On last year’s reading list…
While 2020 was a terrible year in general, it was a great year for reading material! Last year was the first year I set myself an actual reading goal, although I do usually read about 30 books a year so I wasn’t exactly aiming too high. Saying that, I usually do most of my reading while travelling and this year I didn’t go anywhere, so it actually took me a while to get in to a routine of making my way through my reading pile!
I read SO many inspiring, gripping, thought-provoking and charming books this year, some of these are amongst the best books I’ve ever read so I’m excited to share my full list with you.
In typical me fashion, I literally reached 30 books exactly, and I didn’t even finish the book I’m holding in most of these photos – Salt Slow. I lost my page with it and never picked it up again, although it’s on the pile next to my bed so I’m sure I’ll reach for it soon.
Also, while I’m here – I’ll link to my Goodreads if you’d like to keep up with the books I have on my list!
Anyway, as promised, here’s a quick rundown of the thirty books I read last year…
1. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
I adored this easy read, it was so quirky and the main character, Keiko was so loveable. An unexpected tale, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and a great book to start the year’s list off with.
2. Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
I feel like I’m the only one who isn’t Sally Rooney’s biggest fan! After a few false starts, I gave this a whirl and I actually did enjoy it – I always have mixed feelings when the characters are intentionally unlikable. It was a good read but not one I was completely enamoured with.
3. Our Women On The Ground by Zahra Hankir
I read this a year ago and some of the story still stick with me so profoundly; Our Women On The Ground is a collection of essays from female Arab journalists covering world events in the Middle East. Every story differs dramatically, and yet is just as shocking and incredulous as the one before it. A must read for sure.
4. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Another book I really enjoyed, although I had completely forgotten I had read this until recently. To be fair, it has been a year since I flew through it in almost one sitting. I just adored it! Such an interesting take on the topic of race, and I enjoyed the influencer element too.
5. My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger
I have a morbid fascination with the Manson Family so this was a book I was eager to read. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I generally love books that take the main character out of their comfort zone (in this case, to the sunny streets of LA), and I found the book tackled some interesting topics through the various storylines.
6. Juliet The Maniac by Juliet Escoria
This was a tough read, tackling a lot of difficult topics such as depression, self-harm and life in a ‘therapeutic boarding school’. I really enjoyed this book, the story was told from the perspective of a 14 year old which gave it a sort of blasé and impassive edge. A tricky one to get through at times, but one I’d recommend to anyone wishing to take on the subject of mental health.
7. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
I was so excited to read this book, my first by Ann Patchett, I especially loved the sound of a book centred around a big old house with a whole lot of history. I actually read this on holiday in Morocco so I had set aside time to get through it, but I found it incredibly long and at times, hard to commit to. The premise is fascinating but I found the story in itself quite depressing, all those years lost over a house – I’m not sure if I’m the only one who felt this way, it just seemed so sad and unnecessary. I wanted to love it but it just didn’t resonate with me like I thought it would!
8. The Sudden Departure Of The Frasers by Louise Candlish
I picked up this book because I adored the author’s other book, Our House, so I was keen to read some of her other work. Both books actually cover some similar topics, in that they both centre around moving out of a home and a big mystery that follows.
I believe this book was released a few years before Our House, so that may be why I felt like I didn’t connect with it in the same way – although it did keep me guessing until the very end, and it was quite an easy, gripping read.
9. My Dark Vanessa by Elizabeth Kate Russell
This was a popular book to pick up this year, despite the rather dark subject matter. The story follows a high school student who is groomed by her much older teacher, and the mixed emotions as she struggles to comprehend the events later in her life. It’s quite shocking and at times really tough to get through, but I did enjoy it – taboo reads like this definitely bring a lot of feelings though!
10. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Clare Lombardo
It took me a couple of attempts to begin this one, but once I started it I could not put it down! It follows a complex family of daughters, and the story spans several generations, unveiling many secrets and scandals and a few twists too. It’s a long ‘un but easily one of my favourites from the past year.
11. My Year Of Rest And Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This book, oh this book! I have never read anything like this but I loved it! It’s probably one of my top books of the year actually; it was just so unique and bizarre and absurd all at once. Having recently been orphaned, the narrator is struggling with where she’s at in her life – despite having a great apartment and a good job. And so she decides to take a year off, relying on sleeping pills to keep her sedated throughout. I read this almost entirely in one go, I loved it so much!
12. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
This book was suggested to me so many times before I finally gave in and purchased it. I thought the concept was really interesting; on the night she gets engaged to her long-term boyfriend, Dannie awakes to find herself in another apartment with another man. It’s five years in the future, and she can’t make sense of what has happened for her life to get to this point.
When she wakes, she can’t shake this feeling, the memory of this other man – she tries to put the dream behind her until one day, four and a half years later, she meets the man from her dream.
I found this book so lovely but also so upsetting, I kept comparing it to my own relationship and how I would navigate the events as they unravelled. Definitely worth a read, it’s a great story with an unexpected twist.
13. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
I know a lot of people read this book this year, and for good reason too. Reni Eddo-Lodge tackles some incredibly important issues in this hardcore read, and it was such an education for me. Some chapters were like lightbulb moments, while others were just sad and shameful. I would recommend this to everyone if you haven’t already read it, it’s an essential part of being actively anti-racist.
14. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
I had a few false starts with this book because it’s laid out in quite a tricky way, with lots of line breaks and tricky dialogue. Once I understood the layout, I could delve in to the stories and I completely fell in love. It’s a really endearing book with some incredibly powerful characters – and the cover deserves a mention too!
15. Dominicana by Angie Cruz
I recommend this book to everyone, it’s such a fascinating, engaging story about a young immigrant arriving in New York in the 60s. Seeing how life was for non-English speakers in America in this era was so fascinating, and I totally fell in love with each and every one of the characters!
16. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Ah Queenie, such a brilliant book! One of my favourite characters of any book I’ve ever read, I just fell in love with her and her honest, humble but troubled life. I laughed and cried my way through this, I thought it was such a wonderful read. This was a really popular book this year and there’s no question as to why – the author tackled heartbreak, race and ‘coming of age’ really well.
17. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
A heartbreaking read that is centred around the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, The Great Believers is set in Chicago and Paris, following both the stories of Yale, a struggling gay artist, and Fiona, a woman trying to track down her estranged daughter she lost to a cult. The two stories are interlinked, although set 30 years apart, and although this is an incredibly heart-wrenching tale, I absolutely adored it!
18. 28 Summers by Erin Hilderbrand
After the above, I went for a bit more of an easy beach read – and it ended up being one of my favourites of the year! 28 Summers follows a couple whose relationship exists for just one weekend every single year for 28 years; despite their lives moving in different directions, each with their own personal lives, marriages and children, Mallory and Jake meet every year to rekindle their love.
It’s quite a frustrating story but I adored it nonetheless, a lot of ‘what ifs?” but I think that’s exactly what makes the book so special!
19. Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
I actually hadn’t read anything by Ian McEwan before this but I liked the sound of it, it’s absolutely nothing like anything I’ve read before. It’s set in the 80s, although technology is more advanced than it is now and Britain has just lost the Falklands war. Our main man, Charlie, purchases a synthetic human, and when his girlfriend Miranda moves in, they have an interesting relationship that leads to some questionable moral dilemmas. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this book, it was perhaps a bit wild for me – but definitely something to look in to if you’re up for some science fiction with a twist!
20. Grown Ups by Marian Keys
Again, I hadn’t read anything by this author until this book, but I’m definitely keen to read more! Grown Ups is a fascinating book, I always love a story centred around family dynamics and I think Grown Ups managed this really well. I adored all the characters, and found the story so easy and entertaining.
21. Daddy by Emma Cline
I was so keen to read this book as I’ve loved Emma Cline’s previous work. Daddy is a collection of short stories, all following the aftermath of some bigger event that is never really mentioned. It’s a wonderful read, so different from anything I’ve ever come across before.
22. Friends And Strangers by Courtney J Sullivan
I’m not sure how to describe this book, although it broaches topics of privilege, heartbreak, race and motherhood, it also is quite an unlikely story in some ways. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t something I was particularly drawn to for some reason.
The story follows a woman who has recently moved from Brooklyn to a small college town, where she takes on a local girl to help look after her young son. In short, they form an alliance, but there are a lot of difficult issues that come to the surface during their friendship. Worth a read, but not something that stuck with me for long after reading.
23. What Red Was by Rosie Price
Oh this book! What a heartbreaking tale, with such a tragic topic at it’s heart. Kate and Max are best friends, an easy platonic relationship that is endearing and adorable. Things start to go wrong when Kate is subjected to a traumatic experience, which alters the course of her life entirely.
I loved this book and I think the difficult subject matter was handled well – definitely a must read.
24. The Mothers by Brit Bennett
This brilliant book follows the aftermath of a tragic event which affects the life of the young couple involved, as they try to continue on afterwards. The book is narrated by The Mothers, the elderly women of the church who watch and gossip, it’s an interesting addition to the book and I thought the story itself was so upsetting but incredibly well written.
25. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
Easily one of the best books I read this year, I find Dolly’s writing so relatable and inspiring. Ghosts deals with love, loss and finding yourself – something any woman in her 20s and 30s can resonate with.
I raced through this book and felt so sad when it was finished, it really is such a fabulous book!
26. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfield
My first read from Curtis Sittenfield, although I have since bought a couple more from her because I loved Rodham so much. This is an exploration of what could have been, if Hillary had never married Bill. I have to admit I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did (although the sex scenes are quite cringe), but it really was a brilliant take on a life already lived.
27. You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South
I read a lot of collections of short stories this year, and this was one of them. The issue with essays is that you can absolutely adore one, but have to force yourself to finish another – so you’re never quite sure, overall, how you feel about the book in its entirety. This has Black Mirror-esque vibes, and a lot of the stories are so fascinating it made me wonder where the author’s ideas even came from! I did think it was a great read overall, some of the essays were like nothing I’ve ever come across before.
28. Hot Little Hands by Abigail Unman
Another book of short stories (I told you, I really got in to them this year!), Hot Little Hands was one of my most loved books this year. Every story unpicked a different issue, from heartbreak to loss to coming of age tales. There were so many essays in this book that I would have loved to have read more of! I can’t wait to read more from this author as I found her writing style so fascinating.
29. All The Ugly And Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Oh, this book was DARK! I don’t think I realised the nature of the material until I started reading it, but it has a similar vibe to My Dark Vanessa. I tried to explain the subject to a friend recently, but felt I couldn’t quite get the message across – it’s a difficult one, because there are a lot of moral aspects that make you question everything you thought you were so sure of. One to read if you think you’re up to it!
30. Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam
My final book of the year, and one I enjoyed so much! I’m looking forward to seeing this turned in to a Netflix series as I think it’ll work really well.
Leave The World Behind is a dystopian story set in the present day, following an event (possibly a terrorist attack) which leaves a family stranded in their holiday home, along with the owners who have returned to seek shelter. It’s complicated, and at times frustrating as the story sort of skips over what has happened – although I think that is what makes it so gripping! Definitely something to add to your reading pile.
As I said, it’s been a great year for books – I hope you enjoyed this quick rundown of my reading list from last year. Don’t forget to follow me on Goodreads if you’d like to see more recommendations!
Have you read any of these?