2020 In Books: the 92 books I read last year

A year ago I set myself a target of reading 75 books in 2020. Obviously back then we didn’t know that this year would be unlike any other…! If you’re looking for a new book to sink your teeth into, read on. Here is my 2020 in books…

In the end I managed to read 92 books. But my reading definitely went in bursts and lulls: some weeks I couldn’t stop reading and used it as a way to distract myself from everything going on; and other weeks I could barely finish a paragraph without losing interest. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself, but I found that having a goal for the year motivated me to pick up a book instead of mindlessly doomscrolling on twitter for an hour. I also really recommend thriller/crime type fiction if you’re in a bit of a lull, as those kinds of books are designed to keep you interested and push you forward at a fairly quick pace. As you can probably see from the list below, whenever I was feeling a bit uninspired I’d pick up one of the psychological thriller type books and it quickly sucked me back in!

Please do let me know your favourite books of the year in the comments. Even though I have 400+ unread books on my Kindle, I still have to obsessively add more to my wishlist every day. I can’t stop. You can also follow me on GoodReads where I update my books as I go: this year I’m aiming for 104 books.

I haven’t put a review for each book below, but I’ve pulled out the ones that I enjoyed the most, ones I really did not enjoy, and some that surprised me (good and bad). I’ve also separated the books out into genres so you can skip any that don’t interest you. And finally, all of the links below are affiliate links which means if you order a book based off these recommendations, I get a few pence in commission. A big thank you to everyone who uses my affiliate links, it is a great way to show your support for my content at no extra cost to you.

Right. 2020 in books: let’s go!

SCI-FI

  • ‘Broadcast’ – Liam Brown This is an interesting take on the ‘always on’ aspect of social media. An influencer is approached by a mysterious and powerful tech mogul and offered the chance to try the newest form of content creation: permanent live streaming seen through the eyes of the influencer. The ultimate reality TV show, what could possibly go wrong?
  • ‘Intercepts’ – T.J Payne This is a very dark horror story that focuses on a secret government facility conducting human experiments in order to tap into previously untapped psychic abilities. It’s gory, it’s creepy, and I sped through it.
  • ‘Recursion’ – Blake Crouch I flipping LOVE Blake Crouch’s writing. I read ‘Dark Matter‘ a few years ago and could not stop thinking about it for weeks afterwards. ‘Recursion’ had the same impact on me. This book focuses on ‘False Memory Syndrome’, a global phenomenon causing people to lose their grip on reality, experiencing memories of lives unlived. There’s a reason this won the GoodReads Best Sci-Fi of 2020 award!
  • ‘Walking To Aldebaran’ – Adrian Tchaikovsky If you were a fan of the irreverent vibe of ‘The Martian‘ by Andy Weir, I think you’d love this book. A strange alien rock, and the last remaining astronaut lost and wandering and trying to survive. It skips from funny and hopeful to dark and sad with no warning. I definitely need to read more from this author.
  • ‘The Stone Man’ – Luke Smitherd I don’t know how I came across this book but it was a great ‘book slump’ cure. An 8ft stone man suddenly appears in Coventry city centre. Art installation? Reality show prank? But then it starts walking. Through buildings, over people, and no weapons or barriers can stop it. When a journalist from Coventry realises he is somehow psychically linked to the Stone Man, he
  • ‘Q’ [also known as ‘Master Class’] – Christina Dalcher A traditional sci-fi premise where the dystopian future feels oddly realistic. Children are tested to find out their ‘Q score’: high scores mean better schools, more opportunities, a better life. A low score results in federal boarding school. The main character in this book is married to one of the government ministers responsible for the ‘Q score’ tier system. Then her youngest child fails the Q test. If you enjoyed this, her previous book ‘Vox‘ is good and in a similar dystopian vein.
  • ‘Scythe’ – Neal Shusterman One of my absolute favourites of the year (maybe ever? BOLD CLAIMS) Set in a utopian future where technology and knowledge is so advanced that death and disease has been eradicated. To keep population numbers under control, Scythes are appointed to select people for reaping. Scythes are highly respected and carefully selected and the first book in this series follows two teenagers chosen to train as Scythe apprentices. I haven’t read any of the subsequent books in the series but am excited to if I enjoy them half as much as I did this one.
  • ‘Followers’ – Megan Angelo
  • ‘Flowers For Algernon’ – Daniel Keyes
  • ‘The Crysalids’ – John Wyndham
  • ‘The Island Of Doctor Moreau’ – H.G.Wells
  • ‘The One’ – John Marrs
  • ‘Body Tourists’ – Jane Rogers
  • ‘The Invisible Man’ – H.G Wells
  • ‘The 100’ – Kass Morgan

APOCALYPSE

I know people might think it’s odd to choose to read these kind of books during a pandemic, but I’ve always been obsessed with the end of the world and have read A LOT of this genre. I tend to be less interested in the actual disaster/breakdown of society bit, and more interested in the post-apocalypse world building aspect. So if you have any recommendations, let me know!

NON-FICTION

CRIME/HORROR/THRILLER

FICTION

  • ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ – Taylor Jenkins Reid TJR appeared on my Best Books of 2019 post with the unbelievable ‘Daisy Jones And The Six’, so this book had big shoes to fill. So I’m thrilled to tell you that TSHOEH is even better.Reclusive and iconic actress, Evelyn Hugo, decides to finally tell her story and chooses a little-known reporter. Through daily interview sessions, her glamourous, shocking, funny, and devastatingly sad story is told. I wish I could wipe my memory and read this again.
  • ‘Queenie’ – Candice Carty-Williams Another book that was enormously hyped last year, this was (unfairly IMO) compared to Bridget Jones. It follows the story of Queenie, a young woman living in London, navigating a breakup, family pressure, difficult friendships, and a disastrous career. The comparisons to BJ meant I went into this thinking it would be a lightweight romcom. Instead it’s a confronting look at racism, feminism, mental health, generational pressure, domestic violence, complicated friendships, and ambition. There are funny bits, as well as bits that will break your heart, but I think some of the marketing did it a disservice.
  • ‘The Switch’ – Beth O’Leary In contrast, this is a very uncomplicated romcom that I adored.Leena is a young, ambitious woman living in London and on the verge of burnout. Her grandma, Eileen, is just about to turn 80 and is bored of her tiny Yorkshire village. In a classic switcheroo, they decide to swap houses for 2 months. This is a really easy and fun read – and if you liked this you’ll definitely like ‘The Flatshare’ from the same author.
  • ‘Such A Fun Age’ – Kiley Reid Another book that gave me the wrong impression from marketing and hype. I expected a funny satirical take on privilege and racism from the initial blurb description (a young black babysitter accused of kidnapping the white child she is looking after for a Goop-style white influencer), when actually it was a very bleak and sad story. It is absolutely a story about racism – covering fetishization, assumptions, opportunity, white saviourism – but it felt much more nuanced than I was originally led to believe. It was an uncomfortable read but one that stayed with me.
  • ‘The New Me’ – Hallie Butler This book will not be for everyone. It’s a very bleak and ultimately uneventful story about a 30 year old woman stuck in a daily rut of meaningless work, empty friendships, unfulfilled promise, and depression. Many parts of it felt sadly familiar (‘if I get this job I’ll be able to afford to eat this, do that, have these hobbies, be a different person’) and it left me feeling seen but frustrated, at the same time cringing and wanting to shake some sense into the protagonist. This review sums it up: “if u are also kind of a pretentious, bitter person who is unenthusiastic about the mundanity of adulthood u might want to read this. it was strangely cathartic but also very upsetting at the same time. it made me feel like trash and i liked it.” Perfect.
  • ‘Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief’ – Rick Riordan BOLD CLAIM ALERT: the Percy Jackson series is better than Harry Potter. I don’t know why it hasn’t reached the same level of fame or obsession, but hopefully that will change with the rumoured upcoming TV series. The books are easy to read, cover Greek mythology in a fun, modern, accessible way (which makes them great for young people with no prior knowledge of the topic) PLUS the author isn’t a horrible TERF so you don’t have to feel guilty for funding them. A big win all round! I read all 5 of the Percy Jackson series this year and loved each one. Such a fun world to immerse yourself in.
  • ‘Percy Jackson And The Sea Of Monsters’ – Rick Riordan
  • ‘Percy Jackson And The Titan’s Curse’ – Rick Riordan
  • ‘Percy Jackson And The Battle Of The Labyrinth’ – Rick Riordan
  • ‘Percy Jackson And The Last Olympian’ – Rick Riordan
  • ‘Loam’ – Scott Heim ‘(‘Disorder’ short story collection: “Something disturbing is going on here. From small-town witch hunts to mass incarceration to exploitations of the flesh, this chilling collection of twisted short stories imagines the horrors of a modern world not unlike our own. What have we done?”)
  • ‘Un-Girls’ – Lauren Beukes (‘Disorder’ short story collection)
  • ‘The Best Girls’ – Min Jin Lee (‘Disorder’ short story collection)
  • ‘Will Williams’ – Namwali Serpell (‘Disorder’ short story collection)
  • ‘Anonymous’ – Uzodinma Iweala (‘Disorder’ short story collection)
  • ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ – Dan Chaon (‘Disorder’ short story collection)
  • ‘Normal People’ – Sally Rooney
  • ‘Pretending’ – Holly Bourne
  • ‘Adults’ – Emma Jane Unsworth
  • ‘The Last Romeo’ – Justin Myers*
  • ‘Expectation’ – Anna Hope

I hope you enjoyed this summary of 2020 in books and that you found some inspiration to fill your bookshelves/Kindle. Please do leave your recommendations in the comments below, I am always in the market for new books.

Lex

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