Switching it up from the classic ‘top ten books of the year’ — I have chosen my favourites by each genre.
I’m done with writing about how awful 2020 has been, since there are only so many times one can state the obvious. Instead, I’d like to focus on one of the best aspects of this year, which would not have been possible without the changes we have all undergone in our daily routines.
At the beginning of the year, I set myself a challenge of reading 36 books. Being a full-time student, working part-time and freelancing would not have allowed me the luxury of finding the time for more than a couple of books a month, so I decided to be realistic about it. But then, during the first and longest lockdown, I hit my target without even realising. I remember that period as a large, timeless void, in which I was finishing book after book, avidly looking for ways to cheer up.
I read 53 books in 2020, most of which were some of the best reads of my life. After a long and exhausting attempt to make a top 10 and give each book its rightful position in the hierarchy, I decided to pick the best ones by genre. So these are the books I enjoyed the most in 2020.
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Despite the ongoing debate within the reading community worldwide on Sally Rooney’s style and popular novels, the best contemporary fiction book I read this year was Normal People.
I loved the tension, the youth, and the calming banality of this story. Rooney’s matter-of-fact writing worked wonders to give Marianne her forever hurt, but always fine aura and depict Connell’s borderline addiction to her. Their friendship was probably my favourite part and I appreciated how the plotline never followed the smooth and happy path I often wanted it to take.
This one goes to C. D. Major’s The Other Girlfor the captivating and dark story of Edith, a patient at the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum in the 1940s, who displays signs of reincarnation, vividly remembering her past life.
What made me choose it as the best historical fiction novel I read this year, was the author’s initiative to imagine why the real Seacliff Lunatic Asylum in New Zealand burned to the ground, which is the opening scene of the novel.
Young Adult Fiction
I’m a little old to read YA and I’ve never really enjoyed it, but this year I discovered Alice Oseman and I’m now a dedicated fan. I will read anything she ever publishes. The best YA fiction book I read in 2020 is Oseman’s Radio Silence. It took me a moment to decide whether it should really be Solitaire because that was the one I related to the most.
But, from an objective point of view, judging by the plot, the quality of the writing, the character development and the main theme of the book, Radio Silence is in fact more worthy to be on this list. A moving and original critique of the education system and the pressure it puts on young people, alienating them when they don’t fit the problematic standards imposed in schools, Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence is a must-read for everyone.
I read so much romance this year, that my thriller enthusiast and romance-rejecting past self would be shocked.
This was the most difficult choice I’ve had to make when choosing a favourite book since I essentially loved all of them. But the decision was made and the best contemporary romance of the year for me was Call Me By Your Name, by André Aciman. The tragedy, intensity and atmosphere of this book made the love story between Elio and Oliver one of the most unique and heart-breaking ones I have ever read.
This one, without a doubt, goes to Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Thrillers are probably my guilty pleasure when it comes to books.
So much so, that I had one year when I read exclusively thrillers. Which is why, by now, I’m looking for a little more than the average who did it plot. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastlewas exactly what I needed from a thriller. It’s original, dark, with a rewinding plot, and a multi-perspective approach, which is tricky to master. There isn’t much going on in the story, since the same day keeps repeating itself seven times, but the technique is so complex and Turton did it so well, that it makes for a gripping, smart and memorable read.
A book that haunted my dreams, made me sleep with the door ajar for a while, made me jump at any noise and increased my anxiety when walking alone in the dark, a book so gruesome, with unimaginable, gore details, it could have been no other than Karin Slaughter’s Pretty Girls.
The paranoia this book induced in me was something I’d never felt before after reading a book and it deserves its place as the best horror novel I read in 2020.
Hemingway in Love: His Own Story, by A. E. Hotchner is the clear winner here. Hotchner was friends with Ernest Hemingway for years before the writer sadly committed suicide.
In this book, he retells the story of Hemingway’s tumultuous love life, as the novelist himself described it. It’s a compelling account of how some of literature’s heaviest names, like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, lived their lives and what part the women they loved played in their careers.
The Best Book I Read This Year and What It Still Means To Me
I had to make one final choice: the all-rounder, the one above any other, the one I can’t get out of my mind and I fondly return to for comfort and advice.
My top book of the year is Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. As I explained in my recent piece detailing the most memorable books I read in 2020, this fictional autobiography is not only well-written, with a protagonist you want so desperately to exist in real life, but Evelyn Hugo’s wisdom and life advice often make me turn to her for some inspiration when making a decision.
This is undoubtedly the most distinctive reaction I ever got from a book and that’s what made me choose it as my number one favourite book of 2020.
This was originally posted on December 31, 2020 at Medium.com