Favourite books of 2020

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a New Year’s Eve as good as it could be under the circumstances. Mine was low-key but lovely and I am genuinely excited to live in the new year. I always spend New Year’s Day looking back at my reading and planning ahead. This year I decided to start this with one of my favourite posts to write: My list of favourite books of the year.

I read less in 2020 than I have in the past: usually I easily manage to read 100+ books a year; this year it became clear early on that this wouldn’t happen and I ultimately read 75 books. But I also read some truly amazing books that I want to keep shouting from the rooftops about. Quite a few books on this list can be categorized as “Rachel was right and I should have listened earlier” (if you look at her best of 2019 year list, you’ll see (spoiler alert) quite some overlap).

My list is composed of ten books, 8 of which were written by women, one by a husband and wife team, and one by a man. 5 books are fiction and 5 books non-fiction. The list is embarrasingly white (7 of the ten authors) which is something I want to be more mindful of this coming year.

10) Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
One of the first books I read and one of the very best. I loved this book a whole lot – everything about it just ticked a lot of my boxes. The big draw for me is the way in which Evaristo’s language flows (this will be a running theme here) and the way in which she made me invested into every single character’s story. I would have loved for this to win the Women’s Prize (even if I also really really liked Hamnet) or for this to have won the Booker on its own. (review)

9) Actress by Anne Enright
This was hands down my favourite of the Women’s Prize longlist and a book I would surely not have read if it hadn’t made the list. I thought the prose was beyond excellent, and the winding, narrowing stream-of-consciousness narration a thing of absolute brilliance. I think part of my enjoyment comes down to the audiobook which Enright reads herself, absolutely pitch-perfect. I liked this so much that I want to go back to Enright’s older stuff to see what I missed before. (review)

8) A Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliott
In this absolutely incredible work of non-fiction, Elliott combines memoir with essay writing, drawing from her own experience and extrapolating to larger societal problems in a way that seems custom-made for me. I thought this was incredible. Heart-breaking. Clever. Impeccably structured.

7) The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
I loved this. So very, very much. It does many things I adore in fiction: old unchronologically from a variety of points of views, featuring difficult characters that I nevertheless rooted for (especially Vincent who I just adored), with hints of the supernatural as manifestation of guilt, scenes that would recontextualize what came before, and above all the author’s incredible way with words. (review)

6) In The Dream House by Carmen Mario Machado
One of the rare books that is as impeccably written as it is emotionally resonant. Machado was already one of the writers I am always most looking forward to reading but this was something else. She chronicles her own abusive relationship while also flexing her impressive writing muscles and the end result is a stunning, perfect book of narrative non-fiction.

5) Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
I love, love, love this series by Ilona Andrews and this installment was my favourite of the year by the author duo (and I read 9 books written by them). I cannot believe I have to wait until 2022 for the final book in this second trilogy but I am sure the wait will be worth it. I am making my way through their complete backlist (including the novellas) and I am loving pretty much every minute of it. (review)

4) Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson
Incredibly well-written memoir in essays; dealing with female bodies, illness, bodily autonomy, and many things more. The essays hit me right in the feelings and I found them perfectly structured. Everything about this works for me. I listened to the audiobooks which I can whole-heartedly recommend.

3) No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder
One of the final books I finished this year and really one of the very best. It is impeccably researched and absolutely breathtakingly structured. Snyder uses case studies to illustrate her points and to drive home the emotional impact of what she is writing about. She did have to make some decisions regarding what she will focus on and I am not always sure they were necessarily the best (she nearly exlusively focusses on heterosexual relationships) but it did make the book insanely readable. I teared up more than once reading this and I want to put this into everybody’s hands.

2) The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
or, the book that should have won the Women’s Prize but somehow wasn’t even longlisted. This is brilliant. Hands down, perfect. Structured incredibly clever, with wonderful prose, and a narrator that I wanted to shake but also could not help but feel for. I will eventually read everything Levy has ever written, probably starting with her ongoing non-fiction project – this book was just that good.

1 ) Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
I read this book back in February and nothing could top it for the rest of the year. This is narrative non-fiction at its finest. Combining more personal stories with a more general overview of The Troubles, I could not imagine this book being any better. I felt more knowledgable upon finishing it while also thinking this was impeccably written. What an absolutely brilliant piece of narrative non-fiction.

What was your favourite book of the year? Have you read any of these?

Wrap Up December 2020

The year is gone. And I cannot say I am not relieved. This December was different for me than before (I am sure this is the case for many of us!) but also in parts really nice: we had our first Christmas as a three person family! With our very own Christmas tree!

My daughter has not been sleeping well at all, so I have not really been reading all that much but I did read one of my very favourite books of the year, so this is nice. I had lofty ambitions to finish all the books I am currently reading to be able to start the new year with a completely clean slate but alas.

Books I read in December:

  1. Deal With The Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1) by Kit Rocha: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder: 5 out of 5 stars
  3. Sabrina by Nick Drnaso: 3 out of 5 stars

I also DNFed The Ocean House by Mary-Beth Hughes (review) as it just did not work for me and my reading is not great as it is.

Favourite of the Month:

By far my favourite, and indeed one of my very favourite books of the year, was No Visible Bruises. I just want everybody to read this (trigger warnings galore though!).

Stats(ish):

I finished three books, one speculative romance, one non-fiction, and one graphic novel.

Currently Reading:

Wrap Up November 2020

The first half of this reading month was rough – I only finished one book in the first two weeks and really, really hated it. Afterwards I tried to give myself leeway to just read whatever I want – but a rising number of Covid 19 cases made reading not as easy as it sometimes it. Thankfully the last few days of the month I kind of got back into reading. Lets hope this will keep up in December.

Books I read in October:

  1. Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam: 1.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. A Touch of Snow and Stone (A Gathering of Dragons #2): 4 out of 5 stars
  3. Kink: Stories edited by Garth Greenwell and R. O. Kwon: 4 out of 5 stars
  4. A Mind Spread out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott: 4.5 out of 5 stars
  5. Pew by Catherine Lacey: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  6. Archangel’s Viper (Guild Hunter #10) by Nalini Singh: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I also DNFed Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J. D. Robb which was fine but not my kind of book.

Favourite of the Month:

I absolutely adored A Mind Spread out on the Ground – I was sure I would and it exceeded my high expectations.

Stats(ish):

I finished six book, four of which were written by women, one by a man, and the last one was an anthology by various authors. Two books were speculative romance, one was a horror/ satire hybrid, one literary fiction, one an essay collection, and finally one short story anthology.

Currently Reading:

Wrap Up October 2020

I jinxed it. I had such good readings months and started to feel complacent. This was not a good reading month at all for me.

Books I read in October:

  1. Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. The Shapeless Unease by Samantha Harvey: 2 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Magic Gifts (Kate Daniels #5.4) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz: 4 out of 5 stars
  6. Milk Fed by Melissa Broder: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

None of the books I read this month worked perfectly for me, even the four star reads were low four star reads. But I did enjoy spending time in the Kate Daniels’ universe again and am considering rereading the full-length novels soon.

Stats(ish):

I finished six books, of these books four were written by women and two by a husband and wife team. I finished one short story collection, one non-fiction book, one literary fiction novel, and three books that are broadly speculative in nature with a romantic focus.

Currently Reading:

Wrap Up September 2020

I had a fairly good reading month, not as great as August though – which is probably due to my daughter sleeping a lot less and being a lot more active. I am still making my way though my ARC-backlist in the hopes of some day maybe catching up (one can dream).

Books I read in September:

  1. In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: 5 out of 5 stars
  2. You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South: 2 out of 5 stars (review)
  3. Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  4. Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Machine by Susan Steinberg: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  6. Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  7. The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy #5.1) by Ilona Andrews

Favourite of the Month:

In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado was every bit as brilliant as I expected it to be. I haven’t written a review yet because I want to pair the review with one for No Visible Bruises, a non fiction book about domestic violence that I am currently reading. That one, however, has the tiniest font and I can only read it during the day time hours (I feel old).

Stats(ish):

I read 7(ish) books this month. Of these books, five were written by women and two were written by a husband and wife team. I read two non fiction books, two literary fiction novels, one short story collection, and two Urban Fantasy books.

Currently Reading:

I am, again, reading too many books at once. Four really is my sweet spot, everything more messes with my reading mojo. I am hoping to finish a few of these books over the next week or so (both the Schwab and the Alam are published in early October and I would love to have my reviews up before that – this is probably too ambitious).

Have I read my most anticipated releases of 2019?

Twice a year I post lists of books I am super excited about reading – and I wanted to see whether I have actually read those books and whether I liked them or not. My reading was fairly odd last year, so I am assuming I won’t have done as well as I did in 2018.

For the first half of the year I featured ten books I could not wait to get to.

  1. The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang. I LOVED this.
  2. The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. Sadly I could not get into this book. I am fairly sure that had more to do with my wonky reading mood during 2019 and I will try to read this again at some other point because I do love Anders’ writing.
  3. Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev. This seemed custom-made for me but somehow did not quite work for me.
  4. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. I hyped this up so much in my head and ended up bouncing off it, hard. I hated the casual violence too much to keep reading it.
  5. Long Live The Tribe Of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden. This is SUCH a good memoir that I cannot recommend highly enough.
  6. Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse. I loved this even more than I loved the first book in the series and will from now on read every adult book Roanhorse publishes. She is just brilliant.
  7. What My Mother And I Don’t Talk About ed. by Michele Filgate. I realized after adding this book to my list that the contributors include men – so I did not get to it yet but I am planning on buying it soon.
  8. The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West. The publication date kept being pushed back but I now own this and will hopefully get to it soon.
  9. No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder. I would like to listen to the audiobook of this but haven’t yet found it.
  10. The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang. I tried reading this for months but I was just not in the mental headspace to deal with its relentless bleakness and the brutality of the storyline. I am unsure whether I will ever be back in the reading mood for this.

I only read four of these books and DNFed an additional two. This is depressing.

For the second half of the year I named ten books I was super excited about.

  1. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. I have not gotten around to this book yet but I am still super excited about it.
  2. The Need by Helen Phillips. Again, I did not get to this. I am currently trying not to buy too many books and also maybe a horror novel about pregnancy/ children is not the best idea at the moment. I still want to get to it at some point!
  3. I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi. I sadly did not love this. I found te reading experience difficult even if I can appreciate what Ikpi does on an intellectual level.
  4. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. I thought this was absolutely brilliant. I listened to the audiobook which is my favourite way of consuming non-fiction.
  5. Shelf Life by Livia Franchini. I read but didn’t love this.
  6. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. I haven’t even bought this one yet. Middle Grade is just never the age range I get excited about.
  7. In the Dream House my Carmen Maria Machado. I am still waiting for the audiobook to make it to Audible Germany. I prefer listening to memoirs on audio.
  8. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones. I can now read this! Once I buy it, that is.
  9. Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz. Another one that I am beyond excited about that I did not even purchase yet.
  10. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. I cannot believe I haven’t gotten around to buying this yet.

I only read three of these books and loved only one. This is even more depressing than the first part of this post. I really did not do too brilliantly on this – which was kind of to be expected, given how weird my reading year went. I hope this year will go better, most anticipated releases wise. (you can find my first post for 2019 here)

Most anticipated releases of 2019 (first half)

This year I started paying way more attention to new releases than I have ever done before; bookblogging does that for you. As I have done quite well with actually reading the books I am excited about (you can see my blogpost about that here) I wanted to write about some of the books I am most excited about in 2019.

40121993The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

Graywolf Press, February 4th 2019

I have been excited about this memoir for months now. It’s about the author’s struggle with chronic illness and mental health and I need more of these kinds of books in my life.

37534907The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Tor Books, February 12th 2019

I adore adore Charlie Jane Anders – and her first novel is one of my all-time favourite books. “Excited” does not even cover it – I am ecstatic beyond measure to get a new book by her.

40539185Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev

Simon & Schuster, February 12th 2019

There are few things I adore more than unconventionally written memoirs by women and this one sounds right up my alley.

 

40123339Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Hamish Hamilton, February 28th 2019

I have been excited about this book for so very long. I thankfully got an ARC for this book and should have read this by the end of the year. This sounds like everything I could ever want – literary fantasy is one of my favourite things.

34763824Long Live The Tribe Of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

Bloomsbury Publishing, March 19th 2019

The title alone would have me hooked – and the following part of the blurb makes it impossible for me to not pick this up: With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai’i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It’s a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.”

37920490Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Saga Press, April 23rd 2019

I seriously adored the first book in the series and it ended in such a way that I am dying to know what happens next.

 

42201997What My Mother And I Don’t About ed. by Michele Filgate

Simon & Schuster, April 30th 2019

This essay collection sounds incredible – it features essay written by Lidia Yuknavitch (my hero), Kiese Laymon, Carmen Mario Machado, and many other incredible writers. I cannot wait to get my hands on this.

38362811The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

Hachette Books, May 7th 2019

I seriously adored Lindy West’s Shrill and might have squealed a little when I realized the had a new book coming out next year. Her voice is something extraordinary.

40653143No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder

Bloomsbury Publishing, May 14th 2019

This books sets out to give a comprehensive overview on domestic violence. While this is a topic I have been interested in for some time, I haven’t read a non-fiction book that grapples with the topic broadly and I think it is much needed.

41118857The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

Harper Voyager, August 6th 2019

The first book the series surprised me in how much I adored it and the ending scares me very much for what is still to come in this duology. Still, I cannot wait to read it.

What are your most anticipated books on the coming year?