My Favorite Books of 2020

Happy Sunday, everyone!

I hope you’ve all safely arrived in 2021 and that you’re enjoying the new year so far!

Anyway, now that 2021 is here, it’s time for my obligatory “Favorite Books of the Year” post! I’m actually quite proud of myself for posting this on time for once – last year, it was almost April until I finally got around to doing it πŸ˜… But this year, I was determined to be punctual!

Overall, 2020 was actually a wonderful reading year for me. Excluding re-reads, I read a total of 103 books, and I don’t think I’ve ever had as many four- and five-star reads as this year! Of course, that made the task of creating this list all the more difficult… I was absolutely ruthless in narrowing it down, so the books that are left are really my favorites of the favorites!

Also, this year, trying to put the books in order actually worked! Surprisingly, I think I’ve come up with a pretty definite ranking… And as is traditional, the closer the books are to the top of this list, the more I loved them. Because this way, if you get bored and decide to stop reading halfway through, you’ll at least have seen the books I want you to go read the most! Though I did try my best to keep this brief – so if you’re looking for my more in-depth thoughts, feel free to check out the wrap-ups and reviews I’ve linked.

But anyway, without further ado, here are the 15 books of 2020 that I loved the most! 😍 And I say “loved the most”, not “best”. Objectivity has absolutely nothing to do with this 😁 So feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments, I’d love to know what your opinions are either way!


#1 The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden

(read in October; full review here)

As you can tell, I’m already cheating by putting three books in my number one spot 😁 But this entire trilogy is just perfection, so it couldn’t not go here! Set in medieval Russia, this fantasy series follows a girl named Vasya, who grew up at the edge of the wilderness, listening to fairytales about domovoi, rusalki, Baba Yaga, and frost-demons that haunt the night. But Vasya has always known these tales are more than just stories…

Overall, this series has everything I could have asked for. Beautifully lyrical writing. An unparalleled sense of atmosphere and setting. Engaging characters. Suspense. Magic. Tidbits about Russian history and language. I ABSOLUTELY ADORE IT! 😍


#2 The How & the Why by Cynthia Hand

(read in April; full review here)

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This book had me sniffling into my tissues, so obviously, I loved it! It’s extremely rare that a book can elicit enough emotion to make me cry, so whenever one does, it’s pretty much guaranteed a spot on my favorites list. But this book is so much more than a tearjerker: It’s heart-warming, cringe-inducing, somber, and funny. It’s the story of a young girl trying to find her birth mom. It’s the story of a teenager wondering whether she should keep her child. It’s about family. Friendship. Theater. College decisions. To sum it up, it’s one of the best YA contemporary novels I’ve ever read.


#3 Emma by Jane Austen

(read in January)

I read Emma three times in 2020, so that should give you some clue as to how much I loved it. It is by far my favorite Jane Austen novel, which is kind of funny, because when I started listening to this on audiobook, I didn’t like it at all. Emma, with her constant scheming and matchmaking, and all her aristocratic arrogance, annoyed me to no end. But then, gradually, I fell in love. This book has amazing character development. It’s funny. It picks apart 19th-century habits and quirks in typical Austenesque fashion. It’s frustrating, endearing and relatable, and I think the proposal scene might be my favorite one ever written 😊


#4 The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

(read in May; full review here)

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Yeah, I know. Everyone and their mother hates this Hunger Games prequel, or thinks it was mediocre at best. And then there’s me. I ADORED THIS! Yes, I also like the original trilogy more, but that doesn’t mean this book isn’t brilliant. The social criticism, the political scheming, the philosophy – everything was so on point, making this one of my favorite dystopian novels out there. And I loved the story, too. Reading from a villain’s perspective was fascinating, and I feel like I understand so much more about Capitol history and the Hunger Games now! I don’t care if no one else likes this. I will continue to love it anyway πŸ₯°


#5 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria Schwab

(read in December; full review here)

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Yes, this book may have its flaws, but that doesn’t stop me from loving it whole-heartedly. At its heart is the tale of a young French girl who, in a typical Faustian bargain, gains immortality through a deal with the devil. But at a cost – no one remembers her, and she is destined to roam the Earth for centuries, all alone. Until, one day, there seems to be a glitch in the devil’s plan…

This book is lyrical, enchanting, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. And the intertextuality! Having read at least five different versions of the Faust myth by now, my inner literature-nerd was in contrastive heaven πŸ˜‡


#6 Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

(read in August; full review here)

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Was this book utterly ridiculous? Yes. Did we really need another Twilight from Edward’s perspective? Probably not. But oh my gosh, I haven’t had as much fun with a book as I did with this one in ages! Angsty emo-Edward was absolutely hilarious! And all the nostalgia that came with reading this! It was great, so I couldn’t NOT put this book on this list. It cheered me up considerably while I was studying for my exams this summer, and if you ask me, my review for Midnight Sun is probably the best book review I’ve ever written. I just had way too much fun with this one πŸ˜‚


#7 The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

(read over the course of several years, but you can check out my wrap-up here πŸ˜‰ )

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Finishing this absolute monstrosity of a book is probably my proudest reading-related achievement of 2020. Of course, I didn’t love every single play (*stay tuned for my least favorites post*), but having read all of them just gave me so much appreciation for Shakespeare’s sheer genius. The language! 😍 The puns! The insight! The humor! Reading them was most definitely worth it. Now all I have to do is see all of them on stage at least once πŸ€—


#8 Beach Read by Emily Henry

(read in September)

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Give me a book with a writer as a protagonist, and I’m pretty much guaranteed to love it. And this one had two writers! I mean, what’s not to like? I instantly fell in love with January, a bestselling romance author who escapes to her dad’s old lake house in a desperate attempt to get out of her writer’s block. Though little did she know that her next-door neighbor would be none other than her college rival Gus: condescending, rude, and a literary fiction author whose most recent book ranked higher on the New York Times bestselling list than January’s own novel… This book was funny, smutty, and way darker than what I was expecting from a romance novel – but in the best way possible!


#9 The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

(read in June; mini-review here)

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I guess there’s just something about slow, character-driven stories that immediately draws me in. Because action-wise, The Interestings doesn’t really have much going on. It follows a group of six friends who met at this pretty prestigious art- and music-focused summer camp throughout the course of their lives, and it is basically a character study more than anything else. But I absolutely loved it! These characters felt more real to me than some nonfictional people I know, and it was crazy how invested I became in their everyday lives. Honestly, I kind of wish we had gotten even more…


#10 The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

(read in December)

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With The Empire of Gold, the entire Daevabad trilogy has now made it onto my favorites lists 😊 This was probably my most anticipated book of the year, and although I do think it could have used a bit more main character death, I was really happy with how everything was wrapped up. As the third installment in a Middle Eastern-, Egyptian- and Asian-inspired fantasy series, this gave me everything I could have hoped for. Lots of politics. Heartbreak. Intrigue. A bit of romance. It has definitely earned itself a spot in my all-time fantasy favorites!


#11 The Secret History by Donna Tartt

(read in December)

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I guess I’m just a sucker for dark academia – every single book I’ve read that has this trope, I’ve absolutely loved. [A quick shout-out here to Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House, which very narrowly didn’t make this list πŸ˜‰] And The Secret History was no exception. We follow a group of Ancient-Greek-obsessed New England college students and right from page one, we find out that they are somehow tied up in a murder. And slowly, as the story unfolds, we learn about the events leading up to it. The murder itself. And the events that followed. I couldn’t put this down!


#12 The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster

(read in June)

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No offense to Shakespeare, but this is by far my favorite 17th-century play – maybe even my favorite play ever! The plot centers around our titular character – the Duchess of Malfi, whose power-hungry brothers have forbidden her to remarry after her husband’s death. But the duchess has a mind of her own and begins to court her steward Antonio in secret. With devastating consequences…

This play is dramatic, funny, gruesome, romantic, tragic. The characters are way more fleshed out than what you usually see in drama. The language is amazing. Just go read it, you’ll see what I mean!


#13 Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

(read in April)

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Yup, I’m Shadowhunters trash. And probably always will be. These books are just so addicting! I love all the magic, the history, the romance, the diverse casts of characters. And this book, despite being what seems like the millionth book in this series, was no different. The plot still managed to surprise and ensnare me, and I absolutely love learning more about this world with every book Cassandra Clare publishes… I can’t wait to get my hands on Chain of Iron!


#14 Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson

(read in June; mini-review here)

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Allegedly was solely responsible for one of my most sleep-deprived weeks of 2020. Because even though I was supremely busy with university work, I could not stop reading this once I had picked it up! The suspense was insane! The novel’s protagonist, Mary, has pretty much spent her entire life in prison, and everyone is convinced she is a psychopathic killer who murdered a baby when she was only nine years old. And Mary herself has never contested that story. Until now.

This had me gripping the edge of my bed. It creeped me out like nobody’s business and, even though I never knew whether I could trust her or not – Mary is truly one of the best unreliable narrators I have ever come across – I was constantly rooting for her. If Tiffany Jackson’s other books are anything like this one, I’ll definitely have to read more of them!


#15 With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

(read in July)

With the Fire on High follows high school senior and single mom Emoni Santiago, who lives with her Puerto-Rican grandmother and dreams of becoming a chef one day. And I immediately fell in love with her. Emoni is head-strong, determined, and fiercely protective of her family. And, gosh, the food descriptions! 😍 Just thinking about this book has me hungry again… Also, the audiobook, which is what I listened to, is narrated by the author and really well done, so I’d highly recommend checking that out, too!


So yeah – those were my 2020 favorites! If you’ve read any of these, do tell me what you thought of them in the comments! Did they make your own favorites lists this year? Or did you hate them? πŸ˜… And what was your favorite book of 2020? I’d love to know!

Also, in case you want more and would like to check out any of my previous yearly favorites, you can find those posts here:

I’ll see you in a couple of days with my least favorite books of the year! πŸ˜‰

49 thoughts on “My Favorite Books of 2020

  1. Maisy says:

    Wow I can’t believe you read so much! I am so jealous haha! I was really behind on posting my favourites list last year so I too tried to get it done early. I haven’t read any of the books on your list but I have been wanting to read Emma for sometime. I have to read Mansfield Park for my uni course this term so that will probably satisfy my Austen-urges for a while.

    Liked by 2 people

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Haha, I don’t know how this happened, either πŸ˜‚ I guess the combined pressure of having to read as many classics as possible in preparation for my exam and having more time to read due to quarantine somehow made this insane reading year possible…

      And I’m looking forward to your thoughts on Mansfield Park! It’s actually the only one of Jane Austen’s six major novels that I haven’t read yet, so I’m also hoping to get to it soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Line says:

    😍😍😍😍

    Yes, I knew what your number one was going to be but it’s still lovely to see πŸ₯°.

    I was surprised to see the Hunger Games book so high up. Didn’t know you liked it that much, but I greatly appreciate seeing a positive review for that one since there was so much negativity when it came out. It’s not a personal favorite of mine but I definitely think it had its merits and is worth the read.

    And Chain of Gold!!! I, too, am Shadowhunters trash, and you’re so right about those books being so addicting! I need Chain of Iron now!

    Finally, I’m totally checking out your posts from previous years 😍 This was great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yes, I’ll be forever indebted to you for introducing me to this year’s number one! 😍😍😍

      And I’m glad you didn’t hate The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes! Most of my friends didn’t like it at all, so I have no one to gush about it to in real life πŸ˜₯ So it’s nice to see you at least think it was worth the read!

      And yes, Chain of Iron! There are so many intriguing plotlines that were introduced in the first book, and I can’t wait to see where Cassandra Clare decides to go with them! Though I also haven’t started the Eldest Curses yet, so I suppose I could always read those if the waiting gets too agonizing…

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yeah, Titus Andronicus is also pretty low on my list πŸ˜… Though I did appreciate the gruesomeness of baking your enemy’s children into a pie and serving them to your unsuspecting guests… Yeah – apparently I’m a horrible person, too πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Abby @ Beyond the Read says:

    I’m so impressed you were able to rank all of your favorites Naemi!! I could never πŸ˜… And I’m so happy there’s at least one person who loved the Hunger Games prequel. I’m planning to read it soon and all the criticism has been rather off-putting.

    And wow, you’ve managed to make me interested in reading a 17th-century play! Duchess of Malfi sounds genuinely interesting?? 🀩

    Now I’m really looking forward to reading your list of least favorites! Great post ❀️

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Haha, this is actually the first time I’ve managed to rank them, too πŸ˜… Usually, it’s so close that I just can’t pick!

      And I really hope you’ll be that one other person who also loves The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes! It’s very different in tone from The Hunger Games, but I still don’t understand why people hate it so much 😒 And I’d love to hear your thoughts on The Duchess of Malfi, too! Of course, the old-fashioned language takes some getting used to, but once you’ve immersed yourself in it, this is such a wonderful play 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Joanna @ TheGeekishBrunette says:

    I loved The Winternight trilogy too! It’s such an amazing trilogy and I can’t wait to reread it eventually. I have read an arc for Cynthia Hand’s newer book and it was so good! I will have to check out the one you read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m so happy the Winternight trilogy is getting this much love! 😊 I’m already itching to reread it, too, and it hasn’t even been that long…
      And I wasn’t aware that Cynthia Hand had a new book coming out soon – I will have to look that up ASAP! I also loved her novel The Last Time We Say Goodbye, so I should really check out what else she’s written πŸ˜…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Noelle says:

    I liked The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes too! It sent a chill up my spine, because we already know what comes out of the terrible ideas the Capital makes in subjecting and dehumanizing others.

    Sejanus Plinth was my favorite character. I almost wish he had his own novella!

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰ OMG, another person who thinks this!! Seriously, this is the first time I’ve ever heard someone else say they liked this book!!
      And Sejanus 😍😍😍 He was my favorite character, too, and that ending absolutely destroyed me 😭

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Pilar says:

    AHHH!!!! I loved this Naemi!!! You make me want to read all of theseπŸ˜†πŸ˜† I can’t believe that you managed to read Emma three times this year 😱 It takes me sooo long to read classics (even when I love them). I’m very impressed πŸ˜‰ I really want to reread it, but because of my inability to read more than one book at a time, I don’t know how that’ll go πŸ˜…

    I loved Midnight Sun! It made me so happy despite the fact that it was ridiculously long. But, at the end of the day I love Twilight and I’ve read it about 15 times, so reading it again wasn’t that big of a deal πŸ˜„ And Chain of Gold!!!! By this point there is no turning back on our Shadowhunter journey 😎 I think Cassandra Clare could keep on going till the end of time and I will still read them.

    And I can’t wait to read Addie LaRue and the Hunger Games prequel!! I think they will be exactly the kind of book that I will love, but I’ve noticed that most people either love them or hate them. So I’m a little nervous about them 😬

    I can’t wait to read the list on your most disappointing books of 2020!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Aww, thanks, Pilar!! I’m so glad I’ve managed to make you interested in some of these πŸ˜πŸ˜‚ And I get where you’re coming from with only reading one book at a time! Rereads and audiobooks are pretty much my only exception to that rule… I don’t understand how some people can read five or six books at a time – I’d never be able to immerse myself in a story! πŸ˜…

      And yes! Midnight Sun was ridiculous both in terms of size and content, but I just loved it so much 😊 And Chain of Gold, too. I can’t wait for the next book! There are just so many unanswered questions I have!

      And I really hope you end up belonging to the group of people who love both Addie LaRue and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes! πŸ˜‰ Or maybe at least one of them? πŸ˜… You’re right, they both seem to be pretty divisive, so I’m really happy that I ended up liking them both! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nehal Jain says:

    I luuurved this list 😍.
    Though I didn’t enjoy ballad of songnitfs and snakes…😜
    And I’m.currently reading Addie larue…😁😍
    And ohhhhh, when will I freaking pick up the winter night trilogy πŸ€¦πŸ»πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Noooooo – why does everyone hate The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes so much? 😭😭 My poor baby – I’ll just have to love it even more to make up for it πŸ˜πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

      I really hope you end up loving Addie LaRue, though! I can’t wait to read your thoughts on it πŸ€—

      And yes! Read the Winternight trilogy! It’s sooo good 😍

      Thanks for reading and stopping by, Nehal! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Rachana says:

    I spy some favorites!! I’m always on the look out for books with characters who are writers too haha. It’s the most relatable thing. I also thought it would be way lighter?? But I like how it explored grief and loss and I think the ending was ultimately pretty optimistic and feel good. I was also thrilled with the ending for Empire of Gold! I don’t think I’ve ever been so satisfied by a fantasy series ending.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yay, I’m so happy you also love some of these!! And that you understand my obsession concerning books with writer protagonists πŸ˜‚ I’m definitely with you on Beach Read – I also thought it would be way lighter, but I really appreciated the addition of some darker storylines. Especially the cult one! It made the story so much more nuanced, somehow.

      And yes, The Empire of Gold was amazing! I’m always really apprehensive about series finales, so I’m overjoyed that this one managed to live up to my ridiculously high expectations 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yes, overall, I was really satisfied with how this series ended! So I really hope you end up loving Empire of Gold as well when you do get to it!
      And thank you! Now that I’ve read all those plays, I’ll have to see what new classics project I come up with 😊 Maybe I’ll try to tackle Dickens next?

      Like

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yes! By the end of the book, I was absolutely in love with Emma’s personality as well 😊 I agree, it caused so many hilarious problems, but also paved the way for truly amazing character development. I can’t believe I didn’t like her at first!

      And OMG – thank you so much for the playlist recommendation!! πŸ€—πŸ€—πŸ€— I’m going to start listing to that immediately once I’m done responding to comments 😊 I’m already a sucker for music anyway, but if it’s Addie LaRue inspired? 😍😍 I’ll definitely keep you updated on what I thought!!

      And that makes me even more excited to try Tiffany Jackson’s other books! It’s great to hear you loved them so much! And yes – definitely try Allegedly, it’s amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

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