These are my favourite books of 2020 part 2. I stand by all my choices posted as Best Books of 2020 (so far). In the second half of 2020 I have some extraordinary books to share, so here goes …
I read JESMYN WARD this year for the first time (I know!) Men We Reaped was my favourite it is so powerful, so painful, so relevant and written with skill: full of love and loss. Stunning yet heartbreaking.
Becoming Unbecoming is a graphic novel (a format I have re-discovered and loved this year) ‘Unflinching, heartbreaking and utterly compelling’ it is EXACTLY this. Pick it up, you won’t regret it.
Rest and Be Thankful is a wonderful labyrinth of a novel – I listened to this on Audio and Glass reads it herself – it’s realistic of nursing life, and how without rest, life becomes over-exposed, too bright, too difficult to define and how terrifying the overwhelming responsibility of being a nurse is.
After this year, perhaps offering our support to those front line workers who also write; Nathan Filer, Emma Glass and Christie Watson to name a few. It’s not easy and this is a snapshot of literary finesse to attest to that fact.
I read an article about Natalia Ginzburg this year in which she stated in an interview that she would give up ten years of her life if she could have written one of Hemingway’s short stories. I hadn’t read Hemingway before and this peaked my interest. So I read a few short stories, thought they were hugely skilled and then read this …
It is simple and wonderful and incredibly thought provoking, I handed my copy onto someone else and simultaneously craved to read it again. I have been chewing over this book for months. It’s very short and propulsive, readable and very, very clever.
I read a lot of their poetry this year, I loved all of it. This I thought was the kind of ‘how to’ for writing that I would have loved when I started out. If you like Stephen King’s On Writing, this is the book for you and for all creatives. I thought this was thought provoking and insightful, what it means to create, to connect and why we do it.
Hyperbole and a Half
Hilarious, but also deeply moving. I snorted tea out of my nose reading this … I may have also bought many copies as gifts.
Stunningly observant and utterly brilliant.
Patsy & Here Comes The Sun
Both these books are so incredibly good. She’s a new favourite author of mine, I will read anything she writes. Empathetic and honest and real, these books are worth your time and I struggled to put them down and then struggled further to pick something else up afterward.
All My Puny Sorrows
After reading Women Talking (& absolutely loving it) earlier in the year I picked up this book. All My Puny Sorrows follows two sisters and asks hard questions about life, living and who we live for.
It evoked A Little Life by Hanya Yanagahara in a number of ways, but it was not unremittingly depressing (I loved A little Life) but this is hilarious and yet so upsetting and full of life. Funny and dark and human and female. It was catnip for me. I LOVED it.
Subtle, incredibly funny, clever and beautifully written. I listened to the audio version of this book and Enright reads it herself.
I loved this book so much that I am inarticulate to the point of gibberish in trying to describe why. I cannot narrow my love for this book down to a few sentences, because every sentence in this book is brimming with joy and humour and hurt and love. I adored it, I did not want it to end & I plan on re-reading it when the paperback comes out in March.
Like My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout which I read at the beginning of the year this book looks at trauma and mother/daughter relationships and both these books I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.
My favourites of the year, equally; joint first.
This year I set myself the task of reading all of GEORGE ELIOT’s novels.
I came to this idea in April when I picked up Silas Marner. I hadn’t read Eliot before and whether the pandemic had anything to do with this newfound love of classical literature or whether I would have found Eliot this year anyway I do not know. Regardless, I set myself the task of reading all Eliot’s work. I have only Daniel Deronda to go, which I plan to read in the new year.
There is a huge amount to say about George Eliot and many, many people more eloquent and intellectual than myself will say it better in other places, but I have found a considerable amount of peace reading her books. I have laughed and been swept away, riveted and waiting impatiently until I could pick up her books again. She is a spectacular novelist and her style and tone really work for me, it also leaves me with a great deal to chew over and appreciate.
If you haven’t read Eliot before start with Silas Marner, its short, it’s her most ‘buttercup’ novel – try it – if you like it you’ll probably like her other books too.
If character driven narratives and strong female characters are your thing head straight for The Mill on the Floss (Maggie Tulliver will stay with you, always) I listened to this on audio and loved every second of the 20 plus hours I spent listening to it.
If you prefer more pacy books start with Adam Bede, this is the only book I found (aside from Silas) that didn’t have a ‘saggy middle’ (about a hundred slow pages that felt more like work than pleasure). The work is always worth it, but in Eliot’s books these pages feel dense and of their time.
If historical fiction is your thing, then Romola is your book – set in Italy with a cast of interesting characters and a real villain, it had EVERYTHING I love in a book.
For politics and romance then Felix Holt is wonderful, I loved every page and learnt a great deal along the way – all of the ‘sideline’ characters are fully rounded and incredibly written, read it and fall in love with it too.
Middlemarch has everything, it’s her most popular book, it’s – dare I say it – a perfect book. The last 300 pages flew by, I was wrapped up in the world and I am grieved to have left it behind.
Eliot also wrote a short story collection too, if that floats your boat, called Scenes of Clerical Life. Smaller early Eliot chunks to sink your teeth into. Plus poetry which I haven’t looked much into, yet.
These are novels to get lost in, to savour and to think about long after you’ve finished reading them. I am so glad I found George Eliot and I am sure that many of these books will hold up to a re-read or re-listen; as I have found audio books this year so rich and enjoyable, reminiscent of childhood where stories were read to, rather than read alone.
I’ve used Amazon’s feature where you can preview the books above, but should you wish to, you can buy all these books on www.hive.co.uk or at your local independent bookshop.
And, finally, 2020 has been a hard year (Understatement I know) but during this time my second book was published so if you were interested in supporting me you can purchase The Puzzle Women or The Rabbit Girls from the links below:
Thank you & wishing everyone a better and healthier 2021!