I read 51 books in 2020 (I’ll be having a few more posts about them in the coming days, so stay tuned!), and I had the hardest time picking out just five books to talk about for my top books. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Top 5 Tuesday post, and this one isn’t an officially sanctioned post, but I’m going to do it all the same.
I think the top of the list has to be A Deadly Education by Naomi Novak. I received this as a Fantastic Stranglings book club book for October (but didn’t read it until this month), and it is incredible. In a year where JK Rowling once again disappointed us with her comments, it’s time for a new Magic series to come to the forefront, and I think that magic series needs to be The Scholamance series. You can read my review here. This is the first book in a series, and I’ve already pre-ordered the second. I am incredibly excited for the second book, but also a little hesitant, as I read that it was originally supposed to be a duology and has now been stretched into a trilogy. This means book two is either going to be really good (i.e., actually progresses the story) or really bad (i.e., all filler, no substance). It’s happened with a few book series that I’ve read – I mean, just look at Eragon – it was originally supposed to be a trilogy, and then they shoehorned Brisingr into there and it all fell apart. While Eragon isn’t the pinnacle of literature by any means, it was still a book that I had high hopes for that ended up being crushed.
Next up is probably The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, which I picked up on a whim on my Kindle because it was a daily deal. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and I ended up reading it all in one day. You can read my review here. I keep trying to think of something to compare this to, and the only thing I can even begin to think of is And Then There Were None, because it’s a bunch of people stuck in a mansion and getting killed off one by one, and nobody has any idea who the real killer is. It took a hot minute for me to understand what was going on, but once the main character understands what is happening (there’s a pretty good explanation in the book itself), it becomes much easier to read. There may be other books out there like this one, but I haven’t come across one yet. I enjoyed this so much that I even pre-ordered Turton’s next book (which may have already come out? I’m not sure). I guess that’s one to look forward to in 2021!
And we have to mention Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I didn’t read a lot of horror this year (mostly because I’m not a horror person), but Mexican Gothic and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Killing Vampires are probably as close as I got. (I’m pretty sure the latter is classified as horror, anyway.) You can read my review here. Mexican Gothic follows a rich socialite as she leaves her friends and family to go help her married cousin, who has started exhibiting strange signs of psychosis, and the cousin’s in-laws (and husband) are trying to do everything they can to keep Noemi from discovering the truth behind the cousin’s illness and the secrets in the house. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it (and at one point near the end, I had to put it down because it was getting dark outside and I was getting creeped out). The cover led me to believe that the psychosis could be put down to the green wallpaper (because Victorians loved the color green, but unfortunately they made it with arsenic), but the truth was so much worse. If you’re looking for a good chill, check this one out.
Then there’s The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (let’s just call it the whole Winternight Trilogy) that got me out of a several-months-long reading slump. I have always enjoyed reading retellings of fairy tales, but all of those retellings have always been Grimm Brothers tales. I’ve probably read a dozen different Cinderella reboots, but never have I read anything about Vasilisa and the Baba Yaga. I’ve heard the originals, of course (I listen to a podcast called Myths and Legends, which has done several different Russian-inspired episodes), but I have never read them. You can read my review here. The Bear and the Nightingale was amazing, and I read all three of the books in just four days. (It would have been sooner, but I had to do actual work for my job on one of those days.) While there were several instances where I was annoyed with Vasilia (it has to do mostly with the fact that she’s a young kid for a lot of the first book, and I’ve got no patience for that), it quickly became one of the stories that I knew would be at the top of my reading list for 2020.
And last, but certainly not least, let’s end this post with a non-fiction book. Endurance by Alfred Lansing tells the tale of Ernest Shackleford and his men as they attempt to reach Antarctica and cross the continent on foot, which has never been done before. Unfortunately, as they begin their journey to the Antarctic, their ship is trapped in the ice and they spend TEN months on the stranded vessel until the ship itself gives up and goes down. Shackledford then has to walk his men back to civilization, and manages to do it – without losing a single person. You can read my review here. I didn’t read many non-fiction books this year (I only read three – which I need to remedy next year for sure), but Endurance reads almost like a fiction novel. If there wasn’t so much documentation about Shackleford’s journey, you’d be tempted to call it fiction — and not very good fiction, because it’s obviously impossible to drag dozens of men across the ice from Antarctica back to civilization without losing a single one, right?
While I may not have read many books this year, I did read mostly new books (I only re-read six books! That’s a new record for me, because usually I re-read more than I read new), and nine of those were books from my Fantastic Stranglings Book Club subscription. I’m hoping to be able to read more than 50 books next year, especially because I don’t have anything big to stress about or plan (meaning my wedding is OVER!), and I think I may kick it off with a re-read of The Lord of the Rings, because it’s been a long time (2014, I think) since I read them.
What books stood out to you in 2020? Could you even begin to name your top five? Let me know in the comments!
And as always, keep reading.