I read a ton of REALLY good books in 2020. I also read a ton in 2020 (thanks covid!) It’s been a very rough year for everyone, but I’m here now to appreciate the books that got me through it. I think one of my greatest achievements of this year was figuring out my taste in reading. I’m falling out of love with YA fantasy but in love with Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy. I’m falling out of love with YA contemporaries but in love with hard-hitting adult contemporaries and *some* hard-hitting YA contemporaries. I’m learning that I love weird books, don’t love faeries, that I love family dramas, but don’t love slice-of-life fiction. I’m hoping that I find even more favorites in 2021 now that I know what I want to spend my time on and what I don’t.
I’m going to make a few other posts before the end of the year about my reading statistics, some series I read, and some mini-reviews of my favorites, but for now, enjoy this messy top 20 list!
Top Three – God Tier
1. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett. This book takes the cake for the best book I read this year and one of my new all-time favorite books. I read it back in May and absolutely devoured it. It will be among the books I provide mini-reviews for in due time. Special thanks to @lifebytheink on Instagram for the recommendation! Sancia now has my entire heart and I am desperately awaiting the third book (and see lower for Shorefall).
2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. This book felt like a warm hug. It was sweet, cute, cozy, and whimsical. It was just the right amount of weird. It felt like grown-up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children with less at stake (but more, too). Now I am anxiously awaiting Klune’s next book Under the Whispering Door, out September 21, 2021, which seems to have a similar vibe.
3. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Where The House in the Cerulean Sea was warm and comfortable, The Song of Achilles was tragic and heart-wrenching. I knew the ending, yet the entire time I was hoping desperately for something else to occur. Characters to die for coupled with Miller’s extraordinary prose meant a book I won’t forget soon.
Top Ten – Very Special Reads
4. Jade War by Fonda Lee. I finished this a few days ago and it quickly soared to the top of my list. I loved it more than Jade City, which is interesting to me because middle books in series rarely take my heart. But, this one had everything I love in a middle book, especially for a fantasy series: increased character development, a greater understanding of the world and its conflicts, and heightened stakes. Wen, Shae, and Anden have my whole heart!
5. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. This book renewed my love for YA. This year I’ve been struggling to keep YA in my life, but Cemetery Boys reminded me why I used to love it. Coming of age stories will always have a special place in my heart, especially ones as diverse and wonderful as this one.
6. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare. I’ve always been a Cassandra Clare fan, but have been hesitant of her newer books in fear that she’s choosing quantity over quality. However, I really loved this one. As per usual, it has a wonderful cast of characters and I’m always a fan of anything Shadowhunters, so this was definitely a win for me.
7. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. There’s something about Celeste Ng’s writing that’s just…captivating. Everything I Never Told You is a beautifully written painful story about family, loss, race, and the things that are left unsaid. The ending absolutely wrecked me. I can easily say that this is a flawless book and one I won’t forget for a long, long time.
8. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. This book…wow. I know it’s not for everyone and it’s extremely hard to read at times, but I just devoured it. It’s a story about a 15 year-old girl who is preyed upon by her teacher and how she is still grappling with their relationship at the age of 30 amidst the #metoo movement. I appreciated the nuance of this book, how Vanessa’s story wasn’t so cut and dry, how it deals more with Vanessa coming to terms with the abuse rather than reporting it. I will not forget this one either. (And I definitely recommend looking at trigger warnings).
9. Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. This was a book that surprised me. Kelly Loy Gilbert shocked me with a powerful story about love, sexuality, poverty, race, and education under the guise of it being a cute contemporary. I’m still so sad I don’t own a copy because I really, really want to reread it physically.
10. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Homegoing was another book that took me by surprise. I knew I would enjoy it because generational family stories are one of my favorite types of novel, but I still was surprised to find myself entirely captivated by each mini-story within the greater novel. Yaa Gyasi is an incredibly talented writer and I will definitely be coming back for more. (Transcendent Kingdom looks amazing.)
Top Twenty – Definitely Powerful, but not the Best of the Best
Among my other favorites of the year are Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, Song and Dance by Alan Shapiro, Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith, Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett, Jade City by Fonda Lee, Loveless by Alice Oseman, Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Here we see some sequels to books in my top ten, some repeat authors, some poetry books, and some classics that I would easily say were amazing, but just weren’t in my top ten. Don’t Call Us Dead is an incredible poetry collection about race; Song and Dance is also a poetry collection, but this one is about the death of the author’s brother. Loveless is a book by one of my favorite authors of all-time, but just didn’t hit as hard as Radio Silence for me. Deposing Nathan is an incredibly underrated book about the intersections of religion and sexuality that came out in 2020. All of these I hold to the highest regard and still recommend whole-heartedly.
Honorable Mentions – 4 stars that had nearly everything
My *almost* favorites were If We Were Us, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Boyfriend Material, The Poet X, King of Crows, and Pachinko. These books had a few small things missing for me, but still have a place in my heart.
Let me know in the comments what your favorites of 2020 are!