I planned to read 120 books in 2020. I managed 87. Somehow, despite this being an objective failure, I still feel like I’m winning. Books, though fewer than I’d imagined, provided a refuge and escape this year, and those that follow are my favourites from 2020.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik is phenomenal. If you read fantasy, like novels set in magical schools, enjoy sassy main characters, or have a heart, this is the book for you. It tells the story of an underdog fighting for her place in an unforgiving world, and has many light and funny moments that will make you fall in love with a whole band of flawed and selfish people. If you’ve read anything by Naomi Novik before, this takes her writing up to a whole new level (and it was great already!)
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman is an undeniable hit. I feel like everyone and their mum is talking about this book. It is the purest form of a cosy thriller, with a warm cast of characters who will leave you smiling even as they are bumped off and revealed to be murderers. It kept me guessing until the last page and the working out of the mystery was satisfying, without too many details being withheld. I look forward to the next one!
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is an immersive read. Darting between the minds of a childminder and her employer, this novel carefully displays how very twisted even our best intentions can become. The first scene will grab you and the characters will stay with you for long after you finish reading. If you love character driven novels like those of Elizabeth Strout, this is the book to go for.
Grown Ups is the first Marion Keyes novel I’ve read. I picked it up after listening to her on Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail podcast. Keyes was full of life and compassionate, and I wanted to read the words of someone like that. I was not disappointed. The only thing I am disappointed by is that this novel has received so little critical acclaim. It delves into what it means to be a broken human in community, and it is one I would recommend wholeheartedly.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy is beautiful. I have it beside my bed to dip into whenever I need a lift. Told through paintings and sparce but well-chosen words, this is a book for people of all ages. It speaks of love, finding meaning, feeling lost, friendship, and so much more. I have given it as a gift to so many people that I am now afraid I will start giving it to people again.
I read Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce at one of the many points this year when things were bleak, and it was exactly what I needed to help me see the brighter side of life. It is funny and sweet, following the stumbling misadventures of a young journalist. Full of bad advice for women that will make you laugh and cringe, this is a great book for when you really want to believe that things can be better but you’re not sure how they will be.
I, Cosmo by Carlie Sorosiak blew me away. It’s told from the point of view of a golden retriever, and I can honestly say that it captures a doggy understanding of the world completely. A great one to read with children, this book will have you laughing and holding back tears as you follow Cosmo’s grand plan to keep his family from falling apart. My favourite parts were his descriptions of eating those things he shouldn’t – he just couldn’t help himself!
I read We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet as we went into our first lockdown. It was exactly what I needed. Set during the second world war when people were pulling together and caring in any way they could, it made sure I didn’t sink under the grimness of all the uncertainty at the start of 2020. It revolves around the relationship between a mother and her foster child, and the pure love these two feel for one another will keep you engaged until the last page. There were also some great descriptions of food, which had me longing for porridge and freshly baked bread. This is such a warm and engaging read, and I am excited to read another by this talented author.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a true page-turner. A silent woman holds the secrets and her kindly counsellor is trying to get through to her and help her embrace life again, but there is so much more to it than that. I don’t want to ruin this by saying anything more, but I will say that there were several moments that genuinely made me gasp.
As always, read them all and we can be chums, okay?