While 2020 was an incredibly strange year, and I read much less than I have in previous years, what remained the same was that I found some incredible new books that I want to share with you all. The last time I made a favourite books of the year post was at the end of 2018 (which feels so incredibly long ago), seeing as I didn’t make one for last year. In that post I shared my top ten favourite backlist books and also my top ten 2018 releases. This year, however, I just didn’t read that many new releases, so I’ve decided to just share my overall favourite books, and then offer five new releases that I think were some of the better things to come out of this awful year.
So this year I read 102 books in total (which is 38,199 pages according to Goodreads), and while this is less than last year, and the year before, and the year before…I actually don’t mind at all. This year I wanted to really take the pressure off myself to read, because who even cares how many books I read? I wanted to really love something, and be obsessed with something again, and I’m actually happy with how my reading went this year. It was admittedly difficult to read when I had so much free time that I just didn’t know what to do with it, but I still feel happy with everything I read, and I’m so grateful to have found these ten new favourite books. These are ranked from least favourite to favourite (but of course, I loved them all).
10: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
This book has been sat on my shelf for a long time, and I don’t know why I was even putting it off because I always knew I was going to love it. Ever since I read Elantris, and it became one of my favourite books of 2018, I knew I would love more of Brandon Sanderson’s books, and I think my anticipation, and the size of the books, kept me from reading them. Over the summer I finally read this, and as expected, I loved it. The magic system was so intricate and interesting, the book was well written and tightly plotted, and the characters were all had depth. The ending of this book was also very intense and I am very intrigued to see where the series will go from here. Hopefully in 2021 I will dive into more of this series and works by this author, especially as one of my goals is to read longer books. I know everyone has already read this, but I understand now why its so beloved in the fantasy genre.
9: Crier’s War by Nina Varela
I admit it has been a long time since I read this book, so the details are quite misty in my mind, but I just remember really, really adoring it. I think the best part of the book for me were the characters and the romance, which really drove the plot. I think this is a must read for any fan of YA fantasy/sci-fi – it kind of blurs the line between the genre. It is set in this world where the Automae (mechanical people) have overthrown the humans, and now rebellion is brewing among the mistreated and oppressed humans, who don’t want to stand for the rule of Automae any longer. The romance blossoms between two girls, one human, and one Automae, and the slow, angry and beautiful way it is written is truly amazing. It’s also the kind of book you read incredibly fast and I would one hundred percent suggest you read it if you haven’t already.
8: The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco
This was the year I read the entire Bone Witch series from start to finish, and oh wow I loved it. I first read the first book in 2018, and while I enjoyed it, it was just a little slow for me. Rereading it this year, I can understand why I didn’t like it, and I still wish the plot was a little more balanced throughout the entire book, but the slow spun tale with rich and descriptive writing flows into this second book, which I think is my favourite in the series. It comes close between this and the third book, but I couldn’t include both on this list, and without rereading I think the third one was just about my favourite, thanks to the character dynamics. I really loved the group cast we kind of got in this book and that is what pushed it to my favourite in the series. This tale is so stunning and beautiful, Tea is such a fascinating narrator and Rin Chupeco honestly has so much talent. I cannot wait to devour more books by them.
7: Katherine Howard: The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir
I have been reading this series since 2016, and while this series does have its flaws, for example I’m not the hugest fan of the writing in some places, I’ve loved them all. However in most cases, they have just missed my favourites of the list, but not this time! This is my new favourite book in the series. I couldn’t stop reading this one, and I think its because I really loved Alison Weir’s portrayal of Katherine Howard. She was just filled with this love of life, this desire to live everything to the fullest, and she was perceptive, and fairly sensible, which was an incredibly fresh view of this girl who is sometimes viewed as stupid and naive. I think its unfair to label Katherine so, when she was literally a teenager, and every man who ever desired her was older, more mature, and therefore more powerful than Katherine ever was. I was angry but I loved this book a lot. I’m so glad, because it kind of rejuvenated my love of this series, and now I cannot wait for the last book, a fact which feels surreal.
6: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
I never actually intended to continue this series. Or at least, I never saw myself reading it this year. A few years ago I listened to the first three books as audiobooks, and while I enjoyed them, none of them really blew me away. To be honest, I think reading these books in physical form definitely enhances the experience a little more, because it is so much easier to examine the many layers of these novellas when I can read them at my own pace. When I saw the blurb of the sixth book (Across the Green Grass Fields), I suddenly became invested in this series again, and thus I read this one. This is my favourite of the five, because I loved the world, the themes, and the characters so much. It really challenged me and made me use my brain and I wish I could study this book, and dissect it in detail. It was truly a masterpiece, and by far the most deep and well written book in the series. From now I will be closely following this series and reading every new instalment, because they are truly such valuable and beautiful books.
5: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Reading this book felt like sleeping in nostalgia. A long, long time ago I read Fire, which is technically the second book (but its a standalone, don’t worry). But I never anticipated that I would love this book so much. It feels like such traditional fantasy, and at the same time it still feels relevant and unique and I absolutely adore it. It just made me feel a certain way that I literally cannot describe, but it felt like childhood summers, losing myself in books, loving the characters with so much passion. Katsa is now one of my favourite protagonists; her desire to do some small good in a hard world, hardships to which she is forced to contribute, despite the fact it would be so easy for her just to remain a monster, really touched me. The romance was also so good, and I am literally so impressed by how this book holds up today. Bitterblue is a book I definitely want to prioritise in 2021.
4: Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
This was a completely unexpected favourite. I really liked Wilder Girls last year, but it didn’t make my favourites list, and to be honest I was far less interested in the concept of this book as I understood it from the blurb. But oh wow, this book was incredible. Rory Power’s writing is so clean and beautiful and unique and I love reading it. She has become one of my all time favourite authors and I will probably pick up every single one of her books in the future. This was creepy and strange and horrifying, yet it was amazing. I think this is superior to Wilder Girls in how it is crafted, and while the concept was more to my taste in her previous publication, this surpassed it in every other sense for me. I cannot recommend this enough, and I wish it got as much love as Rory Power’s debut, because it is JUST AS GOOD.
3: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
This new series might just become my new favourite shadowhunter series? I love historical fiction and paired with a world as expansive and interesting as shadowhunter universe, it literally could not be more perfect. All the characters were sublime, Cassandra Clare’s writing improves with every book, and I literally cannot wait until March 2021 for the next book (the cover of which is absolutely STUNNING). I think my favourite character was Lucie Herondale, and I’m so intrigued to see where her plot takes her. Cordelia was also a fantastic protagonist, Anna was awesome and to be honest ever character had something to love about them. And I just loved seeing the shadowhunter world clashing with the social expectations of Edwardian England, and the balls and the dresses and the extravagancy….it was everything.
2: Kingsbane by Claire Legrand
This book made me feel e m o t i o n s (a rarity, I know). Every character’s arc broke me. The ending also broke me. The romances broke me. I’m broken, and this book is incredible. Rielle’s descent into darkness, her struggle and her anger, mistrust and confusion was so well written and explored. Eliana’s grief, self doubt, loneliness and fear was also so moving to read about. And both characters participate in two equally good romances which, like I said, really broke me, especially at the end of the book. I don’t know at all how things will be resolved in the third and final book but I just hope everyone is fairly happy, because I love them all. It also managed to use time travel in a way that made me not hate it, which is a massive achievement. It was just the right amount (and I really hope it stays that way). In all, this was another case of a book I’ve had for too long, knowing I would love it, and proving myself right when I finally read it.
1: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
This book is everything to me, and I think that’s clear in that it was one of the very first books I read this year, and yet nothing has managed to surpass it. I still think about it a lot, because it is just such a unique book that stands out so completely in my mind from everything else I read this year. Every new book Frances Hardinge writes is better than the last. Her exquisite way of writing, her strange genre she almost creates exclusively for herself, her characters and concepts – everything worked for me in this book, and that is why it is without a doubt my favourite book of the year. It was slightly different from the historical nature of her previous work, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but it ended up being better than anything I had ever imagined. The idea of this book is so weird, but it also so works. It is filled with strange, gruesome gods, and twisted friendships and the sea. Please, please read it, as its so underrated, and deserves all the praise in the world.
And finally, here are some releases of 2020 that didn’t make my overall favourites list but are still really worth a read!
Let me know what books you loved this year!