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!
- ‘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
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!
- ‘The Stand’ – Stephen King
- ‘The Survivors: Pandemic’ – Alex Burns
- ‘The Undead: The First Seven Days’ – R.R Haywood
- ‘Surviving The Evacuation: London’ – Frank Tayell (this book is free on Kindle at the moment…)
- ‘Surviving The Evacuation: Wasteland’ – Frank Tayell
- ‘Calypso’ – David Sedaris I really love David Sedaris’ style of writing: funny, blunt, and quirky. This book of essays covers everything from suicide, to a giant turtle, to alcoholism, to Fitbits.
- ‘Forensics: The Anatomy Of Crime’ – Val McDermid Val McDermid is a hugely successful crime fiction writer and her interest in and passion for the genre really comes across in this book. Each chapter covers a different aspect of forensic science and how they all contribute to solving crimes and convicting those responsible. Absolutely fascinating, completely morbid… right up my street!
- ‘Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice On Life And Love From Someone Who’s Been There’ – Cheryl Strayed This book is a collection of the best/most memorable letters sent in to Strayed’s enormously popular ‘Dear Sugar’ advice column. The letters and their replies are heartbreaking, wise, funny, shocking, and eye-opening. A great book to dip in and out of.
- ‘Three Women’ – Lisa Taddeo This book has been EVERYWHERE for the past 18 months and I tried not to read too much about it as I didn’t want the hype to ruin it for me. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t this. This book follows the deeply personal and intimate stories of three women, all with very different lives and experiences, but with common threads of sexuality, power, and how they interact with the relationships around them. I found this book interesting but incredibly sad, and the stories stuck with me for a long time.
- ‘How To Work Without Losing Your Mind’ – Cate Sevilla* Full disclaimer: I know and love Cate in real life. But that’s how I knew she was the ideal person to write this book. HTWWLYM is the book I needed 5 years ago when I finally quit the job that was making me ill and had no idea where my life was going. This book offers realistic, comforting, tough-love advice and support, covering topics like burnout, dealing with personality clashes, payrises, and knowing when to leave a job. There’s also a podcast to go alongside this book – The Heart Of It – where Cate interviews women about their professional journeys about why they do what they do… you may recognise the guest in episode 2…!
- ‘Everything I Know About Love’ – Dolly Alderton
- ‘My Friend Anna: The True Story Of The Fake Heiress Of New York City’ – Rachel DeLoache Williams
- ‘The Skincare Bible’ – Dr Anjali Mahto
- ‘Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses Of Princess Margaret’ – Craig Brown
- ‘A River In Darkness: One Man’s Escape From North Korea’ – Masaji Ishikawa
- ‘How Not To Be A Boy’ – Robert Webb
- ‘How To Be A Woman’ – Caitlin Moran
- ‘How To Be Human’ – Ruby Wax
- ‘The Future Of Feeling’ – Kaitlin Ugolik Philips
- ‘Wishful Drinking’ – Carrie Fisher
- ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- ‘Notes To Self’ – Emilie Pine
- ‘The Year Of Magical Thinking’ – Joan Didion
- ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ – Florence Given
- ‘The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (And Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did)’ – Philippa Perry
- ‘Shockaholic’ – Carrie Fisher
- ‘The Dark Side Of The Mind’ – Kerry Daynes
- ‘What To Do When It’s Your Turn (And It’s Always Your Turn) – Seth Godin
- ‘The Insecure Girl’s Handbook’ – Olivia Purvis
- ‘Uncanny Valley’ – Anna Wiener
- ‘The Outsider’ – Stephen King I’ve been a huge Stephen King fan ever since I was a creepy early teen, and this might be my favourite ever book of his. It starts out as a fairly standard small-town who-dunnit but – as you would expect for King – soon turns into something else. There’s a sequel, which is on my list, and also a TV series – let me know if you’ve seen the latter and if it’s worth watching?
- ‘Ghost Wall’ – Sarah Moss This book was very unsettling. It’s a slow read with a low-level of dread underpinning the whole thing. A family headed by a history-buff father join a university Anthropology trip to live in the Northumberland countryside for two weeks, surviving off the land and living as Iron Age villagers may have. Although set in the 90s it feels very timely, with a nod to the danger of clinging to outdated but idealised ways of life.
- ‘Big Little Lies’ – Liane Moriarty It’s unlikely this book has escaped you. The book was very popular even before it was adapted into a star-studded TV series. This isn’t ground-breaking, it’s not deep or incredibly well-written *but* I raced through it and it kept me guessing right to the end (something I definitely can’t say for a lot of the books below this one…!)
- ‘The Stillwater Girls’ – Minka Kent
- ‘Unspeakable Things’ – Jess Lourey
- ‘Verity’ – Colleen Hoover
- ‘I’ll Never Tell’ – Catherine McKenzie
- ‘Escape From Hotel Necro’ – Amy Cross (I hate being really negative about books as I have witnessed first hand what goes into writing a book and believe that no one sets out to write a bad book. But I couldn’t include this in the list without warning you that this is truly terrible. It’s like someone watched Hostel and Saw in one sitting and then wrote this in the ensuing fever dream)
- The Masque Of The Red Death’ – Edgar Allan Poe
- ‘The Guest List’ – Lucy Foley
- ‘Impostor’ – LJ Ross
- ‘In The Tall Grass’ – Stephen King & Joe Hill
- ‘The Woman In Our House’ – Andrew Hart
- ‘Here To Stay’ – Mark Edwards
- ‘The Memory Watcher’ – Minka Kent
- ‘Into The Darkest Corner’ – Elizabeth Raynes
- ‘The Good Widow’ – Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
- ‘Hysteria’ – LJ Ross
- ‘Bedlam’ – LJ Ross
- ‘The Apartment’ – K.L Slater
- ‘Truth Hurts’ – Rebecca Reid
- ‘The Woman in Cabin 10’ – Ruth Ware
- ‘The Turn Of The Key’ – Ruth Ware
- ‘Little White Lies’ – Philippa East
- ‘Try Not To Breathe’ – Holly Seddon
- ‘The Body Lies’ – Jo Baker
- ‘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.