This year, I set a goal of reading 70 books, and I ended up reading 90! I was also really proud of myself because none of them were audiobooks. I physically sat down and read each individual book, which, when you think about it, is A LOT of time spent reading this year. But it is my favorite pastime and I always look forward to my next read. While I do love a good thriller and certainly read my fair share, many of the books I read and loved this year were sweeping, heart-wrenching novels. Apparently 2020 made me feel the need for a strong kick in the gut and emotional torture…in a good way.
So, out of all 90 books I picked up this year, here are my 12 favorite.
I was floored by this short, yet powerful story. The characters were beautifully crafted and I felt so attached to Vivek and his cousin Osita. It was just a really wonderfully told story about a family in southeastern Nigeria as they deal with the sudden death of the main character and everything leading up to the event.
I’m honestly not usually a non-fiction person, but I devoured this memoir-manifesto. If you’ve read Glitter Guide at all this year, you’ve probably heard me talk about my love for this powerful book. George’s story is told through a series of personal essays and they explore their journey through childhood, adolescence and entering adulthood. You can read our interview with the author here.
Sure, I read a ton of thrillers this year, but this one was my favorite. I’ve been making my way through Tana French’s catalogue and this one has been the best so far. I loved the characters, their relationships and how much emotion French brought to the pages. Sure, it was a suspenseful thriller, but it was also an incredibly written novel.
Like many people this year, I spent a good amount of my time reading diving into anti-racism material and learning/unlearning through the words of Black authors. This book by Ibram X. Kendi was a game-changing combo of ethics, history, law, science and personal storytelling that made anti-racism education not only more comprehensive, but also reenergizing.
I’m going to make a bold statement and say this was my number-one favorite book I read this year. And I know it’s not technically a “new” release, but I wanted to read Gyasi’s debut novel before diving into her 2020 release of Transcendent Kingdom. This book was so many things. It was epic storytelling. It was hopeful and heartbreaking. Never has a book flowed so beautifully for me. It was an effortlessly epic tale, which is not an easy feat to achieve.
You know when a book has a lot of buzz before its release and it almost makes you not want to read it? That’s how I felt about The Vanishing Half. But it was worth every ounce of the hype, in my opinion. I haven’t read any of Bennett’s other works, but I devoured this novel in a day and a half. I loved the intertwining stories of the two sisters and the different paths their lives took on each and every page.
I needed this book this year. It is a tiny read, but I’m grateful Zadie Smith put pen to paper. Her essay collection about the beginning of quarantine somehow made me feel like she had reached into my brain and put it into words. It’s a timely read that I’m sure we will look back on for years to come.
I picked up this short book before we started our monthly theme of Flashes of Delight in July, and it tied in perfectly. Ruskin Bond created a tiny little package of joy in this delightful read. Whether it’s the description of the moon rising between two trees or a perfect plum blossom, my fellow aesthetes will adore this book.
I was intrigued by this book’s cover after Taylor shared it on Instagram. Yes, I’ll admit I bought the book for the cover; I have a tendency to do that. But this book was just as stunning on the inside as it was on the outside. I really loved the story and the characters, especially the main character, Rue. The characters were complex and the story was beautifully haunting.
This is another book that wasn’t necessarily a new release, but new to me. It was on my list of TBR books that I was gifted over Christmas 2019, but I didn’t get around to it until May of this year. It’s a really beautiful story about an everyday family navigating life as their 5-year-old son, Claude, announces that he wants to be a girl. The book navigates the family’s struggle to adjust to this new normal, embrace their child and also support their other children as they deal with the changes to their family.
Yep, another book by Yaa Gyasi on my list. I think it’s safe to say I’m a megafan. What I loved most about this book, was how utterly different it was from Homegoing. Gyasi is such an incredible, versatile writer. This story is told from the perspective of Gifty, a Ghanian woman from Alabama who is dedicated to her Ph.D. program at Stanford, and also taking care of her chronically depressed mother. Gifty’s work is influenced by the overdose of her older, shining star brother when they were in high school. Through Gifty’s story, she has a conversation with the reader that touches on everything from science and religion to familial relationships and self-love. Highly recommend.
Another book that has received a lot of buzz this year is The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, which, honestly, I have yet to read. Again, I wanted to dive into some of the author’s earlier work before picking up the latest release. The Underground Railroad only made me more excited to read more of Whitehead’s work. It’s a gripping story about the time of the underground railroad, told through a metaphor of an actual underground railroad system.
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