We asked you to share your reading highlights from this year. Here's what you couldn't put down.
We asked you to share your reading highlights from this year. Here's what you couldn't put down.
Like many others, this year I've yoyoed between a complete inability to concentrate while reading and an insatiable hunger for escapism, happily devouring two, three, four books at any one time. Nevertheless, when I look back on the year, most of my favourite memories revolve around reading; discovering new writers, finding comfort in childhood favourites, ignoring social media to try and figure out whodunnit.
The best book I read this year? Probably Frances Cha's brilliant debut If I Had Your Face. A riveting depiction of contemporary Seoul, primarily read in the garden during the long, sun-dappled hours of summer.
We asked our followers on social media to share their favourite books of 2020, too. Picking just one might seem a cruel task, but the response was resounding. From scandalous 19th-century literature to modern-day literary prize-winners, here are the books our readers discovered and loved this year.
We say: Back in September, Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club became the UK's fastest-selling debut crime novel since Nielsen BookScan records began. Following a group of octogenarian sleuths living in a retirement village in Kent, the charming, compulsively readable whodunnit is packed with all the clever twists and killer one-liners you'd expect from the Pointless co-host.
You say: Great twists, empathetic yet realistic portrayal of older people and an interesting mix of diary entry and perspective. 10/10 recommend.
Ami Simpson on Facebook
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Little, Brown)
We say: Published in the UK by Dialogue Books, Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half is set in the Deep South during the latter half of the 20th century, and follows two estranged twin sisters leading very different lives. A clever, engrossing novel, it tackles the American history of "passing" with fresh sensitivity, and has drawn lots of favourable comparisons to the work of the great Toni Morrison.
You say: Loved the writing and the ease with which the author explores the characters' inner landscape.
@VineethaMokkil on Twitter
We say: Dolly Alderton's non-fiction has long charmed people with its wit, humour, and tender relatability, all of which has been channelled into her debut novel, Ghosts. It's a whip-smart reflection on relationships, family, memory, and life in your thirties; a brilliant modern day rom-com.
You say: So brilliant, moving, gentle and highly relatable. Amazing. Likely I will read it again in 2021.
@lauren_marina_ on Twitter
We say: The first lockdown saw a huge surge in sales for classics such as War and Peace, Anna Karenina and Middlemarch, but what about Oscar Wilde’s Faustian tale of eternal youth and beauty? It’s a haunting, gripping novel, which has lost none of its power to fascinate and disturb in the 130 years since it was first published.
You say: For the beauty and the tragedy of that book.
@iamdeylise on Twitter
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (April 2020, Faber)
We say: Shortlisted for the 2020 Costa First Novel Award, Ingrid Persaud’s beautiful debut, Love After Love, is one of publisher Mary Mount’s "books of the year". Published by Faber, it’s a powerful novel about family and forgiveness, offering hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back.
You say: It's a very strong debut novel, and I love the conversational tone of the book. It's as if you're hearing the story from a friend. Of course, any book that can bring out a wide range of emotions in me is definitely worth reading!
@KeishelNOTKesha on Twitter
We say: In a year when we spent more time than ever at home, it might come as no surprise that Marie Kondo's game-changing 2015-published book on decluttering experienced something of a resurgence. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying explores the Japanese KonMari Method, encouraging you to part with anything in your home that doesn't bring you joy. A surprisingly simple and effective path to happiness.
You say: It's helped me so much to get rid of things (and organise my wardrobe!)
@cath_brislane on twitter
We say: The latest novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Tyler is a deliciously offbeat love story, featuring the well-meaning but eccentric Micah Mortimer. Redhead by the Side of the Road is textbook Tyler; poignant, authentic, and an acutely observed depiction of Middle America.
You say: Beautifully understated as all her work is.
@minerva101 on Twitter
House of Earth and Blood: Crescent City by Sarah J Maas (March 2020, Bloomsbury)
We say: Back in March, New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas released the first book in her highly-anticipated new fantasy series. At 816 pages long, House of Earth and Blood is a sweeping epic of romance, adventure, and revenge. We can't think of a more atmospheric – or seductive – world in which to escape.
You say: I have loved all of her books from both of her series and Crescent City was no disappointment. Bryce was a bloody badass queen and Hunt is an absolute beast!!
@sosa_with on Twitter
We say: In the wake of his father's disappearance – the subject of the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir The Return – 19-year-old Hisham Matar discovered an affinity with a 13th-century art collective known as the Sienese School of Painting. One of our favourite books of 2019, A Month in Siena documents the encounter, 25 years later, between the writer and the city he has long worshipped from afar.
You say: Read on the day WHO declared a global pandemic, it spoke to me more deeply than I could have imagined.
@booksandwellies on Twitter
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (March 2020, Hachette)
We say: Abi Daré's moving debut was shortlisted for the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize. Travelling from a small village to the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, it's the story of Adunni, who despite horrific circumstances – forced into marriage and domestic slavery at the tender age of 14 – is determined to become a success and get an education. A vital, unforgettable tale of triumph over horrifying adversity.
You say: I loved the main character, Adunni, and loved her voice. The writing style was beautiful and exceptional. This is one of my absolute favourites!
@violetwoolwords on Twitter
We say: The Wych Elm author Tana French returned this year with another immersive thriller, described by The Times as "one of the most compulsive psychological mysteries since Donna Tartt's The Secret History". Category is: sinister small-town secrets in a beautiful, remote Irish village.
You say: Delightfully full of small incident and detail as it tells the tale.
@Inclinepress on Twitter
We say: Yiyun Li's profoundly moving Where Reasons End centres on an unimaginable tragedy; a woman's teenage son takes his own life. A devastating portrait of motherhood, grief, and love, in all its painful contradictions, this is one of those books that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.
You say: Read so many amazing books this year but this one moved me to tears and really gave me new perspective on life. Would recommend to anyone and everyone.
@immortal_mayfly on Twitter
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Feb 2020, Picador)
We say: Douglas Stuart's blistering debut explores poverty and addiction in 1980s Scotland, following a loving but tumultuous relationship between a mother and her son. Stuart became the second Scot to ever win The Booker Prize when the brilliant Shuggie Bain scooped the prestigious award earlier this year, in a decision the judges described as "unanimous".
You say: Shuggie Bain was incredible. Stuart's portrayal of Agnes Bain and her descent into alcoholism is particularly poignant. We read helplessly as she consumes both herself and those around her. Heart-breaking.
@CiJamesYT on Twitter
We say: Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and Pablo Picasso are just a few of the familiar figures that make an appearance in William Boyd's Any Human Heart, a masterclass in historical fiction, telling the story of the 20th century through the life of Logan Mountstuart.
You say: Not a recent release, but Any Human Heart by William Boyd has been the best thing I've read all year, or even any year. I read it in spring in the early days of the lockdown, and I still miss Logan Mountstuart.
Neil Edward Bailey on Facebook
We say: In January, we celebrated the bicentenary of Anne Brontë. Her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, is a nuanced and startlingly prescient study of domestic violence and coercive control, which scandalised society when it was first published in 1848.
You say: It’s been on my bookshelf for 10 years and I finally got around to reading it! Sat down in the garden in my deckchair and couldn’t put it down!
Jess Robertson on Facebook
We say: Set in a beautiful labyrinthine mansion, Jennifer Lynn Barnes' The Inheritance Games is a binge-worthy YA thriller, full of dark family secrets and illicit romance. Perfect for fans of Karen McManus, The Good Girls Guide to Murder and the excellent locked-room mystery, Knives Out.
You say: The Inheritance Games! Straight to my favourites shelf, still not sure if anything can top it.
@TStrawberryPost by Twitter
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (March 2020, HarperCollins)
We say: Eight years on from the publication of Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel concluded her Thomas Cromwell trilogy with The Mirror and the Light, a fittingly brilliant end to a staggering literary achievement.
You say: Hilary Mantel’s magnificent trilogy conclusion. Quality research, impeccable prose and a beautifully told ‘impending tragedy’ story.
@HeanorBaptist on Twitter
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Image: Alicia Fernandes / Penguin.
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