My Top Ten Favourite Books of 2020
hi y’all, I’ve been debating what to put in this post for the last like ten days but I think I’ve finally decided on a tentative ranking for my top ten, so I guess we’re doing this now
(yes I’m procrastinating homework shh). If you want to check out my (very cringey and also horrendously formatted) post from last year, I’ll link that here!
some of these definitely might be in different spots if they were more fresh in my mind/if I was in a different mood today, by which I mean. these are close. and not definitive. but like . . . yeah I have some favourites and I’m gonna yell at y’all to read them now
(also though I just feel the need to say: I’m keeping this to published/soon to be published books—I beta read some really fucking amazing books from some amazing people, but I can’t really talk about those in the same way on here so just know they’re there in my heart <33)
I know I sort of dropped off the face of the earth for two months, but nano ended up using up a lot of my creative energy, and then december has been pretty hectic with christmas and everything, but! I’m back! with a 3k word long post! I hope y’all will stick around through it, I worked very hard at it and almost wrote whole essays on a few of my favourite books, but also . . . wow it’s long so I couldn’t blame you if you backed away slowly out of the tab lmao
anyways yeah I’m honestly super excited about this post (and the rest of my wrap-up posts! I love this time of year for blogging) and just like the chance to yell about all my favourite books, so let’s do this shall we
1 – A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
y’all when I tell you this book is a masterpiece. seriously I am so in awe. I read this in two days (despite being quite long and having to read it on my phone) about ten days ago, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I still don’t know if I have the words to express why I loved this so much but like . . . damn.
I didn’t have the hugest of expectations for this book—like I thought it would be good but I didn’t expect to be super invested either, a fun tropey fantasy read to kill the time—but I fell hard and fast for these characters and this world and just everything about this book. it took me a few chapters to get invested, but once I was it was all encompassing. a week and a half later I’m still reeling from it, and it took me a solid week to stop thinking about it constantly. it’s been a long time since a book enraptured me like this and just wow. I loved the characters so much, the writing was so engaging, the world building was spectacular, the social and political commentary was spot on . . . this book had every component of a great book, and it all worked together so well.
mostly my brain has just been going malik karina malik karina malik karina malik karina malik— non-stop ever since I read this, because I love them SO much. especially malik, because I’m always a sucker for cinnamon rolls, but both of them are such amazingly developed characters and I adore them both so much and their ARCS like damn those are some good character arcs
anyways I could go on forever but since I’m not in the business of writing essays when I don’t absolutely have to I’m gonna cut this off before it gets too ridiculously long and move on to the next book
2 – The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
this was my other very serious contender for first place, and I’m not sure where it would rank compared to asowar had I read them at a similar time (ten days ago compared to ten months ago) because it’s definitely less fresh in my mind. honestly, they’re probably on par with each other—it just so happens that my current obsession is with asowar and this one has moved to the back-burner a bit. but anyways all that aside, this book is still fucking spectacular. not to overuse the word masterpiece in this post but,,,, tis a masterpiece
I think the thing about the sound of stars is that it’s such a deeply human story
(despite one of the main characters,,, literally not being human). and as such I think it’s a bit less well liked on the basis of you need to connect to it or else it doesn’t work. but if it works for you? it WORKS. this book was exactly what I wanted from it (and more tbh), and I genuinely feel that it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read—it’s weird and unexpected and unconventional and the plot is just plain strange, but it all balances out into this breathtaking story unlike anything else I’ve ever read
I have no idea what aspect of this book I like best tbh. I can barely even narrow it down to these few, but: I love the writing. I wanted to immerse myself in every word alechia dow wrote, and I think I highlighted something like half the book on my kindle because there were just that many good lines. and I love the characters. both morris and ellie have so much depth and are both so loveable yet so flawed and I would do anything for them. and I love the commentary; it’s so powerful, and the not-quite-our-world-but-not-so-out-there setting made it all hit very hard. and I love the way this book is a love letter to fandom and books and music and the way media has the power to influence great change in the world. I always love books about geeky protagonists, but while these characters were definitely geeks this was something else entirely. rarely have I read a book that gave so much power to these things, and I just adored the way it was all handled
again I could go on for ages and ages but I have eight more books to cover and this post is already,,,, almost 1k. so I’m gonna shut up now
3 – Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
hi I love yadriel and julian and would do anything for them this has been a psa
anyways yeah. these first three were unquestionably my top three of the year, there was never any doubt about it. this one is in third place only because the plot was . . . objectively weaker than the other two. that said, I didn’t read this for the plot! I read it for the characters and the emotions and rep and a good laugh and also ghosts. and it was perfection on all of those counts, so like fuck plot (obviously the plot didn’t totally suck either, it just wasn’t a strong point)
there’s so much I could say about this book, but every time I open my mouth to talk about it I just end up screaming about yadriel and julian and how much I fucking love them and what good characters they are and how good they are together but also how good they are apart and how yadriel needs all the hugs and also is such a stubborn and delightful character and I love him and how julian is the goodest golden retriever of a ‘bad boy’ character and also how maritza is a fucking icon and I adore her and— I think you get the gist. this book, y’all. these characters. I love them 🥺
I also just want to say how much I love how this book focuses on uplifting queer joy—which is not to say it doesn’t touch on that hard parts. it does, and it does it incredibly well! and the hard parts are a central part of the book, for sure—but at the end of the day this is a story about queer characters getting to be happy and that’s so powerful, especially when there’s so little trans rep in the mainstream like this
anyways read this book or I’ll throw it at u
4 – The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
I’m honestly a little bit surprised I loved this as much as I did, because while it’s very much the sort of book I would have loved as a historical-fiction-obsessed tween (but maybe a bit darker), I rarely gravitate towards historical fiction nowadays. but this book had me hooked, and I almost cry just thinking about it
I’m not entirely sure how to pin down what I loved so much about this book, but I think it was largely just how beautifully Hanna Alkaf captured the emotions of the characters. the writing was so simply beautiful and it conveyed so much with so little, and just. wow.
the nuance of the characters was also so well done in this book—no one was all good or all evil, everyone was hurting and everyone was trying. there were definitely some characters you couldn’t root for, but no one was entirely inhuman either
this book packed so much into such a short amount of words, and I don’t think this is a story I’ll be forgetting for a long, long time
5 – Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales
I was lucky enough to read an arc of this and . . . y’all aren’t ready. I fell in love with sophie gonzales’s writing when I read only mostly devastated at the beginning of the year, but this book was somehow even better. there were so many layers to this book, all wrapped up neatly in a romcom, and it just worked perfectly for me!!
I mean first and foremost I just adore the voice of this book. sophie gonzales has such a strong writing style, but her books still manage to have very distinct character voices, and darcy was just so compelling. I also really just loved darcy’s character—she was so flawed (so flawed) and I wanted to yell at her sometimes, but it also made her real, and furthermore her character arc was actually god tier and her growth . . . pls 🥺 also the romance was! so! cute!
on top of that tho, this book has a lot of other elements that really pushed it from cute to amazing. i loved the complex familial relationships, the discussions on biphobia, and especially the emphasis on healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics—it was a really interesting dichotomy with darcy’s absolute mess of a love life, and it added so much life to the story, as well as having actual important discussions
6 – Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
this book didn’t quite have the mind-blowing worldbuidling or plot or characters that the other books here have had (although those aspects were certainly all very good still!) but what absolutely made this book was just the absolutely breathtaking writing. janella angeles is truly a master of words. I had one hundred and ninety highlights on my kindle by the end, which I think is a new record. I just loved the way she used language, it left me in so much awe. also she set the atmosphere so strongly and I just!! it reminded me a bit of the shadow game in the way the setting was so vivid and darkly beautiful and just . . . yes
I also just adored the character arcs and relationships—the characters don’t necessarily live in my head rent free the way some do, but damn those were some masterfully done arcs. I honestly think kallia’s arc was something so special, in that it was the story of healing and finding herself, even when it so easily could have been a villain origin story arc. which would have been great, but this was so fresh and unexpected, and I just adored watching her grow less ruthless without ever losing her determination or confidence. anyways I love kallia with my whole heart and would do anything for her
the romance was also really refreshing; I’m so used to seeing books about miscommunication and angsty dramatic relationships, but while these two certainly had their drama, they were ultimately on the same page about the fact that they both had secrets and couldn’t be open about everything, and instead of being manipulative or over-the-top it was just . . . good.
I guess I really just appreciated how this book flipped so many tropes and conventions on their heads and wrapped them all up in a beautifully written bow
7 – Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
is this book the most technically perfect thing I’ve ever read? definitely not. but is it one of the most delightful books I have ever had the pleasure of reading? unquestionably yes.
I just enjoyed this. it was cheesy and predictable and ridiculous, but I had so much fun and i love the characters with my whole heart and I would do anything for jess and abby and bells and emma and anyways in short this book is absolutely superior. it’s also so nice to just have fun silly weird books about queer people of colour having adventures and being heroes.
that said, I also think there’s more to this book as well! like it’s funny and sweet and cheesy and predictable, but it also has some really interesting subversions of tropes. the way this messes with the typical hero/villain dynamics was genuinely so fascinating, and the way it handled propaganda and stuff was also really really interesting
anyways read this series it’s just so much fun y’all
8 – Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
this book was just . . . so incredible? I had a couple things that made it a bit harder to connect to it for me, but those were purely personal (I just didn’t love all the relationship dynamics), and overall this book was just amazing. it was so raw and real and human and I loved it so much. felix was so chaotic and soft and angry all at once—the nuance in his character y’all!—and I loved all the other characters too, and the writing style!
this is one of those books that I definitely really liked as I was reading it, but in the months since it’s only grown on me—I didn’t necessarily think it would be this memorable at the time, but I haven’t been able to forget it. also like damn what an emotional roller coaster
also can I just say the audiobook for this is incredible? like I loved the story and the characters (seriously, would do anything for felix), but listening to the audiobook honestly enriched my reading experience 1000%, and I completely recommend
9 – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
this wasn’t necessarily the best book I read all year, and it certainly wasn’t my very favourite, but there was something magical about it. as soon as I finished it I wrote on goodreads “I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. I fell in love first with the stories, then with the words themselves. It’s been a long time since I read a book that reminded me why I fell in love with words in the first place.” and I think that perfectly sums up how this book made me feel. it was just this sense of rightness, of stunning stories being woven into emotions and whittled down into words that somehow hold whole worlds within them. this book made me feel a million different things and the satisfaction I felt when I finished was honestly unmached
I just . . . the layers and layers this book had were incredible, and the themes and everything hit so hard in my emotions and the characters and ahhhhh and of course I love Schwab’s writing and I could go on for ages but yeah I loved this so so much
tbh I can’t get over how purposeful everything about this book felt, how every little detail mattered. from plot things to character development to even just texturing, everything felt important, and the book was so tight and powerful because of it. also that ending? holy fuck
10 – An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
this is very much not the sort of book I usually read, but I picked it up while I had scribd and it was SO good. this isn’t exactly a favourite per se, but I had to include it because I feel like it was one of the best books I read this year and I wanted to give it it’s due.
an unkindness of ghosts is just . . . an experience. it’s like if literary fiction met sci-fi + a bunch of social/political commentary and it doesn’t sound like that should work but it does, almost perfectly. I just. idk. words hard. this book was far better than I can put into coherent words. it hits hard and it doesn’t hold back any punches, but it’s also not entirely bleak, and I think that’s so powerful
also just . . . wow.
I read so many fantastic books this year, so I think we’ll throw in some honourable mentions here too. I don’t have the time or energy (or space in this ridiculously long post) to talk about them all individually, but I loved You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova, These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy, Infinity Son by Adam Silvera, and Spellhacker by M.K. England, so y’all should go read those too
if you stuck through this whole thing (almost 3k woot woot!) thank u I’m in awe of u, it’s much appreciated
ohhhh Iris this is such a wonderful post, i really enjoyed reading about why you loved these books!! (your essays are great haha 🤩) reading your thoughts & feelings on The Sound of Stars made me want to read it even more – i must make sure to read it in 2021 omg, i love how it’s a deeply human and relatable story 😭 and omg omg omg i also NEED to read Cemetery Boys and Perfect on Paper in 2021; i’m even more excited to do so now, after reading your thoughts on them ☺️ (i’m still not over Only Mostly Devastated so i’m especially excited to read more of Sophie Gonzales’ writing :’)) also i 100% agreed with what you said about Not Your Sidekick – honestly such a fun & engaging read that made me smile a lot 😊
LOVE THIS POST AND LOVE YOU i hope that 2021 will be a wonderful year of reading for you 💕
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thank you so much dezzy!! 🥰ur my #1 supporter🥰and omg ahhhhh I really hope you like it!! I’m so nervous to recommend it because I know a lot of people don’t love it but I just adore it!! and omg yessssss definitely!! I hope you like them!! (I loooove her writing style so much ahhhhh)
THANK YOU ILY I HOPE 2021 IS A GREAT YEAR FOR YOU TOO 💕💕
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Omg Felix Ever After and The Sound of Stars have been two of my favorites this year as well like, they’re both stories that are never going to leave me ❤
Happy nee year, I hope 2021 goes much better for you 🥰
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yessssss omg they’re both so good!! I’m so obsessed 😍 and ahhh happy new year to you too, charvi!!
ah i loved this post!! i really liked cemetery boys as well (julian + yadriel are sO CUTE 🥺)! i’m glad you loved the sound of stars and not your sidekick too ❤ i hope you have a happy new year!!
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ahhh thank you! and omg ikr they’re so cuuuuute I love them so much 🥺🥺🥺 and ahhh thank you, happy new year to you too!
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The Weight Of The Sky looks soooo good! It’s actually on my TBR. I’ve seen Felix Ever After quite a bit, so I’ll def give it a try! Great list by the way!
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Ahhhhhh The Weight of the Sky is SO good I loved it so much!! And omg yeah Felix Ever After has been everywhere, hasn’t it? I’m so glad it’s getting the hype it deserves!