11 January 2021

Top 5 Books of 2020

I had a little difficulty coming up with this list of my favourite books for 2020. In the past I've been proud of the fact that my Top 5 lists have included a combination of review titles, classics and backlist books. This year my shortlist contained only review books. It's not that I didn't read any great 5 star books from my backlist TBR (I'm looking at you Inheritance by Christopher Paolini) but they just didn't make the cut.

Here are my Top 5 Books of 2020 in the order I read them:

1. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert book cover
I've been sharing my Top 5 Books since 2014, but if I'd started a year earlier then The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert would definitely have made that list.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is about a young woman in 1940s New York who works in a theatre and socialises with glamorous showgirls. I made the assumption this wouldn't be anywhere near as good as The Signature of All Things and went into it expecting an overtly feminine story unlikely to hold my attention. I was so wrong!

In my review, I explain this isn't a romance novel or chick lit. It's not a war novel either. It's a deep exploration of one woman's life, her sexual desire and the inner and outer expectations of those around her. It's a coming-of-age novel about choosing a different path and I enjoyed witnessing Vivian's personal growth and internal realisations and found it incredibly moving in parts.

2. The Foundling by Stacey Halls

The Foundling by Stacey Halls book cover
After the success of The Familiars, the premise and stunning cover design of The Foundling by Stacey Halls drew me in immediately.

Set in London in 1754, Bess Bright makes the heartbreaking decision to leave her illegitimate newborn baby at the Foundling Hospital in London, promising herself she will come back to claim her daughter as soon as she can. Years later, Bess returns only to find her daughter has already been claimed, by her.

This intriguing premise and the unique storytelling style let me know I was in expert hands once again from the very first page. Stacey Halls was able to bring every aspect of Georgian London to life and I greatly enjoyed it.

3. The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott book cover
The opening few chapters of The Rain Heron by Australian author Robbie Arnott were absolutely sublime. I fell in love with the seamless blend of fable and fairytale as I was introduced to the mythical rain heron.

What follows from there is a literary eco-fable, with elements of magical realism in a dystopian setting. There's plenty of tension and some terrific character growth and I felt a real love of nature in both the mountainous and coastal settings featured in the book. There's a clear concern about our environment bubbling along in the background of the story, adding climate-fiction to the number of genres this slim novel falls into.

My reading enjoyment was enhanced even further when my sister read the book and we were able to discuss it. What joy!

4. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett book cover
This prequel to The Pillars of the Earth was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 and it didn't disappoint. It came in at a whopping 817 pages and begins in the year 997AD with an introduction to our main character Edgar the Boatbuilder.

Themes of good and evil feature throughout the book and the everyday harsh conditions of farmers, bakers, merchants and priests were expertly written.

Once again my reading enjoyment was enhanced when my Dad began reading his own copy and we were able to discuss the goings on and enjoy the great reveal close to the end of the book.

5. Hideout by Jack Heath

Hideout by Jack Heath book cover
This gritty and bloody crime series featuring a cannibal consultant by the name of Timothy Blake is my favourite Australian crime series, and Hideout was a highly anticipated release in 2020.

Blake is an intelligent, clever and oddly funny anti-hero, and the reader can't help but hope he succeeds in his endeavours, despite knowing about his gruesome proclivities. Blake thinks quick on his feet and is only too aware of his flaws. However, he continues to struggle with his inner demons in the series; wanting to be a better person yet readily identifying with the bad guys.

The unexpected plot developments make this dark and grisly series uniquely refreshing and I can't wait until the next bloody instalment.

Hangman just missed out on my Top 5 list back in 2018, so the inclusion of Hideout on this list does redress that a little.

That's it! What do you think of my list? What was your favourite read in 2020? 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Loved The Foundling and City of Girls. You do well to just have 5 yop reads!

    1. Thanks Theresa, it takes some considerable effort, but I love having a Top 5 every year.

  2. I love the sound of The Foundling, I may have to track that down.

    1. Thanks Amy, I hope you do manage to track down a copy of The Foundling. Even if you only enjoy it half as much as I did you're in for a great read.


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