Top 10 reads of 2020

It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time for a list.

Choosing my 10 favourite reads of 2020 has not been easy. I read 86 books, including 16 re-reads, of which I gave 36 five star reviews on Goodreads/Amazon.

In picking my favourite 10 of these I’ve not included any of the re-reads (7 spaces being taken up by the Harry Potter series I read with my son would not be of any value). Interestingly not all of the books which made it into the top 10 got five star reviews when I first read them. These have been included here, because they’ve stayed with me during the year and they’re the first ones I’d list if someone was looking for a recommendation.

The list below is only in the order I read them this year. I did think about doing it as an actual top 10 – number one would be easy as The Stranger Times is my absolute favourite new read of the year. But, then I realised joint second place would be a very crowded spot!

So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 reads of 2020 (supply your own in brain Top of the Pops countdown music).

5/5 stars for The Old Religion by Martyn Waites

Martyn Waites was one of a number of authors I discovered, and in some cases re-discovered via the fantastic Locked Up Festival created by the folks behind the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. I’ve read a couple of the Tom Kilgannon series this year, but this first one is my favourite. A crime thriller with a gothic backdrop and strong characters, this ticked a lot of boxes for me.

5/5 stars for The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

If you read anything about books you cannot have missed the hype for Richard Osman’s debut novel The Thursday Murder Club. This is another one I first heard about at the Locked Up Festival. When a bunch of crime writers I respect are raving about an unpublished novel, of course I put in my pre-order straight away. I loved this. It’s a cosy mystery, with a brilliant sense of humour. While the main characters are not what I would have expected from Richard – the residents of a retirement village – the writing is. Absolute genius, and it’s the start of a series too 🙂

5/5 stars for Pine by Francine Toon

An atmospheric ghost story set in rural Scotland. This is a perfect read for a dark winter night. I loved the main character and the way the story unfolded. I started reading it via Pigeonhole, but about halfway through had to buy the book for myself so I could finish the rest of it one sitting. Brilliant read.

5/5 stars for Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

I’m a big fan of the Strike and Robin series, and both re-read the books and re-watched the TV series ahead of publication date. It works as a standalone book, but having gotten to know the characters over the previous novels that added a particular enjoyment. It’s a nice lengthy book as well so one to savour, although I still found myself putting off reading the final few chapters because I just didn’t want it to end.

4/5 stars for The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

Another Pigeonhole read. From the opening scenes where Evie is taking a joyride in her dad’s car and crashes after watching a very unusual interaction between a local farmer and one of his cows, this was a gripping read. It’s light-hearted but lovely. Evie reminded me of Anne Shirley in her ability to get into scrapes, but at the bottom of it all has an absolute heart of gold.

5/5 stars for Gravity is the Thing

Pigeonhole again. This is the perfect example of a book I would probably never have picked up on my own, but Pigeonhole encouraged me to try. It’s uplifting and funny, despite some real dark subplots. The perfect read if you like the idea of self-help books, but aren’t convinced by the implementation of them. The main character takes a tour of a number of different self-help books, but ultimately finds connecting with people the best way to enjoy her life.

4/5 stars for The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Guess what, it’s a Pigeonhole book. The stave format of Pigeonhole really helped me to get through a number of books this year, but it also introduced me to some absolute crackers. This is a perfect example. It’s sort of a reimagining of Les Miserables, taking some of the recognised characters and placing them into a different scenario and storyline. I’ve never read or watch Les Mis, but the story in The Court of Miracles had me gripped from the start.

5/5 stars for People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd

Thank you to the authors, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this. Ellery Lloyd is the pseudonym of two people who have jointly written this story of the dark side of social media influencing. Having two authors lends a sense of authenticity to this story as it switches between different perspectives. It also stands out as coming at the end of a run of reading where all the male characters were one-dimensional and despicable. This has a nice balance of authenticity for the main characters, acknowledging they are flawed, but making their actions understandable.

5/5 stars for The Stranger Times by C.K. McDonnell

Definitely my favourite book. It’s thanks to Pigeonhole once again for bringing this one to my attention. The Stranger Times is a newspaper for the weird and wonderful things people believe in. The editorial team are an eclectic bunch, but are wonderfully written, with funny one-liners as well as real depth so that it was easy to get quickly drawn in. The author C. K. McDonnell has previously published non-fantasy crime books as Caimh McDonnell and I knew within a couple of pages of reading this that the style of writing would translate across. I have his previous Dublin crime books on my to be read (TBR) list for 2021, but had no hesitation in recommending them to my mum who lost most of Christmas morning pulled in to Caimh’s world.

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