2020: The Big Reading Wrap-Up

Finally, finally, this year is over.

We’ve all been through the wringer, haven’t we? If you’re reading this, then I applaud you just for getting through 2020. Not just the pandemic and all its assorted delights, but my monthly reading round-ups. Well done for pushing through all my inane rambling!

Though, much like Covid-19 (groan), I rather think I’ll be sticking around into 2021. I’ve really enjoyed doing my monthly round-ups and I have no intention of stopping any time soon.

Right, let’s talk books!

I always set myself a goal on the Goodreads challenge, and this year was no different; I decided I’d aim for a thoroughly respectable 52 new books read.

Then… the pandemic hit with full force. Lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, work becoming a ghost-town…

Well, it might have been a decidedly unpleasant atmosphere to be living through, but I found it quite conducive to reading. When I wasn’t building increasingly elaborate wooden railways for my small boy I was sprawling across the sofa, one eye on our new preschool teacher (CBeebies) and the other on one or the other of the reading apps on my phone. I flew through book after book, eating them up like lockdown banana bread.

Once I’d picked up the pace, I couldn’t seem to slow it down. Every time I thought I was about to hit a month of slightly fewer books, I’d find myself finding something new and amazing in which I could get lost, staying up far too late and devouring page after page.

Then, to top it all, I made my foray into Bookstagram (the bookish community of Instagram). I’m still only really dabbling my toes into it, but I’ve found so many fabulous recommendations. I wouldn’t have found half of the five-star reads I’ve got through this year without that community, and I hope to continue delving into it in 2021.

Plus, it influenced me into one of my absolute favourite purchases of 2020. Who doesn’t need a librarianly book trolley in their lives?

The upshot of it all is… I’ve done rather well with my Goodreads challenge this year. Some might say I’ve smashed it. Shall we have some stats?

Yes, that’s right. I have read 135 books in 2020. One hundred and thirty five. Plus a selection of rereads that I can’t be bothered to count.

I am quite ridiculously proud of myself. When I started doing the Goodreads challenge, it was largely to get myself out of a massive rut of just rereading the Harry Potter books over and over again, along with a select few favourites. If a new book came out by an old favourite author then I’d give that a go, but branching out into total newness was a rare occasion. Now look at me!

I feel like I’ve explored new worlds, taken myself out of this virus-ridden hellscape into places where Covid-19 means nothing. I’ve travelled the lives of thousands of people, lived through wars and affairs and families and hope. I’ve laughed out loud and let tears drip onto the pages. All in all, it’s been a marvellous distraction and I’d thoroughly recommend a journey like it to anyone struggling with real life. Why deal with it when there’s the perfect escape just a few pages away?

I’ve been trying to decide on a top 10 for hours – I’ve been documenting my favourites of the month on here, plus in an increasingly messy document on my Instagram stories. But those were the favourites I had at the time. I’d rather pick my favourite books of the year based on the ones that have really stuck in my head, the ones that I’ve reread, or even, in some cases, bought a physical copy of my own when my original readthrough came from the library or BorrowBox. The ones where the characters may as well be alive and real, because they feel like they’re about to jump off the page and start walking around my living room.

So without further ado… here are my favourite books of 2020. And for them to hit the top out of 135 books, you know they must be damn good.

10) The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires – Grady Hendrix. Charming, quirky horror with some genuinely scary scenes. I want to join a book club just like it.

9) Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo. Thought-provoking snippets from a huge cast of inter-connecting women’s lives. Funny and heartbreaking.

8) The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman. Pensioners solve crimes. I want to know more about all the main characters and I can’t wait for the next one.

7) Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell. Utterly beautiful writing speculating about the life and death of Shakespeare’s son. Made me cry.

6) City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert. Eccentrics and theatre-types in pre-war and wartime New York. Extremely fun and weirdly made me miss my own youth, even though I was not a theatre-type in pre-war New York.

5) More Than A Woman – Caitlin Moran. Feminist bible for the over 30s. Uproariously funny and absolutely heartbreaking at the same time. Made me compulsively start moisturising my neck.

4) The Switch – Beth O’Leary. One of those books that shouldn’t be defined as ‘chick lit’ but is. Quirky pensioners and misunderstandings all over the place.

3) Daisy Jones and The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid. Oral history of a fictional rock band and all their shenanigans. Made me miss live music even more than I did already. And shenanigans.

2) Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston. An alternate history imagining if a woman had won the US Presidency in 2016 and happened to have a bisexual son. And an alternate English royal family with a gay son. Indulgent, romantic and sexy.

Aaaand my number one that makes me grin with pure satisfaction every time I think about it while simultaneously wanting to cry because it’s not actually real…

1) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid. The most amazing, real character I’ve read this year. Evelyn Hugo is spectacular, mysterious and fascinating, and I’m not giving any spoilers here. Just read it.

In case you can’t tell, I thoroughly recommend each and every one of those books and if you haven’t read them already, you should go and do so. All anyone got from me for Christmas this year was books, most of which came from this list. I just want to share the sheer joy of them, and the wonderful escape from 2020 they’ve been for me.

I think I’m going to save my goals for 2021 for another post – this is just going to be my underline of 2020. Waving it off with a grateful smile. So happy new year to all of you; I hope your 2021 is fabulous. Thank you to all the many new people who have picked up this blog in 2020, I hope I’ve been at least vaguely entertaining. Here’s to 2021!

(And just because I spent an inordinate amount of time screenshotting them, I’m going to shove my entire Goodreads round-up at the bottom here. It’s quite extensive. No wonder I’m knackered.)

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