I think we can agree 2020 has been a pretty crap year. But as far as reading goes, it hasn’t been all that awful. In fact, the extra book time has meant the discovery of some amazing tomes.
And yes, that extra reading (and listening) has brought about some horrible pieces of “literature” but there’s already been enough negativity this year. Instead, I’m going to end 2020 on a bright note and share with you the absolute best books I read during this wacky year.
Hold on, Let Me Put on my Marketing Hat for a Sec…
I try to review every book I read. If you want to keep up with my recommended books AND stay in the know of when I’ve got a new release of my own throughout the year, please be sure to follow me over on Bookbub.
Okay Onto the Best Books of 2020
Bonus Note: If you prefer, you can also listen to me rambling on about these favorite books of 2020 (and some behind-the-scenes stuff about the choices) as I gush over them on the latest episode of The Book Owl Podcast: The Tiptop Books of 2020. There’s plenty of book-loving banter going on in this one!
Okay, no, I mean it this time, let’s get this post started….
Crikey, this is going to be a challenge. Looking over the tally, it looks like I read over 100 books this year.
Before you think I must lounge around with a book in my hands all day, do know that at least half of those were audiobooks which I gobble up while poking around in the garden, running, and doing house chores.
Still, I better break this down a bit into novels, series, etc.
First up, let’s just drop any pretense of suspense and get right to….
My Absolute Top Pick(s) of 2020
This couldn’t be decided, so there’s a tie for #1
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – Find this book and add it to your to-read-next list ASAP!! The best word I can use to describe this story is lovely. Sounds trite, but it really is a lovely tale about acceptance and belonging. While I could go on and on about this book, I’ll just say it’s simply a story that works perfectly on so many levels.
- Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson – All I can say is WOW!!! I finished this book in record time because I could not stop reading. The mystery element, the personal struggle the (unexpected) main character is going through, and the pacing were all done to a T. And the ending!! Well, let’s just say it is not your typical thriller/mystery ending.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, it’s time for the rest. Under each category, the books are listed in order of favorite-ness.
- The Last Passenger by Charles Finch – Highly recommended without question! I’ve loved the Lenox mysteries since book one and this was no exception. The characters and situations never stop feeling real and continue to be engaging, which seems to be a rare thing when mystery series get to this point.
- False Value by Ben Aaronovitch – What can I say? It’s always a treat to wander back into the Peter Grant world.
- Fools & Mortals by Bernard Cornwell – This was a wonderfully engaging book. Cornwell captures the frenetic energy, hopes, and superstitions of the backstage players in Shakespeare’s performances, then throws in a little mystery and a little romance to create a satisfying story.
- A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffery Archer – Wow! Just wow. This is an amazing and clever reimagining of The Count of Monte Cristo. Unlike the original, this book (despite its length) never has a dull moment.
Favorite Series of 2020
Ha! I’m kind of getting away with tough decision making with this one by squeezing in several books under one listing. Still, each of the books in these series was stellar!!
- The Hidden Iceland series (aka “The Hulda series”) by Ragnar Jonasson (this includes the novel Darkness mentioned above) – The instant I finished one book in this trilogy, I immediately put the next one on hold at my library. An amazing, and chilling series.
- The Tales of Pell by Delilah Dawson & Kevin Hearne – Juvenile potty jokes, over-the-top characters, a wacky plot line…this series is just what I needed for 2020! Underneath all the jokes though is a wonderful theme of belonging and accepting yourself for who you are. And then some more potty jokes! Note: There is a marked difference between reviews for the audiobooks and the eyeball books. Get the audiobooks if you can…the narrator is the best I’ve ever heard!!
- The Gaius Petreius Ruso series by Ruth Downie – I’m cheating here because I started the series in 2019 and haven’t gotten all the way through it, but I haven’t come across one I didn’t like
- The Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann – Steampunk meets mystery in this fast-paced, highly addictive series.
Note: Links above go to the first book in the series.
Favorite Graphic Novels
- The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson – There was a whole lotta out loud laughter as I read through these classic comics!
- Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Newspaper Comic Strips Collection – Puns. Half-baked inventions. Too much fun.
- Newbury and Hobbes: The Undying by George Mann – This was my first introduction into the Newbury & Hobbes series and I loved it!
- Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman – This was outstanding! I went into this book with 1) no real idea what it was about, and 2) no strong opinions about topics such as universal basic income, leisure time, and the various other topics he covers. But holy utopian dream, was I impressed!
- I Loved Rogues: The Life of an Elephant Tramp by George Lewis – If you love elephants or are just curious about a side of life around the 1930s you rarely hear about, search this one out and give it a read. It’s a bit hard to read about the utter cruelty the elephants endured in circuses and zoos, but George “Slim” Lewis’s love of elephants shines through. Some of his tales and mishaps are absolutely hilarious, some will have you gritting your teeth, and some will leave you with a little “something in your eye.”
- The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife – I’m a sucker for anything “London”, so getting a better insight into the lives of the ravens and the Yeoman Warders was fascinating. What earns the book five stars though is Skaife’s writing. It’s conversational, funny, shows off his honest admiration for the birds, and had me ripping through this like a raven whose just got his claws on a pigeon (read the book!).
Have you read any of these? What was your favorite book of 2020? And go ahead, if there was a least favorite, it’s only fair you warn me!
Have a great last couple days of 2020!!
One final note…I am looking for readers to join my review team for my upcoming release, The Undead Mr Tenpenny. If you like the paranormal mystery, memorable characters, and snarky humor of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, contact me and I’ll give you the scoop about the team.
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11 thoughts on “My Top Book Picks of 2020”
For fiction, “The Undead Mr. Tenpenny” (as Mr. Husband I get an early read!) and for non-fiction, “Why We Swim” by Bonnie Tsui.
Hmmm….I think there might be some bias in that fiction choice :))
I have popped some of them on my ever-expanding book list. My favourite? ‘Underland’ by Robert Macfarlane. It’s non-fiction about his exploration of the world beneath our feet ~ caves, mines, sinkholes, catacombs, glaciers, forests ~ and an exploration of the cultural, philosophical, environmental aspects of them. Definitely not for everyone, but it resonated with me.
Hmmm…I do love a good catacomb! It sounds like something Mr Husband would really like (he’s the non-fiction junkie). If you get to them, let me know what you think of the ones that made it onto your to-read list.
I like the way you did this posts I hope to a similar one. I read mostly mysteries so I haven’t read any of your books.
Charles Finch’s books are mysteries, so you might want to give them a try. Thanks for dropping by!!
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He is on my list to try when I catch up. An ARC by him is one of ARC that I didn’t write review.
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He had a Xmas novella for free recently and I whizzed through it on Christmas Day…but haven’t reviewed it yet…oops.
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You know I did not finish The Darkness as I got to the part with the incident…don’t want to give any spoilers…but you know when she was with him cold wilds of Norway…and I am thinking after listening to your podcast that I will finish the book. I was listening on audiobook and I think I will borrow the hard copy of the book.
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I’ve found the Icelandic books to be hard to listen to because the names are so tricky. I raced through the hard copy, though.
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I loved the main character though and I think I need to finish it. 🙂
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