Here are our 10 best books of 2020! In a crazy, surreal, completely unexpected year, I think many of us have found comfort in the pages of books. We went from one book and discussion a month, to two, and the club has grown beyond all our expectations! We wanted to choose a wide variety of books, mixing up the genres, being inclusive and hopefully bringing you some new favourite reads!
Where The Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens)
The story of Kya, the Marsh Girl, living as wild as the lagoon she calls home on the North Carolina coast. Themes of race, class and the natural world collide as two timelines run parallel leading us from Kya’s feral childhood to the day she’s tried for murder.
Beth: This book just CAPTIVATED me in every sense of the world. It’s a real masterpiece. Owen’s writing is so beautiful and so alive, I didn’t want it to end. I rarely re-read books but I know I’ll be revisiting this one.
A Man Called Ove (Fredrik Backman)
Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots – neighbours who can’t reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d’etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents’ Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.
But isn’t it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so? In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible…
Beth: Ove is a bit of a slow burner but give it a chance and you’re guaranteed to fall in love. It’s a really touching story of love and loss that is ultimately genuinely funny too.
The Cactus (Sarah Haywood)
Susan Green is a 45-year-old woman. She generally keeps to herself, and people aren’t really sure what to make of her. Her disciplined, organised life is ideal for her – she has a job that suits her, a personal acquaintance with who she has scheduled liaisons with and a flat that fulfils all her requirements.
Susan is faced with the loss of her mother, and has to deal with her irresponsible brother in dealing with the will. She also finds herself in another situation that she never thought she would have to deal with – pregnancy. She approaches this in her usual way, but quickly finds that her life is changing and she must deal with the unexpected.
Beth: Susan is such a brilliant character. This book explores everything that is so wonderful about those who deviate from norm. I became really attached to Susan!
The Flatshare (Beth O’Leary)
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients, a brother in prison and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…
Beth: I’m not much of a chick-lit reader but I recommend The Flat Share to everyone! It’s got some real depth to it, as well as being funny and heartwarming.
Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams)
Queenie Jenkins can’t cut a break. Well, apart from the one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s definitely just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Then there’s her boss who doesn’t seem to see her and her family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested). She’s trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her. It’s no wonder she’s struggling. She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?
Beth: Queenie is one of the few books that really made me laugh out loud. It’s funny, poignant and educational when it comes to what it is to be a young black woman living in Britain. A must read!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid)
Ageing and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself.
Hels: The story is an incredible portrayal of a strong, complicated, brave and unapologetic woman, who will ultimately do anything for those she loves. She was a Cuban woman in a white man’s world, determined to make it as an actress and she worked tirelessly for what she wanted. The story looks at race, sexuality, homophobia, and seamlessly weaves moments in history into it, creating an absolute masterpiece of a book.
A Promised Land (Barack Obama)
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.
Obama says in the preface that he wanted to pull the curtain back a bit, and give people a sense of what it was actually like to BE the President, rather than just describing events of his presidency and I think he managed this brilliantly. He doesn’t dumb things down, and he explains things clearly, so it is incredibly detailed, and some paragraphs are quite dense.
Hels: I loved the stories he shared about Michelle and his children. There are a few anecdotes he recounted which made me smile because Michelle had written about them in Becoming, and it was interesting to hear them from his perspective!
The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Christy Lefteri)
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.
Hels: This book is incredible. It’s powerful, unbelievably thought-provoking, beautifully written and basically it’s a story that needs to be read.
It’s an extremely descriptive book, particularly when Nuri was describing the beehives, I felt like I could almost hear the buzzing, and smell the honey. Due to Afra’s blindness, Nuri told her things with so much detail, and I loved how, at Afra’s request, he painted pictures with words, despite how terrible and upsetting some of the scenes he shared were.
Dear Edward (Ann Napolitano)
One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles: there are 192 people aboard. When the plane suddenly crashes, twelve-year-old Edward Adler is the sole survivor.
In the aftermath, Edward struggles to make sense of his grief, sudden fame and find his place in a world without his family. But then Edward and his neighbour Shay make a startling discovery; hidden in his uncle’s garage are letters from the relatives of other passengers – all addressed to him.
Hels: I think the amazing thing about this book is how much I cared about every character. Napolitano shares the stories of several other passengers on the plane, making all of them so real – it’s so beautifully written, the descriptions so vivid, I could picture them all perfectly. Knowing what the outcome would be for the passengers on the plane made each story more poignant.
Half A World Away (Mike Gayle)
Kerry Hayes is a single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot forget her past.
Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a young child, Noah never looks back.
When Kerry contacts Noah, the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will change both of their lives forever.
Hels: The ensemble of characters is absolutely brilliant. Each of them felt so real and I was immediately drawn into their stories, particularly Kerry’s. The story alternates between Kerry and Noah, although I’d have loved a chapter from Kian at the end of the story.
The format of two siblings separated and each having very different upbringings is a storyline that has been done a lot, and it’s such a testament to Gayle’s writing that he made this book so unique. It is quite predictable at times, and once a certain storyline was brought in I could see where it was going, but that didn’t mean I was any less invested.