Monday 4 January 2021

My Favourite Books of 2020

Reading has always been one of my favourite hobbies for as long as I can remember. My mum always used to take my sister and I to the library to pick out new books and that love grew over the years. There have been occasions where I've lost my love of it and haven't read for years and then I'll find my passion again, tearing through page upon page. 

It's also the one thing that really keeps my mental health in check and I love nothing more than curling up in a corner and reading something new. At the beginning of 2019 after a pretty horrendous 2018, I downloaded Goodreads and set myself a challenge to read 25 books and my love for reading flourished from there again. 

2020 was obviously the year of staying at home which in turn helped me achieve my 2020 Goodreads challenge of 75 and read a total of 100 books by the end of the year. I've rounded up eight titles from that 100 that really stuck out to me as my favourites and I hope you pick them up and love them too!

I was recommended this book by so many people and I'm so glad I listened. This is one of the best books I've read in ages and I was so surprised by just how much I loved it. Daisy Jones and The Six was exciting and you were completely wrapped up in their world from the first page. I had to check this wasn't a real story a number of times, I think because I wanted it to be real so much. 

I didn't want the book to end, it just evoked such a powerful world of rock music, sex and drugs but in quite a captivating and magical way. It was just brilliant and one I'd read again in a heartbeat. 

This is a beautifully written book that I haven't stopped thinking about, it tells the story of Nuri a beekeeper and his wife Afra, an artist - they live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo until the unthinkable happens and all they care for is destroyed by war. It follows their escape and terrifying journey to the United Kingdom. It is a fictional story but it is inspired by stories of refuges the author came into contact with through humanitarian work. 

I couldn't put this down, it completely absorbed me albeit eye-opening and heartbreaking. Each chapter is split into two parts, the past and the present, both linked by one word which threw me at first but looking back I find it quite a touching way to link the two worlds. I really loved this, it kinda feels wrong to say that due to the nature of the story but I just found it so emotional and thought-provoking. It's one that will stay with me for some time.

The minute Queenie launched into paperback, it seemed to be everywhere. I don't remember as much fuss when it was first released but my interest certainly peaked after seeing an array of colourful covers to choose from and a blurb that totally sold it to me. I picked up the yellow cover, the sun was shining so it seemed apt and dutifully dived headfirst into what would be one of my favourite books so far this year. It follows the life of Queenie a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London. To begin with, I wasn't sure it was going to be for me but no sooner had I thought that I found myself warming to Queenie and wanting to protect her. It was a story full of charm, wit and energy. So much is covered within this book in such a beautifully written way - anxiety, self clothing, complicated families and learning how to let go. It really should be at the top of everyone's reading list. 

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years - it's enlightening, raw and a must-read! I loved it by the time I turned the final page but it took me a few goes to get started with this as there's no punctuation and I found it really difficult at first but by page 84 I didn't notice it as much and really began to enjoy it. 

It felt original and contemporary while delivering great characters and good storytelling. 

My Dark Vanessa is a book that was everywhere last year and it was one I completely devoured over a weekend. It feels wrong to say I enjoyed it because to be honest it was an incredibly intense and uncomfortable read but despite that, it was one I just couldn't put down. It takes on the difficult task of portraying a teacher-student relationship, alternating between Vanessa's present and past and the effects this relationship had on her life. It's raw, upsetting and I found myself wanting to shake Vanessa at times but it was also thought-provoking and written so brilliantly - it's a hard read but era-defining and extremely relevant in the present day. 

Hands down one of the BEST books I've read in ages! You all know I fell hard for Daisy Jones and The Six and once I finished that I was recommended The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by the same author almost immediately. I downloaded it for 99p on Kindle while it was on offer and couldn't put it down. It was endearing, insatiable and electric - it would make such an incredible film because it's just packed with Hollywood glamour and excitement. This is one I'll be telling people time and time again to read. 

I found myself having a bit of a love affair with Mike Gayle in 2020 and since discovering this one I've read a further five titles from Gayle! Half a World Away is beautiful and right up there as one of my favourites, I don't think I've stopped recommending it to people. It follows two strangers with seemingly nothing in common living worlds apart but it wasn't always the case. It's touching, incredibly heart-wrenching and I found myself sobbing through the final chapters. I cannot believe I'd never read anything by Mike Gayle until this book that I picked up on a whim. All I have to say is you must read it, it's beautiful. 

If there's one book you need to add to your reading list immediately, it's The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka. I finished it in the summer and it's stayed with me ever since - it's devastating yet searingly beautiful and at times I felt I was right there with the characters. The story begins in 1803 and is heartbreakingly told by the soul of a kidnapped African slave that walks West India Docks in London looking for her lost child. This, in turn, entwines into life almost 200 years later as we meet Michael in London and Ngozi in Nigeria. It's rich in detail, bringing to life the horror of the slave trade, racism, discrimination, oppression and injustice throughout the decades to the present day. For a debut novel, I was blown away, the passion seeps through each chapter and I had tears in my eyes as I turned the last page. It's going to stay with me for some time and it is always the first book I recommend to others.

In a bid to diversify my reading list in 2020, I stumbled across Dominicana and fell in love. It follows Ana, a 15-year-old girl who is forced to marry a much older man and move to New York where she knows no one and doesn't speak the language. It's a story of how she grows into herself and it is told perfectly - the writing is beautiful, simple and poetic with descriptions that bring the entire book to life - I felt if I closed my eyes, I could almost taste the food that Ana prepared to remind her of home.

I also loved the interplay between Ana's memories of her life in the Dominican Republic and her present in New York. The writing really allows you to understand female immigrants who found themselves in the United States in the '60s. It's a really brilliant book that you should absolutely add to your reading list. 

Fianlly, Ask Again, Yes is a profoundly moving novel about two neighbouring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage and the power of forgiveness - it's quite a book.

The more I think about it, the more I've realised how much I really did adore this book which is how it has found its way into this list. It follows the lives of two neighbouring families, both husbands are policemen who started out as rookies in the NYPD and then a terrible incident occurs which changes the lives of everyone in both families. The book is told from several view points which really helped my understanding of how the individuals felt and acted over the course of the story. The characters are strong, I didn't love any particular one but I had a soft spot for Francis Gleeson by the end - I think it was the way he handled life. 

It's just a beautifully written, well thought out book and I would urge you to read it. 

And there you have it, eight books I absolutely adored in 2020 - have youread any of them?

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