So we have finally come to the end of the year… that goodness! This year has been a rollercoaster of emotions and very mentally challenging for a lot of us, but we have persevered and soon we will see the beginning of a new year. With a new year, comes a whole new set of opportunities. One of the opportunities I will definitely be taking advantage of is to diversify and grow my reading. Reading has become a safe space for me over this last year and I will be forever grateful that I found this wonderful book community on the internet. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me, both on instagram and on this blog. Hopefully, next year I can continue to grow and develop, not only as a book blogger but also as a person. However, before we rush into the new year, it is so important to reflect on the past year. I know it may be painful to look back on 2020 but it is important to recognised that amongst all the trouble, there are some silver linings. For me, that was reading. Lockdown provided me with so much time to fulling dive into the world of reading again, and if it wasn’t for that testing time of the year, I don’t know if I would be a part of this community. With all that being said, I want to share with you my top 10 books of the year. Hopefully, you can add these to your wishlist and discover some amazing new authors and books along with me in 2021!
10. Half a World Away by Mike Gayle
READ IN: July
SYNOPSIS: “Strangers living worlds apart. Strangers with nothing in common. But it wasn’t always that way… Kerry Hayes is single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot ever forget her past. Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a child, Noah always looks forward, never back. When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both.”
REVIEW: You guys, this book! First of all, make sure you have some tissues on hand while reading this and don’t make the terrible mistake of reading it in public like I did! I really don’t want to say much about this book as its best to go into it with only having read the blurb. The characters were so likeable and I became so invested in their story and journey and I was rooting for them throughout the whole book. The chapters switch between the point of view of Kerry and Noah so it really keeps you hooked and wanting more. I think this is a book that will always be very special to me. To those who know me and I have spoken to about this book can agree that there are some very strong similarities and correlations between this book and an aspect of my personal life. And for that I will always cherish Half a World Away.
9. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
READ IN: July
SYNOPSIS: “The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?”
REVIEW: I was a bit nervous to start this book because I had heard such amazing things about it and although the first couple chapters took me a while to get through, everything about this book and it’s author is phenomenal. If anything I read it a bit too fast. Ideally I wanted to take this read slow to get the most out of the book but I got lost in Bennett’s storytelling and couldn’t escape. Brit Bennett’s writing is beautifully lyrical and her storytelling is fantastic. She explores ideas of race, identity, gender, family and grief. I particularly loved how by following the lives of their daughters, she was able to effortlessly introduce us to a wider range of issues. I will definitely be rereading this book in the future as I am sure there are elements I missed out on that a reread would enlighten!
8. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
READ IN: September
SYNOPSIS: “Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
REVIEW: This book is amazing! I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this book and I was a bit apprehensive since everyone loves it and it is such a hyped book. And if I’m being honest, a part of me didn’t want to love this book as much as everyone else does because loving a book is such a personal and special thing, so I didn’t want my love for this book to be the same as everyone else’s love for this book – but I ended up loving it anyway! Because I didn’t know what to expect from the book, I was so pleasantly surprised at how many important topics and issues were discussed and explored in this book. Just to name a few, there was domestic abuse, infidelity, social pressures, identity in every single aspect – from identity in the LGBTQI+ community to racial and ethnic identity and just generally finding yourself and who you are. Additionally, there are less heavy issues explored, such as family relationships which I thought was very well done. What really makes this book phenomenal is the characters! Taylor Jenkins Reid’s character development is amazing! She makes you fall in love with her characters immediately and you get to know them so well in so few pages. I know everyone says this, but the characters really do feel like real people and you forget that they are fictional. This is largely due to the fact that the author quite clearly gives the characters notable flaws and weaknesses. These flaws are what really help readers relate and connect to the characters because they can see some part of themselves in them. And honestly, this is quite refreshing. Often times, authors try and force characters into a fictional stereotype which you just wouldn’t see in society. Now I cannot wait to read more of this author’s work in 2021!
7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
READ IN: November
SYNOPSIS: “In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
REVIEW: What a book! First of all the plot is incredible. It provided me with the fast-paced and thrilling adventure I was craving from this books. There really was drama from the first page. The characters are all amazing and relatable. I became so invested in Wade and his hunt for the egg that I couldn’t put the book down because I was so eager to read more. There are so many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming which kept me engaged in the story! It is packed full with 80s pop culture references and humour making it such a well-rounded book. Now I just need to get my hands on the sequel ASAP!
6. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
READ IN: March
SYNOPSIS: “The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?”
REVIEW: I had this book for years and years before I decided to pick it up at the very start of lockdown and oh boy am I glad I did!! This quickly became one of my favourite books and I immediately ordered the sequel when I was finished with the first book. I didn’t think it was possible but I loved the second book even more!!! I didn’t think it was the sort of book I would be interested in reading, which is probably why it sat unread on my shelves for so long, but once I started I just could not put it down!! This book series has made me branch out of my comfort zone and that is why it has secured a place in my top 10 reads of 2020.
5. Girl, Women, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
READ IN: September
SYNOPSIS: “Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood. 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.Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.”
REVIEW: As I was reading it, I spoke about how I couldn’t really pinpoint why I was loving this books so much and put it down to it being so raw, real and honest. And I think that really sums it up. This book follows 12 different people’s (mostly Black British Women) journeys and how their lives intersect with one another. It exposed me to issues that, although I knew existed, I didn’t think about on a day to day basis – I didn’t have to think about on a day to day basis. It made me reevaluate my privileges and made me question so many things. I think that is because, although this is a work of fiction, it accounts very real things women of colour go through and endure – at some points it actually reads like non-fiction. I was apprehensive about the multiple characters and the limited punctuation, scared it would stagnate the flow of the book or my connection to the characters. But I couldn’t have been more wrong! I was surprised how connected and invested I was in the characters and their hardships and successes. Additionally, the lack of punctuation allowed the writing and stories to flow so beautifully like I was having an intimate conversation, just adding to that non-fiction feel. The experimental aspect of this book is why it is one of my favourite books of the year.
4. Becoming by Michelle Obama
READ IN: May
SYNOPSIS: “In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”
REVIEW: I read this as an audiobook and I think that is the best way to consume this book as Michelle Obama narrates it herself so it feels like you are having a really honest and personal conversation with a supportive Aunt! This book opened my eyes to how incredibly hardworking, ambitious, generous, caring – honestly, the list could go on – Michelle Obama really is. Learning about her childhood, her upbringing and the struggles she faces as a Black woman has made me admire her even more. This book has really inspired me to be a better person and do good.
3. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
READ IN: October
SYNOPSIS: “A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.”
REVIEW: Wow. I was not expecting to get hit so hard by this book! This is a book that is very popular among the bookstagram community and it deserves all the hype! This beautiful coming of age story told through poetry and spoken word is so emotional, real and raw. There is so much strength and power in the words in this book that is quite unlike anything else I have read. This is the type of book that makes me feel like I can write something amazing too. It is so inspiring! I looooved it.
2. Educated by Tara Westover
READ IN: July
SYNOPSIS: “Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard. Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.”
REVIEW: This book is, above everything else, a tale of hope and courage, and is why I fell in love with it. One thread of this memoir follows her education – or lack thereof. Her natural curiosity from a young girl was discouraged time and time again but ultimately triumphed. It was her education that transformed her life. The other thread follows Tara’s personal, emotion and psychological struggles that were deeply rooted in her families cultural and religious beliefs that she had to overcome to gain agency and become her own person. For me this was incredibly difficult to read due to the many traumatic events described in this memoir. I felt angry, I felt disgusted and I felt helpless as I wanted to help the struggling teenager. To sum it up, it was incredibly difficult to read but impossible to put down. I was eager to get to the end of this book and read the scene of forgiveness, acceptance and redemption. I was smacked in the face by the reality of life as, of course, this was a very naive outlook to have. Real life does not offer a happily ever after ending like they do in fairytales. A tiny part of me hoped that even after the roller-coaster of traumatic events her family put her through, they would come together again and live in peace and harmony. I guess a tiny part of me still does, because Tara’s story isn’t over.
drum roll, please…
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
READ IN: November
SYNOPSIS: “A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years – from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding – that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives – the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness – are inextricable from the history playing out around them.”
This book is truly incredible and is my favourite book of 2020! The story of Mariam and Laila is filled with brutality, heartbreak, grief, fear, oppression and confusion. And as I was reading it, I was scared that is all it was going to be. But on reflection, I see that this book is about so much more than everything I just stated. It is about overcoming that fear, standing up for yourself, protecting your family and creating your own path and destiny. I sends a message of hope and love. I know this is one of my all time favourite books already because it is a story I will never forget! It opened my eyes to Afghan and Islamic culture and the horrible ordeal countries in the Middle East, like Afghanistan, have had to endure. I will always remember Mariam and Laila as a representation of women all across the country who are oppressed and denied the basic human rights we have. It made me check my privilege and express my gratitude for the lucky life I live! That is why I think everyone should read this book. All in all this is a fantastic, educational and heartbreaking historical fiction book!
And there you have it, my favourite books of 2020! It was incredibly hard to narrow it down to only ten, since I have read some phenomenal books this year, but I am really happy with my selection. If you want to see more of the books I read in 2020 you can go over to my Goodreads account and follow me or add me as a friend! Again, I want to thank everyone who has shown me love, support and encouragement this year. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Year.