hi everyone!! i recently posted my favourite fiction of 2020 list and now im here to share my favourite nonfiction of 2020 list. i couldn’t fit them all in one list because there were too many books so you get to have 2 posts instead lol. anyway, there’s much fewer books on this list than on the fiction one since i just read less nonfiction, but rest assured all the books on this list are STELLAR and i highly recommend them all.
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
I mean, I feel like everyone has already talked about how brilliant this book is. I was not even 10% into it when I knew it was gonna be a 5-star book for me. And the audiobook is incredible. I can’t wait for Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
This book deserves nothing less than 5 stars. Chanel Miller’s writing is just stunning, gentle and powerful at the same time. And you can really tell how much of her heart and soul she poured into this book in the audiobook narration specifically. An incredible book, and a must-read for literally anyone, honestly.
Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran
Another gorgeously written memoir. I was just so compelled by Phuc Tran’s writing and the way he decided to structure the narrative of this memoir. Plus, you can really tell how much he loves and respects language in this memoir. The language is just beautiful.
Inferno by Catherine Cho
THIS MEMOIR. I think the best way I can describe it is “haunting.” Catherine Cho’s writing is stripped back but so affecting and powerful. While she recounts her stay at a psychiatric hospital due to her post-partum psychosis, she weaves in Korean mythology and other moments from her life that give this memoir such a haunting and resonant quality.
What a gentle and moving book. This is a book about family and memory and geography, and throughout it all Jessica J. Lee’s writing is just so beautiful. Her love for her family and her grief for having lost so many of their stories is really palpable throughout this book. And the nature writing is pitch perfect.
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott
Stunning essays. There are so many essays from this collection that I will honestly never forget because Alicia Elliott has conceptualized and executed them so effectively.
Another haunting read. Samantha Harvey has one of the most beautiful writing styles I have read this year. Like Inferno, I would describe this book as “haunting.” Harvey does such an excellent job at bringing you close to her experience of insomnia and the kind of tumult that it throws your entire life into.
My Time Among the Whites by Jennine Capo Crucet
The essays in this collection are clear-sighted and compelling, largely owing to Jennine Capo Crucet’s confident and assured writing. I loved the breadth of this collection too, spanning topics from her relationship to her father to Disneyland to choosing a DJ for her wedding. I will happily read anything else that Jennine Capo Crucet decides to release because she is an excellent writer, plain and simple.
The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward
And last but not least, a beautifully written and performed (on audiobook) memoir from poet Yrsa Daley-Ward. The byline for this book is “A Storyteller’s Memoir” and that is exactly what The Terrible is. Yrsa Daley-Ward is a storyteller through and through, and this book is such a testament to her immense skill as a storyteller, too.
And there you have it folks. We have officially wrapped up my favourite reads of 2020 list!!!! I read SO MANY amazing books last year and I’m honestly so happy that I was able to find so many books that I loved. I’m hoping that that continues into 2021, because reading is pretty much the only thing that’s keeping me going these days lol.
Anyway, as always, let me know if you’ve read any of these books, and if you have, what you thought of them! I’d also love to hear which nonfiction books you read and loved in 2020. 😊
THE TIME HAS COME for my official favourite books of 2020 list!!! im so excited to share all the books I absolutely LOVED reading last year.
I had so many books that combining both fiction and nonfiction in one post became very unwieldy so i’ve decided to do 2 favourite books of 2020 posts, one for fiction and one for nonfiction. today i’m posting the fiction list and then right after i’ll be posting the nonfiction one!! also, i’ve tried to rank these, but some of these books are so different that it’s kind of impossible to decide which was “better.” the ones at the top are very much the top favourites though. i’ve also split this list into Novels and Short Story Collections just to make things simpler for myself.
buckle up because this is gonna be a LONG list, and this is only the fiction lol.
This is my official favourite book of 2020. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Like I said in my review, this book just ticked all my boxes. And Edward Carey’s writing and characterization are just brilliant. What strikes me the most about Little is how much personality this book has – Carey’s narrative voice and the way he chose to write this novel give it such a strong sense of character, historically and narratively. “Immersive” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Popisho by Leone Ross
THIS NOVEL. I literally read this in the last week of December and here it is in the second spot in my favourites list. Omg how to even describe this novel. It’s magical realism at its most bizarre and delightful. And it’s so, so moving. Leone Ross has such a talent for honing in on small but meaningful character moments, and her characters are just so sympathetic and vulnerable. Popisho is a novel that is just brimming with life, and I adored it. Leone Ross has been writing this book for 15 years (!!!!) and believe me, it shows. It is such a feat.
(Popisho comes out on April 20 in North America. It’s also out in the UK on April 15 under the title This One Sky Day.) (It’s available on both Netgalley US and Netgalley UK so please request and read it it’s so good!!)
Milkman is a novel that’s in a league of its own. It’s the kind of novel you only read once in your lifetime because there is no other novel like it. It’s tense and incisive and masterfully written. Anna Burns’s writing is just hypnotic. This is a long, dense novel, and yet in Burns’s hands it becomes, somehow, propulsive. Everything simmers beneath the surface until it doesn’t. It’s a literary masterpiece, and I really do mean that.
(Also this novel has quite possibly one of the most compelling first lines I have ever read: “The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died.“)
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
The Idiot is exactly the kind of novel I love: it’s sharp, it’s deadpan, it’s insightful, and it’s introspective. “Sharp” is the best word I can use to describe Batuman’s writing. It’s never melodramatic or sentimental, but it cuts you all the same because she lays out such a strong foundation for the novel in its main character and narrator, Selin. I absolutely loved the university setting of this, too.
Like I said in my review, this novel is the juiciest novel I read this year. I wish I had a fancier term to describe it lol, but it really was SO JUICY. The drama! The revelations! And yes it’s dramatic, but the drama is compelling because it was always grounded in the perspective of the main character, Ivy. And throughout it all, there is so much spot-on commentary on the wealthy and the kinds of lives that they lead (“Just what was this cloak called privilege and how did it protect you? Was it visible to the wearer or just to onlookers on the outside?“). Susie Yang is certainly not afraid to Go There, and this book is so much better for it.
The Poppy War Trilogy by R. F. Kuang
A series that really needs no introduction. I randomly decided to listen to the audiobook of The Poppy War in the second last week of 2020. About a week later I had listened to about 70+ hours of audiobooks and finished the entire trilogy. These 3 books were pretty much the most compelling thing I read all year. It was the busiest time of the semester and yet there I was listening to 8+ hours of audiobooks every day. I don’t typically tend to enjoy action-packed novels, and I wouldn’t necessarily characterize these books as “action-packed” (though there certainly is plenty of action), but I was SO DEEPLY INVESTED in this series and its characters. Like during certain scenes I could just feel my heartrate go up because I was so stressed and I didn’t want my favourite characters to die lol. R. F. Kuang’s writing gets better and better with every book, and the ending PAINED ME, but it was a great end for the series. I can’t wait to read literally anything that R. F. Kuang releases next.
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
Things in Jars is a literary historical fiction book that feels like it was made for me. Set in the Victorian era, with gorgeous writing, beautiful characterization, a dash of supernatural goings-on, and a lovely little romance subplot — there was no way I wasn’t going to love this. Honestly thinking about the ending of this book still makes me emotional. Jess Kidd is such a talented writer and I am SO DESPERATE for a sequel to this book. Jess Kidd please !!!!!!
I mean, what to say about this novel that hasn’t already been said? My Dark Vanessa is a confident and considered novel. Kate Elizabeth Russell excels at small character moments, bits of dialogue or short scenes that, when put together, give you such a strong sense of the kind of characters you’re reading about. This was a powerful character study.
The moment I read the first chapter of this book I knew I was gonna love it. This novel is just Irish fiction at its best. Caoilinn Hughes is a poet and believe me, it shows. The writing is brilliant, the characterization is so moving, and altogether it was such a gorgeous novel about family.
One of the most delightful books I read this year. Funny, emotional, and filled with the most vibrant and alive characters. Bernardine Evaristo is so good at crafting character through language, and it really shows in this novel.
The Yield by Tara June Winch
Again, a novel I read in the last week of December that managed to sneak its way into my favourites of the year list. This novel resonated so deeply with me. It’s about memory and language and family, and I just loved it a whole lot. Tara June Winch’s writing is beautiful, and I loved the way she slowly pieced the narrative of this novel together. I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about this novel, so I’m here to tell you read to it because it absolutely deserves your time!!
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (translated by Srinath Perur)
Novella excellence. A story about social mobility and financial (in)security. It’s short, but it uses its limited page-count so effectively. It’s a story that’s, in many ways, bigger than itself, which is all the more impressive because, as a story, it is not, in fact, very big.
TheBrown Sisters Books by Talia Hibbert
I never would’ve thought that I’d have romance novels on my favourites of the year list, mainly because I just didn’t read all that much romance, but these 3 novels absolutely changed the game for me in 2020. And they are the MOST DELIGHTFUL novels. Talia Hibbert is the queen of romance. Her characters are so sweet and kind to each other and the banter is always A+ and the romance is A++++ and I just love all these books. Act Your Age, Eve Brown was my favourite of the bunch and I can’t wait for everyone to read it when it comes out this summer.
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
This was like the most adorable book I read this year. Like it heart my hurt how cute this book was. I swear every time characters are nice to each other in a romance book I start crying lol. I don’t know what that says about me but there you go 🤷♀️
The best short story collection I read in 2020. The stories in this collection are so meaty — sure, they’re short, but they feel so fleshed out and have about the same emotional resonance as a full novel. And that’s really a testament to Ayşe Papatya Bucak’s masterful writing. Every story in this collection feels like a world of its own, complete with its own emotional stakes, narratives highs and lows, and well-crafted cast of characters.
A stunning collection of short stories. Every story in this collection makes you feel like something important has just happened. And these are complex stories, ones that may not be immediately self-evident in terms of their plot or characterization. But they ask you to read, and to read carefully, and in the end, you really do feel like something important has happened. Like you’ve witnessed something meaningful in these fictional characters’ lives.
Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda (translated by Polly Barton)
A delightful collection. A lot of short stories tend to be bittersweet at best or downright depressing at worst, but Aoko Matsuda has such a knack for crafting such playful and just enjoyable stories and characters. The stories in this collection, too, are interconnected, and I loved tracking how the characters from previous stories popped up throughout the collection.
A collection about a bunch of disaster women trying to deal with their disaster lives. But these are not at all self-indulgent stories, nor do they stray into the clichés of the disaster woman genre (I feel like it’s a genre by now). Nicole Flattery’s writing is so unique; it’s wry, it’s sharp, and it does such an excellent job at delineating her characters without making them seem fully known or one-dimensional.
Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Nafissa Thompson-Spires is a writer to watch out for because these stories are just so good. Her writing is confident and assured, and the stories are excellent and powerful character studies. I especially loved the kinds of images and concepts that Thompson-Spires incorporated throughout these stories to develop her narratives and their characters.
A beautiful collection of fantastical short stories. Many of these stories made me cry, and the last one alone is worth reading the entire collection for.
Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell
And last but not least, Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell — one of the most sympathetic and human short story collections I read this year. Lucy Caldwell’s stories treat their characters with so much love and tenderness. I enjoyed this collection when I read it, but I’ve found that it’s really stayed with me over the year.
THAT’S IT. WE HAVE FINALLY REACHED THE END OF THE LIST PEOPLE!! Phew, that was long. I tried to cut the list down but honestly I loved all these books and I wanted to talk about them all. I definitely loved some books more than others, but I felt like in my heart, these were all true Favourites, and so into the favourites post they went.
I hope you enjoyed this super long post lol. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, of if you’re interested in reading any of them if you haven’t already. I’d love to hear about some of your fav books of 2020 too!!
My next post will be my favourite nonfiction reads of 2020, so stay tuned for that. 👀
hi everyone!! im back with another post in my end-of-the-year reading wrap up, this time about some great books i read this year that didn’t quite make it into my “best books of the year” list. still, these were all books i enjoyed a lot, so i wanted to talk about and recommend them!!
The Binding by Bridget Collins
Sometimes I’m the kind of reviewer who nitpicks every aspect of a book: unnecessary plotlines, inconsistent characterization, dumb character decisions. But sometimes despite all those things, I still enjoy a book, and The Binding is a great example of that. This book had a bunch of very glaring issues: the first part was boring and narratively inconsequential, the writing was so descriptive that it often dragged the pacing of the book, some characters made some very questionable decisions. BUT. Despite all this, I still really enjoyed this book??? Like I still find myself occasionally thinking about it?? Sometimes I am a very easy-to-please reader: give me some drama, give me some romance, and I am fully invested in your book. And The Binding certainly gave me both of those things. Also the audiobook was great and super immersive.
Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch
First of all, gorgeous cover omg. I really loved this short story collection – it was pretty eclectic in terms of its content, but I think overall I was struck by how deeply sympathetic it was towards its characters, who were largely people experiencing some kind of marginalization in their lives. I debated over whether to put this in the Official Favourites list or the Honourable Mentions list, but I decided on the latter because, like many books on this list, it didn’t stick with me as much as I wanted it to. (This might’ve been because I listened to it on audiobook, but I guess we’ll never know…) Still, great short stories, and beautiful writing too!!
Real Life was a great book. Brandon Taylor is an excellent writer; the way he builds up the stifling and oppressive atmosphere of this book is so good. Some of the characters in this book…phew. This book really had me fuming at how shitty people can be. The only reason this is in my honourable mentions as opposed to my official favourites list is because it’s proved to be a little forgettable for me; it doesn’t quite hold up against some other favourite books I read this year. But still, a great book and I can’t wait to read Brandon Taylor’s upcoming short story collection, Filthy Animals.
(shoutout to Rachel who is the biggest The Fire Starters stan ever, and whose review made me wanna pick this book up!!)
Jan Carson is a BEAUTIFUL writer. Like I still remember specific passages from this book because they were just so searing and powerful. Based on the merit of Jan Carson’s writing alone, I would’ve given this book 5 stars. But where this book lost me a little bit is in its plot. I think I just wanted to a bit more from it plot-wise, or maybe a different perspective or something. Regardless, I can’t wait to see what Jan Carson comes out with next because she is so clearly a talented writer.
Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller
This was such a beautiful, big-hearted book. Lulu Miller’s audiobook narration of it, too, was TOP-NOTCH. The book starts out as an exploration of this man that you’ve probably not heard about–David Starr Jordan–and then comes together so beautifully when the Lulu Miller starts tying in her research into him with her own life and experiences. This is an excellent nonfiction book for anyone who wants something memorable, well-written, and moving.
Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Again, another book I loved in the moment but that’s included in my honourable mentions because it was a little forgettable, and because some of the essays somewhat missed the mark for me. Those small qualms aside, though, Cathy Park Hong’s essays are incisive, considered, and super thought-provoking. I’d love to buy and reread this at some point because I think there’s so much to glean from this book.
James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes by James Acaster
I couldn’t not include this book because it was such an absolute DELIGHT to read. We don’t deserve James Acaster. This book is the most Chaotic Good book that has ever existed. Just James Acaster getting into the most absurd of situations and somehow trying to get through them in the most earnest (and hilarious) ways. If you want something lighthearted and funny to listen to, definitely check out the audiobook of this one.
Mostly Hero by Anna Burns
I loved this novella from Anna Burns. It’s a parody of superheroes that starts off ridiculous and fun but develops into something touching and insightful by the end. So, classic Anna Burns.
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
I can’t not love anything by Allie Brosh. This one had me laughing out loud during every chapter. It gets a little weaker in the second half, but this was absolutely worth the wait.
Fangs by Sarah Andersen
And finally, this short little book I read a couple of weeks ago that was SO CUTE. This is just a bunch of mini-comics following a vampire and a werewolf who are dating and the kind of weird but fun things that pop up in their relationship because of their vampire and werewolf status. And, again, it’s SO CUTE. Like I can’t imagine anyone not liking this.
Et voila! Those were my honourable mentions from this year. Books I loved in the moment but that were a bit forgettable maybe, or had some minor issues that pushed them out of the official favourites list. In my next post I’ll be discussing my OFFICIAL FAVOURITES OF THE YEAR (!!!)–one post for fiction, and another for nonfiction–so stay tuned.
have you read any of these books?? did you have some honourable mentions from your 2020 reading?? id love to know!! 😊