow. What a powerful, personal book. In the Dream House is like nothing I have ever read before, and I urge you to read it. It’s an innovative take on storytelling and memoir with short, sharp chapters that are built on specific narrative tropes. Machado uses this unique style to articulate dark moments from her past, and her experience of abuse in a same-sex relationship.
As soon as I started this book, I knew it would make it into my top reads of 2020.
This year, I have fallen for Brit Bennett’s writing (and cannot wait to read more of it).
It was a toss up between whether to include The Vanishing Half or The Mothers in this list because they’re both incredible stories you can lose yourself in, but TVH just won out. Bennett builds her characters and settings in such a beautiful, realistic and gripping way that I was thinking about the characters in TVH long after the book finished. Read my original review here.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I haven’t stopped shouting about how amazing this poetry collection is. It shares the stories of women in horror movies, but this time in the form of feminist retellings. Have you ever heard of anything more perfect? Read my original review here.
Yoko Ogawa is another author that I have really enjoyed reading this year – and Revenge is definitely the stand out collection for me. I love her brand of weird and wonderful storytelling. Her sharp, unsentimental prose creates the most perfect ominous tone for this set of eerie short stories.
Honourable mentions from my 2020 reading list
Alongside the books above which immediately stand out to me as my favourites, there’s a few more that I couldn’t not mention – so here’s a few more that I really enjoyed this year.
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. I loved listening to this on audio book and proceeded to listen to most of his back catalogue on interesting explorations of different topics.
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. I attribute my re-ignited love of reading to this book. It reminded me of the absolute joy of reading and has had a significant impact on the amount, and breadth, of books I have read this year.
- Boy Parts by Eliza Clark. What a weird, trippy ride of a book. I can’t wait to see what’s next from Eliza.
- Pew by Catherine Lacey. I loved the ominous, disconcerting nature of this short story and Lacey’s examination of how attached we are to labels and identity.
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang. I’d never read anything like this before and it led me to read Yoko Ogawa. Another weird tale that intrigued me to read more strange short stories.
- Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui. There’s a warm place in my heart for this book. It’s a beautiful love letter to swimming and was a pleasure to read.
- Pine by Francine Toon. This was such a great autumnal read. I read it over Halloween and the dark, gloomy backdrop of that time alongside the cold, atmospheric setting of this book was a perfect pairing.
- Nightshift by Kiare Ladner. Nightshift totally exceeded my expectations and I can’t stop thinking about how much I enjoyed it. Another book that I could not put down.
- Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch. Absolutely phenomenal, sublime writing. I’m still in awe.
- Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan. Kirsty’s horror-inspired short stories have had a big impact on me this year and encouraged me to start writing my own short stories.
- A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. I had forgotten why I loved YA books so much, but AGGGTM set that straight. I flew through this book, and the follow up: Good Girl, Bad Blood.
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I read this at the start of the year and it’s stuck with me since. I loved the descriptions of the natural landscape, and reading about Cheryl’s journey.
- Circe by Madeline Miller and The Nesting by C.J. Cooke. I loved listening to both of these on audio book – the narrations are fantastic and you can lose yourself in the story.
What were your favourite books of 2020?
I’d love to hear about what you loved reading this year. Have you read any of the books I mentioned? It’d be great to hear your thoughts on them too. Let me know in the comments.
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