I think there isn’t a soul out there who wouldn’t say that 2020 was an incomparably difficult year. Looking back, absolutely nothing happened as anyone expected it.
I have been doing online college since March. That in itself feels strange to write. Sometimes, 2020 felt like it would never end. Despite it all, we made it.
This year I did my best to find time for reading and writing. Quarantine may have limited physical adventures, but it did not stop my TBR pile from always overflowing with options.
So, I end this year having read 44 books. This surpassed my Goodreads challenge goal of 25 significantly, but I still have so many books I did not get to read. If, like me, you’re the sort of person who sets lots of high bars and markers for yourself to reach by the end of the year, remember to treat yourself with care at this time. We are all doing the best we can in the given circumstances.
I think it can, at times, be a bit taxing to read so much in the same space when the world around is so traumatic. I am constantly reminding myself that there is no reason to push myself to read a certain number new books, and that the these goals we set for ourselves are totally arbitrary. It can also be comforting to turn to stories we know and love when things are tough. My list certainly had a few rereads this year so that I could keep calm and relaxed.
My advice is to take the product of each goal you set this year with a grain of salt. Maybe you knocked everything out of the park this year (kudos!), or perhaps you came up short on the things you wanted to achieve. Both are completely valid, and you should celebrate yourself for the very fact that you made it through the year.
Anyway, that is the end of my spiel about being kind to yourself. I did read so many amazing books this year, and I wanted to share my top five with you! This was a difficult decision because there are honestly so many books that could belong on this list.
In reflecting on my reading habits, I notice myself beginning to branch out from Young Adult Lit a little bit. For years, I have been adamant that this would never happen, but I actually have really enjoyed reading books that are more unpredictable to me. Still, the YA I read this year was great. I was introduced to so many new authors! I also read a lot of Vampire books this year because I took a Vampire Literature class last Spring (this was one of the best decisions I have ever made).
Without further ado, here are my top five books of 2020. Happy New Year!
5. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
This was one of my most anticipated books of 2020. I became a Shadowhunters fan in middle school and the appeal of this magical YA escapism has never waned. Set in 1903 London, Chain of Gold follows the ancestors of characters we have come to know and love as teenagers going on their own adventures and solving magical mysteries. While the book may not be particularly complex, Chain of Gold is, at the center, just a fun book. There’s a lovable friend group of boys called the Merry Thieves, and a new female protagonist named Cordelia Carstairs, among others.
Perhaps it is not groundbreaking, but Chain of Gold is enjoyable, humorous, and sets up the new Shadowhunters trilogy well.
Favorite Quote: “I wonder sometimes if it is easier to be brave when one is young, before one knows truly how much there is to lose.”
4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
My familiarity with Alison Bechdel’s autobiography comes from the adaptation of Fun Home into a Broadway musical. I wasn’t sure if the story would feel incredibly different without music, but I was pleasantly surprised by the experience of reading Fun Home.
Coming from a person who does not often read graphic novels, Fun Home was a rather unorthodox choice for me. Bechdel is able to so beautifully capture the complexities of her relationship with her late father and her own sexuality.
The visual component is, I think, fundamental to telling her story. Also, Bechdel matches her thoughtfulness with a great sense of humor throughout the autobiography.
Favorite Quote: “Then there were those famous wings. Was Daedalus really stricken with grief when Icarus fell into the sea? Or just disappointed by the design failure?”
3. Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
I could nerd out over Carmilla for pages and pages, but I will not subject you to that. One of the earliest works of Vampire fiction, Carmilla is a story that directly challenges the heteronormative narrative that is perpetuated in our modern views of Vampirism. Yes, it is a Lesbian Vampire story set in the 1800s, and yes, Camilla is probably now my favorite Vampire ever. Femininity and sensuality is ever-present in the narrative, and when the Male Gaze threatens to take over, things take an interesting turn for our main characters.
Carmilla earns a high spot on this list for being fascinating in explorations of feminine sexuality, as well as all of those comedic moments where the characters are incredibly obtuse and just cannot figure out that Carmilla is a Vampire. I mean, the answer is right there. You’ll just have to read this one to find out what I’m talking about.
Favorite Quote: “Girls are caterpillars while they live in the world, to be finally butterflies when the summer comes; but in the meantime there are grubs and larvae, don’t you see – each with their peculiar propensities, necessities and structure.”
2. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
This earns the spot as hands down my favorite Young Adult read of the year. Children of Blood and Bone has interesting fleshed out characters, intricate world building, and overall just beautiful writing. Tomi Adeyemi has such a distinct voice as a writer that serves so well for the characters in this story, especially Zélie. Young Adult literature has the opportunity to be incredibly direct and invigorating to the audience, to call into question the manners of our own reality through fantastical storytelling.
Children of Blood and Bone, in my opinion, balances storytelling and messaging very well. Zélie’s experiences and contextual understandings of suppression speak clearly to the modern reader. There are also just so many characters and relationships to love. I love this book.
Also, let us all collectively freak out about the fact that LucasFilm is adapting this book into a movie. I am so excited.
Favorite Quote: “You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back.”
If somebody told me at the beginning of the year that I would not only voluntarily read a classic on my own time, but also find it to be one of my favorite books, I would have told them they were crazy. Nevertheless, my favorite book of 2020 is Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. The prose is beautiful, the characters are multidimensional and fascinating, and the story feels incredibly personal.
It is interesting to read this book with my own modern feminist lens. The balls, the
restrictive fashion choices, the marriages, and the overall placement of women in society seems all too restricting. However, the idea finding one’s intellectual equal at opposition and then coming to love them is…. unbelievably endearing, and I love Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy dearly. Also, Jane and Mr. Bingley melt my heart.
In other words, I do not want to live in the Regency Era. I do however, want to wear a pretty dress, go to a series of balls, and dance formally with my intellectual equal. That sounds like fun. Rest assured I will be reading more Jane Austen in 2021.
Favorite Quote: “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
Also known as, everything else I read this year.
- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
- Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn
- A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
- Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
- Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- The Vampyre; A Tale by John William Polidori
- Good Lady Ducayne by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
- Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
- Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
- All Our Broken Pieces by L.D. Crichton
- Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
- The Jewel by Amy Ewing
- Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus
- Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
- Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
- The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
- The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
- The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
- A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
- A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
- A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
- City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
- City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
- City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
- Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
- Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
- The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
- The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
- It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han