2020 was a banger of a reading year for me in terms of quantity and quality. I went above and beyond my wildest expectations and read a staggering 110 books – a huge improvement on the twenty books I read in 2019 and the zero books I read in 2018! Fortunately, I didn’t read any terrible books, but since I’m new to reading, 2020 was a year of experimentation and trying different genres and authors to see what I vibed with. So as you’d expect, this resulted in a handful of reads that I didn’t enjoy all that much. Let’s get straight into it and look at my 5 worst and 5 best reads of 2020.
Worst Reads of 2020
5. Misery by Stephen King
The title Misery is quite apt, because reading this book was a misery for me. I liked the premise of the story and appreciated that King went against the grain in creating a new type of villain in Annie Wilkes, but unfortunately, the story was too repetitive and meandering. A lot of time was spent lying in bed and entire chunks of the book were dedicated to Misery Returns (the fictional book written by the main character Paul), which kept pulling me out of the story. Stylistically, King’s writing wasn’t for me and I found myself endlessly skipping and skimming through the pages to make it to the end. For a short read, it felt much longer than it was.
4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The nonsensical world of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been one of the most influencial fantasy stories ever. I love whimsical children’s stories full of imagination and wonder, but this went beyond that and felt too silly. I felt like I’d been blindly dropped into the middle of a story with no sense of direction or purpose. Everything was intangible – the characters, the setting, the story – like trying to see something deep beneath the ocean. Sometimes I’d see glimmers or reflections, but I could never fully see, hear or feel any of it.
3. The Street by Ann Petry
As a piece of literary fiction and social commentary, The Street was such a powerful and insightful read. I really liked Ann Petry’s writing style and the exploration of race, class and gender. Unfortunately, the themes were too dark for me and made for a very unpleasant reading experience (see below for trigger warnings). I have a strong tolerance, but reading from the perspective of the perpetrators of violent and sexual crimes is way above my limits.
Trigger warnings: violence, explicit sexual scenes, predatory behaviour, implied rape/sexual assault.
2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison was an author I was highly anticipating since she’s considered one of the most talented African American authors of all time. Sadly, I couldn’t click with her choices of narrative or writing style. The narrative was disjointed and every scene was wrapped up in a web of over-complicated and conflated flowery language and purple prose which felt pretentious to me. I had a very similar reading experience with The Street as I did with The Bluest Eye because there was some thematic overlap. The book tackled very dark subject matter (see trigger warnings below), but it was too overwhelming and gratuitous.
Trigger warnings: trauma, child abuse, sexual assault, rape, paedophilia and incest.
1. Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight
I listened to Get Your Sh*t Together as an audiobook when I returned to work at the end of the first lockdown hoping it would help me to adapt to the pressures of being back to work. As expected, this book didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. You want to accomplish something? Set a goal and work towards it. Want to buy a new car or phone? Save up each month until you have the money you need. Want to be more productive at work? Write a to-do list and follow it. In addition to the sweeping generalisations and common sense statements, the book used a ridiculous chipmunk analogy which assumed that every reader associates themselves with Alvin, Simon or Theodore.
Best Reads of 2020
5. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
This memoir floored me. George M. Johnson’s authenticty, heart and wit touched my heart so deeply. His courage and compassion is inspirational, and I have the utmost respect for the cause he is fighting – not just for LGBTQIA+ rights, but inclusive sex education for all sexual and gender identities. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Johnson and having the story told in his own voice elevated the reading experience greatly.
4. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Tayklor Jenkins Reid
Despite being an early 2020 read, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has stuck with me and will most likely stay in my head and heart for life. This was a Secret Santa gift from a friend and I am eternally grateful to her for bringing this book into my life. Evelyn’s character was dynamic, layered and intruiging; the exploration of love breathtaking and the 1950s Hollywood setting dazzling.
I have to give this book a lot of credit, because it’s the reason I fell in love with reading again after so many years. If I hadn’t of read it, who knows if I would even be writing this post right now!
3. The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
Is it considered cheating to include a trilogy as one book? 👀 Probably, but I’m going to do it anyway. Some books stay with you to such an extent that they wander into your mind on a daily basis, and that is what The First Law Trilogy is for me. This dark and gritty world is home to some of my favourite characters in fantasy. Joe Abercrombie is a true talent at writing complex, morally grey characters that are so vivid they feel like people I’ve met and known in my real life. My favourite in the trilogy was book two, Before They Are Hanged.
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
This one took me by surprise. It was a buddy read with friends and I completely fell in love. I was captured by Emily Brontë’s unique narrative style and stunning prose. Cathy and Heathcliff’s love is not an aspirational kind of love, but raw and tangible to the point that it seeped off the page and into my bones. The rolling Yorkshire moors were painted so vividly and created a wonderfully atmospheric setting. I deeply resonated with the themes that were explored and the ways in which the story cut right to the core of what it means to be human and deeply flawed.
1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
I didn’t expect a children’s book to be my favourite read of 2020 and become one of my all time favourite books, but oh, my gosh, Winnie-the-Pooh has captured my heart and soul. Reading this book is like being wrapped up in a fluffy blanket with a hot chocolate or being enveloped in a warm, tight embrace. The imagination, charm and whimsy transported me back to my childhood and had me grinning at the page non-stop. Winnie the Pooh’s simplemindedness, love for food and dry wit was brilliant. It has quickly become my go-to comfort read, I have read it multiple times since my first read and will continue to re-read it for the rest of my life.
And that’s a wrap on my best and worst reads of 2020! Overall, 2020 was a great reading year for me. I read a lot of great books and even my worst reads were still good books that I personally didn’t connect with.
Did you read any of these books in 2020? What books made your best and worst reads of 2020? Share in the comments, I’d love to discuss this more with you!
Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.