As promised, here is my first installment of:
My criteria for including titles on this list are a combination of most of these:
- I ranked it with 5 stars on Goodreads
- It stuck with me for a long time after reading it
- It made me think
- The writing itself was beautiful, the characters were well-developed, and/or the storyline was put together in way that flowed and was interesting
- The ethereal, nebulous “feeling” of “WOW. That was SUCH a good book!” that is otherwise difficult to define.
Three notes before we get to the list:
- These are books that I read in 2020. These were not necessarily published in 2020.
- These books are not listed by rank. The fact that they made the cut is enough!
- If I already wrote a review for the book, I won’t be saying much here. Rather, I’ll link to the post where I did review it. In some cases, that may be on my old blog since I was writing reviews this year before starting A Look at a Book in August.
Top 5 Fiction Reads
A Gentleman in Moscow – I think what I liked best about this book was how it has footnotes and narrative asides that make fun of the stereotypical Russian tome. Having had to read at least one in college, I appreciated Amor Towles’s observations.
Code Name Hélène – I saw this based-on-a-true-WWII-story book recommended many times before I actually read it, because I was worried about the content. It does have plenty of things that might be off-putting for some, so check out my blog review and Goodreads review for more info. For me, though, it was inspiring, heartrending, and beautiful.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – This book surprised me. It’s the only non-historical fiction to make my top 5 list. I wasn’t sure what, exactly, to expect, but I loved it. Through reading it, I realized that one thing I love about books is when the narrator has a very distinct voice and makes humorous asides to the readers. It does have heavy topics (trigger warning about trauma and severe depression), but is hopeful. Goodreads review here.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Again, this was a title that happened into my reading and delighted me. The surprising racial issues were informative, but what stuck with me the most was that this is a sweet love story. Not a romance, because the relationship wasn’t the central part, per se, nor was physical passion. It was a love story, though, determined and sacrificial.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky – This one is long, but it was so worth it. This is another WWII book that’s based on a real person’s life. The amazing work that Pino Lella did as a teenager during World War II is astounding. He lived five lifetimes in two or three years. This book made me cry, but the author did a phenomenal job of conveying the fear, stress, despair, and hope of the resilient people of Italy.
I realize that four of the five of my top 5 are historical fiction. But I also know that historical fiction has been one of my two favorite reading genres since I was little. It’s good to know yourself, ya know?
I did read a lot of fantasy this year, too. They just didn’t happen to make the cut. In order to throw that genre a bone, here are a couple of honorable mentions:
The Mistborn Series – It is probably one of the best fantasy series I’ve read in awhile, because it not only masterfully built a world that was ending, but also brought up some real-life themes that made me think. I love stories that make me think. I want to read other Sanderson books, but I’m afraid I won’t like them as much, or that they’ll start to feel old. If you think I won’t feel this way, I’d love to hear which of his books I should read next!
Throne of Glass – I didn’t end up finishing the series due to being uncomfortable with the increasingly steamy, open-door scenes. However, Sarah J. Maas is a talented writer, and I really enjoyed reading the books in this series that I finished. It’s a complex plot with lots of believable world-building and a fascinating backstory to the main character.
What about your top fiction reads for this year? Do you have some of the same titles? Different ones? Please share in the comments 🙂