Exactly one year ago few of us would have imagined that 2020 would turn into such an annus horribilis. However, there’s one thing I cannot complain about: there has been plenty of time to read indeed. My goal was to read 70 books this year, so far I’ve reached 72. In this post, I will share my top 6 books of 2020. It is an eclectic mix and I’m listing the books in no specific order.
Top 6 Books of 2020
Here we go, here are my top 6 books in 2020. Please do note that not all were published in 2020 though.
Stuart Turton: The Devil and the Dark Water
At the beginning of the year, I read Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which was brilliant but odd. The Devil and the Dark Water is a different type of story altogether. It is set on an East Indiaman in the 17th century and involves a condemned detective, a demon, and a murder that seems impossible to solve. Personally, I cannot imagine anything more claustrophobic than being stuck at sea for months with a demon onboard.
The reason this book makes it to my top 6 books in 2020 is that it’s very well-written and a real page-turner. I honestly had to read it in one go and it’s not a small book we’re talking about. I must also confess that I know very little about the Netherlands and the country’s trade in the 17th century. In other words, this book was quite educational as well.
Lily King: Writers & Lovers
Once in a while, you stumble upon a book whose language is so eloquent that you are almost in awe. Taking place in Boston, Lily King’s Writers & Lovers is just such a book. It’s the story of Cassie, a former golf prodigy who now waits tables at Harvard Square. At 31, almost all her friends have given up on their shared dream, to live a creative life. While trying to finish her novel, Cassie also struggles to deal with loss and also love.
By no means is this a fast-paced novel, it is mainly the language that holds the story together. On a personal note, I liked that the story is set in Boston, a city that I would like to return to. Last year I had a good time wandering around at Harvard Square.
Stephen Fry: Mythos
Mythos by Stephen Fry was my bathtub book in 2020. I love taking baths and usually I like to read in there as well. As I only read this book in the tub, it took me ages to finish it. First of all, Stephen Fry is very funny and he’s very British. Greek mythology is something we should all be familiar with. So, in one sense, I was educating myself in the bath. Fry also made a great job of explaining how Greek (and to some extent Latin) has influenced the English language. I believe this is a book that one should read in the original English to fully appreciate it.
Benjamin Dreyer: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style
English is a funny language. Being the lingua franca of the world, most of us know it to some degree. However, my hypothesis is that many of us non-native English-speakers think we know the language much better than we actually do. But fear not, it’s a good thing then that we have Benjamin Dreyer to tell us about the quirks of English. Being the copy chief at Random House, he most certainly knows what he is talking about. Essentially, this grammar guide will help you write better.
Fun fact: there’s a US edition and a UK edition. I opted for the latter. It was very interesting to read about the grammatical differences between UK and US English as well. Obviously, this book also suits native speakers.
Kate Murphy: You’re Not Listening
In a world where we are taught to be heard and seen, we rarely listen to other people. Basing her work on psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, Kate Murphy has written a readable and thought-provoking book about whys and hows of listening. Or more specifically, the not listening and what it means to us human beings. There are some pointers there as well. I believe I will re-read this book in 2021.
Frank Martela: Elämän tarkoitus
Frank Martela is a Finnish philosopher specializing in the question of meaning in life. And he has written a book about the topic. Elämän tarkoitus is the Finnish version but it is also available in English with the title The Meaning of Life Explained. The book gives a concise introduction to the philosophical aspects of happiness and the meaning of life Many reviewers have commented on the second half of the book, that it dives too deep into self-help. I agree with this book, its main strength, I think, is that it gives a useful introduction to the philosophy about the meaning of and in life.
The Books Right Behind My Top 6 Books in 2020
This post could easily have turned into a top 10, were it not for the fact that I didn’t snap photos of all the books I read in 2020.
- Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan. I did not like the characters or the story at all really. It doesn’t mean that this hyped novel wasn’t memorable. It certainly was. Mostly I enjoyed the role of the English language in the book.
- Äidinmaa (Spanish: Patria, English: Homeland) by Fernando Aramburu. This piece of brick of a novel would probably have a place in my top 6 books but unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of it before gifting it to my mother. It tells the story of entangled relationships in the Basque country during and after ETA’s heyday.
- The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre. Who doesn’t love a good spy story, especially when it’s a true one?
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Another hyped novel. It was really good and engaging but I found it slightly too slow for my liking.
Now tell me: what was the best book you read in 2020? And do you have any reading goals for 2021?