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 😅 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
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
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
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 🥰
#5 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria Schwab
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 😇
#6 Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
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 😂
#7 The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
(read over the course of several years, but you can check out my wrap-up here 😉 )
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 🤗
#8 Beach Read by Emily Henry
(read in September)
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
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)
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)
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 😉] 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)
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)
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
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? 😅 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! 😉